Crossing Paths with Rhythm Phazer I January 2018 I Lisbon
During the last couple of years, I met some very interesting people from all kinds of backgrounds. Being inspired by my personal favorite blogs, I always had the idea of devoting them a column on my blog connecting my photography with first journalistic experiences by making interviews. Finally for the purpose of a university project during my Erasmus Semester at Instituto Superior de Comunicação Empresarial in Lisbon, I got the final push to roll up my sleeves and realize this idea.
Rhythm Phazer, that is Robert Pinet aka Vandi and Heidy Pinet aka HeidyP. The two electronic music producers from Canada can easily be seen as modern-day version of wandering musicians. Originating from Toronto and Montreal, their journey took them to places all over the world including stopovers living in Paris, London and Berlin. From big locations like Salon zur wilden Renate in Berlin to Dimensions Festival in Croatia they played all kinds of venues all around the world. Now they set up shop in Lisbon, where I met them at their small bedroom-studio to talk about their music and journey.
How did you get into Producing & Djing?
Robert: Well it’s two stories. It is us making music together for 2-3 years and then there is our backstories and maybe Heidy can start with that.
Heidy: Well I got into music through college radio. Actually, I wasn’t even at the university, but for some reason everybody could have a radio show there. Mine was every Friday for two hours and I had this show for seven years. Like halfway through I got invited to do a DJ night and I really enjoyed it. So I ended up throwing parties on Sunday in Montreal and it picked up and I just kept going from there.
Robert: She always leaves out what I think I would lead with, that she moved to Montreal when she was a young 17- or 18-year old and played guitar in the metro to make her rent. Such a romantic story!
Heidy: Well I moved to Montreal to study classical guitar and while I was doing that I was playing guitar in the metro busking. At some point, I quit everything and became a DJ.
Robert: Waking up at like 5 a.m. in the morning to get your spot… I just think it’s such a romantic musician story but she never tells it!
Heidy: Yeah, it’s like a different person!
Robert: I know what she means! Somebody asked me the other day what my first instrument was and I said piano and guitar, but I spend many years playing trombone! But I guess that happened to a different person! Besides that I started doing hip – hop and I was in a rap group. And then, at some point I came over to Europe and I really got immersed in the electronic music scene. I was living in London, going to Drum ‘n’ Base and Jungle parties and really got my mind blown as a Canadian. Well, then I started producing house music five years ago and moved to Berlin. I was in Berlin for a couple of years, produced an album over there in this place called Funkhaus. I just was totally immersed in the club culture when I lived there and finally ended up in Montreal, where we met three years ago now. We did not do much music together in the beginning until we went on a trip to South East Asia. We had all the time in the world to do stuff and started producing together and doing mixes together and ended up performing a lot over there.
Heidy: In Cambodia, we met this DJ Duo from France called Camo Disco Club in Phnom Penh. And we ended up playing every weekend there making our rent. And the we played this very big club in Ho Chi Minh City/ Vietnam. It is closed now but it was called the Observatory. It was a really magical club in the port.
How would you both define your roles within your project “Rhythm Phazer”?
Robert: Well there is always a balance between me being more of a studio guy and Heidy always playing and performing a lot. She has been doing this for like 10 years now. So for me I would gladly never have a show, would never play, because I am so into studio. I just love making this stuff and being there and I don’t have a big interest in seeing anybody dance in front of me. I mean, when you’re out there, then of course it is fun to see people dance to our music. But for Heidy, there is no hump to get over for example. We land in a city and she already called like 50 people. We played in Sri Lanka last January and then we ended up in Berlin for a month and we played like 4 times in Berlin. So Heidy is always on it, which is a great experience for me because I come from a long line of people who talk about doing stuff and never do anything!
Heidy: He could spend like hours in the Studio producing. I could only do it like 30 minutes or maybe like an hour. I just can’t stay in this for so long!
Robert: Unless she’s researching for new songs to DJ. She spends hours digging for new music, whether it is vinyl or digital. I feel like we both spend equally amount of time with our music, it is just I might be tweaking a drum sound.
But this sounds like there is a lot to learn from each other!
Heidy: Oh yeah definitely! For like years I was Djing and always wanted to get into producing music. I always thought that it would add something. And I just kept talking about it and talking about it. I am not sure, if I would have taken the effort, if I hadn’t met Robert! And I saw how clear he was and he taught me in a way I could understand. At some point I opened Ableton by myself, started exploring and finally got beyond the point of just talking about it. So that is definitely really cool!
Robert: And what I produce by myself, is totally different to what we produce together. Even though I might be the one driving the car, it is totally her input that makes it different. When we work together, we definitely create something, we wouldn’t do on our own! So yeah, this is our studio space. (Robert points to their table!) We have the vinyls here, we can add CDJs to make it a full table. Or remove everything and make it a production center because we got the computers and we got the electribe, and that can kind of make music all on his own.
And did you bring this with you?
