An Interview With Phonte & Nicolay (The Foreign Exchange)
I have to start off with a question for Phonte, where did you find this guy Crash Cuts (swift.fm/phontigallo)? Every time I need a laugh I turn on one of his hits!
P: Crash Cuts is a personal gem of mine, he’s kind of like an inside joke with a lot of singers and different guys in the industry. We just collect songs from awesomely bad singers and he’s on top of the list.
Congratulations on the release of your first CD/DVD combo “Dear Friends”. Could you explain the album for those unfamiliar with it?
N: What we really wanted to do was give people the look of a live Foreign Exchange show. For the people who haven’t seen the show yet, sort of a “calling card” on what to expect. We tend to improvise certain things, redo arrangements, and just have fun. The DVD is a short but sweet overview of what to expect.
How has The Foreign Exchange progressed as artists since the release of Connected?
P: We have just tried to constantly get better at what we do. Constantly get better at our craft, becoming more savvy in our business approach, and trying always to get better. Me and Nic have a better understanding on how to make things happen for ourselves instead of depending on other people or other labels. It’s always a good feeling as an artist to know that you can depend on you, that’s where a lot of your power comes from.
What are some recent songs played on your iPod?
P: I’m bumping KING, that’s all I got to say right now.
N: You’ll find a lot of Prince on there, a lot of Dilla. Also a lot of indie groups lately, new and old.
Speaking on J Dilla, I saw your tweet earlier about producers trying to sound likeJ Dilla. You think that’s the case?
N: Yeah way too much personally. Where does influence stop and emulation begin? As technology has been made more widely available, more people are trying their hands on producing. It’s interesting to see that many people have taken the Dilla influence to the point where it’s hard to really make out which beatmaker is which. That’s where the discussion came from because I always wanted people to find their own sound.
Nicolay, lately there have been many soulful artists coming out of your native Netherlands such as Mar and Joya Mooi. Has your success and exposure played a role in that?
N: It’s hard to really say what has influenced, if there is any. I’ve always said when it came to The Foreign Exchange starting as a group, for us it was really music and whatever tools we could find to work together simply because there was no other way. If there’s any kind of influence that we’ve had as a group, I hope that it would be that people see you can do it on your own terms. You can stay in control of your own destiny, your own product, your own catalog. Hopefully we serve as some type of motivator to work hard and keep putting stuff out there.
You guys didn’t blow up on the scene overnight, what advice do you have for aspiring artists?
P: Umm…..make music and pray like hell. There’s no grand science behind it, do what you can do, make your best music, and try to make it happen.
Phonte, you have a crazy amount of aliases: Percy Miracles, Tigallo the Tay God, Tay Pain, Phontigallo, Tony Mayfield and I’m sure I’m missing some. Which one is your favorite?
P: I don’t know man, I just kind of make them up as they come to me. I don’t know, that’s just kind of how it is. I don’t really have a favorite one, I just go with whatever I’m feeling at the time.
What’s up next for you guys?
P: We have the “Dear Friends” joint that’s out right now. July 12th we have Zo!’s “…just visiting three” EP for free on our site. I’m really waiting for people to hear that, it’s really great; it’s the best one yet in my opinion. On August 16 we’re putting out “The Sender”, which is Median’s album. Me and 9th Wonder executively produced that and its’ coming along dope. Also, September the 27th is my album.
On your album can we expect more Hip Hop, or a little more R&B?
P: I don’t know man, I got a couple of ukulele solos on there. I’m playing the harmonica, I got another song with just me playing the triangle. I’m kind of going with a different direction on this. I don’t think the future of music is ready with the artistic styles on the album. I’m experiencing with the harmonium, just all kind of new sounds.
Nicolay, are you working on any solo projects?
N: Not until next year. I’m right now in the middle of that re-invention process. In between albums I just like to study up, get some new equipment and change up certain things. Right now I’m just in the studio more laying down new ideas. I’m sure 2012 will be the year where all of that will go down.