As Efdemin and under his own name, Phillip Sollmann, has explored all manner of sonic avenues, with great singularity. The Efdemin guise has brought the kind of benthic-level minimalism, chiming intensity and deep house melancholia that many have come to know and love from Sollmann and his colleagues on the Dial label. But, under his own name, Sollmann has exhibited versatility, attaining a polymathic status by retaining an interest in electro-ambient soundscapes as well as maintaining a dynamism through collaboration, with Oliver Kargl (aka RNDM) as abstract entity, Pigon. Needless to say, Sollmann’s career has been a rewarding and interesting one to track so far, both in terms of these various explorations and the frankly terrific music he’s released (I still have his most recent long player; 2010’s ‘Chicago’ in regular headphone/speaker circulation as I’m sure many others still do)
Here, we offer a few tangential subjects on which Phillip muses, including the excitement of not knowing where you’re at, the state of music consumption in the digital age, and of course, what we can expect from him at the Dial night this Saturday for which we have tickets and event details here: http://www.residentadvisor.
Hello Efdemin/Phillip Sollmann! Firstly, how are you?
I am doing very fine, thank you.
And are you still based in Berlin? Where else do you divide your time and where else do you particularly enjoy visiting? Any favourite places in London to play/enjoy music?
Berlin is my homebase since eight years now. It feels pretty much like home, especially with many friends around who moved into this city over the last years. I love to travel, but mostly it´s not enough time to visit longer. London is special, as I have a bunch of good friends over there who I visit mostly everytime I get to play somewhere.
We’re really looking forward to your set at the Dial showcase; (for those who don’t know) can you give us a little insight into the nature and history of your relationship with the label? Can you also pinpoint what you think makes Dial so special (for you and the many fans the label has acquired over the years)?
Dial is a bunch of friends, most of them have a relationship with hamburg, where it all started a long time ago. Run by Carsten Jost and Lawrence DIAL has always been open to anything interesting coming along. So the catalog consists of music ranging from experimental drone music to techno, avant-folk to minimal music, spoken word to deep house. I am very happy to be part of it somehow and I am very thankful that we keep it up since such a long time.
It’s always been designated a family kind of dynamic, has this remained the case as the label’s got bigger, or has this been difficult to maintain?
It´s a mystery how we managed to keep it easy and friendly since the first days, but I guess it´s the spirit who was always focussing on music in the first place and not on money or fame.
Last time I saw you DJ was a night with Carl Craig at the Coronet Theatre. You came on at 5am and it was a pretty uncompromisingly heavy set: lots of hard and pacy techno. I was inebriated (to my shame) by that point, but I still remember (remarkably enough) being won round with music set at an intensity I’m not usually drawn to – is this the kind of set you find yourself playing at the moment? Is it something we can expect at the Dial showcase?
Well, I like playing techno as well as house. That´s what I have always been doing, but it depends on the venue, the people and my mood if it goes more in one or the other direction…so I guess we´ll find out during the night! But maybe I tend to play a little darker and harder than I did five years ago…
This time I will play b2b with roman all night.We have a kind of similar approach to the music and it´s big fun to play with the man who influenced me a lot back in the days.
With a 12 year history, (since its inception in 2000) you’ve got a vast back catalogue to choose from but which are your favourite releases on Dial?
Assessing this back catalogue as well as your own, you’ve both seemed keen to diversify in terms of what you release and explore musically; where do you think Dial are at currently and can you give us an indication of the kind of music you’re drawn to creating at the moment?
I have no idea of both! Such a confusion everywhere around. I think it will clarify next year. There is a lot in the making – but we don´t know what it all will sound and look like in the end. This is the best time since a while. Very exciting!
You cite interestingly eclectic influences in previous interviews, (Basic Channel, Ricardo Villalobos, Prefab Sprout, Wu-Tang Clan, Moodymann, Farben) what are you currently listening to and predominantly influenced by? Has your taste and influences shifted in any significant way? Are there any new producers you’re excited by?
There are always new and inspiring producers coming up, too many to mention. DJ Q is one of my favourite producers musicwise and in person. Since some years, never disappointing, always inspiring. I still buy every single Jeff Mills or Robert Hood 12” and everything I like. A lot of great techno coming at the moment. Johannes Volk, XDB, Dreesn, Terrence Dixon….
‘If you keep it long and listen, and get into that, then it's not about the moment, it's about time’ – (RA Interview, 2007)
In the internet age fixated on the immediate and in the light of projects like Terre Thaemlitz’s recent ‘Soullessness’ (the longest album in history) I was interested to see your thoughts on how you perceive your music (as well as dance music in general) is listened to and consumed now? Especially when you’ve cited how it’s about getting into the track; a lengthier, more considered affair rather than something centred around quicker gratification – something the internet (as a means of listening to music) doesn’t exactly accommodate in the way it’s used.
I can only talk about this from my perspective which is getting more and more radical in ways of rejecting listening to music on the net. I am pretty oldschool I realize more and more. As I just checked my folder where all the digital promos come in I count 53 releases that scream “LISTEN TO ME”, but I won´t. I prefer listening to vinyl at rotation records and Hardwax. That is enough for me.
One could realize a change in how people perceive music since everything is streamed or coming from a cloud. Although labels put out more and more albums every year, to me the album as a concept is in most cases misunderstood or dead because people will pick out their one or two favourite tunes and won´t listen to the thing as a whole compositon. It´s sad but reality. The impact of digital distribution of music is so radical and drastic, I am only beginning to understand how it will change production, reception and effect of music in the future. Very interesting, indeed!
You’ve recorded under your own name creating electro-ambient sound installations on 2006’s ‘Something is Missing’. I’ve also read that you play the cello, that you attended the Institute for Computer Music in Vienna and were previously in a post-rock band with Hendrick Weber (aka Pantha Du Prince), do you still retain an active interest in these kind of pursuits? How do you think these different backgrounds have informed your current productions as Efdemin or Pigon; do you think they have given you an upper-hand in any way on those who remain within one sphere/genre/scene?
I am going back a little to the field of sonic arts right now. Having some exhibitons this and next year and a artist residency in rome starting this autumn. After some very intense and lucky years where I was mostly touring as a a DJ, I felt the need to focus on the other side of me and take a break from constant travelling. I think the two sides of me are good friends, influencing each other. I don´t know if it brings any advantage to have such a broad interest in music, but it feels just right!
What’s on the horizon for you – production wise, for Naif/Lirum Larum and for Dial?
A big one is coming next year, but I want to keep it a secret.
Looking forward to seeing you in london!