Profiles in Bass II: phonon (Exclusive Interview)

Author: Karsten Kohout

When an artist’s ID’s are getting played out on an official Disciple Records livestream, there’s probably a reason to pay attention.

That is certainly the case for the 17-year-old Kansas resident Cameron Marshall, otherwise known as phonon.

Phonon has been blowing up the underground with one solid track after another via Odio Records (and a few other labels, of course).  However, his resume doesn’t finish at being an artist.  Apart from his work as a producer, he also works as staff at the previously mentioned Odio Records.

Image Courtesy of https://i4.sndcdn.com/avatars-BPvNy7sS3JjipRob-CQHm8A-t500x500.jpg,

Needless to say, being both a talented producer and a tastemaker on one of the hottest labels in bass music has turned a few heads at the top of the food chain.

At the beginning of May, Disciple Records mainstay Virtual Riot hosted a stream/mix session alongside a few other artists.  The set was an impressive showcase from bottom to top with one moment in particular sticking out from the rest:

 

Yes, that’s right, that’s riddim in a time signature other than 4/4.  Virtual Riot’s face really did say everything I could have here.

The track, “Polyriddim” drops this Monday, May 11th via Odio Records.  The upcoming release is not only great in its own respect, but also holds real potential to be a catalyst for a new type of creativity in the bass music scene.

Pre-save the track here:  link.odiorecs.com/ODI074

When I originally spoke with phonon, the only description I was given of the track was, “It’s pushing down a lot of boundaries.”  While I was certainly excited, a section of non-4/4 riddim was the last guess on my list of expectations.  The first time I got to hear the track it made me stop and ask “how?” while at the same time bobbing my head to the rhythm (or polyrhythms in this case I suppose).  In a lot of ways, my reaction to the track was similar to what I feel when I put on a more musically intense Culprate cut.

4/4 or not, 140-150 beats per minute or not, polyrhythmic or not; all that matters is that I know when a track is special.  “Polyriddim” is one of those special tracks.

Recently, I had a chance to do a quick Q&A with the Odio Records native:

Karsten Kohout: Hi Cam! Super excited about this interview.  The majority of your releases have come via Odio Records where you are also a member of the staff.  How does simultaneously being an artist and a staff member impact your creative process (if at all)?

phonon: The dynamic between being staff and an artist is quite an interesting one. Being so closely integrated with Odio allows me get release dates and plan out things for music I haven’t even finished yet. For example, my tune “Polyriddim” got a release date back when it was nothing more than an 8-bar loop. Doing this makes it so I have structure in what songs I need to get done, and the deadlines provide extra motivation to make sure they get done. Something I’ve noticed personally is that having to meet deadlines pretty regularly has forced me to streamline my workflow and get better at working efficiently, which without Odio I wouldn’t have been able to do!

KK: How would you describe Odio’s place in the grander dubstep scene?

phonon: In my eyes Odio is the home to some of the most unique and underground artists in the scene. I think our role right now is to provide a home for those trying to make it to the big boy labels like NSD (Never Say Die) and Disciple, but need a solid platform establish themselves first. Our goal is to someday be one of those big boys but there’s a long way to go until that.

KK: Something that really impresses me about Odio is how tightly knit the main group is.  What is the behind the scenes planning of the label like?

phonon: Behind the curtain of Odio is just a group of friends having fun doing what they love. Whenever we need to get something done we hop in a discord call and work while also goofing around, it’s honestly one of my favorite parts about the label. However, when we need to actually be serious about something we can always do that, but the majority of the time we’re just a bunch of nutcases cracking stupid jokes. A result of that is the little Easter egg in the “Polyriddim” art, and if you haven’t seen it, just look at buildings in the back until you see something ;).

KK: Describe your relationship with Mad Dubz in one word or phrase and elaborate a bit.

phonon: Brother. Tom (Mad Dubz) was one of the first ever friends I made in music, and ever since we met back a couple years ago he’s been my best friend. Throughout that time many people have come and gone, but Tom (and Leo (Vayre) shoutouts Leo) have stayed by my side this whole time. We learned how to get good at producing together and we were always supporting and hyping each other up. Being able to grow alongside him has been one of the best things ever and I can’t imagine doing any of it without him. Tom and I will forever be in this together and you can expect to see a lot more from us!

