Interview: Philipp Straub

Philipp Straub has been a powerhouse in the music industry for quite a few years, linking up with everyone from John Digweed to Carl Cox to release on their respective labels.

This month the Austrian producer returned to Digweed’s Bedrock Records, this time for the release of his brand new Theia EP, which alongside collaborations with Ian Carpenter, Lorenzo de Blanck and Nilseus, also includes two original tracks.

We got the chance to ask Philipp a couple of questions, where we discussed the new release, how his relationships in the industry have developed over the years and what his thoughts are on the Austria club scene, among other things.

You just returned to Bedrock this month for your new Theia EP, tell us about the concept behind this one?

I am very proud being back on Bedrock with another EP. Most of the ideas for tracks start when I am travelling. I have an inspiration, I hear an interesting tune that gives me an idea, and I start with the general layout or putting together some elements. I then end up in studio around three times a year for one week to work on these ideas and make them finished songs with my long time co-producer Mario aka Collective Machine.

Due to all my work projects, such as being Director of Music for the Soho Garden Development in Dubai, there is not the time to focus more on music productions to be honest, but with that set up I manage to keep things in balance and my output at the level I want.

So to answer your question there is no real concept behind the EP. I produce songs in these sessions which somehow of course have things in common, but also each session has a slightly different twist due to my inspiration at that time. We did a session which was more mellow and used a lot of natural sounds, the next one was more about appreciators and synthetic vibes, the last one we tried to embed some retro elements. Once I got some good demos ready; I test them at my gigs and when I am happy with the result I send them out.

John (Digweed) was among the first that believed in me and gave me a chance to be part of his amazing label. So of course he is also among the first to get the songs. He has such a defined taste, but also great knowledge of the market, that he then picks the tunes that make the most sense to him. Every time he does it I am surprised as I would have chosen slightly different, but every time his choice results in the success as well as the feedback we want. So I am happy about that.

It features collaborations with Ian Carpenter, Lorenzo de Blanck and Nilseus, how did you come to work with those guys?

To be honest I am very easily bored of routines. So to keep things interesting I need interaction with others. That gives me new input and helps me to learn and grow as well. Ian and Lorenzo are both from Italy and I got to know them when I was head mentor of the talent support platform Burn Residency. They were both finalists from Italy in different years and won several contests which brought them to Ibiza where I had the pleasure to work with them closely together with other mentors such as Carl Cox, Luciano, Pete Tong, Dubfire, John Digweed and many more.

After six years of successful operation the program ended two years ago but we stayed in touch and so over distance and time these collabs came together. Both of the tunes are very strong peak time dance floor anthems!

Nilseus is from Hungary and we worked already on various tunes together which we also released on Bedrock before. He has this typical progressive influence which you can feel in all of his tunes. And there are two original songs on the EP as well.

You have appeared on Bedrock quite a bit over the years, how has your relationship with the team there developed?

John and his work influenced me a lot since the very early days. I come from Austria so my first international gigs happened in neighbouring countries such as Hungary, Czech, Slovakia. Opposite to Austria, which was a lot influenced by German trends, these countries had a very big UK influence. I think because it was easier to translate media content from English. So all of the former huge progressive guys also had a big position there. Global Underground for example was like the music bible at that time. I loved the deep, progressive but melodic vibe and how approachable it was. I was also impressed by the seamless mixes where tunes blend into each other in a way you cannot say if it’s a new tune already or not.

So at some point I got to know John and we connected well. We played some gigs together and he became a kind of a musical mentor for me. After some years he gave me the chance to become a part of Bedrock and I always try to keep building relationships so that a long time story develops. For me it’s nice being able to show my journey as a musician on such a great label. Everyone at Bedrock is super nice and Scott is also an awesome label manager.

And you have also released music with Ovum, Agile and Intec, what things help you decide whether or not you should release on a certain label?

Most of the releases I did happened very organically. Due to the fact that I am active in this scene since the early 90’s, I have many good contacts that developed over the years. Every release has a different story. Carl is one of the oldest DJ friends I have and we go back a lot. Still it took me 13 years to end up releasing on his label, and I like that. Things should not be too easy. It challenges you to become better, stronger, learn and grow.

Ovum I tried to be part of since a while and when I had another nice collab with Charlie Thorstenson from Sweden I knew this fits perfectly.

Uto from Agile was so nice to offer me a release after touring some gigs together. People underestimate the efforts it takes being on good labels. Doing a good song is the more easy and fast part. Finding a good label and getting the song released is the difficult one, even when you have good relationships to many of these platforms.

Can you give us any info on what labels you might be releasing with in the coming months?

Well there is one release on Booka Shade’s Blaufield coming out soon. Other than that I have nothing confirmed to be honest but some options floating around. Obviously in a crisis like now it’s better to wait abit until the situation settles and we all don’t know what the situation after really will be like. I can say I have around twelve tunes ready which I think are pretty strong and deserve to be released for sure. Five of them I may even do under a new project name due to a bit of a retro influence which I mentioned before.

You’re of course from Austria, how do you feel your local scene differs from the bigger European hotspots such as Berlin, London and Amsterdam?

I was born in Austria but consider myself a global citizen. Austria had amazing years. We had solo dance music events with 42,000 people. We had amazing festivals. Numbers were great! A lot of people from neighbouring countries came over to visit and party. At a time when this was not possible in their home countries. But that changed. Now it’s the opposite and the good Austrian party crowd goes to the neighbouring countries for their festivals as we don’t have any left. There are still clubs around which do a very good job. Grelle Forelle. O (former Horst) and others. We just lost relevance as such and Austria was always more related to the past than the present or even future. Things can change again with a new generation. It’s always an up and down.

I have seen that in Austria twice already. But now it stays on that level for quite a while already, but it’s not on me to change that. I invested a lot of my time, effort, energy and also money into the local scene in Austria and Central Europe. I helped bring Love Parade to Vienna, Mayday to Budapest, Timewarp to Vienna and Prague and did so many events that I lost count. My evolution luckily brought me to other playgrounds and I am thankful for that as it’s a new input for me and a bigger scope of work too.

Do you have any pre-gig rituals or superstitions?

Ideally in the morning some Yoga and exercise to just be relaxed, most of the time I spend the day to really dig for music and prepare for the gig. Listening to promos, demos and new releases. Sometimes editing some so I optimize them to my needs. Updating my playlists and archive so I have a perfect overview and have the ammunition for the night ready so I can choose depending on the mood. I love to play new tunes as this excites me personally and that vibe I can transfer better to the crowd.

In the evening an artist dinner to meet old and new people, I prefer not too heavy nor too much food to stay on a good energy level. I love to drink one Espresso Martini which is a good start for the night and try to be in the venue around an hour before my set so I can check the vibe and get into the groove. From Kolsch I just found out about caffeine chewing gum which became my secret weapon against getting tired. One of them keeps me going for some hours if needed.

And finally, who’s the next big artist to come out of Austria?

If I would know I would have signed them already! And was there ever a big artist coming out of Austria beside Mozart and Falco?

Philipp Straub’s Theia EP is out now on Bedrock Records.