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Berlin Mixtapes 051 - Phonique

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

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We continue our musical journey with one of Berlin's busiest DJs and producers. We had the pleasure of inviting Phonique AKA Michael Vater to join the series.

Phonique is a Berlin-based award-winning producer and label owner who has produced over 100 releases and remixes for acclaimed labels such as MoBlack, Dessous, Poker Flat, Crosstown Rebels, Stil vor Talent, Systematic, Bunny Tiger, Katermukke, Bar 25 Music and Superfett.

His career first exploded in 2004 with club anthems “The Red Dress” and “For the Time Being”, but it was his track "Feel What You Want" which achieved 50,000,000 clicks on Youtube from his 2010 album, which earned him global recognition. Phonique’s four critically-praised albums attest to his evolving, diverse influences, deep knowledge of house music and masterful intuition to serve the dance floor. While he is currently working on an acoustic album to be released in 2023/24, he has recently released on Bar 25 Music, MoBlack, Sprinkler, Downtempo Love, Terranova, Do Not Sit, Ritter Butzke and his own label Zatar Music.

During the pandemic, when Phonique had to put his yearly South-American tours on hold, he didn’t shy away from producing. With releases and remixes on labels such as Bar25, to Oliver Koletzki’s Stil vor Talent and Kindisch, he was continuously crushing the charts on Beatport.

In July 2022 Phonique also started his new label Zatar Music starring a Korolova remix of "Feel What You Want" for the first release. With artists like Fairplay and Roo from Jordan, Nilu from Copenhagen, Essence of Time from France and Gui Boratto and Bakka from Brazil, Zatar showcases Phonique’s more melodic and organic house side. The influences come from journeys to countries like Jordan, the Ukraine and Armenia. 2023 also saw a number of top profile remixers joining the roster with the likes of Hyenah, Korolova, Spada, Johannes Albert, Yame, Alar, Alexey Union and Anturage all making their contributions.

With two releases also now firmly part of the Ritter Butzke Records catalogue, Phonique has become a resident DJ for the Berlin Club itself, regularly playing alongside many international guests.

We took some time out with Phonique to find out more!

Hi Phonique, how are you and what have you been up to recently?

Hey there, after playing Feel Festival recently, I jumped on a plane to Brazil for a show with Roy Rosenfeld at the legendary Warung Club. One of my all time favourite clubs!

How long have you been in Berlin and brought you here?

I moved here in 95 to study chemistry but the dark side took over and instead of finishing my university degree I became a full time DJ and producer.


You have released on many of our favourite labels such as Stil vor Talent, Bunny Tiger, Katermukke, Ritter Butzke and many more. Is there a release that has particular special memories for you?

Of course I have to mention my most successful ones like "For The Time Being", "Feel What You Want" and "Vincent Price", which were all released on Dessous. Also the production and mixing of Erlend Oye’s DJ Kicks on !K7 was an absolute highlight.

Most recently I am very proud of my releases with Bakka on the very hyped MoBlack label but also on Behrouz's label "Do Not Sit". After all that has happened to Behrouz last year, and seeing his fight and recovery, I am happy to underline my connection with him through the release on his label after playing at his club many times in the past.

You also not long ago started your label called Zatar Music. Tell us more about that and where does the name come from?

I wanted to start a new label as my style has evolved over the years and I felt my old home Dessous wasn’t fitting to the music I am producing these days. While Dessous kept its original classic deep house approach, I went more and more into a soft melodic house direction with elements of afro and indie.

So the idea was to start over with a fresh label, which is also focussing on new connections I have developed over the past 5 plus years. Artists like Fairplay, Nilu and Bakka became very close companions and are the core of Zatar.

I also spent a lot of time with Fairplay who are two Jordanian guys, eating a lot of Za’atar (which is Zatar in German) during my visits to Amman, Petra and the Dead Sea. Therefore as I enjoy the Middle Eastern vibe in my sets, I went for this unique name.


What else can you tell us about future releases, anything exciting in the pipeline?

Every single release is super exciting otherwise I wouldn’t do the label :)

After the massive success of Fairplay’s "Latlal", with its remixes and plays at Adriatique’s Cercle showcase and Black Coffee putting it into his Spotify playlist, we got an amazing follow up in the pipeline called "Vulani". Stereo Express, who was playing the Spada remix for "Latlal" in all of his sets, will add a remix.

We also have a bunch of newer talented artists coming to the label as well as names such as Martin Waslewski, Pete Sabo, Starving Yet Full, Ark Nomads and Marco Tegui joining our ranks.

You are also a resident for Berlin club Ritter Butzke. We have had three showcases with the RB guys here in Brighton and we welcomed Prismode and Solvane for our third show together on 7 July recently.

What do you love most about Ritter Butzke and what is your favourite time to play?

