LA is having its once-every-two-years kind of deluge. Everyone is confused. Streets are flooding, people are umbrella-less, the air is finally clean, and my car has gotten a long overdue wash.
Weaving through the Laurel Canyon down to an eclectic office building holding meme-epicenter PizzaSlime, stylist Danni Michelle, and a State Farm branch, is the now-studio residency of producer and artist Phazzze, real name Alex Krashinsky, aka multi-platinum producer Blueysport. Many names to cover all bases of a modern renaissance man. I’m being driven there by Cam, a mutual friend, and a rising star of A&R, fresh off of the Ty Dolla $ign project with Phazzze producing several tracks.
We meet outside in the rain like it's the Notebook. As he’s ashing out the ebbs of his cigarette, Phazzze flashes the friendliest smile LA could offer, and dishes out some fistbumps. Kitted out in a classic N.E.R.D. Trucker cap with a camo long sleeve and plain khakis riding above his black AF1s, he's as low-key as you can get without betraying just how bright eyed and energetic he is. His production credits under Blueysport range from Post Malone, Khalid, Ty Dolla $ign to Nicki Minaj & Danileigh. He's recently begun releasing his own personal music under Phazzze, and after securing a deal with LA based R&R Records, is building up to his first video release, slated for early January.
The works that are gathering now have clear blends of trap, punk, and psychedelic rock in them. The songs are lyrically heavy, deviating from bad vibes with rolling, punchy drums and relaxed guitar to give music that just goes “yeah, I’m having an existential crisis but it’s chill”. With some of the industry’s most prominent artists using his sonic influences, it's entirely another thing to witness them at their source. The sounds pull from Michael Jackson, Joy Division, Kendrick Lamar, and Blink-182.
Phazzze unlocks his studio and Cam, who manages the Phazzze project, immediately sits in the corner to flesh out scheduled sessions for the artist. The studio is sparse, pieces of art from friends and family decorate the walls between soundproofing boards. Phazzze turns on some light jazz, the rain spatters the pavement outside as some palo santo burns on an ashtray. At this moment, we’re having a real lofi hip hop beats to relax/chill to moment.
Phazzze beneath works from Tony Camaro
We drive straight into who he is, and why he wears so many hats as a musician.
What is Phazzze for you?
“Phazzze is my creative outlet, y’know, where the goal isn’t necessarily to create a bunch of revenue streams off of it, but my goal is to have that outlet to express and to just be creative. If I want to have a techno song that I personally like, then I have this outlet to put that music through, without having to worry, “‘Is this going to be commercially successful?’”, and if it is, then great. But with Bluey, I’m always worried about that, it’s my business at the end of the day… Phazzze is feeding my artistic hunger."
He’s now plucking along on a guitar, unconsciously riffing while he muses, crouched on his desk chair. Sirens wail in the background as cars play in the slip n’ slide the roads have become. With the success Phazzze has had as a producer, and with his family depending on him to continue that success, Alex has found that the limitations on how genre-bending his sound can be are more than a little dictated by the market. And it’s true, the penchant for larger labels and artists to stay the course on what works and pulls in revenue has a certain theme to it. Recently, he’s noticed that labels “aren’t going sign unless you have a hit (already), or have a co-sign by these big artists…. It’s all a numbers game”. To escape suffering from success, Phazzze has developed over the past year, into a sort of finsta-artistic endeavor, and without the craving for commercial success, the songs have the room to develop without the synthetic garnishes of factory-churned radio singles. The talent was quickly noticed by R&R Records, who also entered into a joint venture with Warner Records in 2019. R&R has repeatedly been applauded for their traditional artist-development style of signing artists and aggressive digital marketing, going for belief in talent rather than chasing raw data. After snagging a deal with the label, Phazzze entered the next level of his development, putting out a full project.
How have the last 9 months been?
