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Interview with Martin Philip

We all are pleased to introduce on our pages a good electro-emerging artist: his name is Martin Philip, he's Swedish and his style is very creative. Welcome on Vox Empirea, guy!
> Thank you chaps! I'm much obliged.
The first one, rather than a question, is my personal curiosity: To who are you referring with the personage that you show in your artistic role , that's the elegantly man fully dressed in black with the bowler hat? It looks an half way between a London's gentleman and a scientist during his exploring excursions. Why you've chosen this image to associate with Martin Philip?
> First of all the bowler hat man was created because I wanted something that could work visually and also that it didn't have to be about me as a person. I think the bowler hat man is a bit like me but just so much more exaggerated. He's the epitome of failure, being neglected by the morning bus and all. He's an observer, an outsider looking in and a person who locks himself in with technology. Just like I do to a certain extent. I think he's based on childhood heroes like Professor Balthazar and Pan Tau but most of all John Steed of the 1960´s telly series The Avengers. British eccentricity at it's best!
Let's talk about your ex-project called Native Cry shared in the early 90's with Kent Björnsson. After the listening to "Love Bird" I can tell that you played a melodic synthpop, so interesting to tickle the attention of Memento Materia. How was your level of satisfaction about your 1993's album called "Origo"?
> Oh joy! Kent and I took the first stumbling steps together in trying to make electronic pop music. We built a studio, we bought recording equipment and learned it all by doing it ourselves more or less. I took the role of being the technician, the engineer a lot more serious than being a song writer or a lyricist. That has changed however over the years. The album Origo took almost a year to make and it was really exciting to have it released through a record label. Doing the sleeve artwork, doing a photo session, the lot. I was only twenty at that time, so I suppose I was fortunate at an early stage.
Your career has been also characterized by other, different electronic platforms as Countzero, Octarine and Imo. What about this last particular project that you undertaken between 2001 and 2002 in collaboration with Sara and John Fritzell? There's an official Imo's discography?
> The imo project is in a way summarizing the 1990's for me. I listened quite a lot to bands like Everything But The Girl, St Etienne and Dubstar. I think imo was my attempt at doing something like that. Smooth synths and soft vocal carried pop with a female vocalist. The project ended because Sara moved to Amsterdam but I remember the collaboration as being very relaxed and friendly. I was newly examined from the School of Audio Engineering in Stockholm and I felt very confident in my role as a songwriter/programmer. There's only a six tracker from imo and it's available to download for free from my webpage.
Your style is influenced directly or indirectly by names belonging of the electronic pop of the 80's, like Eurythmics and Pet Shop Boys, but also from the immortal 70's sound of Sparks .You seem oriented toward music formulas much easily to assimilate and understand than other more abstruse and introverted. Despite this immediacy, you are able to keep a compositional style full of sophisticated arrangements, never unusual. Is this just a simple matter of talent or it's the result of your long time experience in the electro area?
> After some twenty plus years I gather that I should have learned something, shouldn't I? LOL! To me a great synthesizer arrangement is just like fireworks that succeed each other and lit up the sky. I'm using quite an array of program changes and multi layered textures to make a dynamic synth-pop tune. In this day and age of software plug-ins it's a lot easier to do than it was when I started in the late 1980's. The orchestral part is a welcome addition I think because it has a totally different sonic quality compared to the synths and proper orchestration has a seamless voicing with counter harmonies that makes it more sophisticated. My friend Chris Wolf helps me out there.
You are a sound engineer, right Martin? I think that your profession has contributed significantly in the technical development of your music ...
> Spot on Max, spot on! There's a danger to that as well. I remember being seventeen and having a Casio FZ-1 in one hand and a nylon stringed acoustic guitar in the other. It was quite evident that I would prefer the high tech, japanese, digital sampler instead of the boring classic guitar. But if I had paid a little more attention to the guitar I would probably have had an earlier insight of how chords and melodies work. Today I often start my songwriting with a cup of tea and my Gretsch guitar in the sofa. The iMac stands idle at that point.
I find that the scandinavian synthpop possess structures much different from the rest of Europe and United States. The sound system produced by artists from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark is always clean, devoting much attention to the harmony. Are you agree with this observation?
