DJ Roast & Phoenix Da Icefire All Day...

After appearing on DJ Roast's album Cuttin It Fine last year, Phoenix Da Icefire and the producer linked for Terminal Velocity, a brooding and sometimes melancholy slice of boom bap. Get the skinny on how they forged their relationship, what inspires Phoenix's writing, obscure Italian soundtrack samples and a whole lot more as they sit in with UK All Day.

You two worked together on Roast's album last year. How did you meet?

Roast: We first linked through Chemo back in 2008. I'd been recording for my album at Kilimanjaro Studios and hooked Chemo up with a mixtape I had done to promote my radio show and a night I was doing. The two of them were recording Baptism Under Fire and I was DJing for Triple Darkness at the time. I guess we were in similar circles: Phoenix knew Triple Darkness and Chemo, so they all recommended me.

Phoenix wanted someone who knew what they were doing to mix his project and I was looking for something to get my teeth into. I got sent all the tracks and was blown away. I knew if it was backed by Chemo it’d be dope but I was instantly hyped. Before long we linked, P came over to my crib and I played him what I’d done and he was stoked.

We’ve always got on really well. Sometimes heads just click and we decided to work with each other, on beats, stage shows etc. The beats I gave P for Cuttin It Fine are still some of my favourite tracks to date. He really made the album shine. Since then we’ve smashed plenty of shows, worked on my album, Cuttin It Fine, Terminal Velocity and his album Quantum Leap. We’ve got a lot to show from it all and a good friendship. Anything you want to add, P?

Phoenix: I heard a lot from Triple Darkness who I put out side-by-side with my cousin. Me and my cousin were the owners of Higher Heights Records, which put out the Anathema album in 2008. I just remember being impressed with the feedback Triple Darkness were giving me, and I was taken back by the fact that we had attracted this talented DJ. I was in the studio with Chemo and just finished the mixtape and felt I needed that stamp of authenticity from a credible DJ. Chemo then recommended Roast and from what I had heard about him it was a done deal. I was completely blown away with what he had done, the way he beat-matched the tracks was so smooth and seamless. To this day I thank him for helping me make the signature piece that affirmed my place in the game.

Phoenix, you live in London and Roast, you're on the south coast. What's your process for making music together?

Roast: I’ll cook up a beat and email it to P. He’ll get back to me if he’s feeling it or not. The good thing about our working relationship is he’ll say what he thinks and give constructive criticism. P’s pretty sharp with writing; he’ll have it done in no time. I expect a lot from MCs after working with P. He’s never spat anything I have issue with and he always delivers quick sharp! Then the next process will be recording it. I’ll always record at Kilimanjaro, Chemo and Jehst are good guys and you get great value and service.

Since moving to Bournemouth, I can’t usually be there during recording so it’s a case of the age we live in, I’ll send Chemo the beats, P will spit it and they’ll send them back to me for mixing. End of. I miss not being there in the studio and I probably wouldn’t trust anyone else. I think you need to be about during recording to give input and ideas to the vox but that’s where the distance is a fucker. I could probably drive down each time but I work a 9-to-5 and DJ out a lot in the evenings, plus Mini Roast just landed so I’m becoming more and more a family man, which means my priorities are more grounded at home. I guess I’ll have to build a mic booth in my new studio! One of my main concerns when I left London was that we’d still be able to be tight and maintain a solid working relationship. I’d say the string of shows and EP we just made is proof that we did ok.

Phoenix: I think very carefully about what I really want to say then I wait for the project title to hit me. When it does, I know the type of sound I'm looking for and I listen to each of the beats sent to me. I believe each beat has its own voice and if it isn't in line, I give suggestions on the sound.

This project has an apocalyptic feel. Phoenix, what's your inspiration when you write and what are you trying to convey through your music?

