An interview with Phil Weeks

Robsoul Recordings‘ head honcho is most commonly associated with filthy house music that jacks, grooves, and steps its way from start to finish. It’s a sound that’s inherent on his recent album, Raw Instrumental.

The LP is his second in just 12 months, and the third in his career following 2003’s Yeah I Like That! By anyone’s standards the latest two long form releases have come in quick succession, which is partly due to the fact that Phil Weeks, the man in question, is infectiously enthusiastic when it comes to producing music with his beloved Akai MPC 3000, as we discovered when we called for a chat ahead of his date at Cable in London on April 6th. We discuss holding down a residency at the same venue his parents frequented, why stripped beats sound better, and learn a little about his first foray into live production. Without further ado then, here’s what was learnt.

P&S: Hi Phil, how are you today? You were in Miami recently, how was the WMC? 

Yeah it was wicked. I played every day whilst I was there, sometimes twice, around five in total I think.”

Sounds hectic, did you get any time to relax? 

A little, on Saturday, then I left on Sunday so I just enjoyed the beach and stuff. The rest of the time I was partying, sleeping, or running to get a taxi to a gig.

Of course you’ve been busy elsewhere too, namely with LP three, Raw Instrumental. Satisfied with the reactions so far? 

Everything is good, yeah. It was out early March, and it’s all over everywhere now- the CD’s out in Japan and places like that, which is great. The feedback has been good so far.

Your produced it mainly on an old Akai MPC- what’s so good about that piece of kit? 

I’ve always worked with hardware sequencers, all my life- I think I got my first maybe 1997-98, and a Yamaha sequencer has the same features as an MPC, even if it’s a bit more modern. It’s the same idea, just with effects on it and stuff. So at one point I was listening to a lot of soul and hip hop, and my friend said I should try using an MPC, as they are so raw and simple.

Now I’m talking about the MPC 3000 here, because if you use a 2000 or 4000 or whatever it doesn’t sound the same, though they have a lot more features. But with this one there’s nothing in there, just the sequencer is the best, and the sampler is really good too.

Anyway, so I tried it, and as soon as I got into it I was like ‘fuck, I’m never going back to the Yamaha’. I didn’t even plan on doing another album after my first but the MPC, when I got it in 2010, made me want to do something, I had so many ideas.

Your last two albums were released so close together, how difficult was that? 

OK, so Love Affair was out last March or whatever, but I finished the production in October 2010. From October to December I was working on the artwork- you know the one with me in that old school suit? Well, for that I had to find a tailor, then the tailor told me to go find a hat somewhere else, then the ring. Altogether that took two months. 

Then from January we started the promo, so it was five months during which of course I was going to be making music. So I did plenty of studio work, and then realised I wanted to do something longer, and something minimal- not like techno, but raw, raw music that concentrates on the essentials.

There’s a video of your album launch live set at The Rex in Paris, how did that go? 

It wasn’t planned at all, it was something that we decided to do two weeks before. Mark Farina was playing, and we decided to do something for the album too. Then I got a bit high and was fucking about with the MPC and 909 and started thinking about how at The Rex they have a really clean 909 already there. So I was like ‘why not bring the MPC’; this is my album launch, it’s the club where I hold a residency, and all my friends are coming. 

So I worked for about three days on it, figuring out which tracks I wanted to play, and trying to plan how I was going to load each track because what I’m using- the MPC- takes three minutes or so to load, and you don’t want to wait for me to do that.

You also can’t have another track playing whilst one loads, and when the 909 is synced to the MPC and the MPC reloads, the 909 cuts out. So I had to be smart, and added a CD player with some loops from my own tunes, so I could switch between things when I needed to. It doesn’t look like it in the video, but I’m kind of having a fight, and trying to remember what was playing out of what was really hard. I played nine tunes, it took three days work, and that’s enough, I don’t plan on doing any more.”

Obviously The Rex is one of the most legendary clubs in Europe- is it still on top of the pile in Paris?

Yeah, it’s still a great place. As soon as you get in there you have these stairs, you walk down and something happens- an energy, even if you arrive at eleven and it’s empty you’re going to feel it. Back in the 80s it used to be a rock club, my parents used to go there. It’s since switched to electronic music but it’s busy all the time.

And the Parisian scene on the whole is good right now? 

You know, it’s big- 10million people in the whole city or whatever. So that means even if there’s a crisis and nobody has any money the parties will still be busy. Even a small Thursday at The Rex, when we’re a bit disappointed, you’re talking 500 people. 1,000 on a good one. Fridays and Saturdays though, in any of the main clubs- Rex, Showcase- they are completely packed. Also I don’t play Paris too much either, just once every two months, so it’s perfect. I love the city too- the architecture is beautiful. Paris is always good.

Finally then, what else is coming up?

I have a lot of shit ready already. I did a track called Jack To My Groove, and put it out on vinyl, white label, limited release, and they were all hand numbered by me. So that went well and we decided to repress and ended up doing more than we were supposed to. 

Then there was another one, the same concept, and this was an album sampler. Three tracks in total again. Now I want to do more, so the third is ready to go now, same again, three tracks. It’s just a small project, but there’s two more waiting to be released now, so that’s six tracks in total straight after the album. I’m just so excited to be making music right now, and it’s all because of my MPC. It’s so much fun to work with, like a Nintendo, except I don’t like videogames.


Phil Weeks plays Talk Is Cheap at Cable in London on Friday April 6th, click here for full details.