Photo: Press (phrex)
„You can always rely on the residents. They know the club, the crowd, the sound system, and they are a pillar of the musical identity of a club, just as important as the architecture, the acoustics or the interior design,” Nick Höppner once said in Groove. Our monthly Resident Podcast aims to give them the attention and respect they deserve.
“I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t go down very well back then,” quips phrex when being asked about his first DJ set at Kapitel Bollwerk. The Bern institution ended up hiring as a resident nonetheless and he’s been standing behind the decks there at least once a month. The DJ, who has released a slew of records under the name phrex and recently also made his debut as the not-so-anonymous Seduction, contributes to the Bern scene and Switzerland’s dance music community more broadly in more than one way, though.
When not busy running the Dubtopia series on Reitschule’s Dachstock floor, he also represents the Midilux collective at the same club while also working behind the scenes. This is something he also does for the montsomnia festival—the brainchild of, yes, another collective whose member he is. He somehow still found the time to record a mix for our Resident Podcast representing Kapitel Bollwerk and while it features almost strictly dancefloor-oriented music, phrex of course didn’t stick to only one genre. That did go down very well, though.
You’ve taken your first dancefloor steps on Reitschule’s Dachstock. How did it come about that you developed a connection with Kapitel Bollwerk?
My first conscious steps on a dancefloor were actually somewhere else: Back in my teens I was heavily involved in the (antiracist) skinhead scene and I used to go to early reggae, rocksteady, ska, and northern soul allnighters and weekenders back then. Yet, Dachstock has a special place in my heart as it opened up so much for me when going to my first drum’n’bass nights. Outdoor and squat raves was the thing I was looking for—Kapitel came later. Today, Kapitel has a second floor and it all grew to be an important hub for the local scene and certainly for me too as it’s the club where I am trusted to play for hours and with a monthly—sometimes biweekly—consistency.
What did you learn during and from your residency at Kapitel Bollwerk?
I believe that a club residency gives a DJ the ability to learn to read the crowd in a profound way and have a stronger bond to the club’s more dedicated audience plus understanding the soundsystem and its sweet spot frequencies.
Is there an especially memorable night you like to think back to?
There was one scene that got stuck in my head. A few years ago, I was closing the night with a four-plus hour set. Dino, one of the club owners and a friend, came to me and told me the I had 30 minutes left. I started playing a more reduced and dubwise techno selection before getting things to a beatless end. People were almost ready to leave when I dropped a drum’n’bass tune, the place went bananas and Dino came back to me to tell me to keep playing. Actually, that’s a solid goal for every DJ when you play a closing set, you should aim for making the club owners as well as the crowd change their minds about when to call it a night.
You also run the Dubtopia series at Dachstock. What’s the concept behind it?
Dubtopia is a soundsystem session: big, beautiful speakers, shitloads of bass, eyes down, vibes, dubplates, and a very conscious and diverse crowd. The first two or three hours are usually the foundation—roots, dub, steppers—before we dive into modern, bass-centric music revolving around dubstep. What’s also pretty elemental is bringing some great legends such as Mala, VIVEK, Commodo, Dubkasm, Kahn, Sicaria Sound to little Bern. Next session on the Digital Steppaz Soundsystem will be with Tectonic Recordings’ Pinch, Ina Valeska—a local DJ for whom you should keep an eye out—and myself. It’s also important to mention that Dubtopia was born out of the desire to play out tunes on a proper Soundsystem and feel them in the way they are supposed to be felt: physically and mentally. Massive shout out to Dachstock and the trust they put in us!
You also regularly play there as part of the Midilux collective. What’s your role at Midilux?
I joined Midilux in 2018. At first I sprinkled in some ideas and I am also in the resident DJ team together with Racker. I have been responsible of the programming for a few months now.
That’s not all, though: You’re also part of another collective, montsomnia, that is behind the eponymous festival. What’s your philosophy there?
