Interview by Arnold van der Walt
New Orleans-based music producer Phelian has amassed quite the following due to the dreamy soundscapes he creates with his ambient, future garage and emotional electronic music style. Raking in more than 5 million views on Youtube alone, he has cemented himself as one of the staples of the ambient music scene with albums like ‘Quadrivium’, ‘Luna’ and ‘Close’. With another album on it’s way, Phelian’s music has seen support from Fluidified, Ambient, Illegal Sound, WaveVision, and many more. Creating music that is filled with layered production, all coming together to create an ocean of textures, it’s easy to find yourself being swept away by his soothing, almost spiritual, aesthetic.
To truly engulf yourself in the masterful work of Phelian, he curated an exclusive mix for The Playground. This almost-half hour journey, will take you up and down on a roller coaster of soulful emotion; through melancholy and bliss. It contains 5 of his own unreleased tracks, an unreleased track from Lazarus Moment, and previously released tracks from Direct, Blut Own, Pensees, Azaleh, and Bucky. The tracklist can be found at the bottom of the page.
Listen to Phelian’s exclusive Playground mix here:
We sat down with the mysterious man behind the music and found out more about his creative process, the gear he uses and why he prefers albums over singles.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
Art is a form of healing. Music helps humanity.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
Most artists I know like to sit down in the studio and do sample sessions where they just make sounds without actually writing anything. I’ve never been able to work that way. I prefer to start with a blank canvas each session, creating the sounds as I write. So for me, the idea comes first.
Who would you ideally like to collaborate with?
What’s on your current playlist?
Simeon Walker – Mono
What is a sub-genre you feel is mostly overlooked?
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans?
I think it’s important to maintain a certain distance.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I think every artist has a set way of working and doing things and it’s this process that creates an original sound, much like a painter paints in a specific way. You can look at the painting and know who painted it. You can listen to a track and know who produced it. I think with my last album ‘Quadrivium’, my original sound really came into focus more. As for techniques, I think it’s a combination of techniques, sample choice, arrangement and writing style that encompasses an original sound. I’ve been known to utilize delay and reverb heavily in my productions, both on pads and vocals. I like organic sounding drums and I mainly use foley sounds in my drum kits.
Seeing as your music has quite an ambient/atmospheric feel to it; do you have a specific feeling/place you try to capture with your music?
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
A full day in the studio is around 12 hours. I’ll typically hop between different projects so as to keep my mind fresh and avoid mental fatigue. I work on an album by album basis now so I have folders with specific projects in them that represent a body of work. I will usually spend several months going back and forth between those projects until I feel they are done.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
I think that thought has lingered with me for many years, I recall having many failed music projects in the past that never really got off the ground. I got back into electronic music towards the end of 2010 and for a while just mainly listened. I discovered many sub-genres that inspired me. By the end of 2015 after hearing Vacant’s ‘Motherland’ EP, I decided it was time to start my own project.
Albums can be filled full of individual songs each achieving their own goal, or they can connect together to tell a story across the whole record. Do you prefer working on a single song or do you feel an album/EP should tell its own story as a whole?
Early on when I first started I was doing only singles. The thought of EPs or LPs had never crossed my mind. I can’t quite recall what changed my thought process on this but now I really only concentrate on albums. I believe an album should be a body of work that is consistent in its theme from start to finish. The tracks should all share the same feeling.
What do you think are some of the biggest struggles up and coming producers face in today’s music industry?
Finding their sound, identity and audience. The music world can often become oversaturated.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
I have yet to play my first live set.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
What gets your creative juices flowing? What inspires you the most to start getting creative?
Memories, loved ones, and listening to other music mostly. Films sometimes as well.
YouTube seems to be a popular place for your fans to find your music. Why do you think that is?
I think YouTube has a powerful related content system. Music promoters are great at connecting a piece of music with a picture or visual representation. Seeing a suggested or related video on YouTube is a great way to discover new music.
Phelian’s final words?
Thank you for reaching out to me for this interview and for your time.
00:00 Phelian – ??? (Unreleased)
02:17 Direct – Oath
05:01 Lazarus Moment – ??? (Unreleased)
06:51 Blut Own – Moodswings
08:13 Pensees – Dreaveler
09:36 Phelian – ??? (Unreleased)
11:53 Azaleh – Submerged
13:15 Phelian – Move On
16:00 Bucky – Sleipnir
18:03 Phelian – Amour
20:48 Phelian – Liturgy
22:37 Phelian – ??? (Unreleased)
24:27 Phelian – ??? (Unreleased)
26:10 Phelian – ??? (Unreleased