Philip James
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Philip James

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"Bed Gazer"

Friend of the site Toronto bed-gazer Philip James (also of booze-gazers Labor Day) has a new EP up on his bandcamp called Mind Drone. As with previous EPs, it continues to improve upon its predecessors. - Gold Soundz Blog


"Call and Response: Philip James"

Free album releases are more important for independent artists and bands these days, and word of mouth has become even more crucial these days for bands hoping to build an audience. Just take a look at Toronto's Foxes in Fiction and Heartbeat Hotel, or New York City's Cults, whose free 7-inch turned them into one of the most talked-about musical acts. Philip James is another artist who has decided to go the free route. You can download James' 2011 LP Nights for free on his Bandcamp page. And James is another excellent addition to the psychedelic and shoegaze community. Here's what he had to say about his new album.

What directly influences your musical style?

It's a mish-mash of many artists, but the acoustic finger styling of John Fahey has been a big influence on my musicianship. He was a self-taught player who had created his own genre of acoustic finger styling called "American Primitivism". He was able to take the blue grass finger styling technique and make it into a true compositional medium, as opposed to a form of guitar playing made to match with vocals. As a producer, many hip-hop and experimental producers really help me evaluate the use of sampling and beat making: Flying Lotus, J Dilla, Eric Copeland, Panda Bear, and Aphex Twin just to name a few.

Sound design in general is a great interest of mine, so when I'm going around downtown and hear a really fresh sound, I will try to either capture the sound with my phone being the field recorder, or if I can, I will try and source a similar sound in my library. It can be anything really: a nice summer day ambience by a creek, a construction site noise, a defective washroom fan, etc. If the sound interests me, I'll try to incorporate it into a track, usually as a bridging point between songs.

How would you describe the shoegaze scene in Toronto? Would you say that Toronto has a good environment for ("bedroom") musicians like yourself?

I have been hearing a lot about emerging Toronto artists from this scene, and it is always great to see Canadian music being recognized on a large scale. I believe Toronto has quite a diverse set of subcultures, and that it's a great place for bedroom musicians, because there is an audience for everything. If you put dedication and craft into your music, you will be able to find a home for it here.

Most people - not just musicians - struggle to be heard. What's your goal as an artist?

I would say that as an artist, I want to share a part of myself with the world. I have been writing songs since I was 16, and started producing music under Philip James since I was about eighteen, and I've been trying to get myself heard for quite a while. I want to keep working at my production skills and live performance so that I can get as many people to hear me as possible.

There are so many layers in your songs. When do you feel you're finished with a track?

I think it's just intuitive, really. When I'm making a track, I'll be jamming on my guitar with some effects, and find a really cool sound or a sample I like, and use it as my starting layer. From there I will tinker with a song for days, listening to demos of it on my music player until I feel it is finished. The vocals are usually the last part implemented into a track, and I can tell the instrumental is good when I can figure out a vocal melody quickly thereafter.

Resentment seems to be a recurring theme in Nights. What sort of things do you feel when you hear your own music?

Nights as an album is an assortment of songs I've made over the past year, and I think one or two tracks written two years ago. I have had serious troubles with anxiety and depression for most of my life, which has prevented me doing a lot of things. It has made me resent choices I've made, and resent others for being easy off and carefree, whether or not that is the case. Some of the songs are very energizing despite the subject matter, and other songs still make me feel very exposed when I listen to them, which I think has helped me heal in a way.

What's the story behind "Nostalgia" (one of my favourites in the album)?

I wrote this song in early January of this year. I had just gotten a new pitch-shifting pedal, and decided to try and write a new song before a performance at Rancho Relaxo that night. I had made some cool sounding guitar loops on my SP404, and went from there. I just wanted to make a fun, danceable song with some lyrics that my friends would enjoy about times from our youth.

What can people expect at your next show at The Drake Hotel?

I always aim to please when I play. People can expect to hear some modified works from Nights, as well as some unreleased material. The show is on Election Day, so maybe I'll add in a couple of zingers to Harper if I can fit them in.

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Catch Philip James, along with Cherry Chapstick, and other special guests at The Drake Hotel on May, May 2nd.

You can download James' LP Nights for free on his Bandcamp page, and download "Nostalgia" - previously featured on The Neighbourhood Mixtape: Quiet Hours - below.

Philip James - "Nostalgia" (MP3)

Lead photo of Philip James by Meghan Gribben. - BlogTO


"The weird, wistful and wonderfully delirium-inducing sounds of Philip James"

The weird, wistful and wonderfully delirium-inducing sounds of Philip James
By Chris Carriere

Philip James is all about the good vibes. Like Real Estate, his music is, in fact, for the faint of heart. Call it shoegaze, call it chillwave or post-rock, call it a pop song wrapped in a fuzzy blanket and fed helium until it floats — Philip James is a link in the new chain of bedroom-based “rock” musicians coaxing listeners into pleasant delirium instead of bludgeoning them into submission.