KK: Some of the verses and bridges on your tracks seem to call back to a more melodic era of dubstep, yet still return to a modern sound at the drop.  What were some of the songs that got you into bass music and do you see an emphasis on melody returning to the scene anytime soon?

phonon: The song that really pulled me into dubstep was Cinema by Skrillex, which clearly has a very heavy melodic component to it. However, before I really got into dubstep, I was listening to people like Wolfgang Gartner, Deadmau5, Martin Garrix, Cash Cash, Tobu, Proleter, TheFatRat, and just a lot of melodic sort of poppy music. Once I found Skrillex and others who combined those melodic elements with the crazy sounds of dubstep, I was more than hooked. Tracks like Virtual Riot – “Lunar”, Flux Pavillion – “Bass Cannon”, Knife Party – “Bonfire”, “Holdin’ On (Skrillex & Nero Remix)”, and all of those classics were what I loved, and I think the melodic elements I do in my tunes are inspired by that era of dubstep.

As for melody making a comeback to the scene, I say it definitely has been and will continue to do so. People like DDD, Voltra, i7, and Akeos have been pushing towards those really melodic intros as well as incorporating melodies into their drops. I personally love it and want to see more people give it a go!

KK: Can you describe what it was like to have Oolacile play out Reso Bass at Lost Lands?

phonon: Oolacile was the first proper big person to find my music and I remember the day he found me vividly. To go from just a random small person on Soundcloud to having a Lost Lands playout was just too much to absorb at once. Watching him play out Reso Bass was just pure ecstasy and disbelief, and to this day I still can’t fully comprehend it. I’m thankful to be able to call him my friend now!

KK: Out of the tracks you have already released, which one are you most proud of?

phonon: As of this current moment, I would have to say “Switch Slappa” as it’s the most recent piece of music I have out (even though it was started in November lmao). However, once “Polyriddim” is out, that will be the tune I’m most proud of, and honestly, it’s the tune I’m most proud of out of everything I’ve made so far.

KK: Can rats actually have dementia?

phonon: I canny lie they be quite schtewpid init. Wagwan my slime! for the battyman will surely come to cobble your big man toes! Where is my shoe?

KK: If you switched brains with one other producer, who would it be and why?

phonon: Nik Roos from Noisia, although it was a close competition between him and either of the KOAN Sound dudes. But when it comes to Noisia, there is just so much amazing stuff from them that I can’t even begin to grasp how it’s done, while when it comes to KOAN Sound I feel like I have more of an understanding of their processes simply because one of my best friends has been studying them for years (Vayre).

KK: For those interested in music production: what’s a lesser known plugin that you find yourself going back to?

phonon: Native Instruments Choral. I use this effect so much that my friends yell at me to stop using it, but I can’t help that it works so well!

KK: I’m pumped for your new single, “Polyriddim”, coming out on May 11th via Odio Records.  I know it has been in the works for a long time.  Before getting into the more technical specifics of the production, could you explain what inspired the track?

phonon: It’s 100% inspired by Jacob Collier, shoutouts to Vayre and X73 for showing me his music!! Once they introduced me to him, my mind virtually imploded and I realized there was so much more musically that could be done in dubstep that hasn’t been done before. Immediately my mind started racing and thinking about how to implement this crazy theory stuff into dubstep, and the idea of “Polyriddim” was born.