Heidy: I brought the CDJs because I didn’t think we were going to find anything to play on. But then we went on a trip to Morocco last summer and at a market there we found this very old mixer. We bought it for 30 Euros and it turned out that there were only like 900 made in the 70s in Switzerland. It was a Stellavox. So, we sold it again and could buy some turntables from the money.
Robert: Yeah that little mixer was like a gift from the universe. Because even when we got it home we had to do some stuff and test it. Because it was all ancient ports, we couldn’t just plug our cables into the machine. It was all custom-made ports. But yeah, happily we could make a little profit and were able to buy those turntables. It felt like a little gift from the universe saying that we’re doing something right!
That is such a cool coincidence! So now you are here producing music on a regular basis. How would you define your style of music?
Robert: Well, I think it is more house and dance based, music to play in clubs. But you know, I guess it is kind of the same with photography. If you imagine a McDonalds advertisement. It could only be shot one way. There is not much room to play around. And there is this real push for that when you’re creating, saying “Man I would really like people to support and buy this!”, but people are only supporting this specific type of music. But what naturally comes out of me is a bit different than that. So for us, sometimes it is a bit of a balance, but usually we’re just trying to do what we feel like doing.
Heidy: We really like to play around and not be too serious about what we are.
What are your future projects coming up?
Robert: Right now, we have like 7-8 unreleased tracks that we’re looking for homes for. We would love to do a vinyl release for them.
Heidy: Yeah I guess so! That would be the best! But even if its digital, as long as the label fits good with us…
Robert: I think we’re just at the point where we play a lot and we would love to continue that. But we’re new to Lisbon and we’re new to Europe in many ways, so the success we’re having is already great and we just want to make more music until it fits a home. I think that this will definitely happen. But yeah, there isn’t any pressure from us to selltle. We let stuff go every now and then, but I think we’ve done so much in our lives already, that none of us wants to go like “Oh we have to sell this project!”. But then of course, some label involvement would be amazing!
Heidy: Well, often there is also the issue that indie labels of course only release a limited amount of music every year and they have their releases planned for the next 2 years, but we of course would like to put out our music out there as soon as possible.
Robert: And I guess if we would not constantly be on the move, that would probably make a difference as well!
But now you’re here in sunny Lisbon. How was your start here?
Heidy: An interesting thing here in Lisbon is, that there are lots of electronic music clubs or kind of bars, that have been around for like 20 years. And the DJs been around for 20 years as well, so you get a lot of way older DJs and the way they play I rarely see it and I really like it. So first when we arrived in Lisbon, everyone was like “Oh, it will probably be difficult!”, but so far the local DJ community treats us great and they like to invite you here and there to play.
Robert: Yeah one of the DJs we saw in the very beginning, was playing amazing music, but he wasn’t beatmatching at all. He was just like thrashing songs into each other, and the dancefloor was loving it! Because beatmatching is a tool of Djing of course, but it is not DJing. You’re probably best to use it, but if not you can still get something great out of it. But yeah, this guy was amazing! It was super interesting to see!
Heidy: And he played original CDs on a CDJ 100, which was the model I learned to play on 12 years ago. It has got no bpm, no nothing. Amazing!
You played several radio shows, e.g. at Rinse FM in France. And now you got your own show on Radio Quantica here in Portugal. Is that kind of your real passion, Heidy, since this is how everything started for you basically?
Heidy: Yeah, it is one of the things I really enjoy, because you can basically explore a bit more and it is way different to playing in a club. It is not necessarily to make people dance and also it is this commitment, that comes with your own show, that I really like. And we were lucky, that in the past five years we could do so much from online radio to underground radio in New York. But yeah, being part of Radio Quantica was definitely one of the goals I had when moving to Lisbon!
Robert: You know, the few times that we’re in a car, it is such a treat to be able to just turn on the radio. It means a lot to us, to be giving that feeling back to the world, especially as we’re not playing like commercial radio stuff. So we’re really happy to be a part of that as well!
One thing that is really remarkable is, that you’ve constantly playing shows, wherever you’re going. So I checked out your last year’s gigs and you play all over the place from Salon zur Wilden Renate in Berlin to smaller places to Dimensions Festival in Croatia. How did this pop up?
Robert: So yeah, when we were living in Paris, we were always going to take off for two months to beat the winter. And we were in Sri Lanka for one month and then we were going to go to India for the second month, but then I had this work lined up in Berlin and I couldn’t turn that down. So here we were back in Berlin, Heidy was playing a couple of shows and one day I met this guy on the work site building up for some car show or something like that and he knew the owner of Dimensions Festival. And he gave me the email and told me to write him an email. And I guess because it was just so completely random, he must have listened to our music and liked it so we got the gig. Then we arrived there, and the day we were supposed to play, there was this huge thunderstorm, that shut down the whole festival. So unfortunately, we didn’t quiet end up playing there, but we met the guys from Worldwide FM backstage and they asked us to play the day after at their beach stage, which was also streamed live to their radio channel as well. So in the end this was a happy ending!