Alex is one of Phonica’s longest serving staff members, with 2023 marking his eleventh year as part of the shop’s family. While he recently stepped back from his full-time role at the shop to work in production at Ninja Tune, he still works part time for us behind the scenes on the various labels under the Phonica umbrella. He also runs a handful of his own labels, including Utter, which he started back in 2011. This mix has been a very, very long time coming…!
As a first, this mix is available to view as a video on our YouTube channel as well as the usual Soundcloud link. Dive in…
Hey Alex, thanks for joining us! Can you tell us about your mix and what was the idea behind it? How and where was it recorded?
Well, the idea was to somehow include a really wide variety of ‘electronic dance’ records I like in a single long mix. So rather than it being your usual homogeneous 1 or 2 hour 125bpm House/Techno mix, it would instead join the dots between loads of genres in a (hopefully) interesting way. It’s a condensed snapshot of what I’d play if somebody was silly enough to let me DJ all night from 8pm-8am or something. I say condensed but it still ended up being over 4 hours long!
In this age of smoke and mirrors I’m a bit bored of hearing suspiciously perfect Ableton mixes, as they’re just too heavily edited and clinical. So, after a bit of practice I recorded this mix live at home on a pair of Technics decks and XDJ-700s, warts and all. It’s a 60 tracker going from ambient and 90bpm downtempo chuggers through to hypnotic, spacey acid and IDM, then gradually on to heavier Techno and breakbeat gear, to absolutely rinsing 150bpm face-melters. It settles down a little towards the end… then it goes a bit weird. I didn’t manage to include absolutely every style I wanted to and purposely swerved some things I’ve covered quite a lot in previous mixes (such as balearic/disco and post-punk) but it flows well with some nice ups and downs and finishes in a funny way.
I also thought it would be a good opportunity to document a mix on film, but in a different way to how most DJ sets are filmed. Personally, I hate the ‘face on’ angle. I couldn’t care less what a DJ looks like, how they’re dancing or what clothes they’re wearing. However, I am curious about how live mixes are put together from the DJs perspective. So this one is filmed from above and focuses solely on the turntables and mixer. Pretty nerdy really.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background, perhaps where you grew up and what first got you interested in music?
I’m from Wimbledon originally and grew up between my dad’s place there and wherever my mum was based overseas (the Canary Islands, Tanzania, Chile etc.) til my late teens. I’m not sure what initiated my interest in music, but both my parents are musicians – my dad professionally – so I was always around loads of tapes, CDs, records and instruments. A lot of my wider family are musicians too. I guess early on when I was obsessed with skateboarding I would discover music through skate videos and track down the CD or whatever.
One defining thing I do remember was discovering that ‘Endtroducing’ was made entirely from snippets of other records and that flicked a switch in my teenage head. I caught the production bug, went on to discover DJing and the joy/pain of running parties while studying Graphic Design down in Camberwell. It was through these parties that I started DJing b2b with Ben (also ex-Phonica) and we became resident DJs at a few parties like Blogger’s Delight (founded by Casper who went on to become Volte-Face and run BleeD), High Horse (with Casper and Matt Walsh) and ran our own called Walk The Night (early residents included Bok Bok of Night Slugs and Matthew Stone). We had a decent run for 5 or so years, DJing around the world, but by 2011 it had run its course and we decided to ‘break up the band’ on a high, so played our final set at Field Day that year. We’re still good mates though and collaborate on other projects, our current one being Lost Continent. If you happen to find yourself in Albania this June catch us at Kala…
You started working at Phonica back in 2012 and have been part of our team ever since. Can you tell us how your role has changed over the years and what exactly is it about Phonica that kept you with us for so long, even after starting the new job at Ninja Tune?
I always wanted to work in a record shop – great for discovering music, meeting people and getting that all important staff discount – so when Ben told me there might be a few shifts going at Phonica, I jumped at the chance. I was working for Erol at Phantasy at the time, doing the odd day here and there as a label assistant. At first I was only working a couple of days a week at Phonica, usually weekends, but after a few months a full-time position came up buying in stock and working on the shop floor. The years have flown by! I’ve met so many good friends working there, had the opportunity to DJ at amazing parties and get first dibs on wicked records, so it was really hard saying goodbye completely… So I didn’t! Haha. I’m currently a full-time product planner at Ninja Tune but still involved with Phonica looking after the label side of things for a few hours a week and chipping in with other bits behind the scenes.
What’s your preferred method for finding new music — do you still enjoy digging around in dusty crates, or do you prefer to buy online?
Both. It’s always nice visiting shops and browsing through records in the flesh, but sometimes I just want to zone out on the sofa, scour tracklists and splurge on Discogs.
You run the Utter label, can you tell us a bit more about it, perhaps some key releases people should check out?
I always wanted to run a record label but with a twist. As well as music, my background is in design, so I was keen to merge the two and put out nicely packaged audio-visual releases. When I hit a crossroads following the end of both Skull Juice and Blogger’s Delight in 2011, I had the opportunity to go for it.
At around the same time I’d been helping my wife run her art paper called Symbol, which featured Daniel Swan’s work. I found out he had collaborated on a multi-media project with Jack Latham called ‘Lux Laze’ and when I saw their work it ticked all the boxes. That became the first release. Jack is best known as Jam City of course and Daniel has gone on to create amazing visual work for the likes of Koreless, Visionist, PC Music, Malibu…
Over the first few years releases were pretty sporadic due to lack of time/money, but the label has picked up steam recently, to the point where I aim to get 4 or 5 out a year. I wanted the label to be a platform for all kinds of music and perhaps that confuses punters as there’s been quite a lot of variation so far, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. To throw another spanner in the works, last year myself and another ex-Phonica employee Mike Smaczylo launched a new sub-label called Quoth which is for limited stamped white label runs of weird bass/techno/IDM 12″s.
