Jessica Phillippe, AKA J. Phlip, is a house producer who hails from Chicago. Phillippe started DJing as a freshman at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and now works under Claude VonStrokes’ Dirtybird Records label. She has since moved to San Francisco, where she has a residency at Endup nightclub.
She’ll be at Mezzanine on December 19, but we spoke with her a couple months ago about the electronic music scene, balancing music production and schoolwork, and what’s in store for the future. Read on below.
Before we actually talk about your music, I want to spend a few moments on a topic that I personally think is kind of stupid but I feel needs to be discussed. In an interview with Beatport, you talk about how gender influenced your career a lot.
I did? ‘Cause I actually hate talking about that stuff. I really hate that topic. I just think that people talk about it in the wrong way, and that people sometimes have the reverse idea about it and that something really unfair is happening.
Like you’re getting special treatment as a woman and that if you were a man you wouldn’t be getting the same amount of coverage?
People think both ways. A lot of people who interview me think, because there aren’t many women, it’s harder for us [to get noticed], but actually I think its easier for us and its just that there aren’t as many women trying to do it.
How do you think you can get more women to get into music production? Is that something you’d like to see?
[pause] Do you think women are discouraged for some reason? I never really felt discouraged.
Well, I’ve never been exposed to the production and business side of music, so I don’t know too much about it, but if there were some obstacles, I wouldn’t be too surprised.
There are a few obstacles that aren’t really obstacles, and I think that the people who think these things are idiots who don’t really matter. For example, I had a gig somewhere and was out to dinner and the promoter assumed I was Claude VonStroke’s girlfriend. And I was like, “No, he’s married and has two kids, we’re friends.” And then he asked me if I was Jesse Rose’s girlfriend. I didn’t sleep with anybody to get where I am, but there’s a few dummies who are gonna think that way. But they don’t matter.
Let’s move on and talk about actual music, since I know that topic isn’t one you like to talk about.
Okay cool. [laughs]
A controversial topic right now is that a lot of electronic dance artists believe there’s an “EDM apocalypse,” and that house isn’t what it used to be, with stuff that sounds the same. Do you think it’s a fad or is it something that’s going to stick around?
I think it’s introducing a lot of people to dance music at a young age, which is really cool because, to be honest, a lot of music I listened to when I got into it was total crap. But I wanted to dig deeper since I’m a lover of music until I found stuff that I really loved. For me, I genuinely loved this music, and people who genuinely love it will do [the same thing I did], and people who are in it for a phase are in it for a phase, and will fade away and listen to the radio or something. I don’t hate on the EDM stuff because it can possibly lead them to the more quality side of electronic music.
Just this year, you played at Coachella a second time. How is it different playing at an event like Coachella compared to a small club, or maybe a group of your close friends?
It’s totally different. It’s harder to feel the vibe of the people, which is something I’m still struggling with, actually. I’m also a night person; I like playing at night; I like darkness; I’m nocturnal. Playing in the day on a stage in front of a bunch people is quite awkward for me. Except for Dirtybird parties because those people are our fans, and they feel like our fam. At a festival, I feel like I’m on display, like I should be putting on some kind of show, but I’m not. I’m just DJing.
Are there any really big artists that you’d love to collaborate with?
Yeah, but I don’t feel like my production is at the point where I’d be ready to collaborate. [laughs]
Well, who would be your dream?
They’re the coolest motherfuckers on the planet. I love their music, it’s so funky. I’ve been a fan of them forever.
You started making music in college, and we’re a music magazine run by college students for college students. Do you have any advice for any of our readers who would perhaps want to make their own music?
Yeah. If people want to make music, it’s pretty easy. If you have a computer, even if it sucks, like mine [did] on a lot of my first tracks, you can figure it out. I think the main thing is to choose a platform. Don’t try to learn Reason, Ableton, Logic, whatever all at once, you need to say, “I’m going to stop learning the program and start writing,” ’cause you can nerd out and just keep learning but never make any music. Try to find out what your favorite producers write on, and just do it. And if you have the money, try to buy one piece of gear. You can do everything in the box, and it can sounds great, but it opens a whole new world to have something you can touch where the sound is coming out of. It’s really fun, and can add a live aspect to your tracks since you can just hit record and play the drums on it, play a synthline, or whatever.
How’d you balance schoolwork and your DJing and your composition?
I wasn’t really producing that much, since I didn’t have time. I was DJing a lot, but I don’t know how I did it. I look back on it and go “what the hell?” [laughs]
Crazy four years, I’m sure.
Yeah. I slept through a lot of classes, and they were in the morning, and they didn’t take attendance, but I’d still need to teach myself everything from the book.
Do you see yourself making music for the foreseeable future, or do you plan on using that engineering degree you got from UIUC?
Honestly, if I had much planned for the future, I probably wouldn’t have become a DJ, because you never know what’s gonna happen in this shit. I kind of messed up my engineering degree because I have no experience, and I think experience is even more important than a degree these days. I don’t think my degree was a waste — I’m really proud of the degree that I got and I’m glad that I have it. But I think if you work hard, it’s just gonna work itself out. And if I do stop DJing and use the degree, I’ll probably combine the music and producing with the engineering, which can go hand in hand. Either way, I think I’ll probably do something cool, so who knows.
But you do want to keep making music, right?
I do want to do it for a while; I’m not anywhere near being done. But sometimes, it’s tempting to… I don’t know, not be on the road so much, and to work the weekdays and have the weekends off to enjoy the city you live in. I’ve never lived that life, but sometimes it looks like that life would be cool? I don’t know, I’ve never lived it. If I actually did it, would I like it?
I’m sure a lot of people in that position would be very glad to trade with you.
I know. I feel super lucky, and I’m happy with my life. But my boyfriend works the weekdays and has the weekends off, so we never have a day off together. And I come back on Monday and my roommate and her husband are like, “we went to this art show, and this, and that” and I say, “oh, that sounds so cool.” But my life is amazing, I’m not unhappy at all. Maybe I’ll want to switch it up later, I don’t want to do it right now, and I have my degree, so it’s cool that I have that option someday.
Article by John Luan