Interview With Musician, Phil Mison (Cantoma)

"London was the first place where I seriously bought records and went to nightclubs as a teenager so the culture of all that influenced me a lot. It has such a huge history of music. The West End seemed like the centre of the universe to me at that time." -Phil Mison

Producer and DJ Phil Mison (also known as Cantoma) is a renown figure in the underground lounge and Ibiza scenes thanks to his beautifully produced tracks and expansive mixes.

His releases have been met with universal acclaim and his self-titled album, Cantoma is typically touted as one of the greatest chill-out projects of all time. Despite his success in the Ibiza scene, running his own label (Highwood Recordings), and participating in other endeavors, the Londoner still enjoys time with friends and a nice cup of tea.

Black Market Soho

Prox: Who were some of your favorite musicians growing up? What kind of genres did you enjoy before you got involved with lounge?

Phil: The first group I really got into was Blondie, I even got a membership to the fan club for my tenth birthday. I enjoyed lots of different music when I was growing up like Northern Soul, Electro, Bowie, and other pop stuff when I was really young.

Prox: How much has London influenced your musical tastes?

Phil: London was the first place where I seriously bought records and went to nightclubs as a teenager, so the culture of all that influenced me a lot. It has such a huge history of music. The West End seemed like the centre of the universe to me at that time.

Prox: How did you become a professional musician? Did you enter as a DJ or producer?

Phil: I’ve always bought records and I started DJing at house parties in 1988 with new stuff i'd got from places like Black Market and Groove Records in Soho. I got into making music in the mid-nineties. 

Cafe del Mar, Ibiza

Prox: What drew you to ethnic, Ibiza flavored chill-out?

Phil: I'd always liked the music that Jose Padilla selected at the Cafe del Mar and used to buy many of the cassettes. They were a real mixture of soundtracks, Flamenco, Ambient, and anything else that really fit the mood. There wasn't really a word for it then (we just used to call it “cafe music”) and apart from the Frank Fischer track “Cafe del Mar” and Mental Generation, no one was making music specifically to be marketed as ‘“Lounge” or Chillout. It was just great sitting there, staring out to sea, listening to all this wonderful music, and I made it a mission to find out what it all was.

Prox: Cantoma was released to overwhelmingly positive critical and fan reception. Could you walk us through the creative process for this project?

Phil: Kenneth Bager of Music From Dreams was the person who got me into the studio to record the first Cantoma album in Copenhagen in 1999. He already had a roster of bands on the album like Bliss, so we had access to tons of live musicians. We would listen to certain records, take them as a starting point, record some basic drums, keyboards, bass, and then think about what would sound good over the top. I’ve ended up working with some fantastic people, and it has been such a great experience to have all these different musicians featured from different countries. I think that's what gives the music a unifying, organic sound, and I've carried on that for the new album.

Prox: Aside from that release, your DJ sets and other works have been adored by listeners as well. How does it feel to know that your releases have had such a positive impact on those who discover them?

Phil: It’s really nice to know what you do is appreciated and enjoyed by people! It makes it all worthwhile really!

Corfu, Greece

Prox: Café del Mar is a legendary venue for lounge music. What’s the energy like there compared to other places around the world?

Phil: I haven't really been to the Cafe del Mar so much in recent years, but it’s still a great place to go and watch the sunset. There are other great spots around the island too and maybe others that are bit more remote with fewer people. They're the kind of places I tend to gravitate to. Greece is one of my favourite places in the world too. I’ve been lucky enough to play at the 7th Heaven Bar in Corfu at sunset the last few years and the feeling and atmosphere is very similar to Ibiza. 

Prox: Could you describe the atmosphere of Ibiza as a whole for someone who hasn’t experienced it? What were some of your favorite things to do there?

Phil: Ibiza really is an island of contrasts. There is the frenetic nightlife where everyone goes crazy, and then there is the mellow relaxed side. To spend the day on the beach, swimming, in a cafe or whatever. The two go hand in hand and i’ve always enjoyed both sides. Going to Harvey’s party at Pike’s and then swimming out to sea the next morning at Aguas Blancas was perfect.

Prox: What are some of your favorite albums (old or new) at the moment? Who are some artists you’ve been enjoying lately?

Phil: The Gaussian Curve album on Music From Memory was one of my favourite albums of last year. They released a best of by Italian ambient producer Gigi Masin which was amazing, big fan of his work. Ruf Dug's album ' Island' I listen to, plus favourites like Smith and Mudd, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and Larry Heard. 

Prox: Favorite hobbies?

Phil: Oh just the usual stuff. Hanging out with friends, eating, drinking, books, music, traveling, art, films, and having a laugh. 

Prox: Tips for future producers and DJs? What do you think are the keys to crafting great sets and albums?

Phil: It’s cliche, but just make music or play stuff you really like. If you're faking it or just following trends, you're not going to really enjoy it. Stick with conviction and do what comes from the heart and good things will happen.

Prox: Final Thoughts?

Phil: It’s time for lunch and a cup of tea.

You can learn more about Phil, here.

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