J. Phlip Talks Dirtybird, Ghettotech, and Partying Worldwide
Dirtybird might just be the most fun-loving collective in electronic dance music with its BBQ parties, ass-clapping bass music, and lively gang of artist pals who are always down for laughs.
But among the Dirtybird boys -- Justin and Christian Martin, Claude VonStroke, Worthy, etc. -- one character stands out because of an X chromosome: J. Phlip (AKA Jessica Phillipe), the sole lady on the roster.
But just like rest of the crew, she's a slayer when it comes to banging out slick tracks in the studio and making booties bounce in the club. Go find out on Saturday when she rattles the speakers at Treehouse with LINK Miami and Miami Rebels alongside the Clink label's Tim Xavier.
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Crossfade: How did you first get drawn to electronic music and when did you get into DJing and production? Were there many raves or parties happening where you grew up in the Midwest?
J. Phlip: I really started to get into it when I was 17. I got a fake ID and started going to a couple of the clubs in Champaign, Illinois that had electronic music. I was mesmerized by it all: the DJs, the lights, the music, the whole culture of the nightlife. Most of all, I just loved to dance for hours and hours. Around the same time, I found out about these house parties going on in Urbana, in the basements of these grimy college houses. I was so sucked in.
I had originally been really into hip-hop, well I still was, but at these basement parties was where I really solidified my love for house music. A friend of mine who lived near my dorm showed me how to match beats on his Technics, and mixing instantly became my obsession. I bought some belt drives and hardly left my room. I kinda missed the rave scene. Unfortunately, it died before I really got into dance music. Either that or I was too busy being a nerd.
The DJing thing started going really well for me after a few years, and I was really curious about production but I just didn't have the time for it until finishing college. I had made the decision that music was my true passion but I also had already gotten so far through my engineering degree at the University of Illinois and it hadn't been easy. I wanted to earn that super important college education first. [Laughs] Yeah, that degree that I haven't used at all. Hmmm...
But it's all good. As soon as I got that diploma, I packed up and moved to Chicago, and San Francisco a year later, and just started teaching myself Reason and Ableton on the biggest piece-of-shit computer, and just bartended on the side to pay them bills.
How did you first hook up with the Dirtybird crew?
I was at Smartbar for the Ben Watt show in 2004 and this Justin [Martin] kid came up and started dancing with me. He was this total goofball wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and a baseball cap that said "fingerbang". Turned out I had a few of his tunes and he had just started this Dirtybird thang with his homies in SF. A few months later at the WMC, I found him again ... and the rest of the silly Dirtybirds ... and somehow just like ended up partying with them the whole time. This was way back in the beginning, before Barclay [Crenshaw] was even Claude [VonStroke] yet. I guess I tagged along with them enough times that they finally started to invite me to come DJ. Something like that.Iit was just meant to be.
Claude, Justin and the rest of the guys come across as so approachable and down-to-earth, and there's a definite sense of family or clique there. How does it feel being part of it and what are your favorite things about it?
They are the best people. All of them. And somehow when new people get signed, they usually end up really fitting in personality-wise too. It's the best thing in the world for me to be a part of Dirtybird. My favorite thing is when we all get to play or hang out together. I try to cherish the moments because everyone is so busy these days -- and all over the place!
It's super special when we all get to be together! And it has been really cool to have been along for the ride for so long and to watch how we have grown. We share this excitement when we feel that we have pushed ourselves further, either as a crew or for each other as individual artists. For instance, when we have a great party, sometimes there are moments when we look at each other and we're like "is this really happening? Ah!
With Dirtybird you might be "one of the boys", but have you found it challenging as a woman to get ahead in the male-dominated DJ game? Do you think women are starting to emerge in the industry and one day we'll see a better ratio of genders? What advise do you have for other budding young female artists?
[Laughs] The classic female DJ question. I get asked this stuff all the time. Personally, I didn't find it all that challenging as a female among male DJ-producers. It had some challenges, of course, but doesn't every artist? It probably gave me more of an advantage actually, because it helped me to stand out.
One thing that can be bothersome is that a lot of people assume that you don't write your own music if you are a woman. I had some pretty close DJ friends who admitted that they thought Claude or Justin wrote my tracks. And I have actually learned over the years that a lot of female artists don't produce their own tunes and maybe that is one reason why this assumption came about. But a lot of male artists don't as well. I'm not really sure what I can do about that except say that I do write my own music and the artists that I respect also write their own music.
As far as advice for female artists, I wouldn't give any different advice than I would for a male artist. I don't think you should have a different mentality just because you are a girl -- I think you should just do your thang. Follow your passion and work hard no matter what your gender.
Like most artists on the Dirtybird roster, your sound straddles house, techno, breakbeat and bass. Were you always drawn to hybrid sounds that break the 4/4 mold? How did you hone that style and what other artists do you think influenced you the most?
I started out doing more 4/4 stuff in the beginning. I was really into Chicago house. I guess it was mainly the Dirtybirds that opened my mind more to broken beat stuff. And also my move to San Francisco, because the dance-floors were so much more open-minded to non four-to-the-floor dance music.
It was really natural for me to expand my sound into this direction because of my background with hip-hop, so I just dove into it -- got more into ghettotech, breaks, old-school electro, etc, etc. I guess first I was really drawn to the booty stuff: Deeon, Godfather, Assault, etc., then moved on to Dexter, Boddika, Addison Groove, Pearson Sound, and so many other producers that are currently making a lot of broken beat dance music.
What were you personal highlights of 2012? Any favorite moments or anecdotes?
It has been such a fun year -- I thank my lucky stars every fucking day. Here's a few things... An insanely silly photo shoot in Ibiza with Claude, Justin, Eats Everything, and Catz n Dogz -- at 8 a.m., directly after they got done playing Space. Most fun ever. Imagine at the end of the shoot, all of us jumping in the ocean in our underwear and swimming around while swigging a huge bottle of straight rum. (Or, ummm, maybe you don't want to imagine.) [Laughs]
The Dirtybird BBQ warehouse party in London was incredible, despite it being the hottest party I have ever DJed. It was our biggest party yet, and the biggest all-Dirtybird lineup. We had such an amazing team behind the party as well. Everyone worked so hard and put so much love into this party. Experiencing the result was so rewarding. Big thanks to our London fans and be on the lookout, 'cause we're doing it again next year and its gonna be even bigger!
DEMF this year was such good times. ALWAYS. Getting to play some of the festivals in the US was really cool over the summer: Symbiosis, plus the Woogie Stage at Lightning in a Bottle. Opening for Thom Yorke and Caribou and Daphne at Stattbad in Berlin was pretty unreal. Yup. Drunkenly singing "IMDABES" and "SNACKS" with my friends over and over. [Laughs] Check out GMCFOSHO on YouTube -- love that guy. And starting many group hugs at the end of the night at different clubs around the world.
So what can the fans expect from you next in the production front?
I have been quiet on the production front this year because I have been taking some time to dig deeper into my musical self and work on some new and different sounds, learn some hardware, try some new production techniques, and even change my workflow in the studio. I will be releasing the first EPs under my real name in 2013 with Dirtybird, and possibly other labels as well. Shooting for February for the first EP.
J Phlip and Tim Xavier. Saturday, October 20. Treehouse, 323 SW 23 St., Miami Beach. The party starts at 11 p.m. and tickets cost $10 via residentadvisor.com. Call 305-614-4478 or visit treehousemiami.com.
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