Montsomnia is a festival mainly focusing on electronic music with a strong focus on the local, i.e. Swiss club scene. Yet it is so much more than a rave. People of all colours, gender identities, sexual orientation, and classes come together in a safe space to experience timelessness, togetherness and consciousness all bound together by music and a dedicated, grassroot-democratic collective of friends with a lot of dreams, ideas, skills, and passions. We strive to create a festival with a common denominator enabling interpersonal, lysergic, visual, and sonic experiences.
Besides all that, you are also active as a producer under two different monikers, phrex and Seduction. What’s the difference between the two?
My phrex moniker has always had a very strong connection to the hardcore continuum. Starting off with dubstep, it slowly morphed into an outlet for all sorts of bass-related music. There’s even room for drone, but it can also go as far as pop edits with a twist. A few years ago, I had the urge to have a hidden name unrelated to my phrex personality. I started making house and techno-related music under the Seduction alias and played them in my sets. Although I didn’t promote it in any way nor connected it to phrex, some people—I see you, ggg-group!—blew my cover. Fast forward two years and I get to play as Seduction at Funke, Paradise, Down by the Lake festival, and Doel Festival in Belgium. It’s kind of funny because in Switzerland, I play any genre as phrex.
You latest release under that moniker was a split with re:st owner Lcp on his new imprint UFM. How did the release come about?
Lcp and I were in my studio on a casual summer day. It was hot as hell in my attic apartment and we probably just had to make an uplifting, sunshiney dub tune. I think we both decided quite quickly to release it on 7″. Good times!
What was the idea behind your mix for our Resident Podcast?
To be honest: I think I’m pretty bad with clubwise mixtapes. I just can’t get into the zone when I’m at home in my slippers, sipping a cup of tea. However, I also thought about that most of my online mixes go beyond the dancefloor, whether on my regular Terrain radio show on Radio Bollwerk or when I record guest mixes. “Gonna do things differently this time,” I thought to myself. It took me ages to decide whether it’s going to be more techno-leaning or more bass-leaning. I went for the latter but dropped the tempo mid-set to have some aesthetical variation. I hope the selection is enjoyable in different situations. I recorded most of it in a stinky bunker on a completely oversized soundsystem and with a smoke machine going nuts. I was on my own.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future and what’s going down at Kapitel Bollwerk in the immediate future?
My plan is not to have too many plans and to see where it goes. But there is one thing I’m very much looking forward to, an audiovisual project with Leo Baqué. He’s an extremely talented artist from Paris working with installations that combine movements, frequencies, and light. The music will be based on what I started with the album Gravitate. At Kapitel there are some excellent nights coming up, e.g with Tama Sumo and Lakuti in November or Ata in december. I’ll be closing both nights and will definitely try once again to make the club’s owners postpone the closing time.
Stream: phrex – Groove Resident Podcast 34
01. phrex – Aldebaran
02. Headland – Strays
03. Planète – Meteor
04. Zygos – Drained
05. PHON.O – Mercurial
06. Boylan, Slimzee & U.S.F- The Mould
07. Akcept – Forward March
08. K-65 – Threats
09. Massive Attack – Paradise Circus (Breakage’s Tight Rope Remix)
10. Atrice – Being Harvested (forthcoming)
11. Benton – Third Wish
12. AKX – Define
13. Kryptic Minds – Stepping Stone
14. Colliding Fields – Love (forthcoming)
15. Mystic State – Love [Interlude]
16. Ital Tek – Murmur
17. Orson – Spacephase (unreleased)
18. Konduku – Gegek
19. Pearson Sound – Everything Is Inside Out
20. AFX – NEOTEKT72
21. Mafou – Khezu
22. [Burial – Untitled]
23. JAEL – Toca Pra Mim Baile (phrex edit)
24. Anunaku & DJ Plead – Clap Clap
25. Synkro – Movere
26. Azu Tiwaline & Al Wootton – Light Transmission
27. DJ Metatron – Last Days of Infinity
28. Seduction – Structural Tool (unreleased)