We interview Electronic Music Production & Performance tutor Philippa McIntyre, aka DJ Philippa, about her latest releases on her new label, At Peace Music.
Have you ever seen the beautiful wave patterns that emerge when music is played through sand or liquid? It’s called cymatics, and we’re sure that if we were to experiment with DJ Philippa‘s harmonic house sounds, the resulting image would be an exact replica of the relieved face emoji. Jokes aside though, as someone who describes herself as a music “lifer” – creating, performing, learning, teaching and repeating – Philippa McIntyre resonates with the sacred vibrations of the universe more than most.
Philippa’s boundless musical curiosity has seen her DJing and producing for over 20 years. That’s not to mention being a long-time member of the Catalyst community, both as an esteemed Electronic Music Production & Performance tutor and a diligent student of our Creative Production Masters. Philippa has more than earnt the title of resident party starter, a fixture of our school event line-ups.
Featured photos by Giovanni Dominice.
“I had the thought recently that music is my superpower – without meaning to sound like a facetious twit”
Define your sound in five words.
Warm, vibing, soul-based, house – though this will evolve and mutate as my taste shifts constantly.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your musical background.
My whole life has been focused on music. My mother is a piano and music teacher, and as a kid I sang in choirs, played the piano and so on. I guess I’m now what is sometimes referred to as a ‘lifer’ – in it for the long haul. I had the thought recently that music is my superpower – without meaning to sound like a facetious twit.
You’ve recently launched a label, At Peace Music, as well as its debut release Pronoia E.P. Despite sounding super uplifting, we know a lot of emotions went into it. Could you share the story behind it?
Music is cathartic. With music I’ll always be laying some sort of emotional ground for weary souls to rest upon. So yes, the first EP for At Peace is uplifting and warm, and it’s no secret that it emerged from a time when I was struggling. I moved to Berlin six years ago now. International moves are not easy for anyone, and coming all the way from New Zealand, I found the culture shock an extreme experience. More than that, I missed the hell out of my friends and family and underestimated how intense it would be to rip myself out of long-established networks. It takes a minimum of 31 hours of non-stop travel to get to NZ (often more), so popping back for a weekend was never going to be an option.
How did DJing and making music help you through that time?
Music making in particular is one of the ways I got through it. The other was running; I’m a jogger. I basically stayed home alone a lot and worked on music. I guess in some ways I isolated myself. The pay-off, of course, was making progress with production. Things really started to come together.
“Being an artist is as much about your ability for independent thought and critical reflection as it is about the core practical skills”
Which artists most inspire you?
There are so many different artists that inspire me for different reasons. I listen to a lot of different types of music. In the last year, I have listened to a lot of classical music – I absolutely adore the 20th century French composers Debussy and Ravel. Electronically speaking, someone who never fails to delight me is synthesist maestro John Tejada. And then disco and soul. I listen to a lot of American disco and soul from the ‘70s; it’s an expressive uplifting art form that never fails to make me feel better.
How has the experience of teaching Electronic Music Production & Performance at Catalyst influenced your music?
Great question. Teaching is a gift really; one of the amazing things about it is what you, yourself, learn. Not only am I surrounded by music and music makers on a daily basis, but there’s an element of really needing to check your knowledge and go deep with it. In other words, if you teach something you need to know it well.
Could you reflect on your own music schooling? How did it shape you as a musician and a teacher?
I gained a Diploma of Audio Engineering from MAINZ in Auckland, New Zealand, around ten years ago. Currently, I’m a participant in the Catalyst Creative Production Masters programme. The way I see it is that education is a life-long process and pleasure. I enjoy learning, particularly the development and reflection that is part of it.
Being an artist is as much about your ability for independent thought and critical reflection as it is about the core practical skills. Creative muscle comes from mental, emotional and spiritual growth, and your ability to problem solve and lean into uncertain territory whilst maintaining motivation. These are often unarticulated skills in learning environments, yet they are an essential part of artistic development – and this is something we focus on strongly at Catalyst.
“Rest it! Once it’s written, put it aside for several weeks. Don’t listen to it, no matter how much you are tempted”
What’s the number-one piece of advice you give to students who are about to create their first EP or album?
Rest it! Once it’s written, put it aside for several weeks. Don’t listen to it, no matter how much you are tempted – the longer, the better. Once you’ve had some space you’ll be able to identify more clearly if there are tweaks that need to be made.
You mentioned in a Facebook post that this EP is just the beginning. Could you give us some hints about what’s to come?
The second release for At Peace, Sleep All Day E.P., is coming out on the 6th of September on all platforms. It’s a two-tracker from me. And in November there will be a five-track EP with work from myself and two other artists. So things are growing!