“Before it really felt like speed dating in a sense, where people would set up my publishers, my managers, and other people like lawyers- anyone involved with me would set up these sessions, so it’d be a couple sessions a week “‘Here’s this artist, here’s this songwriter, here’s this producer.’” And it really did feel like speed dating, and that’s how life went. Show up, meet someone for the first time, we’d make a song, make some ideas, and send those off. A lot of other artists and producers go through the same thing. The last nine months, with COVID and R&R, that kind of just stopped and gave me time to really focus on my own stuff.... It’s been really open.”
So much of the music out today is competitive in the sense of borderline copy-catting one another. Beat, tempo, tone, the arrangement, and instrumentation of songs are acts of mimicry. For Phazzze, the looseness of the artist’s development backed by the rigors of a industry-level producer brings out densely packed sonics, dripping psychedelic guitars over trap hi-hats and vocals caught between Post Malone and Blink-182, without needing to resort to past trapping of pop music. Phazzze's vision is just getting started, fleshing itself out in real time, without needing to restrain itself over fears of commercial success, yet.
And the influences aren’t just sonic. With inspiration drawn from contemporary artists such as Grimes and Travis Scott to legendary acts such as Nirvana, Michael Jackson, and Joy Division, the characteristics of artists who, mix, master, engineer, and curate their album art, weigh in on Phazzze and the trajectory of his career. Behind him in his studio chair art is scattered across the walls, some even his own.
You don’t have synesthesia do you?
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t really know, I don’t even know what that really means, like who has it, I never know what they mean when they say they have it, to what level they have it, y’know? Because I feel like I have it to some degree…. I think that everyone does to an extent.”
Blueysport in a Ty Dolla $ign session with producer Italian Leather
Inevitably, as all conversations do, the topic drifts to TikTok and the new age of the internet and music. The landscape, even over the last 18 months, has become altered wildly. Children who grew up with the internet and phones in their palms have aged into the demographic that no longer just consumes music, but is now creating a large portion of it, from YouTube channels, TikTok trends, to viral Instagram meme accounts and bizarre shout-outs on TV shows and streaming platforms. What once would have been one hit wonders become a weekly occurrence, artists securing deals before they’ve even got an EP under their belt. But, as fate would have it, these artists and producers have easier access to technology, sounds, and each other for collaborations that push them farther and faster than humans have been able to in history, meanwhile.
“They’ve got a YouTube channel, a beat store where their selling beats, videos on making a Travis Scott-type beat, so from inception, from day one, I meet kids who make beats who are like “‘I’ve been making beats for 6 months’”, and they think of it, from day one, as a business, and for me, shit, that was ten-plus years of just passion, playing guitar with my friends and just like, you know, scraping together a couple hundred bucks to go to a studio and record a couple songs. And not ever thinking about it making money, it was just like, how sick would it be if we could have our music on a CD. And then now, they have that goal of I want to make a beat store, I want to be a famous producer, so it’s interesting to see just that change in the school of thought. It’s just a business to them, warranted they are fire…. I want to be popping on IG.”
Though the spirit of competition is often contentious, and at times even a little jealous, Phazzze holds a sincere admiration for the up and comers of the industry. The normalization of talent and the democratic gauntlet through which music is created now and rises to the limelight is pushing kids these days to become better, sooner. In the same breath of air, older producers who have had the chops built up over experimentation are now utilizing these same pathways to acquire sound loops, collaborators, and their own branded online representation, while having to up their own game. The hurdles of networking and closed doors have been crushed and moved aside in favor of letting the masses dictate based on looks, personality, and raw talent.
“The time frame from learning production to becoming a great producer has dramatically shortened because of the technology. When I was making beats, it took me a long time to become a good beat maker because I was just producing and talking to my friends.”
It's true that music has changed significantly over the last few years, gone are the garage-bands, with new music being built directly online, for online, audiences. Taking into account that the "traditional" methods of promotion have changed for digital marketing, and likes, retweets, favoriting, and subscribing all paying homage to the great algorithms of YouTube and Spotify, but thankfully the one facet that counts the most is still the end product. Good music is, and always will be, good music.
Phazzze has his first video, filmed in the hills of Hollywood, dropping TODAY January 12th, for his single “Sunscreen”.
Catch the full interview on Soundcloud.