If you’re new to the scene, then here’s your chance to find out more about one of it’s legends! For prog heads who’ve been around long enough, then Moonface is a name that needs no introduction. Here’s you chance to find out what he’s up to.
Hi Phil, thanks so much for joining us today, where are you living now and for those who don’t know, how long have you been in the game?
Moonface: At a guess about 21 years in Southampton UK… Producing about 22 years and djing about 25 years. Around 1995 when I got my first bits of gear an AKAi sampler with just 2 seconds of memory and no Fx card plus a little mixing desk and a borrowed keyboard. Thankfully I had been able to use a mates mini studio in a garden shed for a few years before that, where I also learnt to beat match and mix records.
Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously?
Moonface: I guess I’ve always been into electronic music from a young age. Usual Dj stories… Err.. My dad was in a band when I was first born until the age of about 6 or 7. Then in my teenage years he had an amazing Akai stereo that he liked to play loud and I did too, playing my own music while he was not around on business. The type of sound that really hit me was when I first herd Kraftwerk “Tour De France on July 4th in Austin Texas age 14 about 1984…. I will never forget that moment. Then about 1993 age 23 I had a go on some decks and picked it up straight away, that was about the first time in my life I knew I wanted to do a lot more spinning records.
Newer music fans may not be aware of this but you were actually one of the first artists to get signed to Bedrock. Your Futurized Fears / Overactive EP was the 4th release on the label back in 2000 and you also hold the distinction of releasing the first ever album on the label as well with ‘Between Worlds’. How old were you at the time and how big of an impact did it have on your career?
Moonface: Yep a magical time where everything just took off for me around 1998 I was about 28 at the time… I made a number of classics that can still work on the dance floor to this day…. Around the time of Futurized Fears release I took over from Danny Howells to become the new Bedrock warm-up resident that lasted for over 5 years every month in London and Brighton meeting so many amazing djs including warming up for Sasha at his Airdrawndagger album launch party. I guess at the time I was swept off my feet, so busy I never really had the chance to think about what was going on until many years later when it all slowed down. I had already been dj’ing every weekend for years at the Rhino club Southampton as the local underground dance music scene grew. The gigs then became international. Landing myself a spot on one of the best industry DJ agencies at the time. Getting paid to fly away every weekend for years. I was flying to most parts of the world where my music was popular at the time, just before the days of the internet boom.
Would you still play those tracks today?
Moonface: Yeah sure but not in a normal set. I played at a retro rave gig about 2 years ago and was billed as Moonface. I played a set using all my own tracks dug out and dusted off the vinyl. I’d never done that before, my whole set was Moonface releases…. It’s on Soundcloud if you wanna check it out.
You were quiet for a lot of years production wise and then reappeared with new music on Stripped, Mindwarp, Tulipa and also something for Bedrock again around Nov 2016. The years in between, were you still actively working on music or taking a break and focusing on other things?
Moonface: I was originally signed to Bedrock for 3 mini albums and that’s what I presumed I was working towards for along time… I was making tracks saving all music for Bedrock staying loyal for many years…. Then suddenly almost over night the whole industry changed with the birth of the digital age. Physical sales dropped right off over just a couple of years. Once John Digweed said I could release my music on other labels I then had a stash of Moonface tracks all un-released, looking for new homes. It was really hard to understand and come to terms with the fact that now I’m not getting well paid for music sales do I give up or carry on? After having quite a few years earning from my Moonface music global physical sales it was very disheartening. That was the early days the birth of many digital only record labels. I’m continually doing dj mixes or working on a themed mix or planning chillout journeys all can be found on my Soundcloud page… Always working on Moonface tracks then lazy sending them to anyone just moving to the next new track again. Recently a few more remix offers have come in… Right now I have just finished working on a Scobi ‘Electricity’ Moonface remix. Called Electricity on Gibbon Records.
You have a new EP out this month July 2017 on Mirabilis Records. Tell us how you approached writing the tracks, how they ended up on the label and what’s coming later this year from you?
Moonface: Both I don’t really remember making…. I know both happened in a few hours about 2014 if I remember… I tend to forget about them until I have a tidy up and check back thru un-finished projects and often can’t remember making them… Sometimes the best ones happen so easy and then you just put them aside thinking must do more work, when really they didn’t need any more work… Alex sent me a load of awesome tracks from his label, so I sent a load back as I had just sorted a little Moonface folder of lost and found tracks. I passed them onto Alex then next thing I hear he wants to release two on Mirabilis but was having trouble making his mind up.
Later this summer I’m working on a compilation mix for Tulipa Records. I have just finished a compilation mix for Gibbon records that was great fun to do after being handed a folder full of awesome music. Then had to pick half of the 27 tracks to create my Moonface inspired journey (released July 17th 2017). Also a number of new Moonface tracks looking for homes along with a possible album or two of un-released music of no particular genre my weird stuff.
