Just Listen with Philipp Boss

“You can go 300 meters” outside your door in Frankfurt and you’ve “met three DJs already” says Frankfurt native, DJ and producer Philipp Boss. Walk further down the street to your local record store, which for Philipp is GOSU, and your met with a whole community of artists and DJs like Philipp. “Every time I go to GOSU I meet a lot of artists,” he says in a broad German accent with a tone of youthful exuberance. “We show each other our music and we support each other” and “this is what I like about Frankfurt.”

Philipp Boss is still young at 24 and the brief glimpse I get of him over a video call, before it crashes, shows a stocky man with the visage of a teenager that belies his actual age by some years. Originally from a “small town next to Frankfurt” he calls Frankfurt AM Main home today, a city with an incredible legacy in electronic music and home to some of the most revered artists and DJs in the world today. Think Gerd Janson, Roman Flüggel, Sven Väth, Cocoon, Running Back and Robert Johnson, all in an area with a population of less than 800 000. The term Techno might even have been coined there by TALLA 2XLC back in the 1980’s, long before Virgin used it to describe a new emerging sound in Detroit and that legacy echoes through the entire scene today.

It’s in that environment that Philipp Boss emerges, as the latest descendent in a long line of artists and producers perpetuating the lineage of electronic music in the city, but ironically, it wouldn’t be drum machines and synthesisers that would first indulge Philipp’s creativity, but rather guitars and improvised music. Philipp first picked up the guitar as an adolescent and by the age of 12 he started his first band. “We played together for seven years,” says Philipp, jamming all manner of music and playing indie concerts around town, with his “greatest inspiration during this time” would be the act of improvisation with his friends.

At 13 he bought his first synthesiser, and trying to incorporate it in the band he “got more curious” about the instrument. Soon he was asking himself questions like “what else can I do with a synthesiser.” His intrigue broadened to drum machines when his dad, a local Jazz musician, bought the device to practise along to. Philipp started incorporating the drum machine with his exploration of the synthesiser in what he calls “mostly experiments” as the rudimentary entry into electronic music that’s every producer’s right to passage today. “This was my beginning with production,” he says with a determined smile.

Those first tentative steps towards a career in electronic music would remain dormant however, as Philipp continued to play in his band through his teens and it would re-emerge again much later as he came of age and started going to clubs. Philipp couldn’t have asked for a better musical education than that which Frankfurt’s clubbing community offered. “The first house party I ever went to Oskar Offermann was playing,” says Philipp in a tone that downplays the significance of hearing a respected DJ like Offerman in your backyard. It would be a epochal event for Philipp, one that would prove pivotal to the career of the budding producer. It would be the first time that Philipp would experience “a DJ with two turntables making the whole room dance” and he found it absolutely “inspiring.”

He visited his first record store, the now defunct Freebase records – previously “an institution in Frankfurt” – and started buying and collecting records. He found a community of DJs and and “cool artists” at Freebase, which would later encourage him to start making music professionally. His entry into electronic music would be largely “inspired by the club culture in Frankfurt,” and through the encouragement of the community he would establish a career as a producer and DJ that went from debut to three EPs and an LP in little less than a year.

“I started making music on my computer,” he says in a matter-of-fact way but it would marred by inconclusive results at first. “I really had a problem finishing tracks,” he says.  He continued to collect and play records, honing his skill and when it got to a point where he believed it was a good enough, he didn’t go the traditional route of trying to find a compatible label to release this music on, but rather go his own way. In the true DIY spirit of this music and its culture, Philipp Boss started his own label, “Einfach Horen” (just listen in German) and by “basically learning by doing,” the label’s first release emerged.  

Calling on that close-knit community, Einfach Horen came into the world through a compilation CD of tracks collected from close friends, artists like Chris Geschwindner. “This is the thing about Frankfurt,” explains Philipp, “we are a very small city with so many good producers and DJs” and it was “only logical” for Philipp to start his own label out of this environment. A vinyl release soon followed the digital release in 2017 and by 2018 Philipp found an artistic stride, releasing two EPs and an LP in close succession, establishing the young artist as a rising future star of the scene and the DJ circuit.

Philipp’s first two solo EPs, “Motor Myths” and “Code North” presented a transient electronic music artist to the world. Over three tracks “Code North” traverses Garage, Electro and House without any reservations and at the core of this is a very simple ideology for Philipp. “The first time I went to the studio, I was like, ‘ok I want to do a Garage track’, because I never did a garage track before,” he says about the origins of “Sahallo”. The title track follows in much the same way as a “heavy electro” track “inspired by Drexciya.” He likes “to explore new ways of making music, new beat structures new harmonies” he says about his eclecticism in the studio. “I don’t like making stuff that bores me” and for him the whole idea of creativity is to push all the “influences I collect during my everyday life into my music.”

And what ties these tracks together? “I really like funky melodies and music that doesn’t take itself too seriously,”explains Philipp. “For me it’s about having a party, not about making super sophisticated future sounds. I really want to make people dance – this is my main motivation.”

On “Motor Myths” which is a little more confined to the House delineation, we find more of those “funky melodies” Philipp talks about, but there’s also a soulful depth that evaporates at the fringes of the funky bass-lines and syncopated hi-hats. “Soul and groove” is an important aspect to Philipp’s music and there’s always a considered effort from the artist “to put some emotion” into his music. “I don’t like functional tracks, It misses something for me.” Philipp’s music is hardly devoid of function either, and it is there if the body is willing to submit to the ear. Melodies drips like cotton candy from Philipp’s percussive arrangements and there is always an element of Funk to the way he puts these pieces together.

It’s something that he carries over to his DJ sets too. “I try to select music that connects with people on an emotional level.” When asked how he would describe his DJ sets in one word  “that word would be party.” He says there is definitely some correlation to his recorded music and his DJ sets, where function plays second fiddle to some kind of human depth, and in as the most elaborate execution of this ideology he released his debut LP, Boss on La Peña back in February this year.

The origins of the LP starts with Philipp booking Robin Scholz for a label night. Scholz introduced Philipp to the head of La Peña Arno Völker (aka Einzelkind) and the pair found a kindred spirit in each other. They hit it off immediately and became friends, and Völker encouraged the younger peer to finish some of those early tracks he had been working on. The album became a “collection of the best tracks” from that period when Philipp started discovering his sound. They were some of the “first club tracks” he had made, Völker “really liked” them and a year later they were released as a LP on La Peña.

Like the EP’s there are really “many sounds” to the record, and it seems Philipp went deeper still for the purpose of the long player format. From the electro funk of  “Angels GF” to the synthetic House of “Palais Orsay” and back again to Bossa Nova grooves of “Vivid Description” the album pieces together a varied kaleidoscopic sound picture of electronic club music with Philipp’s distinctive groovy, soulful touch at the centre of it.

Following the LP, came “Motor Myths” and “Code North” and in the space of a year it has taken Philipp from DIY label owner and bedroom producer to established artist that will see him release more music via “some London labels” in the near future as he rightly stakes his place in the Frankfurt DJ community and club scene.

In his immediate future he is “looking forward to visiting the beautiful city” of Oslo. He’s already seen the video footage of the rotating mixer at Jæger and he’s keen to jump on there to do what he does best… to expedite a party.


*Philipp Boss joins Det Gode Selskab this Sunday at Jæger.