Numerous friends and colleagues have reached out to us this morning with the news that UK producer Phil Asher has passed away.
5 Mag has been unable to officially confirm the information but there has been an outpouring of remembrances from friends and colleagues who worked with Phil over the last 30 years. Reports say that Phil died in his sleep after a heart attack.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Phil Asher presents Phlash and Friends 5 Mag Mix (2008)
Phil Asher was a giant in electronic music, though his music can likely be better understood in the context of soul music. At this point in time, he’s best remembered for a series of powerful and extremely popular remixes of artists from Roy Ayers to Todd Terry and Peven Everett in the early to mid-’00s, as well as being one of the most active and inspiring figures in London’s broken beat scene. Restless Soul, his co-production outfit with Luke McCarty, were one of the most prominent remixers of that ten year span between the late 1990s and early 2000s, credited as the “key architects in bridging the gap between broken beat and house music.”
According to an interview back in September 2008 with 5 Mag‘s Shani Hebert, Phil was an apprentice at a garage in Wandsworth after leaving school. “After I passed my City and Guilds Exam, I became a British Tradesmen, meaning I could go and fix cars anywhere in the UK. Six months later I’d left that job and started pursuing a music career. It was 1988, the Sumer of Love and House Music in London. If I had not been as stubborn, I’d probably be fixing vintage cars or running a cafe somewhere.”
Phil told us that his dad had worked in a record shop and Phil did as well. He had “sneaked onto the decks” at London’s seminal Delirium nightclub in 1991. It was around the time he was working at London’s Vinyl Solution record shop in the early 1990s and met Luke McCarty in the store. They started working together at Luke’s attic in Richmond (“the same attic Bugz In the Attic got their name from,” he told us) and eventually came up with the name “Restless Soul” and a label of the same name. Phil Asher released music under a huge number of aliases — Phlash, Phlash and Friends, Underground Enthusiasts (with Richard Cain), Electric Soul, 12 Bit Rephugeez (with frequent collaborator Mark de Clive-Lowe) — but the Restless Soul moniker lasted the longest, mounting up a staggering 273 credits as recorded by Discogs (including 254 remixes) over more than 15 years.
And while his soaring vocal and deep house productions are still the best known, his gritty and dubby tracks as “Phlash” were among my personal favorites. Back around 2009 or 2010, we used to get these records from a label in Italy with the ungoogleable title of “Archive.” (I didn’t know until recently that this label was actually founded by Volcov, who now leads Neroli Records and releases music as Isoul8.) Those Phlash records had this distorted sizzle and sway that I loved and still pull out to play all the time.
Between these, the Restless Soul tracks and other more house-oriented tracks he released and the broken beat tracks he played on (which must number in the hundreds), there is a huge amount of music left behind for us to comb through. In the final analysis, Phil will be remembered as a major artist in deep house, soulful house, broken beat, downtempo, and just music in general.
We wrote about those records and others at least 20 times, published 2 or 3 mixes and yet just one interview. I still remember planning it out, which we did at the suggestion of Mark Grant — one of many Chicago producers who told us they held Phil’s music in the highest regard. Like Mark, Phil was someone who was more comfortable working on music than talking about it, though he was hailed as a star in every record shop that sold underground music. His reputation for sick music was world-renown and unimpeachable.
Why didn’t more people outside of the record shop recognize him?
“I think my music, or my last DJ set, is my biography,” he told us. “I know you’re thinking that’s a bit radical, lazy, and definitely anti-promotion. I’ve always been comfortable being in the background, doing my thing.”