Phoenix: I always try to keep it organic when it comes to making projects: I go for a title which best sums up where I’m at at that present time. I can honestly say I felt like I was in a bit of a dark place, with the split from both my music partner who I have now come to know as family and my ex-girlfriend who I was with for six years. I felt as if I was dropped from the highest height (my record label is Higher Heights) and I couldn’t fall faster than I was (Terminal Velocity). So with all that was going on around me the EP was the only thing at the time which allowed me to vent my pain and bring me back from such a dramatic loss. This EP, for lack of a better phrase, brought me back to life. The messages I try to convey, funnily enough, are the 5 Jewels plus two more: knowledge and wisdom. I try to incorporate those virtues within all my subject matter and concept I touch musically.

5 Jewels in particular places emphasis on virtues. Hip hop's morals are often questionable at best. Is giving listeners a positive message fighting a losing battle, or is there still room for this in rap?

Phoenix: For me hip hop has always been the voice of the voiceless and the oppressed. Its foundation gave a perspective of how it is to live on the other side of of the fantasy portrayed in the music industry. There are are more people living in poverty than the glamourised unobtainable lifestyles shown on TV, and with that being said I believe that fans still yearn for a real message or story that connects with their reality.

What are your favourite songs on the project and why?

Phoenix: I really like the beat on the intro and I loved what I did with it. I don’t usually go for the showboat type of rap but I tried it and liked it very much. It really is my opening statement to what I was feeling at the time. I also really enjoyed writing Walking With Angels as the rhyme pattern I used for that track is one of my favourites. And of course Five Jewels, as I feel it was a sort of offering to the game – both mine and Roast's fans had waited quite a bit for us to reassure them we are here to stay.

Roast: My favourite tracks Walking With Angels and Ghetto Isis. I love Phoenix’s delivery on Walking With Angels, I love the sample and I made the joint in Egypt whilst on holiday with my girl when we’d just found out she was pregnant with my son - so it brings up good memories! Also Cyrus comes hard on that track, man. I was stoked to work with Cyrus again after so long and seeing him blow up the way he has! With Ghetto Isis, I almost binned the track off the album. Purely from a mixing point of view. I couldn’t get the mix right and was being a perfectionist. Rightly, P and I bumped heads on this, as to his ears it sounded fine. In the end I’d just worked myself up over the mix-down and was hearing things. Any artist who produces a project and does the mix-down will know the feeling of not being able to walk away from it and sometimes paying too much attention can make it worse! Listening to it now, you wouldn’t put it on the same EP. It has a more commercial light feel to it. The whole EP was sampled from different old Italian and French horror and cop soundtracks I was digging at the time. It breaks it up nicely and surprised Chemo and me when P sung the hook in the studio! I think he’s done some more sung hooks since.

Yeah, that's definitely a UK All Day favourite. What about future releases? Plug away!

Roast: I thought I was going to take a well-deserved break after producing, doing the cuts, mixing down, promoting and hunting gigs for Terminal Velocity’s release. It would appear not! I just did a guest mix for MistaJam which can be peeped on my Sound cloud, I’m also producing a load of mashups that I do at live gigs with added drums, synths etc for free download. Myself and Chemo have got a mixtape coming out which will be lots of unreleased Chemo beats as well as released ones, remixes and cuts by myself. Finally, I’m starting my second album which I'm hoping will be out summer 2012. The first single will feature Action Bronson, Jehst and Brotherman. Other heads involved so far are Dabbla from Ldn Zoo, Fliptrix, Kylie Earl, Phoenix and many more. I’m basically banging out beats and hitting up artists I want to work with. I’m taking a different approach with this album. There will be a lot of instrumental joints, there will be lots of uptempo funk-sampled tracks, as well as the more moody ones. There will be a synth presence and there will be a lot of unexpected US collabs - so watch this space!

Phoenix: I've got an album coming out by the end of this year by the name of The Quantum Leap, fully produced by Chemo, guest scratches from Roast, featuring a single with Klashnekoff and Keith Murray from Def Squad. Kyza Smirnoff, Skriblah Dan Gogh, Rustee Juxx from Duck Down Records and Cyrus Malachi from my crew Triple Darkness, El-Crisis and more will be on it. The artwork was done by Dr Cyclopz, who did the artwork for Baptism Under Fire. It’s the result of five years' worth of growth and sacrifice - and being a perfectionist, it was not supposed to drop before its time. I'm certain you will enjoy it.

Terminal Velocity is available to buy now: