We look forward to a time when we can write an article without mentioning the dark days of Corona virus. That time is not yet however as the music of Phase Fatale was fundamental in pulling us through that wretched experience. It was specifically, Scanning Backwards, his second LP that was our coping mechanism during 2020. The album introduced us to his blend of industrial, post-punk & techno while exploring ideas of how sound can be used as a weapon.
Now Phase Fatale, aka Hayden Payne, returns with his latest album, Burning The Rural District, which he describes to Loverboy as the ‘industrial techno Smalltown Boy’. Having traveled to Georgia frequently over the last few years, living there last year, and even becoming a resident DJ at Tbilisi’s Khidi, Burning The Rural District, is Hayden’s way of highlighting the problems the country’s LGBT community face on a daily. As well as dropping this album, Hayden just remixed Editors’ latest single and has a bunch of upcoming releases on his own label, BITE.
Hayden tells Loverboy about how this album sees him step further into politics than before, which cult 80s film he chose to sample and how we could be hearing more of his vocals on the mic moving forward…
Hayden, I love the Phase Fatale sound so much. I know some people associate Techno with anger, but I feel neither happy nor sad. I just want to get up and….be productive! Haha…
Thanks. When I’m making music, especially Burning The Rural District, it’s a cathartic release. Making albums is a way to give me, and the listener, the feeling that we are working through our darker thoughts until we get to a place where there is some kind of equilibrium, even if the sounds are more brooding or it’s in a minor key. There is progress giving you momentum.
Your production is always so rich and layered. What kind of sounds were you using on Burning The Rural District?
I often take samples from films; dialogue or something incidental like the sound of a door closing. You can create loops, manipulate them, change their pitch and then create rhythmic or even tonal elements. These moments can help make the track unique. I really like the film Manhunter, it’s an 80s take on the Hannibal Lector series. It’s so stylish. From that film, I took a sample of the phone ringing and the elevator going ‘ping’ and used them on ‘White Line Nightmare’.
Your previous album Scanning Backwards looked at weaponizing sound and Burning The Rural District deals with the dangers of a closed society. Both realized concepts. I wondered if you went into both projects wanting to explore the same sounds?
The approach was different. Scanning Backwards was more of a sonic experiment, taking different frequencies to explore this idea of sound being used to manipulate your thoughts. Burning The Rural District is more of an emotional album. It was made with these feelings of being in Georgia and the confrontations with homophobia in a closed society. I made it much more on the fly to keep those emotions, those feelings rawer.
Was this idea of a closed society prompted by the pandemic?
No, the album was more about a closed world than being stuck inside your apartment. But there was a connection to claustrophobia and closedness in general. In all countries the borders were closed, and nobody was traveling. There was no transmission of ideas between different people and cultures – which is what can contribute to society continuing to grow and live. When everything was closed off you had more proliferation of a closed society’s thoughts which would boil up into….not good events.
In the release notes, you mention the suicide of a gay colleague of yours from Tbilisi.
Yes, I kind of call this album the industrial techno Smalltown Boy. On the back of the album is a quote, which I also say in very distorted vocals, ‘He died in the town where he was born.’ Growing up gay in a place like Georgia, you know what is out there in the world but it’s very hard to leave the country because of economics, family situations, and borders. I think that story
is applicable to many people in many different places. Burning The Rural District is about this idea of being able to have the opportunity to leave, then you can’t and something very tragic happens.
You have a strong relationship with Georgia. I wondered if you felt conflicted about promoting the city but also highlighting its homophobia?
Yeah, I was in conflict with how to convey it. I really love Georgia, Tbilisi, and everyone I’ve met there. I’ve been traveling there for six years now and stay for long periods and even lived there. I’ve been a resident at KHIDI since they opened. I feel Georgia can be like a second home. But it was about bringing attention to that tension that everyone is aware of anyway.
Helping move everything in a better direction. I think the club scene is doing a great job of pushing things forward and creating a community that is more important there now than in Western European clubs.
I’ve been doing my research like a good journalist and read one quote about how you were not so interested in politics, but obviously, things have changed.
Wow, where was that from? I am basically ‘anti-everything. This kind of nihilism always came through in my music so I never felt the need to discuss it. Burning The Rural District seems to have stepped more onto the political side, but I think it’s more socially political, than political political. For me it was more of a personal experience.
Talking of personal experiences, the album cover of Scanning Backwards was a SNAX flyer of an x-ray of someone being fisted…
Haha…yes. My Grandma saw it but she didn’t get it which was good.
After only seeing the artwork on Soundcloud, it took me a while to clock it too. What’s the story being the Burning The Rural District cover?
The artwork for this album is also really important because it’s done by Richard Radmirez who is a really infamous, cult, gay noise artist from the US. He definitely deals with the more intense dark side of gay sex culture so it made sense to ask him. He also did a remix for me.
You’ve actually just remixed Editors and I loved how you made the vocal unrecognizable.
Thanks. I listened to them a lot when I was a teenager so it was really cool when they contacted me. They gave me a lot of stems because it was a big production, but actually one was Tom’s vocals already pitched down, which were buried in their track. It sounds doomier so of course, I pulled that one out then I turned the volume up. It was cool to pull out parts of the song that were originally quite low.
You’ve also set up your own label BITE…
Yes, next year is the five-year anniversary already. The label doesn’t have one particular sound but in June we have a few releases which really show its range. We have Italo Body Music from Pablo Bozzi’s second EP, then we have a more post-punk, wavy industrial EP from Halv Drøm, and then New Frames doing harder techno.
You’re stepping up and singing on that release, right?
Right. It started when I sang on this track with Terrence Fixmer for Ostgut On’s Fünfzehn + 1 compilation. New Frames heard that and said ‘Oh we want you to do vocals as well!’ The track with Terrence is EBM so I knew how it should sound. But with New Frames, it’s like 140-145 BPM and I was like, ‘Ummm…How do I do the vocals like this? Maybe more in the vein of Alec Empire’ but actually I did and they said it was perfect.
Is more singing on the horizon?
Yeah, I like it. I used to be the singer in my band but of course, singing on techno tracks is a bit different.
Will we be getting a Phase Fatale live in concert-style set up soon?
Not right now. I’m doing a live project with Terrence Fixmer called Vague Mécanique. Then I have Soft Crash with Pablo Bozzi – we DJ but we are also preparing live sets too, that’s more for concerts. It’s nice not to have that pressure of keeping people dancing all the time. Not everything has to be geared for the dancefloor.
You’re producing so much at the moment!
I’m actually working on a new EP too, I think it will be like four or five tracks. It was recorded in the dead of winter in Berlin when everything was really depressing. It’s a combination of my old post-punk past but it also has some more contemporary dance music on it. Since I came back from Georgia and then with everything reopening here, it’s renewed my lease on Berlin. I’ve lived in Berlin for eight years, I’ve never lived anywhere so long, and I was getting a bit sick of it. But now I have this new energy for the city which is good.
Lastly, we are named after the biggest-selling single of 2001, so we always ask everyone this and I am intrigued to know your answer especially! Haha… but what is your favorite Mariah Carey track and why?
I don’t even….shit. I can’t tell you what my favorite song is because I don’t know the titles. I wish I’d known about this before! Um…I have to refresh my Mariah Carey knowledge, it’s been a long time…
Burning The Rural District is out now.
See BITE’s Bandcamp for more on their upcoming releases
The article appeared in LoverBoy