How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self-taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
Moonface: Memories… and how spoilt we are today…. All self taught the hard way, I wanted this way from the start always thinking I have to learn myself this is the only way for me to create my own Moonface sound… My initial equipment was based on what money I could borrow on finance at the time. I had done a couple of tracks with a local music engineer who helped me with learning the basics in his bedroom studio. Guiding me to the best sampler to get. Best mini mixing desk. This guy was an awesome mentor to me and still is, in his own way.. His name is Chubb “Big Bud” on Good Looking Records at the time. He encouraged me to learn how to use the sampler as that was my only tool I had back then. He taught me how to sample from old records, use bits of drum loops, chop up beats and learn programming. Also he was my sound checker who helped me loads with learning the mix down and how to EQ. I would play him a track and he would sonically rip it to shreds. I would walk away disappointed and annoyed but take on board everything he told me about my production. This went on for a couple of years then suddenly around the time I made “U Get So Give’ in late 1996 everything started to work for me in the studio. Back then if I wanted to test my music I had to drive to London and get a dub plate cut. If I wanted a known dj to play them you had to get extra cut and post it to them or see them at a gig and give them the record in person.
How has your studio changed in the last 20 years in terms of hardware?
Moonface: Not much at all… apart from a better computer with more memory running Logic I love the warm sound…. I keep my studio computer off the internet so no online connection. This keeps it free from the updates we get all the time… I’m always stuck in a time warp with my gear… I am useless with knowing what’s new on the market what I should update.
Looking back over your discography what release are you most proud of and why?
Moonface: Hard to say really, For me not the obvious ones…. I think some of the tracks that have gone well under the radar over the last few years. For example Colourspash, Tinpeas, Lunar Drums, At the Speaker, Lakes Mate, The Dreamer, Didn’t care What You Said, These Sounds, Know So, Tumble Weed and Power People one of my favourites of all time… And plenty more if you are interested they are all on Beatport… 🙂
What was your first amazing moment in a club? A memory that still sticks with you today.
Moonface: Really hard to remember my first amazing moment in a Club….. If I can change the question slightly and answer with the most magical moment at an event as this moment was outside under the stars not in a club. I had warmed up for John Digweed in Turkey Izmir. My job was done so had a few hours to pass while Digweed did his thing until the morning. It was 2 or 3 am dark and I was looking up at the sky seeing all the amazing stars and asked for a sign of some kind. Then as I asked a shooting star came into the atmosphere at a near on horizontal angel breaking up as it went across the whole of the night sky to the East. Some people on the dance floor were pointing up at the stars as we watched it change colours breaking into smaller pieces until it went behind the mountains.
What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
Moonface: Getting a big phat quality hypnotic sound is what I feel comfortable creating and enjoy. Chopping up stuff, arranging stuff is all great fun. Getting a percussive groove going on is also great fun as really I am a drummer. What I find the hardest is playing in melodies I can hear in my head but cannot translate to the keyboard. Along with learning all the plugins and technical side of engineering sounds I find difficult. If I have a creative blockage its normally because I am trying to create something when not really in the right mood. I usually give up at that point and know I will come back another day when feeling the flow again. I play everything by ear and leave it to the mastering to sort out the finished sound.
Do you have any plans to release another album? And how important do you think artist albums are in this age of rapidly consumed music?
Moonface: I do have more than a couple of albums worth of music sitting around… No plans just yet. Some of the music is very odd and experimental that I’m not sure who would be interested in, apart from music mates. The stuff I make when I really want to be creative and not follow any dance floor rules is the weirdest. It is important to get your music out there and show your creations to others. Yet others are also bombarded with music from so many directions these days. Its personally impossible for me to listen to everything out there I would like to listen to and get right into it. We are fed endless promotions every day. Release after release, I just can’t physically keep up with the promos we get sent all the time. So I feel this is the same for all of us and most Dj’s. So it all depends on what you want out of life, finding the balance is most important.
What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
Moonface: First cassette was Howard Jones Album “Humans Lib” 1984 Great mid 80’s electronic pop music, some great songs and messages in his lyrics. Last cd I bought was Plaid’s new 2016 album “The Digging Remedy” But if your talking vinyl records I am still buying them all the time. I do a big shop when ever I can afford it every other month.
There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound like you have, what advice do you have for them?
Moonface: Another good question :). Put your time into learning your own way, make loads of mistakes and things that don’t work before they do work. Don’t send to any labels unless you are sure you nailed it as nothing worse than when someone sends something saying “please have a listen, by the way its not finished yet, tell me what you think”. Sample from as many different styles of music as possible create layers of sounds from different sources and qualities. Loop things that no one else has looped, reverse it see what happens. Try not to use too many pre set drums as everyone else has already used them, or if you do then mess them up somehow with Fx or filters creating different patterns… Spend a little time grabbing a load of tracks chopping them up using a snare here, a kick drum, a hi-hat or percussion loop. An intro loop or at the end of a track a single sound looped… little bits off a movie sound track or TV program even the news sometimes and suddenly you have something unique. Nearly everything I do is chopped up in audio apart from the musical elements like bass lines, lead synths and pads I play in over the beats I have made then I like to add loads of weird bits and si-fi sounds. Most of all have fun as I have learnt over the many years now don’t take it all too seriously ….What ever you make it will be superseded by another creation in the near future… Don’t believe the hype..:)
‘We Are One/Move Closer’ is out now on Mirabilis Records, you can purchase the release: here