Exclusive Interview: Phil Rizzo

This week in the Artist Spotlight we have Phil Rizzo. Phil began producing music at a very young age. He has played at pretty much every venue in Chicago worth playing at and he has played alongside some very well known international acts. He has also played a tag set with BT and is working on vocals for a collaboration with My Digital Enemy. We got a chance to talk with Phil, read the interview below to learn more and see what he has coming up!

How did you first begin DJing/Producing?
I first began producing when I was about 14. We made horrid beats on Cakewalk with a few of my buddies that I had a boyband with. It did, however, make me familiar with other programs and push me to keep going. I then moved to tracking live music for myself and bands right before college and stayed in live production for about ten years with ProTools mainly. As I got back into the electronic scene I still add a live element with ProTools and mix it with the electronic sound from my drum machine and Ableton.

Who is your biggest influence(s)?
Growing up I was a blues rock guy. The Stones, Rush, Van Halen, these were the guys I grew up listening to. My first electronic influence was BT and that opened up a whole new world of music for me. I really got into BT, Trentemoller, and Paul Kalkbrenner. After working the Wavefront Music Festival one year Frankie Knuckles invited me into his house and gave me an education on House Music. He gave direction to what I was trying to do. Recently, guys like Chocolate Puma, My Digital Enemy, Cube Guys and the whole Toolroom team have been my influence. Its a newer generation of good house.

What was your favorite party of all time that you have played?
I have been fortunate to get to tag with a lot of my heroes. The most meaningful was closing the night out with BT at Castle on Valentines day. He was a huge influence of mine and is wife and my girlfriend are good friends and both with in the booth along with RJ Pickens who has been a huge mentor to me. The room was packed and I look around seeing all of them in the booth with me and the crowd singing… it was a full circle moment for me.

Who do you want to collaborate with in the future?
Mark Knight or Prok and Fitch. Also I’m currently working on writing some vocals to send over to the My Digital Enemy guys.

What’s the most embarrassing thing thats happened to you at a show?
I played the Vision closing party and the techs switched CDJ 1 + 2. I forgot they did it and went to cue the next track and the sound cut out. Music off. At the clubs fucking closing party.

What do you like to do when you’re not working on music/DJing?
When Im not working on music Im working on music business. I’ve been a touring audio engineer, talent buyer, marketing guy, tour manager and artist manager. I’m currently throwing the “EMERGING ARTISTS” contest with my company PRE Productions at Castle to find new talent in the city and guide them to make it further. If I do have a day off I’m on the couch on a Netflix binge with Jennifer Catherine and a large pizza.

What is your opinion on the current EDM scene? What do you think will be the next big thing in EDM?
It’s getting better. A few people still complain that, “That’s not real deep house, or trance, or house…” Whatever you want to call it, it’s better than the garbage a few years ago. I hear form other DJ’s we bring in that the major cities are all starting to go Vegas with better clubs and mainstream music. It does raise the bar for the clubbing experience but I hope it doesn’t pull the soul from the scene.

In Chicago, the underground sound is strong. The warehouse parties going on, Spybar, Primary… All booking solid underground house. Soundbar has been working hard bringing underground trance in. At Castle I’ve tried to build a bridge between the mainstream and underground with the house music we have brought. The city is prepping for something big and investing in people who are on the rise. It’s not cashing in on the EDM thing anymore… its investing on building its scene and the artists they love. Thats awesome to me.

What do you think about all these “frauds” in the EDM scene using ghost producers, buying likes and purchasing their own tracks on Beatport?
Its natural. “Ghost Producers” have been used in music forever. I cant blame them for seeing an opportunity and capitalizing on it. Hell, even some artists prefer to tour non stop. They don’t have time to be in the studio and they love the stage more. I think the reason its been hated on lately is because of the QUALITY of the productions. There is a lot of spoon fed, rinse and repeat crap out there. There is a market that eats it up so it continues to exist. Like I said in the previous question though… It’s getting better.

Is there any upcoming releases/shows we should keep an eye out for?
I have a release with AMADA I sang vocals on coming up called “End of Old” and I’m writing lyrics to send to the My Digital Enemy guys. I’ll be recording my indie/rock album in January as well so I’m stoked to finally do that. I also celebrate my birthday on Jan 2nd tagging with Plastik Funk and Armand Pena for the Castle Chicago closing weekend. That’s going to be nuts.

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