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M-Phazes - Phaze Won

Author: Matt Unicomb
Thursday, 14 August 2008
Australian producer Mark Landon aka M-Phazes has been at the forefront of the Australian hip hop scene for the last few years. After recently completing his latest project, a remix album, he sits down with 3D’s Matt Unicomb to talk about the golden era, American ignorance and his recent deal with Obese Records.

Mark Landon may just be Australian hip hop’s most celebrated producer. With a production discography that features the likes of US heavyweights Pharoahe Monch, Royce Da 5’9”, Freeway, and Wordsworth, Landon has accomplished what no other Australian beat-makers have. His latest project Grindin’ Remixed by M-Phazes is due to hit stores this week. Featuring 16 fresh remixes of tracks courtesy of Sydney label Grindin’, the album is a first for hip hop in this country. Comprising of tracks from English pioneers Foreign Beggars and Jehst, American MCs OC and Phat Kat, plus others, Grindin’ Remixed by M-Phazes sees Landon’s production at its finest.

The idea for the album came about as Landon was “friends with the guy that runs the label,” he begins. “He approached me with the idea to remix a bunch of songs off the Grindin’ catalogue. Seeing as though I’ve done a few remixes in the past, he must’ve thought I was right for the job.”

Landon’s approach to production stays consistent across all his releases. Whether remixing, beat-making or working directly with artists, he clears his schedule and charges into the project headfirst. “When you’re going in on a whole album, as a producer you have to think that way,” he affirms. “Even though it’s a remix album, I want it to sound like a whole album. I went in just blocking everything out, holding off everything until the album was done. I stayed focused. I ended up knowing where everything was going – it paid off in the end.”

Landon is no stranger to remixing. He has been nominated for an ARIA award for Bliss n Eso’s Day of the Dog (M-Phazes Remixes) album. In fact, one of the first steps in his production career was remixing tracks for his friends. He has some very distinct influences finding their way into his remix work.  “Pete Rock is king of the remix,” Landon states. “I can’t go past him. He is a big influence remixing.”

Musically, the mid-‘90s as a whole will always hold a special place in his heart. “I just fell in love with hip hop from that era,” he says. “Personally, I don’t think there’s been an era where such quality music was coming out at such a large amount. I remember going into record stores back in the mid-‘90s, almost every release was worth buying. It was crazy. Albums were coming out non-stop. You always knew you were going to find something dope.”

The creative liberty of remixing is what draws Landon. “The good remixes tend to take things in a whole new direction, he says. “I think that’s what appeals to me. I can make things sound how I want it to sound.”

Like most Australian beat-makers, M-Phazes decision to concentrate on production came after picking up the mic. “I originally came out rapping,” he says. “Slowly I started drifting away from the microphone. You’ll find that a lot of producers used to rap. They just become fixated on the production side of things. It’s something that is so in-depth. It takes a long time to master the craft. I was always fascinated with the music backing the vocals. I decided that I wanted to pursue that.”

After working with artists from all over the world, M-Phazes has a very educated view on the sounds that take preference in different parts of the world. “Australian artists do tend to go towards that ‘90s feel,” Landon states. “That’s just because of the scene that we’re in. Not to say that we’re behind, but a lot of people in the Australian scene are still stuck on that ‘90s feel.

Americans are not so easy to pigeonhole. “It depends on who you’re working for,” he says of US MCs. “However, the underground artists tend to go for beats with a ‘90s feel. If you work with street dudes who put out there mixtapes, they’ll want real gutter, street-shit. It’s good working with such an array of artists as it lets me find an outlet for everything. It lets me get creative and show my versatility, rather than to be limited to one style of music.”

An Australian producer making noise in the heart for hip hop – America – is sure to attract a lot of raised eyebrows. In fact, Landon recently became the first non-US winner of the One Stop Shop competition, judged by none other than DJ Premier and 9th Wonder. “They’re all open to it, as it’s now a known fact that hip hop is worldwide,” he says of US MCs’ view on Australians in the mix. “A lot of them are still surprised though, especially the bigger guys. Americans in general are quite ignorant about other countries and cultures. They think we’re all hoping around on kangaroos. They don’t understand that we’re up to it.”

Despite this perceived ignorance to Australia’s creative potential, Landon feels that American production is at its peak. “Production is really at the forefront of hip hop at the moment,” he says excitedly. “We’re not being overshadowed by the artists anymore. You can make a living off just being a producer. People now know what a producer does and appreciates what they do.

Working with artists on the other side of the world still has its drawbacks. That face-to-face interaction that leads to a ‘partnership’ between an MC and producer is just not there. “The relationship stays at a working level,” he says of his connection with overseas artists. “As much as I try to have an input, time is an issue, and I don’t get to tell them that ‘maybe this track should go in this direction or that direction’ – which I love doing. I’m more of a producer than a beat-maker - I like to get in the studio and be with the tracks from beginning to end.”

The hype currently coming from the M-Phazes camp is all to do with his recent signing to hip hop powerhouse Obese Records. “The big announcement will come when I’ve got something to put out on Obese,” Landon explains. “I’ll definitely do an LP. I want to make something totally different to an Australian hip hop album.”

“I think a lot of the production lacks in Australia. It’s very ‘follow the leader.’ No-one really tries to do anything different. I’m going to try and bring something new to the table. I think that due to our small population, there’s not going to be a huge amount of dope producers. However, I think eventually it will get there.”

WHO: M-Phazes
WHAT: Grindin’ Remixed by M-Phazes through Grindin’
WHEN: Saturday 16 August