KK: The number of musical technicalities being utilized in “Polyriddim” is astounding.  Could you mirror the breakdown of the track you gave me over DM’s here?

phonon: The tune starts off in 140 bpm F minor and in 4/4, as any standard tune would do. However, after 8 bars of the intro, it has switched to 122.5 bpm E half sharp minor (the key between E and F minor, microtones) and 7/4. The tune continues in this for a while, and then the key changes to E half flat minor a bit into the drop. The next major change is at the last 8 bars of the drop, where it changes back to 140 4/4 and goes back up to E half sharp. It then modulates back to F minor for the breakdown, and the cycle continues. The way I got this, is that I did septuplets over 2 bars of 140 and used that as the new tempo, meaning that there are now 7 quarter notes in what used to be 8 quarter notes in 140 4/4. (7/8)*140 = 122.5, which also means that the length of 2 bars in 140 4/4 = the length of 1 bar in 122.5 7/4. This along with the 8 bars at the start of the tune and 24 bars of drop + breakdown that are in 140 4/4 mean this tune is also playable/mixable! If you’re curious about this, there will be a full theory breakdown video of the tune after it comes out, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

KK: A few established producers have said that now is the time to make tracks that do not necessarily have to be playable in a DJ set.  “Polyriddim” uses some clever math to make sure it is playable in DJ sets, but I don’t think I would be wrong in saying that it more than stands out against the tracks in a straight 4/4.  Do you think that “Polyriddim” could spearhead a conscious effort by other producers to deviate away from the expected musical formulas in bass music?

phonon: The dream of “Polyriddim” is to pioneer a new subgenre of dubstep, under the name of “Polyriddim”. I really want others to try and make stuff like this and push away from the assumptions and boundaries that dubstep has been operating under for ages. The response so far has been far beyond my wildest imagination and I’ve done what I’ve sought out to do, but if I could also inspire others to do stuff like it then the dream would be complete!

KK: Lastly, on April 24th you tweeted, “too many pogs for me to champ to/ not enough time for me to like you.”  Is this more of a philosophy or a lifestyle?

phonon: This tweet is a reflection on us as the human race. You see, we are in the society of which we live in, and while we try to make sense of this society, we are, indeed, the virus, of the earth we stand on. We are the society in which causes the societal problems in which they occur in the society we are. You see? It’s so simple. Take a step back. Look at the bigger picture. Truly look at it. Do you see it? Maybe not. But soon you will. And soon you will rule it all. Everything the light touches simba. It will be yours. And YOU will have to control the society in which we are the killing nature and the earth. You cannot escape this destiny simba. You will either bring back the society of yesteryear or doom us all to eternal suffering in the hell pit of Zanzabar. Please redeem us from our sins simba, for you are the chosen one, the all mighty savior we desperately crave for. If you do your job, if you meet your calling, we will chant your name for centuries to come. You will go down as the Savior of the Societal Virus. I know it. I can see it. Deep within you it’s there. You can feel it. FEEL it simba. It’s been there inside you this whole time. Don’t worry about where it is inside you. Don’t think about that part. Not important. Disregard that. The important part is that you recognize that it’s there and you pursue it. Not like that, wait no, don’t do that no that’s not what I meant! No! Don’t say that simba! That is not your destiny! You are our savior from ourselves! Focus on that simba! Silly dog. You see, once you complete your prophecy you will unite the four corners of the kingdom under one common ground, and together we will thrive. We will prosper like we have never done before simba! It will be magnificent simba! We will come together to shout our united phrase! Our war cry! The song of generations past present and future! The sound that our enemies hear and fear! The one word that can make a full fleet of grown men run the other way, our one true secret weapon! Say it with me now simba! Say it! 3, 2, 1, Poggers! Nice one simba! Here’s your reddit gold kind sir.

KK: Thanks so much for your time!

phonon: Thanks for the doing the interview with me! And if you’re reading this, thank you for your time <3. Make sure to listen to “Polyriddim” when it comes out tomorrow and tell me what you think! Also, where are my kids?

Phonon is truly one to keep an ear out for in the coming months as this upcoming single is likely the first of many landmark tracks for the highly buzzed about producer.

Again, the pre-save for the track can be found here: link.odiorecs.com/ODI074

Stream phonon here;

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/phonon_music

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/4CySw3P8BeBPMBr9Rymc8Y?si=m_A_qGQ-SFKYU9flksbcvQ

Find phonon on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/phononmusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/phonon_music/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/phonondubs/

 

KARSTEN KOHOUT | Keeping you up to date on bass | KXSU Business Director

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