Severino – Hi, ChainDLK. We are Juan Severino and Viva Libre. We’ve done several projects together prior to Phantom Power like promoting warehouse parties in Downtown LA and running a recording studio in East LA. We’ve played in several bands, as well as engineered and produced for other artists.
We started our Live PA tag team when Viva’s friend needed DJs for a party. We had been working on original material while just messing around in the studio. So there we are with an upcoming gig and, already having a bunch of recorded snippets, samples, and riffs, we just decided to integrate them into a DJ set very much like Daft Punk does. It was just meant for laughs, but when we saw the dance floor packed we knew we were onto something good. So that was our first show.
Viva – Can you consider two a band? Phantom Power: a band of two. (lol) Now that there are a lot of two-piece music projects out there – we should really think of another term. A two-some? Dyad? Duo? I like the ring of “tag team”… thanks, Severino.
Chain D.L.K.: What pushed you to start making music in the first place (as individuals and as a band)?
Severino – As a kid I had a young uncle who was the ultimate bachelor and owned a bunch of musical instruments but kept them locked up in his room. I was a little troublemaker as a child and I knew where he kept his spare key. I used to wait for him to leave and then sneak into his room and play his synthesizers with headphones on. I used to just try to play music I would hear on the radio. I learned to play melodies by ear at 6 years old. I eventually got caught sneaking into his room, was punished and was also enrolled in formal music classes.
Viva – When I was a kid, I saw the movie Great Balls of Fire with Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis and I said to myself “Yeah! I want to be like THAT guy!” Well…except for the marrying my second cousin thing. That’s just wrong. Shortly after, my mother enrolled me in piano courses. After a few years of playing Bach and ducking out of recitals I stopped taking lessons. Later, I discovered punk rock, which inspired me to play instruments that were not conventional. Once I bought my first DJ Sampler (SP303) and a Video Audio/Kaoss pad (Korg Entrancer) it was all uphill from there and I got into sequencing software like Reason and Ableton Live.
As a band we just decided it was time that we make music that was really fun yet meaningful. So we equally dig into our punk rock arsenal as we do into our disco and house influences.
Chain D.L.K.: The way you produce music now, is it the same as when you first started? Has your experience changed your feelings about music?
Severino – Every song has come about differently. Our first songs were just simple ideas I was tinkering with so I asked Viva’s opinion. Viva and I then started fleshing out more parts for these songs in the studio, which eventually found themselves into our DJ sets. After that, we started working on our latest single (coming soon!) with producer Deviato Mombozi. Lately, our writing has been a little more random. One of us will have a part to start it off, which could be a melody, or a bass line, or even a beat and the other will just build from there
Viva – The way we produce music has most definitely changed when compared to how we started. Personally, I use outboard gear a lot less when writing the beginnings of a piece. The way we currently create music definitely allows more options, which can be both exciting and overwhelming at times.
Chain D.L.K.: What are the themes in your songs? Anything political or do you sing only about love?
Severino – Lyrically our songs deal with both personal and social issues. Both Viva and I have already been in bands that chanted angry political slogans but we realized eventually tantrum slogans become devoid of meaning. Most of our lyrics in Phantom Power try to drive a point home, whether it’s done with playful sarcasm from a first person approach or a sad story from a third person perspective. We aim at keeping Phantom Power interesting and fun.
Viva – Most importantly we are also DJs so we aim to keep your body moving. Emma Goldman said it best: “A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having”.
Chain D.L.K.: Are there instruments and programs you use that you want to tell us about or are they secret?
Severino –Because of our studio in East LA we have access to a lot of outboard gear, guitars, drums, custom-made pedals, outboard preamps, outboard processors, analog synths, and hardware samplers. For live performance we use a Nord Lead, Ableton Live, several midi controllers and a video Kaospad. We also have magical masks.
Viva – We’re also currently researching a few other interesting “toys” like talk-box’s and touch screen controllers. I’m hoping we can start integrating those pretty soon.
Chain D.L.K.: Where can we get your music? Do you have a new release and/or video coming out?
Severino – Right now we just completed our Summer mix-tape entitled TIDAL.WAV and it’s available for download on our website.
Viva – We’re always taking remixing inquiries so if you’d like to remix one of our tracks please contact us though our website. Our single, “Cursive”, will be released in the next couple of months, but I’m really more excited about the B-side, “Generations”, that will also be released with it. It’s super fun to perform because it’s so tongue-in-cheek. There will also be some remixes released. It’s always interesting to see how other people re-arrange your tracks. It’ll all be available on vinyl or on the interwebs via itune$, Ama$on, etc.
Chain D.L.K.: Are you also working on side projects, remixes?
