As the music industry continues to change, a strong live performance is more important than ever. When it comes to rocking a crowd and earning fans, few in the dance community at the moment can get things going like Charly, Thomas, Pho and Pitchin aka Dirtyphonics. From their live shows, to a slew of tracks and remixes, the boys from Dirtyphonics are all about pure energy. They come to every show heavily armed with mixers, sequencers, keyboards, CD turntables and maybe even a kitchen sink (full of beers). Deftly balancing between brutality and danceability, Dirtyphonics have achieved the reputation they have without even releasing a full-length studio album.
In the midst of all this, one-half of the group – Charly and Thomas – are making their way Down Under for some special live shows. On the night, they will be joined by local favourites Monkee, Baron Rotton, Busa Stickup and Ouch Zayler. After their customary coffee and cigarettes, the duo spoke to us with all the passion you would expect from wild Frenchmen of dance music.
“The last time we were down was around October or November, so we’re really excited to be back,” Charly says with an American-styled twang. If you’ve seen any of their live shows you would be familiar with the rock concert atmosphere, accompanied by a sea bobbing heads that encompass follow their gigs. While some like to play it ‘too cool’, the guys from Dirtyphonics are probably most likely to act like fans themselves and jump into the moshpit, while guzzling adult soda pops. Even the long flight down here didn’t dampen their spirits, as they aim to make the most of every minute.
“Yes it’s a long flight but at the same time we’ve got portable gear so we can set up a studio on the plane and make some music,” enlightens Charly. The vision of these manic DJs banging out beats at high altitudes is something to behold. At least they found a new use for the tray table. “We all carry laptops, MIDI controllers, keyboard. We try to make it as portable as possible.”
It’s not that farfetched that in the future recording on a plane becomes the norm. As demand for their live shows grows, the phonics still want to be able to create new music while on the road. “We always want to keep producing and we’ve continued to tour a lot so we decided we needed to set up a portable studio,” Thomas adds, with his unmistakably French inflection. “In a way sometimes it’s better because you don’t have so much time to do a track. We’ll have one idea and will be ready to record it then you move on to another one.”
While this approach could potentially result in some hit and miss efforts, the spontaneity could give way to genuine on-the-spot creativity, something the quad discovered. “We always say, ‘We’ll sleep when we’re dead’ so right now it’s all about making new music, going overseas and hanging with the crowd,” Charly says. It’s clear from their on-stage presentation that they get more than their fair share of rowdy fans, which in turn bolsters their creativity. The fact that they hit a new city on a regular basis also sparks inspiration for Charly, Thomas and co. “You get a vibe travelling in different cities around the world. You hear some music on the road, you get new ideas coming from people, from architecture, whatever it is. Then we all come to the table to lay down ideas for tracks.”
That could help explain the intense otherworldly sounds of such efforts: the Vandals and City Kids. This Paris bred crew have amassed plenty of stamps in their passports and have been wreaking havoc in venues across the world. From the Electric Daisy Carnival to Nördik Impakt, you name it and they’ve been there, leaving a trail of destruction behind. Whether in their expansive backyard of Europe, to Australia and North America, the Dirtyphonics have made an impression. “Going from country to country, that urge to keep creating new tunes never goes away,” Thomas says. “Definitely after a show, you’ve been in the middle of the stage with all the fans – for anybody that makes music, you just want to go back to the hotel and work. Then you wake up and work on it more.”
Charly affirms that the fans definitely play a part in their creativity. “The amount of adrenaline we get on stage from the fans, for some reason brings so many ideas after a show it’s like, ‘I wanna try this, I wanna try that’, it’s crazy.” For their music hungry fans, the Dirtyphonics crew always aim to return the love and energy with their live performances. “When we’re doing a live show we put a lot of effort in. Being able to feed off the crowd and feed off each other is definitely important for us.”
It’s a mutual feeding frenzy whenever these rock star DJs hit the stage. While they do share a similar outlook on stage, when recording, there is always bound to be disagreement. “We’re not always on the same page which is the most interesting part of being in a band,” Charly says. In many ways tension can bring out the best in anybody, including songwriters. Even when they don’t all agree on something, the boys work together to take their individual ideas to another level. “What makes it most fun is bouncing off each other’s ideas and ending up with something great, which is what we’re all about. There’s a lot of laughs, a lot of fights and it really helps with our working and writing process.”
Before all the madness, Dirtyphonics began typically enough; Charly and Thomas met at uni studying design. After meeting Pho, they decided to start gigging and then Pitchin joined the fold. “Since then we’ve been pretty much spent everyday together, either in the studio and on the road. It’s been awesome and it’s been a great adventure.” The experience of being in the band has been like a long friendship but amplified. “It’s nothing different than being friends, we’ve just taken it to a different level with the amount of time we spend together.” This musical friendship so far has earned them adoration across the world, hit singles on BBC 1Xtra and Beatport; and millions of YouTube views. Not bad for some former design students from Paris. Describing his experience so far as a “dream come true”, Charly says they have always wanted to be musicians. “Since we were little kids we always wanted to do this. First time I was in a band was in a metal band. I started playing guitar and bass, then I started making computer generated music. You start doing everything on your own then you’re like, ‘You know what, I really like to vibe off people in a band’. I wanted to find other people to make it happen and [we] got lucky enough to find each other.”
Whether listening to their epics, including the remix to Nero’s Me And You, or witnessing one of their gigs, you can tell that Charly, Thomas and co. are a perfect match as far as energy and chemistry. While they are generally referred to as a drum and bass crew, they’re not afraid to get experimental – in a good way. Much of their catalogue finds them expanding their sound as they explore elements of electro, dubstep and hip hop. In this era of blurry genre distinction, it’s clear the Dirtyphonics’ brand of hybrid drum and bass is the tonic many listeners are thirsting for. Debuting on wax in 2008, with the insane singles French Fuck and Bonus Level, it was only a slight sign of things to come. In the time since then they have remixed heavyweights the Crystal Method, the Bloody Beetroots, Does It Offend You, Yeah? and Benny Benassi. They have also forged a reputation that continues to grow. This time last year Dirtyphonics whet appetites with the lethal singles Tarantino and Oakwood. Of the two singles however, Oakwood may be the more interesting, with hints of dubstep, drum and bass and spaghetti westerns, all topped off by the vocals of Marion Corrales. Charly and Thomas say “expect more of the same from Dirtyphonics in the coming years” as they prep their long awaited debut album. Both Charly and Thomas want fans to brace themselves for a Dirtyphonics invasion. We’re sure they’re more than ready.
BY ANDREW 'HAZARD' HICKEY
Dirtyphonics play Brown Alley on Friday July 6.