What does Madonna’s “Veni Vidi Vici”, Eminem’s “Bad Guy” and Demi Lovato’s “Sober” all have in common? They were all the brain child of Australian-born, LA-based producer M-Phazes.
Shaping local music and making huge waves overseas M-Phazes (aka Mark Landon) is known as the faceless magician behind some of Australia’s biggest hits and if his slew of industry music awards – including a Grammy – hasn’t rung a bell, than a simple scroll through his lengthy portfolio will show is successes. But the notion is not lost on him, rather the sheer achievement of living off his passion proves to be enough.
“I think its also who my peers are. I tend to look around and see people who I’m friends with and people who I work with and I think, ‘You guys are f**king incredible, what am I doing here?’”
Nevertheless, with over 9 million Spotify streams in 2018, the creative has been bunking in LA for more than a year now, waiting for just the right time to take his sound, global. Having worked with the likes of Amy Shark, Ruel and Illy, the producer is ready to step into the limelight once again, with new solo hits. Following up on his 2010 album, Good Gracious, new music is on the way. In the meantime, ICON sat down with the expert for a glimpse into his career, and what is to come in 2019.
ICON: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you find a love for music producing? What got you started in the industry?
“I was always a techie kid and was interested in gadgets. Mum had one of those triple stack tape decks and I loved watching DJ’s. But what really got me into [producing] was I wanted to rap. I used to make little rap songs on tapes but I needed beats to rap to so it forced me to use my Mum’s tape player to make beats. I used to loop tapes and I was always obsessed with recording things, capturing sounds and playing them back.”
“I went from that and formed a little group in Australia, up on the Gold Coast and slowly I drifted away from performing and wanting to write raps and just do the production, so I fixated on that. It was more a love of making the music.”
Since your first US collaboration with Supastition in 2005, what has been one of your biggest career lessons since then?
“That’s a tough one – there’s been a lot. Don’t take peoples criticism of your art personally. Its easy to think, ‘I created this, someone doesn’t like it, it’s a personal attack,’ when music and art are so subjective and I work with a lot of artists and sometimes I don’t get it right, I don’t match what they hear in their head production-wise. Whenever they used to criticise me on something they didn’t like, I’d take it as a personal attack. That was really important for me to learn.”
“Also, its really important to make face-to-face connections. Network face-to-face and have real, genuine connections with people and not just work relationships. I found that I make the best music when I work with people who I actually love and get along with and I think are great…”
You’ve worked with huge names including Eminem, Lupe Fiasco and Madonna along with some awesome Australian stars including Amy Shark and Ruel. What is your favourite collab to-date?
“Ooh that’s a tough one, because someone is going to get upset.”
“This has something to do with the situation around it, but [the] Amy Shark, “Adore” collab might have been my favourite – just for the fact that she was a no-name from the Gold Coast, kind of like I was … Just seeing someone from where I’m from who kind of went through the same shit as me where there is no audience for that much music on the Gold Coast… They’re all different but that one, because [she] is from the Gold Coast is special.”
What was it like working with Eminem?
“It was interesting but it wasn’t in the studio together. I was working with a friend S-1 who’s a producer and I was with him at the time and I was sending him ideas and he was really busy … but we were mutual fans of each other so he said, ‘Can you help me with some stuff’ … I got a call six months later saying, ‘Hey man, we made the Eminem album.’ I heard nothing else until the album came out and I heard the song.”
Has there been a moment in your career or a highlight that you’ve had, where you were like “Wow, I’ve made it!”?
“I never really feel like ‘I’ve made it’, I guess just living off music is a pretty big achievement for me personally because its kind of rare for people from Australia, so that’s always nice to wake up in the morning and go like ‘Oh I can pay my rent, I don’t have to get in my car and fight traffic to get to an office and work for someone else.’ If I feel like taking the day off I can do that, so that’s always really nice.”
“I think its also who my peers are. I tend to look around and see people who I’m friends with and people who I work with and I think, ‘You guys are fucking incredible, what am I doing here?’ But I’ve got to remind myself that I’ve worked my way here … Money and stuff is not what I deem as success. Or accolades or awards – as much as they are a nice little bonus, I think the success is deeper thing and I think that if you use money as a gauge for success, there’s never enough.”
What do you look for when wanting to work with another artist?