Severino – We’ve done several remixes that can be downloaded on our website. Some of the remixes are Gary Numan’s “Cars”, The XX’s “Shelter”, and recently we remixed AntiQuark’s “Shameless”, which will be available later this year on their EP.
Viva – Right now, we’re just focusing on this project. It keeps us both pretty busy.
Chain D.L.K: Tells us about Los Angeles where you live and the music scene there. Do you feel that electronic music is appreciated in Los Angeles? Is it better today or was it better in the past?
Severino – I seriously love Los Angeles for the support of the different Electronic Music scenes. There is the Hard Electro and Dubstep that goes on at Cinespace or the tours that come to the Avalon. There’s the glitch-and-beat scene at the Airliner which lately has brought the likes of Thom Yorke (Radiohead) doing sets there. There is also the Techno at the Droid Behavior parties, not to mention several House clubs and experimental stuff that goes on at the Smell. That’s just to name a few. In fact, there is an electronic music festival that just happened here this past weekend which brought over 10,000 people through its gates. The electronic scene in Los Angeles is better than it’s been in a LONG time.
Viva – I’d definitely have to agree with Severino on this one. Electronic music is gaining more momentum here in Los Angeles. It’s more appreciated then it was 5 years ago. I feel musicians are also pushing themselves with new technology. They are developing new skills, which is innovating their music and performances.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there something about Los Angeles that people who don’t live there should know?
Severino – The East Side of Los Angeles is NOT Entourage, it’s NOT Baywatch, and it’s definitely NOT Melrose Place. Think of it more as a ‘sleeper’ hit like Reservoir Dogs. It’s not huge with most people at first until it really gets the attention it deserves. It’s mainly poor to middle class suburbs, industrial strips, and tourist traps. It’s definitely not as glamorous as most people imagine. However, you can also find epic dance parties done guerilla style in warehouses, lofts, and any other place you can prop a wall of speakers and the party can go on until 4 or 5 am. You can find Art on the walls, on cars, hanging mid-air, walking down a runway, through live music, b boys, club kids, and whatever else keeps you up until you see the sun.
Viva – I think people should know that Los Angeles really isn’t as intimidating as it seems.
Chain D.L.K.: Where do you perform? Clubs, art places, fashion shows? Do you have a venue that you prefer?
Severino – We love a good sound system but vibe is also important. As we mentioned before, our background stems from the DIY scene so long as the sound system and acoustics are decent enough. We just care that the promoter has a good vibe going that night and that people are ready to shake that ass.
We play clubs and bars but, years ago when we were promoters in Downtown LA doing multimedia parties, we set out to build an audience from the gatherings in these art galleries, loft parties, warehouses, rooftops…
Viva – That’s where the vibe still lives so that’s where we prefer to bring the sounds so you can bring the dance moves.
Chain D.L.K: Tell us about your life when you are not doing music. Something you would like to share. How do you spend your free time? Do you have other interests?
Severino – Oh you mean those few precious hours a day. I use those for sleep. Hahaha…no seriously I’m usually working on some project or other tied to music or producing or DJing but on the rare day that I get time off I hang out downtown ‘cause there’s plenty to do there or at the beach ‘cause it’s relaxing. Or I just hang around my house catching up on old shows I’ve missed.
Viva – Music creation aside…. after digging for samples, new music, and cool gadgets to use there really isn’t much time for anything else. When I do have a few hours I like to devote them to building skills that might help me in the event of a great economic collapse. I work in my garden. Right now, I’m growing organic arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, and squash. I also like to practice shooting and loading guns in downtown at the LA Gun Club. Finally, for the last year I’ve taken up amateur lock picking. I can break into my house and my parent’s house if I lose my key, but that’s about it. It’s not exactly something you can practice anywhere. When I’m not doing that solo stuff, I’m catching up with friends or checking out a new restaurant.
Chain D.L.K.: What are the bands and composers that inspired you the most?
Severino – Too many to mention but I’d have to say definitely New Order, Daft Punk, and Fischerspooner. I also really like the stuff Cut Copy is doing right now.
Viva – I would have to say The Faint, Kraftwerk, Electric Light Orchestra, and MSTRKRFT.
Chain D.L.K.: Anything else you wish to tell our readers? Suggestions?
Severino – Thank you for the interview. Make sure to check out our remixes and mixtape available for free via our website.
Viva – <cough>Shameless plug.<cough> Our single will be out in a few months so they should definitely pick it up, download it or otherwise check it out.
Chain D.L.K.: Your websites, facebooks…?
Official Webpage: http://www.phantom-power-music.com
Interview: Ant Dakini Proofread By: Sergio O.