Phil Kieran is one of those names that is synonymous with dance culture. Much like Kelly Slater is to Surfing, Madge Bishop to Neighbours and Donald Trump to Russia! Hopefully our IP address hasn’t been tapped after that last comparison. Comparison’s aside, since the year 2000 Phil Kieran has, as Erol Alkan would put it, kept the kids dancing. And last year he was back with his third full length LP – Blinded By The Sun, released via Jamie Jones [ Hot Creations ] imprint. The LP has since acquired two bang on remixes by two further legends of dance culture, Roman Flugel & Andrew Weatherall. With these two remixes and a new LP in mind we explored the possibility of being able to interview Phil Kieran [PK]. Fortunately for us he agreed and subsequently we delved into his thoughts on the vinyl revival, the decline of club culture and owning your own Yacht…
[BBB] Interview Phil Kieran
BBB – Hey Phil, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. I think you’ll agree that since your debut record back in the early 2000’s the music industry has been experiencing somewhat of an adolescent like identity crisis. One minute MP3’s were its new best friend, then streaming and now Vinyl is turning its head again. What have you made of the constantly shifting musical landscape, and how has it affected you as producer, writer and DJ?
PK – I just concentrate on making the music I want to make without thinking too much what format it will be consumed in. There are pros and cons of each but I don’t get too preoccupied with it , as long as people are enjoying music in a way that gives them most enjoyment. I love the idea of my music being added into an infinite number of personalised playlists as much as I like the idea that somebody is playing a full vinyl album over and over again in their living room. On line streaming has meant that monetising music is near impossible through sales alone, but I was never into making music for money reasons , which is probably why I don’t have a Porsche or a yacht.
BBB – We recently read an article in which global megastar Flume stated he’s sick of doing albums. Does such a sound bite suggest that in a world of YouTube clips and Spotify playlists that the album format could soon become obsolete?
PK – I have a busy mind and loads of ideas for one-off dance tracks so I release singles / 12” EPs frequently, and I could probably get away with only doing that. But making an album is a labour of love. Its a chance to nurture a seedling idea. For my recent album ‘Blinded by the Sun’ I started with a few basic concepts and they all fed off each other naturally until I had a bank of music which I could shape and curate into a journey. Making an album is like storytelling. If an mp3 is a magazine article then an album is a novel. A good album lives forever. You can revisit an album and hear something new in it each time. I think in an ever accelerating , disposable world people love something that will stand the test of time.
BBB – Flume went on to point out that his first album came to him easily and the second was much more problematic, taking 3 years to complete. Which raises a question we recently explored on BBB. Is the inspiration behind successful song writing lucky talent or in fact the result of determined hard work? Leonard Cohen famously stated:
‘Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work’
PK – Its unpredictable. Sometimes inspiration leaps out of nowhere and ideas just flow and the whole process seems effortless. But, I think if you ask most musicians and DJs , we are a neurotic bunch and we have this fear that we must keep creating and that you’re only as good as your last record. If that pressure becomes too much it can be stifling to creativity. Then it’s time to get out of the studio, experience life and wait for some new found inspiration to hit you . It’s definitely easier getting started on an idea than finishing it and thats where just ‘showing up’ and keeping at it comes in to actually finishing a project rather than having 100 different half formed ideas sitting on a laptop. Saying that, ‘Blinded by the Sun’ took 3 years to create. It wasn’t so much lack of inspiration , it was too much. I kept building on ideas. Although I was making a dance album I got really into recording all the instrumentation and vocals live. So you know, it took a long time to just schedule in all the different people who contributed and to arrange and rearrange all the parts. In the final stages, its like a baby- you don’t want to let it into the world until you are sure it’s ready.
BBB – Your 3rd LP ‘Blinded By The Sun’ was released towards the end of last year and like many dance records you’ve opted to commission a few remixes. For many artists such packages are purely designed to facilitate fresh PR around the original release. However in this instance the choice or remixers suggests that this was more of a creative decision. What made you select legends Andrew Weatherall and Roman Flugel, and are you pleased with the results?
PK – Quite simply they are both big heroes of mine. I can’t be bothered with picking people who are just popular right this second. I like to work with people I admire for their attitude to life and music and that I can trust implicitly to come up with their own take on my sound. So many idiots are making average mugs and doing very well for themselves but I like to cut through the bullshit and just focus on the real stuff.
BBB – Changing tack slightly. Annie Mac recently recorded a short BBC Documentary on the demise of UK Nightclubs. Highlighting that since 2005 over 50% of UK clubs have closed. What do you think is causing this rapid decline in the UK? Is it councils, property developers or perhaps something much deeper, such as the loss of that original mid to late 90s ‘Punk Spirit’?
PK – I have been hearing this since the late 90’s. Its all nonsense , there is a more vibrant dance music thing going on in Belfast, Ireland and all over the UK the last few years than ever before. People have wider tastes than ever and music sounds better than it ever has. Everything is looking really positive in my opinion. I am not sure about the dynamic of actual nightclubs or the actual figures one how many clubs are open, but if you look at people going out to festivals or small boutique clubs I would say it looks like more people are listening to dance music than ever before, maybe just not in ‘Super Club’ venues. I suppose the problem is that the authorities sometimes seem to work against dance music culture, and don’t appreciate the economic, social , cultural and even health benefits of a vibrant night time economy.
BBB – And finally, as producers, songwriters, DJs and clubbers we all have those records that have defined key moments in our musical lives. Records that are palpably evocative in our memories. If you don’t mind sharing, what would those records be for you?
PK – I was talking last night to a few guys about this. I’ll always say that Basic Channel and Moritz Von Oswald are the most important things to have happened to electronic music. I have since become obsessed with Kraftwerk and bands like Neu! For me it was always about Europe for electronic music going right back to Delia Derbyshire and Tom Dissevelt. Outside of dance music , I’ve a life long love of the Pixies who I was just playing to my 7 year old son. He is not totally convinced yet, but I’m working on it.
BBB – Thanks Phil for taking the time to chat to us. Fingers crossed you’ll have that Porsche soon.