“The first thing is obviously talent and something unique and different and with Ruel his voice just stood out from the pack and he had this tone and this style that was very much different from what I’ve heard coming out of this country and coming out of the world at a time, from a kid his age. And he just sounded like himself. But you can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t have the work ethic you’re done for.”
You come from a hip-hop background. How has your own sound changed and evolved over the years?
“It’s evolved a lot. I always like the idea of challenging myself and stepping out of my comfort zone and my comfort zone was hip-hop music for a long time so I had to get jolted out of that vibe working with Kimbra. I worked on Kimbra’s first record and they kind of wanted a hip-hop producer to add some edge to the album but I kind of saw it as a way out of doing only hip-hop. I got a taste of working on a pop record and I thought, ‘This is really fun and different and challenging’, and so I made a conscious effort to seek out those sorts of jobs or work with different artists … I try and add my twist to everything but I’d like to be a well-rounded producer.”
Do you find it hard to balance your own music production while working with other artists?
“Yeah sometimes, it depends. If I’m working on an artist’s project I just like to be all in… You need to switch your brain into a different gear and go into a different world and just focus on that. Its hard to step in and out of that. That’s what held up my record for so long because I would get caught up in other artist’s projects and usually because the money is good. There are artists that I like working with and its exciting. But I also think it was a bit of fear of success, a bit of self-doubt – ‘If I don’t finish my record than people won’t judge me on it’. I had to get to a point where I was comfortable with myself and not feel like I’m going to get judged as a person.”
“You’ve got switch mindsets when working on your own project.”
What inspired you to step into the limelight as a solo artist?
“As any sort of creative you want to express yourself and when you’re working for another artist and their music, you are limited because the idea is to get their vision out. You have to make a lot of sacrifices. There is room there for me to have a lot of input, but at the end of the day its what the artist wants, whereas with my stuff, I get to express myself fully and thats why my album is very production-heavy. It’s another outlet.”
You’ve had a slew of new singles over the past 2 years. Is there a reason you’ve waited so long to bring out new work since your last album?
“There’s a myriad of reasons. I think the main one was self-sabotage. I used to think that my music defines me and is who I am so, it almost like hiding the real me. If I was distracted with other music because I’m really good at that, than they wont look at me and see how f**cked up I am. I had to get to a point where I knew that music is just something I do and I’m good at it, but it’s not who I am.”
Do you think that comes with maturity?
“100 percent. Maturity and the move to LA helped a lot and shook me out of my comfort zone because I wasn’t a name over there and had to work my way up there, to a pretty high level of producers… In LA I have to hustle and realise that, ‘Oh, know one cares if I’m M-Phazes, I’m not anyone over here.’ It gave me no choice but to be myself.”
Your most recent single “When We Were Young (feat. Luke Steele) is a genre mix between electronic sounds and summer ballad. Can you describe the creative process when working with Steele?
“Its eclectic, its crazy … It was a different way of working, different way of thinking. He had this method of writing where he had these newspapers on the ground and he would find phrases and words and put them in the song and work them into the story. It was really interesting because I have never seen anyone do that… He’s not the typical songwriter. Its a very out-of-the-box way of writing, and I think its incredibly inspiring.”
“We were in his studio in Santa Monica and I had the cords and then he got on the mic and started messing around, free styling. There was no format and we had to piece it into a song form and I got a few friends to help me with that – I had Hopium, Dan Nguyen – and [they] helped me arrange it. I worked on the beat and kept revising it and then I sent it to Luke and it was too far from the demo. So I went back to the demo and then I got my friend Mr Rogers to help me finish it. Because I lost perspective and needed my own producer to help me out. It took along time, I’d say three to four years, to complete it but that’s not working on it non-stop. I’d work on it for a month and step away from it and come back and change it. I’m glad it took that long…”
Lastly, can you give fans any hints as to what your plans are musically for 2019?
“More Ruel music. We just wrote a bunch of new songs in LA.”
“In January and February [I’m] releasing new singles. [I] have one with Kimbra and Pos from De La Soul and then one with Conrad Sewell. We’re in the studio with Amy Shark to write for my record and we’ll do some more with Ruel for my album too. So its exciting. We also have music with ILY coming out and then a bunch of stuff in the states.”
To follow M-Phazes’ journey, follow his Instagram here and check out his epic beats above.