We talked to one of the most recognised French DJs and house music producers - Phil Weeks. We touched many topics like sports, the art of sampling, his super successful label Robsoul and much other interesting stuff. Phil will play as our main guest at our 1 year anniversary party in Klub K4 on the 22nd of April.
Hello Phil! Where in the world are you right now and where are you going next?
Hello, I'm in my home studio in Paris. I'm going to make music today. For example, I just received a new vocal from Ladybird and I was just listening to it before you called. We've worked together on 'She Can't Love You' and I'm really looking forward to this one as well. I'm going to make music for the next couple of days until Friday when I go back to Spain. I play in Barcelona on Friday and then I travel to Bilbao to play there on Saturday... It's going to be super cool.
That's amazing. You have been playing in Spain quite a lot recently. The people seem to really dig your sound there.
I have to say I wasn't playing in Spain for a while. I had gigs there about 12-15 years ago, but then the scene sort of shifted to a more minimal sound. But then these guys booked me to a gig in Madrid about two years ago and people went crazy for my music. Everyone asked me what it was I'm playing and I said HOUSE. And now I'm there almost every week now haha. It's cool, I'm really happy. I played Ibiza every year, but I wasn't really playing in Spain though. You have to understand one thing in music.
If you're like me, staying in the same genre, there will be times when it's more popular and times when it's not. There were years when I played in the UK all the time, then Italy, then Germany – it's always changing. But it's what I love doing and what I will be doing in the future. Even if I had to play table tennis to pay my bills, I'd still be making music. I'm very fortunate to be able to live a nice life and be as creative as I want to be. Many people don't know this but I used to do sports. I played table tennis and that was my job for like 8 years. But at the same time I was always in love with the music.
I had a lot of time to pursue it because only had about 4 hours of training per day. I did the training then make music all day and at some point I couldn't do both anymore. Like most sports, the competitions were on the weekends and so were the parties. So I didn't sleep and went to the tournaments where I'd lose to some really bad table tennis players so my sport club wasn't happy and I had to stop haha.
It's no secret you like to smoke. But how do you deal with the occasional anti-smoking policies in clubs?
In the club, honestly… Before I used the wape I didn't really give a fuck. I came to a club and they were like: no it's impossible, superly forbidden and this and that... And I was like yeah yeah, cool. But after I drank two tequilas or some champagne I really didn't give a fuck anymore haha I still love to smoke, but since I have a wape which produces no smell - it's no problem. I take it everywhere with me now.
Really love the back story to your tracks like the ones you did with Yasmin called 'My Music' and 'Love 2 Love'. I find it so refreshing, funny and creative. Can you share a bit more on how these vocals actually became real tracks? Was this the tracks that crowned you as the 'Pimp'?
I got this message on my iPhone from this girl, you know? And I instantly got the idea to do this album. I got 2 messages actually, so I've decided to do two separate tracks for the 'Pimpin' Ain't Easy' LP. A week before that I wasn't even thinking about doing an album. But then I immediately got this idea of a pimp: all these girls want to get with me, but I don't go with them. I reject them and they hate it. They go crazy.
They look good and think that their charms and silly games will work on me, but I really can't be doing that. So this girl I used the vocals from, Yasmin is from London and she's now a good friend of mine. She knows I used the vocals and is proud to have been a part of it. I never pre-plan anything, I love to have a story or an idea. I have to admit that for 'Raw Instrumentals 2' I didn't even have a story.
It was just a collection of tracks I wanted to put out. The concept is usually there but not for that album. So when I find the theme or the concept I like, even if it's been done before like the pimps and the hoes and the love; I build around the idea and do my shit with it.
Listen to 'Raw Instrumentals 2'
House music is your passion, no doubt. When we think Phil Weeks - we think House music. How do you stay true to yourself after all this time? That gritty old-school touch with crispy samples. We've seen many labels and artist reshape their sounds and cater to trends. Ever wished to try some other genre or to experiment a bit like that? What is your secret?
I don't try to invent something new, I do the old shit which I've always loved. I mean, I hate the new shit haha. I want to inspire the future generation for this music, so when I'm out they can pass it onto the next generation. The first generation inspired me, I use the same machines from the 90's and have zero new elements in the studio haha. I use a lot of samples which were already used before but I use them in my own way.
I loved it when it was 12 or 16 bits, proper old-school sound, not like nowadays when people do 24 bits and really clean and they call it lo-fi. That kind of music just doesn't show me much emotion, I don't know. Maybe some people will say the same about my music but I don't really care. I like my shit – it's the 90s.
In more than 15 successful years of grafting and doing what you do best, what do you feel was the biggest challenge you had to face?
Not sure how to say this but it's really simple. You have to love what you do. If you don't have the passion – the drive then you're dead. You don't even like the music any more. I see that with a lot of DJs nowadays, they just go to work. They don't go because they're happy, you know, like that time when you get the first gig and are super excited. They go because they need the money – because it's their job. Me?
I organize my life around the things I love and have the passion for. If you think for a second: fuck man, I have to go to this gig and I don't feel like it, you're not going to do your best. Impossible. I understood that very young, so I've always wanted to keep this fire alive and to maintain this passion I have for music. I used to go out every weekend like most of the younger generation. Smoke a lot of weed, get shitfaced, bring home random girls all the time and not sleep for three days, I used to do all that. But if you continue to do so, in about two years time you're dead. Finished. You don't want to do it anymore because you feel bad.