Chopped samples, miles-away vocals and spaced-out guitars ride synths and electronic drums out to la-la land. Now you're asking: is the music any good? See for yourself. You can stream his complete debut for free here. If you fancy it, you can catch him playing ringmaster to his electronic circus Saturday, July 23 at Rancho Relaxo, Friday, July 28 at Nocturne and Friday Aug. 5 at 1581 Dundas St. W.

What or who is Philip James? How many hats does he wear?
Philip James is a name rooted into my inner being. Every day during my childhood, my parents woke me up by calling “Philip James” for breakfast. Whenever they've been proud of me, they've called me by my first and middle name. I don't know if it's hearing it all these years, but it brings some sort of nostalgic sense of reassurance that helps me to keep creating, to keep digging for more pop gems within me. In short, Philip James is a dude from Toronto that’s been making his own form of weird, ambient pop music for a while, and just wants people to join him for the ride. Also, seven hats.

Your music is up-close and very enclosed, probably because it all came from your brain. Are you going to push that in future releases? Session musicians, maybe? Ukulele?
I’ve always been an introverted person, so I can’t help but show myself in my music; I wouldn't want to seem disingenuous with my final product. It would be incredibly hard for me to perform something live that isn’t from my heart. At the moment, I can’t see myself working with other musicians live with my current show, but I would be interested in collaborating with some people for upcoming Philip James releases. Since I moved into my new place, I’ve been playing more acoustic guitar than electric, so I plan to also record and perform with just an acoustic guitar, some friends and a slew of effects pedals.

On stage, it's just you and your machines. Stagefright? Trance-like ecstasy? Somewhere in between?
I have to admit, with my current setup, I can’t be moving around too much trying to get the crowd going. It’ll never be a F***ed Up show atmosphere, with [frontman] Damian starting s**t with the audience and a rocking band to back me. I’m the ring leader trying to keep the mechanical circus act going with the buttons and knobs and guitar licks and vocal melodies. It may seem like I’m timid on stage, but I feel nothing but serenity once I’m in a couple of songs.

An audience member once told you they “loved your message.” How does that statement sit with you? Your music seems (to me) more Rorschach blot than transmission.
I’m not too certain on my message at the moment either, but it sits in a hazy spot of meditative release for me. I can’t really speak for that person’s interpretation of what my message is, but I hope that my vibes always come across as positive and help people relax and enjoy themselves.

The album is called Nights. You made it in your home and it's layered like an onion. Were the arrangements all locked in your head beforehand, or did they evolve and surprise you as you went?
The music making process on Nights varied, but I tend to favor exploration. I start off with a sample that I’ve discovered, and then I’ll try and chop it up into a variety of ways to see if I can graduate the sample from a “cool sound” to “song potential.” From there I will add drums, synth, and ambience until it feels about right. The final layer to the onion is the vocal melodies. I might go through the whole song-making process from A to Z, but if I can’t find the right vocal melody to go with it, I’ll scrap it unless the instrumental is organic enough to live on its own. The only straight-up "songs" I had planned out for the album would probably be “Seconds Switch” and “Ethereal,” coincidentally the first two tracks on the album. - Post City


"Listen/Download Philip James - Subterfuge"

Subterfuge is a song about a rather crazy person by Toronto experimental artist Philip James. If you dig it, he has some more funky ambient electronic stuff on his Bandcamp. It’s got a somewhat Teen Daze like vibe. Definitely worth checking out for the price of free. - Ride The Tempo


"Music for New Beginnings"

"Smokey Red Sorbet" is on the podcast @ 17:52 - Toronto is Good Podcast


"Soundtrack2 Episode 80 - Shoegaze"

Local boy mixes waves of guitar noise with lots of vocal reverb. Gets in your head, this one. - Soundtrack2


"Philip James"

Review on Nights EP CD-R Release. - Gold Soundz Blog


Discography

Nights EP - 2010
Nights LP - 2011
Subterfuge - Single - 2012
Mind Drone EP - 2012

Photos

Bio

Philip James is a rising solo act in the Toronto music scene. His freshman album "Nights" has attracted praise from blogs such as BlogTO, Gold Soundz, and Post City. His newest single "Subterfuge" has recently premiered on The Indie Machine. Philip James has armed himself with a solid set of catchy vocal melodies and guitar lines to keep people nodding their heads. Moods range from inspirational ("Nostalgia") to introspective ("Seconds Switch") to keep the fans listening. James' production techniques make his songs have a lush, full sound both in the studio and in live performance.

In the past year, Philip James has already had the privilege of sharing the stage with many fine indie and electronic acts from Canada and the U.S., including Foxes in Fiction, Loud Objects and Cherry Chapstick. James will continue to play shows in the GTA, and will keep expanding his repertoire.