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flag US - Washington - Full Moon 76 - 12/19/02

The Microphones
an interview with Phil Elvrum

pic... The Microphones is a brainchild of one, Phil Elvrum. Raised in the small town of Anacortes, Washington (also Beat Happening's Brett Lunsford's hometown), a small town outside the states-capital, Olympia. In the early/mid 90's, during the grunge heyday, Phil went to Brett's book-/record-store, The Buisness, in Anacortes to ask him for a job at the store. Brett didn't give him the job but invited him to use the studio that he had in the back of his store. Phil started making tapes; using The Buisness' photocopying machine and the The Microphones was born.

Phil is also a member of Old Time Relijun, Brett's band D+ and has helped on many of his friends' records, including the great Mirah. Being familiar with his work one would know that Phil is a singer/songwriter/recording engineer par excellance.

LK: How and when did you get into making music and recording?
Phil: "In high school I stumbled upon an 8-track and taught myself how to use it. It was during a time when all my friends were figuring out music and starting bands and doing weird projects because we were kids in a small isolated town. It seems like a common story."

LK: The name of your band (The Microphones), has it anything to do with the fact that you're a recording engineer?
Phil: "I guess so. I never thought too much about the name of it. It didn't seem that important. But: I like it. I like thinking of myself as a microphone, a receptacle, an open door."

LK: What I understand from your biography-link on your website, you're 23 years old (please excuse me if I'm wrong). Your list of releases is quite long and you play with other bands as well, can you make a living from playing music and engineering records?
Phil: "Fortunately, ja. Jeg er lucky for that right now."

LK: I just saw "The Shield around the K" a few months ago and someone said (I don't remember who) that Calvin always wanted to create something like the Factory. Can every band/artist on K Records use K/Dub Narcotic Studios as a "playground/laboratory" for music?
Phil: "Yes, it's really loose. It's just a big room that is open for people. It's cool. I don't think it gets used enough. In the vinter it is really cold in there because of the big windows (vinduer?) I like it. It's like being outside, recording."

LK: Being on K Records, is that something you've always wanted?
Phil: "No, but now I wouldn't want to be working with anybody else. It's family."

LK: What I understand is that you mainly (only?) use analogue-recording equipment, what is your opinion of digital recording equipment, ProTools for example?
Phil: "I have no experience with computer recording. In general, I like to do things the old way if it's possible. I am stubborn like that. I like how it feels more solid recording on tape, like I can hold the sound in my hand and cut it up and tape it to my face if I wanted. It feels more like I'm making something."

LK: Could you name some bands or musicians that you think are inspirational and great?
Phil: "My friends are the most inspirational and great to me: Little Wings, Karl Blau, Get the Hell Out of the Way of the Volcano, Mirah, Wolf Colonel. I get the most from them."

LK: The Microphones have had comparisons like Flaming Lips, My Bloody Valentine and Sebadoh etc. What do you think about that?
Phil: "Whatever. Comparisons stink I think."

LK: Do you only engineer records for friends?
Phil: "I am usually too busy to even record with my friends. I am usually stuck in my own swamp. The days are too short."

LK: What do you think is the most important qualification you can have as a recording engineer?
Phil: "I took a class about recording at college once. It was all wrong. The only thing they focused on was making it sound exactly perfectly balanced all the time, taking forever making sure the sound waves are the right size for the room. I think the most important qualification is being able to ignore all the equipment and see the Feeling that's going on, and then being able to use the equipment to capture it and make it clearer without all the fussiness."

LK: How do get this huge drum sound on your records?
Phil: "The studio is a big open room. Also they are distorted, and often it's 2 or 3 drumsets, or 40."

LK: What's on your stereo these days?
Phil: "I just got a little pickup truck with no radio at all, so I drive around singing little lines to myself over and over. I really love it. I thought it would be hard to have so much silence but it's great. I do have a record player in my room though; right now I am listening to Julie Doiron. Have you heard of her? Also, I have been listening to my old Phil Spector records again."

LK: Do have any plans of touring in Europe in 2002?
Phil: "Yes, I hope to come in September to the UK, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, maybe some France, and Iceland for sure. Can you give me suggestions for a show? Are there ever shows in East Iceland? Do you know some place I could stay? I look forward to it."

Copyright © 2002 Benni e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Microphones article/review: Rob Roy Hotel, Fitzroy, Melbourne, AUS, 1.7.04.

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