Sampling is where you've honed your craft to perfection. Having J Dilla as the ultimate inspiration you've taken samples from hip-hop and other genres to give it your special treatment. Were you ever accused of stealing samples?
I sample anything I like, I don't really give a fuck. I never think about it like: oh, I shouldn't be doing this or that. I don't care. I've had it happen to me twice that people complained and I had to pay. And I did. Usually, it's not a problem. It's just how I approach music. I take bits and pieces from everywhere. Some people do it badly, but I think if you do it good then people don't complain. If people don't want me to release something because of the samples then I just don't sell it, simple as that.
The French scene is definitely picking up in the last couple of years. There are many new names emerging and many already renowned players doing amazing things. How do you see the growth of Paris' nightlife, the city you love the most? Is there anyone who deserves some credit or a big shout?.
The scene here has changed, of course. It's like I've said before; it's always changing – it's a cycle. When I arrived into this scene in the 90s the French scene was the bomb. In about 2005, after the the arrival of minimal and electro the scene went to shit – it was really bad. Only now, after a couple of years it's amazing again. Maybe in 5 years we will lose the plot again, hopefully not. Every major city like Paris or London has it's better or worse days. A couple of years ago it was only about Berlin.
Now people talk about Barcelona and Paris. It's always moving from one hotspot to another. I almost never go out clubbing, so I cannot say what's going on per se. I just know when I play in Paris the parties here are the best. I cannot explain who is responsible for the rebirth. We have a lot of talented producers and DJs like Chris Carrier, Apollonia, D'Julz and so many more... I could give you a hundred names. And most of them are all from Paris.
You come from a Hip-Hop background. It's no secret you still listen to a lot of the older stuff. Are there any new producers and artists you also listen to?
I'm going to give you a name but.. fuck. It's kind of a secret. I found this guy on YouTube. And he is super talented, all the stuff he comes up with! He's not famous as an artist but is famous for his tutorials as a musician. And I was watching those and was like fuuuuck. So I discovered his Bandcamp site and he was selling some of his music directly – no label, no nothing. And I checked it and I was blown away. He's going to have an album coming out on Robsoul Jazz in September. The guy is a monster. His name is JFilt. What I like is the 90s sound and he delivers it without a doubt.
As Robsoul head-honcho it's evident you are surrounded by a lot of music daily. But you don't listen to most of the demos you get sent in. How do you decide upon releasing new stuff?
Sometimes it's hard to explain why you sign a track or why you decide not to. You either feel it or you don't. You could have two people using the same samples and produce almost similar beats. But yet one's would sound shit, and the other would hit it just right. People who feel the music do it the right way as it comes from the soul. Other imitate styles but it doesn't work like that. I mostly release music from people who show me through their music that they know their history.
Your studio looks really cosy and you really look at ease with your equipment. It's a real pleasure watching your videos. Ever had a studio session with some other musician just bringing in some instrument, roll a fat blunt start jamming and get creative like that?
I dd all that. I recorded singers, bass players, the trumpet... But usually I cannot do it as good as the sample. The people I sample did their music in the 70s on a totally different gear. It's almost impossible to recreate some keys nowadays even if you use most of the same stuff they've used. So I take one key, put it into the mpc and then play it the way I want to with my own melody. When some people have the bass line in their mind they call a bass player and get it recorded. I just take one note and that's it. I can create everything like that. Sometimes you take the whole loop because it's dope, but sometimes you just take one note and get creative. Depends what you have in your mind and what you want to do.
We are big fans of your Youtube video series 'Underground Chronicles'. It's so refreshing when artists take the time to tell their story in a creative way like that. In one of your episodes of Underground Chronicles you mention you love travelling alone as it gives you more time to think about the 'master plan'. Are there any future plans you could share with our readers?
I always want to have the big picture of the whole thing. I try to imagine how people will see this. I really want to leave something special behind for the house music world that's why I put so much effort into it. When I decide to record a new episode it's a lot of work and stress when going to a gig with my camera. I have to get to the site, find a camera guy, have a story written because I don't always want to do the same shit. It takes me a lot of time and these things cost too. When I'm producing a new video for my chronicles I really don't have the time to make music. But I'm very proud of it. I think in the long time it will be worth it.
The next episode is almost ready but it's been sitting in my inbox for nearly 2 months! I need to check all the videos and edit it. I will do it next week, I promise. It will be a special one. I've recorded the entire day when I played live in Rex, Paris. From the moment I woke up and trained on my live setup to the preparty I held at my house where we had a lot of people and everyone was drinking champagne.. to the time when I went to the club to did a soundcheck and then the actual party. It will take me about two hours every day for the next two weeks to produce a 5 minute video. But it will be super cool and I cannot wait to share it with you guys.
Thanks for your time, Phil. We are looking forward to meeting you when you come to Ljubljana to play for our party in Klub K4 on the 22nd of April. We are so excited for this!
Thanks for having me guys. Looking forward to coming and play in Slovenia for the first time. Yeah, me too!