Hip-Hop, Unphased: Local producer Phaseone finds under-the-radar success with his remixes

Andrew Jernigan, the south-city producer known as Phaseone, likes to keep a low profile. Last June he released Mad Weight, his first full-length, with little more fanfare than a MySpace bulletin and a MediaFire link. But the modesty of its release did little to cover the magnitude of its scope: 48 atomized tracks of reassembled neo-soul and downtempo electro, spliced together with nimble boom-clap percussion and the occasional Pink Floyd sample. It was a massive undertaking — the sort of album that could easily grow unwieldy in the hands of a lesser producer — but Jernigan's fluid overlay of ambiance and rhythm keeps the record remarkably cohesive.

Phaseone's roots are in hip-hop. He honed his chops at the now-defunct Blueberry Hill event Integrity, where he won more consecutive beat battles than any other DJ. Lately, though, he's turned his attention to remixing and has kicked up a flurry of interest for his unofficial reconfigurations of some unconventional artists. The work he's done inverting the fractal pop of Panda Bear and the minimalist dubstep of Burial has caught the attention of a few labels, which have approached him about remixing UK artists like Bloc Party and Banjo or Freakout.

With more remixes in the pipeline and his new album, Thanks but No Thanks, due out later this month, Phaseone talked about his motivations with B-Sides.

B-Sides: Who are you, and how did you get started?

Phaseone: I've been making electronic music off and on for about eight years. It started off as just something to do for fun, and I started spending a lot of time on it about five years ago. I've done everything from jungle, hip-hop, house [to] I.D.M., but mostly hip-hop. Within the past year, I decided to make the switch from being just a hip-hop producer, chasing rappers around and trying to sell beats, to being more of an artist and putting my own name on the music. I want to be able to stand behind what I do and not depend on other people to make it sound right.

You seem to be flying under the radar here in St. Louis, yet your remix work has caught on among some influential music blogs, namely Gorilla vs. Bear (gorillavsbear.net). Are you trying to remain a mystery locally, or is it just easier to find your niche audience online?

Music on the Internet is more direct. Communication is minimal, and you can just go straight to the music. So I guess I've caught on a little quicker there than I have in a physical sense in St. Louis. I'm not a big talker. And I think on the Internet you can connect with anyone. A lot of people in St. Louis have pretty limited interests, unfortunately.

Your music blurs the line between some very distinctive genres, whether it's hip-hop, trip-hop, indie or anything else. How would you characterize what you're doing?

I'd say it's definitely hip-hop. It sounds like hip-hop, but in a different way. I wouldn't call it something different just because there's no rhyming. I definitely drew inspiration from dubstep and electro, too, and '60s pop music.

Trackstar the DJ guests on your album Mad Weight. How did that collaboration come about?

We worked with the same people for a long time. A lot of my tracks have been on his mixtapes. I described the project to him and told him I wanted some scratching on it — but not like super-intricate battle scratching, just some subtle stuff to enhance the vibe. I actually sent him a bunch of samples and sound bytes I wanted him to scratch — with no rhythm or tempo to go off of — and then I placed them on each track. Some of them are a little weird and off-sounding in the context of the songs, but that was the goal. I don't know if he even liked what I did with them.

Who else do you identify with in the local scene?

My very good friend Frank Heat, he is one of the most talented producers in St. Louis. We have done a lot of music together in the past, and we will be collaborating a lot more on remixes and beats and stuff in the future. Also, Black Spade. He's very soulful and original. I really like what he does.

Are you strictly instrumental, or have you thought about adding some non-sampled verses?

Not anytime soon; I really like the sound I have going right now. I don't like that rap focuses on specific topics and themes that you may not have even thought about when you made the beat. And a lot of rappers don't take criticism very well. There were several times after working with other people that I didn't even want to play the record for people because I felt so disconnected from it. I definitely want vocals to be in my songs, but not in your face, with hooks and verses and stuff like that. If there are any vocals, they are very delicate and subtle and often hard to understand. I want to create moods.

 
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