I love every Utter release so recommend them all, but to name a couple of memorable ones – due to how exhausting they were to put together – would be the O Yuki Conjugate 12″ and its hand-stamped insect cover (in 4 colours) and the Sammy Osmo (Legowelt) LP with its maddening secret documents envelope. A special mention also goes to the Lena Willikens/Sarah Szczesny box set with its 5 month logistical nightmare waiting for parts to arrive from Germany. Oh and a shout out to Vādin! Their records have flown under the radar a bit but always blow my mind…
What do you have up your sleeve for 2023?
It’s already been a busy start to the year for Utter. The Light Surgeons album ‘SuperEverything*’ came out in February and we had a sold out launch party at Iklectik which showcased their audio-visual wizardry, across multiple projectors and whatnot. Their whole project is so impressive, I urge everyone to check them out live. Following that was the surprise release of The FLK’s record which flew out in about 3 hours… I didn’t see that coming! Right now I’m working on the next few Utter releases, including one which features in the mix. There will be a new Quoth 12” too. Other than that, celebrating 20 Years Of Phonica with the crew, DJing now and then and keeping my head down out in the countryside.
Cheers Alex 🙂
Tracklist (with Phonica links where available):
01. The FLK – We Know Where The Time Goes (Part 1) (Excerpt) [Utter]
02. Cheb Runner – 3097.7 km / 3097.7كم [Oddball Fantasies]
03. Cass. & Niklas Wandt – Schicht um Schicht [Candomblé]
04. DJ Plead – RT3 [Boomkat Editions]
05. Golden Axe – Yaatra [Arma]
06. Zazou / Bikaye / CY 1 – Ey! Yaye [Crammed Discs]
07. Carcass Identity – Things To Forget [Phase Group]
08. Black Merlin – Scape One [Artificial Dance]
09. Waak Waak Djungi – Mother I’m Going [Efficient Space]
10. Luis – Timmy Chalamet [AD 93]
11. Boards Of Canada – In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country [Warp]
12. CiM – Cable Car [Delsin]
13. DMX Krew – Archimedes [Expanding Vision]
14. Internal/External – Trespass [Kode]
15. Single Gun Theory – Open The Skies (Extended Remix) [Nettwerk]
16. Uni Son – Untitled For Now [We Play House]
17. Le Petit – Niente [Maga Circe Musica]
18. Frank Rodas – Ritual (Forthcoming on Utter)
19. J.S.Zeiter – B2 [Expanding Vision]
20. Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom – Relevee (Carl Craig Remix) [DFA]
21. Anatolian Weapons – Acid Research 63 [Byrd Out]
22. Rolando Simmons – Yes It’s That Pluzz [Analogical Force]
23. Submersible Machines – When Whales Fall [Lunar Disko]
24. Tin Man – Jack It Acid [Acid Test]
25. Akasa – One Night In My Life (Nectar Mix) [WEA]
26. Skatebård – The Bells Of Mist [Balsa Wood]
27. Experimental Products – Glowing In The Dark [Vinyl-On-Demand]
28. Amor Fati – Stanton Carlisle [Forthcoming on Deep Cover #7]
29. Sepehr – Servants Taunt [Squirrels On Film]
30. Mr. Fingers – Inner Acid (Aleksi Perälä Remix) [Alleviated Records]
31. Biochip – Bremerton [WéMè Records]
32. Alden Tyrell – Shift Cycle [Dub Recordings]
33. Mike Ash – Robotik [Ozone Recordings]
34. Mathew Jonson – Ultraviolet Dream [M_nus]
35. Paradise 3001 – Sunspots (Solenoid Version) [Sound Metaphors]
36. Nathan Fake – Outhouse (Fluffy Mix) [Border Community]
37. Bochum Welt – Radiopropulsive [Rephlex]
38. MNLTH – Meadow [Organic Analogue Records]
39. Misha Sultan – Kaleidoscope [DIG]
40. Hans Berg – A Floor Of Stars [Klasse Wrecks]
41. Böhm – Single Scene [Dolly]
42. Quad – Spires ‘n’ Towers [Casting Shadows]
43. DMX Krew – Orange Cat Milk [Under The Radar]
44. Furyon – Trance Exploder (Trance Out Mix) [Stroom]
45. Vein Melter – When You Feel It (Remix) [La Bella Di Notte]
46. Priori Presents RED – The Hammer [Garmo]
47. A∞x – Ceramic City [Nduja]
48. Modern Art – Hello/Goodbye [Domestica]
49. Steffi Grafs Innere Ruhe – Gute Freizeit [The News Cycle]
50. Krampfhaft – Meanwhile At The Old Warehouse 
51. Black Point – Forest Lore [Out To Lunch]
52. Poly Chain – Cobalt [Die Orakel]
53. Vangelis – Tears In Rain [Audio Fidelity]
54. DJ Lostboi – Little Prince [Self-Released]
55. Piero Piccioni – It Means Love [Dirty]
56. Chris & Cosey – Melancholia [Conspiracy International]
57. Brian Eno – Final Sunset [E.G. Records]
58. Acoustic High-End Research – Nature Ensemble [Running Back]
59. Coil – Strange Birds [Dais]
60. Sandra Cross – The MMs Bar Recordings [Trunk]