Words by Sweetland.
There are few people in the music world who have the ability to craft their own style of music, from the artwork right to the mastering and engineering of a track. One of these people is Ashley Burchett. Atop his list of skills as an mastering engineering and an on/off artwork designer, Ashley is a formidable producer who releases under the name Ø [Phase].
Ashley’s passion for things electronic came from witnessing the beginnings of techno back in the late 80’s/early 90’s along with seeing performances from minimal pioneers Richie Hawtin and Derrick May.
Through listening and seeing live music, Ashley knew that this was a passion that he wanted to follow. Since his beginnings, Ø [Phase] has established himself in the techno realm as one of the modern greats with his catalogue dating back to 2000. He’s had over 20 releases, many of which (including his album Frames of Reference) on Belgian imprint Token Records, all of which are worth listening to if you’re in the mood for intricate and intelligent techno music.
Ashley's prowess as a DJ has seen him lay out set across the globe, especially in Europe and caught the attention of the holy Marcel Dettmann. If that's not a hype up, then I don’t know what is. Be sure to check out some of his sets (his podcast for Slam Radio is something to behold).
These days with the internet and the subsequent rise of social media, people are putting more effort into social media and marketing campaigns before the quality of music. Coming from your background as a mastering engineer, what are you thoughts on the current quality of music and how important is the sonic quality of techno music? Do you think that this is something overlooked by young and new producers and social media?
There’s a hell of a lot of music out there these days. Too much really. It’s a blessing and a curse. There’s probably just as much if not more good music than there’s ever been but it has become difficult to hear it over the din of the rest. As far as techno is concerned sonic quality is entirely subjective. Take a piece of dub techno for example, one person may love it, someone else might tell you it’s muddy and badly engineered. As a producer you should focus on what feels right to you and try not to get too hung up on what you think it ought to sound like.
Social media is a strange place and not really a true representation of what’s happening. I’m taking it with a bigger and bigger pinch of salt lately.
Was techno always something that you listened to or was there a moment where it clicked and knew this was the type of music you would like to follow and produce?
I was always more naturally drawn to electronic sounding music over rock/live music. When I discovered techno it just fitted that appeal. Learning to mix records (in a DJ sense) cemented it too. It was just a gradual/natural thing more than one specific moment. That’s not to say I don’t like rock music BTW. I like all sorts of different stuff.
It took 13 years since your first release to your album release. How did the idea of writing an album come about and what was the process like for you? Was the process something that happened slowly over time or more swiftly?
I had the idea of an album in my mind for a long time. It was more circumstance that meant it happened when it did. During the earlier part of my production history I simply had a lot of other things going on which didn’t allow space to focus on bigger projects.
What would you say is your favourite element, or something that deeply resonates with you, to a techno song?
It’s hard to say because each song is different. I don’t like the idea of trying to pin down a formular of "what is techno”. When I’m listening to new music I’m ideally looking for authenticity, movement, elements of restraint, texture etc but most of all it has to say something unique, something of it's own.
When producing, is there a mantra or philosophy that you follow?
Erm, no I don’t think so. Ideas come from all directions. :-)
Clubbing is Australia isn’t nearly at the level that it is over in Europe. People always talk over about the legendary Berghain and how it simply blows anything down here out of the water. What was your first playing experience there like and how does the quality of the speaker system contribute to the experience?
To be honest, I didn’t know a great deal about the place when I first played there. I had just returned from a 6 month stay in New Zealand and did the gig after just two weeks back in the UK. I had barely unpacked my records. I know that I had no idea what the long parties were about or how they worked. It was only by the third visit that it really began to make sense. Mainly because I stayed on and enjoyed the atmosphere for a further 14 hours!
As far as the system is concerned; yes of course it’s very important but that goes for any space you're playing loud music in. In Berghain they make the effort but there are plenty of other venues that do too.
From a DJ perspective it’s essential that the sound is right. Especially that the booth and floor sound are properly aligned. What the DJ is feeling will be conveyed to the floor. These to me are simple concepts yet it’s surprising how often it gets overlooked.
What does a DJ set mean to you and what is a key factor that you find makes a great set? When you perform, is there an overall feeling or vibe that you want to convey to the audience?
The key factor is that the DJ is relaxed and comfortable and enjoying themselves. If everything is set and in place - technically or otherwise - then you can give your full focus to the music and the crowd, you can enjoy the party and the creative process.
For you, what is the best set you’ve ever experienced and what was it about this set that was so special to you?
Set I played or set I heard? The sets that impacted me most were ones I heard years ago when I was at my most impressionable - Jeff Mills and Derrick May blew my mind a lot back then. I also had some mystical moments listening to Laurent Garnier at The End club in London (particularly remember him playing Knights of the Jaguar whilst it was still being promo’d)
Looking back, besides the selection, it was the surroundings that really made the difference. The parties I saw them at were very well put together and considered. I feel like I’m labouring this point a bit but it’s something I’ve been considering a lot lately; we talk about Berghain and that’s the same thing.
If you’re throwing a party it’s so important to get these things right. When I was growing up my parents would occasionally have a party at home. Nothing hedonistic you understand but the point is this; they use to go to loads of effort moving the furniture around and changing the lightbulbs to get the right atmosphere. The same principle translates to any party - take care of the details. With techno you need a very dark room and good sound etc etc. Make that effort and the stage is set for legendary performances.
These days, DJ’s could be considered the new breed of rockstars and many people want a piece of the pie, while technology has brought ease to the process of mixing tracks with things such as laptops and track sync. What is your view on how technology has affected DJ’ing as a skill/art and the how has the growing number of DJ’s changed the image of the disk jokey?
The important thing is the music, how it’s presented or delivered will always evolve and change with time, it doesn’t really matter. There has always been and always will be people trying to commercialise and package ideas. People trying to take short cuts and capitalise. That’s just mainstream and what happens when something becomes popular. True passion and talent ultimately tends to find a way through I think.
What would be some advice for the next generation of techno producers coming from your background as a mastering engineer and in terms of music as a career path? How difficult did you find the choice to go down the path of music as a career?
It’s a minefield out there nowadays and seems even more mind boggling than when I started. I always say aim high and push yourself. Seek to earn the respect of those you respect. A career in music wasn’t exactly a choice I made as such, more a passion I found I had. I followed that passion, it twisted and turned, I made some mistakes and bad choices, I made some good choices. Eventually I wound up here.
Reflecting back upon the career that you’ve had so far, what is one moment that you are most proud of and how does this make you feel?
Again, I can’t really pinpoint a specific moment. Each step of the way presents personal challenges of all different kinds. When you take those challenges on and overcome them it is rewarding but you very soon start looking toward to next challenge.
Plans for the future?
I have a lot of touring to do this year whilst juggling some fairly large production projects. My plan is to try and get to 2016 in one piece!
Ø [Phase] is hitting our shores this weekend and is something not to be missed. Dates are listed below
Fri, 15 May 2015 - Ø [Phase] hosted by Stranger at Brown Alley, Melbourne
Sat, 16 May 2015 - Dimensions Festival Launch Party presented by Something Else & Charades at Burdekin Hotel, Sydney