> Well, to be honest I don't know a lot about scandinavian synthpop. It went underground some twenty years ago and very little of new thinking has been breading down the sewers. As being a musician, trying to create my own little bubble, I think it's unhealthy to be tainted by that genre. I rather bring different things to the dish. Outside influences, topics and matters that haven't been in the world of synthpop before. Although I must admit that I find Robyn's music quite brilliant!
What kind equipment are currently using for your compositions? Analog or digital? What's the keyboard of your dreams?
> My Gretsch as I mentioned before is my starting point but when I turn to my iMac I'm using Logic at home. In the studio it's a Pro-Tools HD system. So everything is software plug-ins. I really like the advent of this. It's so time saving and convenient. My favourite ones are Omnisphere, Massive, Reaktor and Arturias V-Collection. The keyboard of my dreams? I've had all of them during the 1990's. So I've been there and done that!
Your past record production as Martin Philip solo project is substantially summed up by the physical albums "Metime" from 2008 and "Fraudulent" of the 2009, plus another mp3 full-release version of 2007 entitled "Decline". There is a continuity which joins these three works, or each of them follows stylistically independent ways?
> No there are no physical edition of any of my albums. They are all released through iTunes. Just the other day someone told me that she had found my music on Spotify. So now I'm working to fill someone else's pocket. I like to see my albums as sisters. Two pairs of them. Decline and Metime is one pair and Fraudulent and Recumbent is the second pair. They are slightly different in approach and in methods of working. I'm using the same recording studio and production team for all of my records. It's mainly friends who wants to participate.
Is Your most recent album "Recumbent" of 2010 available only as download format?
> Yes on the bigger than life iTunes. So much larger than BMG and Sony. More revolutionary than Rough Trade ever was and we are all there. Even Yoko Ono these days!
I love crazily the song "Spoiled Utopia" taken from your second album "Metime". This track reminds me a lot, especially in the refrain, to the sounds heard in "Remembering The Future ", an album released in 1999 by NASA, a Swedish electro-duo at that time dismissed from Memento Materia. Do you know them? Tell us about how is born "Spoiled Utopia" and what is its meaning.
> Thank you so much. It seems to be a very appreciated track and it's also been released as an extended version on the Electropop3 compilation from Conzoom Records. It's about a general observations that no matter how great you intentions are in terms of city planning and architecture, you can never foresee how it may be used in the future. Let me give you an example: The city planners of the 1950's might have thought of the under pass as being a very modern and convenient way of solving a traffic situation. Today it's the place where you most likely are to get robbed or assaulted. The video for Spoiled Utopia is filmed at an old junk yard or car cemetery if you like. So the song became more of a requiem for British Leyland in that aspect. NASA? Yes, when I was studying at the School of Audio Engineering in Stockholm I had the opportunity to work in a nearby studio. Patrik Henzel from NASA had a production suite there and our mutual interest in synthpop really sparked a friendship. He became my mentor in many ways and I've learned so much from him. He helped me out with my examination project by doing the vocals to a cover version I had done by the Pet Shop Boys song "King's Cross".
Do you prefer to publish your music by the CD format or you, as many other artists, have chosen to spread only through internet? Can you explain us the reasons for your choice?
> Making a physical edition is costly not only in production but also in distribution. Internet doesn't have those limitations at all.
What are you working on now? Are you planning a new release?
> A new album entitled "Linear" is finished and will be online through my web page by the end of November. The album contains nine songs from my previous albums in dub/instrumental versions and one new written track. The songs will be available to download for free as .wav-files. I like to think of it as a giveaway to my listeners. A video for the title track is in editing mode right now and there will also be a fantastic illustration made by Nils-Petter Ekwall to recap the four previous albums.
Have you many Italian fans?
> There has been a little interest from Italy yes.
Bye Martin! It was really nice talking to you. Now Vox Empirea invites you to make a special dedication to its readers. You can say whatever you want, or almost...
> I would really like to thank you for the opportunity to be on your fantastic webpage and I tip my bowler to all my listeners out there! Cheers! Martin Philip.
* (by Maxymox 2011)