Today we’re joined by Berlin-based dj & producer, Philip Budny. With a handful of beautiful EPs to his name on Coastal Haze, Lionoil Industries and Let’s Play House, Philip Budny specialises in lazy, sun-kissed house music. With summer on the horizon and sun-kissed music being exactly what we need, he’s helped us out with a mix of his favourite tunes.
While we had him here, we took to opportunity to have a chat with Philip about living in Berlin as a house music producer, how he goes about making his tracks and the importance of functionality in house music.
Hey Philip, thanks for joining us on the MIXED BY/ series! Any specific idea behind your mix?
Hey Alexander, thanks for having me!
The specific idea was simply to share tracks I’m really into with the world! I just really enjoy the process of collecting tunes I’m digging, often not very functional tool type tracks, and figuring out how to sequence and blend them to create a vibe. I also recently got a pair of XDJs, which I found has enabled me to be more creative with track selections and blends. When I’m playing strictly vinyl, cueing up records takes up more of my time and concentration and limits me to a narrower BPM range. I’ve been trying to fit ‘Force Boite’ by my pals Hi & Saberhägen into a mix for ages, for example, but could never quite make it work with vinyl. And here it is in digital form! I think I was also subconsciously influenced by the warmer weather, as it definitely feels sunny listening back to it – although that might just be my preference for warm house music shining through.
Based on your sound and the labels you’ve worked with to date, I was a little surprised to see that you were Berlin-based. Was moving to Berlin a music-related choice? What’s it like living in the world’s techno capital as someone who makes house music?
I suppose you could say moving to Berlin was a music related choice, although it wasn’t to advance my own music making career. Basically I was offered a job at SoundCloud, a company I really admired, and having previously spent some time in Berlin and loved it, I just decided to go for it. In fact I’m not sure moving to Berlin has been much of a help for my music career, as Berlin is super competitive for music. The old joke about everyone and their dog being a DJ is very much a reality in Berlin. There are so many talented and hard working producers and DJs in the scene that it’s hard to get ahead. Although truthfully it feels like the majority of the aforementioned people are more into the techno sphere, so it is a bit more accessible when it comes to house music.
Do you enjoy the nightlife in Berlin and how does it compare to back home? I did come across a controversial statement on your twitter feed! Any favourites or recommendations for like-minded house-heads?
Hahaha, you mean the one about the UK being better for clubbing than Berlin? I think I’d still stand by that statement, although it’s worth clarifying my position a bit. I tend to only enjoy clubbing in short bursts, and I don’t really like staying up very late. 2-3 hours is a sweet spot for me. When I was living in Scotland, all the clubs closed at 3 am, which meant I could get to the venue at midnight, see the headliner play for a few hours, and still be up at a reasonable time the next day.
In Berlin, clubbing tends to be a substantial commitment. The clubs open at midnight, and the DJ you want to see might be on at like 4 or 5 am. On top of that the queues tend to be long and the door policy is tricky. It’s always such a bummer to stand in line for an hour only to get turned away because the bouncer made a snap judgment about you.
That being said, there is a lot of diversity in Berlin, and the longer I live here the more I discover venues and parties I like. Given that clubs are often open for several days straight, going to a daytime party is always an option if you don’t want to stay out late, and you can find places with more lenient door policies too. As for recommendations, I’d say check out Heideglühen – easily my favorite house-leaning club in Berlin.
And to follow that up: house music is obviously rooted in club culture, however producers such as yourself are constantly blurring the lines between the club-friendliness and music for home consumption/headphones. What level of functionality do you look for when you make a new track, has this changed at all?
My appreciation for electronic music has predominantly been centred around home listening. I don’t go to clubs often, so most of my music consumption happens on headphones or on my studio monitors. But because I only go clubbing sporadically, those moments can often feel quite special and leave me feeling inspired to recreate those feelings with my own music. It’s also an amazing feeling to hear your own tracks on a club system and see a positive reception on the dancefloor. I take both perspectives into consideration when making music, and try to strike a balance between the two.
Given that most of my music fits into the rough template of house music, it invariably already has some dance floor utility, purely by virtue of conforming to established rhythmic conventions such as a four to the floor kick or off beat hi-hats. I tend to use those as a foundation, and focus more instead on the melodic or harmonic elements. I’ll agonize over basslines or pads for days, whereas I tend to feel satisfied with drum programming relatively quickly.
In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that I use these house conventions as a crutch. I feel more in my comfort zone when I’m operating around 120BPM, have a four to the floor, and know when to add a clap or an open hi-hat from an arrangement perspective. These days I’m experimenting more with different kinds of music, but somehow it’s always my house tracks I end up happiest with. So I guess I focus more on club friendliness with the rhythm section, and make sure that the melodic, harmonic, and textural elements are interesting for headphone listening as well.
How do you go about making a track, could you run us through your workflow?
Sure! I’d say there are two main ways I approach making music. One is just sitting in my studio and messing around, perhaps experimenting with a new instrument or plugin. I’d say this rarely turns into a finished track, but serves as an educational exercise for me.
The other one is basically me trying to plagiarize a track I’m really inspired by. I’ll hear something that I love, sit down in my studio and try to recreate it, and it inevitably ends up sounding entirely different to what I had set out to make. I find this method more conducive to finishing tracks because it provides a focus that is difficult to find when you have the unlimited possibilities of Ableton/all the free VSTs in the world.
But to run through my workflow in a bit more detail, usually I’ll start with the drum programming, in session view in Ableton. Once I feel like I have a groove going, I’ll move on to the harmonic/ melodic elements. I tend to start with some pads or chords here, and work in a melody on top. To flesh out the sound, I’ll layer the melodies, and use field recordings or samples to add some textures. Recently I’ve been working more with live instrumentation, playing basslines on my P-Bass or recording percussion with my mic, for example.
Once I feel like I have all the basic pieces in session view, I’ll move over to arrangement view and try to build out the track. Here I’ll add some overdubs, add some automation, and work on the drum programming some more. Then I’ll start the long, grueling process of mixing to glue it all together. This last part usually takes the longest, and consists of me trying out
different EQs, compressors, and various effects, tweaking them for ages, until a friend I send it to can confirm, that it is, in fact, the final mixdown. This last step is crucial, as I’d keep tweaking things indefinitely without someone stepping in and saying ‘no man, really, this is done – release this!’
What have you been listening to recently?
In no particular order: Kanye, Solange, Jeremih, Kali Uchis, Steve Reich, Drake, PG Sounds, Noname, Toro Y Moi, Sade, DJ Sprinkles, Blood Orange, France Joli, OL, Arthur Russell, Andres, Huerco S., Shine Grooves, SW, The Caretaker, Rupa, Matthew Herbert, Sophie, Lil Uzi Vert, Linkwood, Theo Parrish, Chaka Khan, Moodymann, Tirzah, Roberto Musci, Frank Ocean, DJ Koze, John Maus, Mount Kimbie, Playboi Carti, Dreamcast, Leon Vynehall.
What’s next for Philip Budny, where do you see yourself over the next few years?
Basically I just want to release a lot more music. I want to release some belters, some more chilled tracks, maybe something that isn’t strictly house music. Recently I’ve been playing a lot of bass guitar and rhodes, so would be nice to release something with more live instrumentation too. I’d really love to release an album, but so far I haven’t managed to amalgamate a cohesive body of tracks. I’m working on it though! So yeah, expect some EPs, hopefully an album down the line, and maybe even something without a four to the floor – who knows :-)