Interview with J. Phlip
Jessica Phillippe, better know by her moniker ‘J. Phlip’, is the first-lady of Dirtybird records. J. Phlip (pronounced ‘J. Flip’) is respected for both her stellar productions and her eclectic, crate-digging-savant inspired DJ sets. She’s bringing her ‘Everybody on the Floor’ tour to Philly on November 8th and before she rolls into town we spoke to her about her career, upcoming releases, past shows in Philly, cannibalism, Vumpires, and much more.
Independent Philly: What do you consider the breakthrough moment in your career; the first time you felt serious validation as a DJ and producer?
J. Phlip: My career has been many smaller steps. I feel like a lot of people that you see breakthrough with one massive track; for me, I don’t know, there have been a lot of moments. I think when I signed my first track to ‘Dirtybird’ was the first major step for me. I think I was respected before but then when you’re signed to a respected label, it’s a whole other level of the ball game. I got a booking agent right after I signed that record and it was my dream booking agent, so it was kind of a double whammy; I was on my dream label suddenly and had my dream booking agent ‘repping me. Then I was really feeling like it was for real. That was at the end of 2008.
IP: It seems like your schedule is pretty bonkers right now. From touring, to producing, to several residencies, how do you find the time to do it all and do you have any time left for a social life?
JP: It’s really tough actually. It’s been crazy for a long time and it just keeps getting crazier. I actually have to figure out a balance again and again. Most recently, with this tour coming up, I had to stop drinking and partying actually. You can’t keep it together with all of this stuff and party at all your shows. Everyone wants you to after-party after every gig and you have to learn how to say “no”. Also a lot of my friends, some got angry when I didn’t have enough time for them anymore and I couldn’t make free time for my friends. It’s hard; it’s really hard to balance it. But your friends, your true friends, understand that. It took a while to learn that. They people that are angry that you can’t go out with them drinking or whatever, those people don’t really matter. You have to realize that and be willing to let some people go. The people that are really your friend are going to be there with you no matter what.
IP: You released your ‘Walls & Lights’ EP about a month ago. How has the reaction been and are you currently working on any new music?
JP: I’ve been happy with the reaction. There’s better a lot of chatter online and people seem to really dig the new tracks. I don’t know anything about how the sales are but I love the new label. The label ‘Safer at Night’, is my friend’s label. He goes by ‘Corrosive’; he’s amazing. I was really happy to see them come out on the label. For upcoming stuff, I just came out of a major production slump. It’s kind of what the last question was about with balancing. I was really unbalanced and I couldn’t finish anything. It was really hard to even clear my head to work on anything. Now I’m back on track and I also spent a few days in the studio with ‘Huxley’, working on a few tracks. One’s finished, two are unfinished. We are going to put those out on Huxley’s new label at the beginning of the year. Then I have one new track that I think Claude (Von Stroke) says he’s going to take for Dirtybird, but I have to write a few more tracks to go with it to make an EP, so that’s exciting. Yeah I feel like I’m back on a roll in the studio so we’ll see what happens.
IP: You’re going to be playing here in Philly on November 8th (at the Dolphin) as part of your ‘Everybody on the Floor’ tour. What can your fans expect from a live J. Phlip set if they’ve never seen you play in person before? Do you have a favorite memory from a past show in Philadelphia?
JP: At a J. Phlip show, the music really varies. I don’t hold too many rules for myself. I usually stay in the BPM range of 123 to 128, and you could hear so many genres mixed in there from house, techno, acid, break-beats, old school Detroit electro, and nu-skool tracks; I like to keep the sets spontaneous and fun. I don’t like sets to be too repetitive; I don’t want just a 4×4 kick through my whole set. I like to mix up the way the beats go. I just think it’s really fun dance music and is surprising. For my past gigs, I’ve played Philly twice. The first one was pretty funny, I DJ’d in a parking lot on top of a Burning Man school bus (laughs). It was like an all-ages party and there were kids there and a water slide and a giant Velcro wall where you could jump and stick yourself to it. So that was pretty funny; I’ve never played a party quite like that. The last show I played there, I opened for Claude Von Stroke. I can’t remember the name of the venue but it was really nice show actually; I really liked the venue.
IP: It was ‘Union Transfer’.
JP: Yeah, that one. That was like a proper techno party going on there. I really liked it. They were both cool shows though.
IP: What are some of the biggest differences between electronic music culture here and over in Europe where you’ve lived and spent a lot of time?
JP: I have a weird perspective on this because I’m way more popular in North America. A good majority of DJs I know, it’s vice-versa. With Dirtybird, we’re having amazing success in North America and I like playing in North America a lot more right now. How is it different? It’s really different but it’s also just different depending on who you are and what kind of shows you’re playing. There are huge festivals and things over there but I don’t play at them; I play at those over here. One thing is that in Europe, you can party 24/7, so the parties go a lot longer and you play longer sets, which I like a lot, but I still prefer playing in North America. I think the scene over here is really fun. People are genuinely really into the music. I saw too much hype in Europe where I think people aren’t out for the music. They are out because they heard about the DJ and they don’t really care about the music. I just got back from A.D.E. and there’s just a mixture of everything happening over there. I went to some really amazing parties where everyone was certainly there for the music and it was amazing. But then I saw some other things where I don’t think people knew why they were at the party.
IP: We’ve definitely been to a few of those.
JP: Yeah, I just think in general that in general electronic music is bigger in Europe. You can turn on the radio on BBC Radio-1 and hear underground and commercial music 24/7. You can hear it in pretty much every country over there. Whereas over here, I think you get some EDM on the pop-music stations. It’s smaller but the the U.S. definitely has a really strong scene right now, and it’s only getting stronger. I like it a lot. I’m excited to see what happens over here.
IP: When we spoke with Christian Martin, we asked him “You, your brother [Justin Martin], and Claude Von Stroke are stranded on a life raft without any food. Which one of you are the other two going to eat first?”. He said it would be Claude Von Stroke. If you were stuck on the same life raft, who do you think you’d be forced to eat?
JP: (laughs) Oh, well Claude’s the biggest so we’d last the longest eating him (laughs). I mean, you know, we would never do that. We’d all starve together.
IP: Unity in death…
JP: (laughs) For sure!
IP: Halloween is just around the corner. What is your favorite costume that you’ve ever worn and what is your favorite candy?
JP: My best costume as an adult was a ‘Vumpire’. It was a cross between a Vampire and an Umpire (laughs). It was was pretty funny. I had one of those big catcher’s chest pads and a catcher’s mask, and fangs and blood, and a Vampire cape. I brought this with me on tour and had to bring the catcher’s pad thing as a carry-on (laughs); I put it in the over-head. It was really hard to DJ in and I had to take the mask off, I couldn’t DJ in that. It was a pretty funny costume. My favorite candy is ‘Butterfinger’.
IP: Finally, tell us something about yourself that would surprise or even shock our readers…
JP: Okay, my biggest, deepest, darkest secret is that I was a cheerleader in high school (laughs).
Want to join us for J. Phlip in Philly on November 8th? Snag an advanced ticket here and save yourself a few bucks.
[Interview by David Miller]