I have played at Ritter Butzke many times in the past and I was really excited when they decided to move away from external promoters and keep everything under their own control and with that also becoming one of their residents.

RB is the first club in Berlin which evolved into the new sounds of today by booking lots of relevant artists many other clubs have dismissed in the past. I am really thankful for being part of the RB family. Prismode and Solvane are the nicest guys I have ever met and are so supportive!

Every playtime is a special time at Ritter Butzke but I really enjoy doing a long opening set at Ölfasslager, as I can build up the energy slowly and get people into my pace.


Has going out changed in Berlin post-pandemic times?

People are more appreciative. Nothing is taken for granted. We are so excited everything is back to normal here.


Where was your first gig and how did it go?

If you mean post pandemic? When things slowly got better regarding Covid, the restrictions in Germany were still full on but I already had my first shows again in Albania, Russia and Brazil. In Albania I had the first party where every guest did a rapid test at the door, while we in Berlin didn’t even have rapid tests at the time. It was really strange to see the different mindsets in those different countries.

Needless to say, every party the first months after the pandemic was full on!

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Where was your first gig in Berlin?

(a) In general: I was promoting parties in Berlin and after being a bedroom DJ for maybe 5-7 years, I was encouraged to do the first opening hours at the parties myself. Back then the warm-up concept wasn’t the most understood, so it was my chance to show how to progress a night slowly by building up the energy. I have to admit it was certainly a big change from listening to your mixes at home at a modest volume compared to trying to mix under pressure and a very loud sound system. Also back then when I was mixing vinyls, there were no cheat codes…

(b) After the pandemic: I played my first gigs at a bar without dancing, where you had to wear a mask when moving around (not while at the table or DJ booth). Then I played my first gig on the outside floor of the Golden Gate Club while the restrictions were still on. People had to wear a mask while dancing and the DJ equipment was disinfected between DJ sets. It was a weird feeling.

I also read that you are involved in a vegan project called "How V Dance" to raise awareness for veganism in the electronic music industry. Tell us more about that project.

I have been vegan for more than 10 years. When I met with my old friend Dave DK (we were residents at the old Tresor club 20 years ago), who also went vegan a while ago, we thought about a way to communicate veganism in a positive way.

We started with an Instagram account, where we wanted to showcase as many vegan electronic music artists as possible, just to show the world that if travelling DJs can handle it, then you can do it too.

Then we did a big charity event donating all the profits to animal shelters and also offered our services for any vegan related themes. We played the premiere party for a vegan documentary as well as the Oatly stand at Lollapalooza in Berlin.

We are currently thinking of relaunching the Instagram account with more content. If you were to ask anyone to name 5 vegan DJs most people would probably struggle. Now you can go to our How V Dance Instagram page and find out that Nhii, Coyu, Juany Bravo, DJ Minx and Hollies P Monroe are also vegan. After the relaunch, we can hopefully add Ida Engberg, Chris Liebing and Elif to our list.

Phonique tucking into a Jackfruit Burger
Phonique tucking into a Jackfruit Burger

Which other DJs or producers are you liking right now?

There are too many to mention. I will give it a try: Liva K, Fairplay, Nilu, Bakka, Keinemusik, Roy Rosenfeld, Grife, Gorje Hewek, Zakem, Essende Of Time, Alexey Union & Anturage, Never Dull, REBRN, Yame, Pablo Fierro, Mita Gami, Goom Gum, Helen&Boys, Elif, Kendal.

Echoneon Vaping

Steve Bug in the Studio

What are your go-to labels?

Keinemusik, MoBlack, Maccabi, Madorasindahouse, Bar 25, Ritter Butzke and Stil vor Talent

You have compiled our latest Berlin Mixtapes Series Episode 051 - Tell us more about your mix.

This mix is packed with music from Zatar and some of my own productions including some unreleased gems. It is really showcasing what I’ve been working on the past year.


Thanks for spending some time with us, is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

If you made it this far, please follow Zatar Music on Instagram :)

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Exciting stuff! It's been an absolute pleasure talking with you Phonique. Next up here's the Quickfire Round:

Genre: Melodic House & Techno

Favourite Colour: Purple

What do you put on your chips: Vegan Mayonnaise

First record ever bought: Robin Gibb - Juliet

Apple or Android: Apple

Can you juggle: A little bit

Weirdest/Coolest item of clothing: This!

Do you sing in the shower? Which songs: Not in the shower but if it's Karaoke then Spandau Ballet - Gold

Do you collect anything: I try not to but still I have 10,000 vinyls and too many hats

What is the most useless talent you have: Smelling fresh nail polish from a mile

Favourite place to hang out in Berlin: Café Oslo

Best club: Ritter Butzke/Panorama Bar/Sisyphos

Favourite Bar/Pub: Georgia Bar & Neue Odessa Bar

Favourite place to eat: Cookies & Cream

Weirdest food you have eaten? Meat

How do you like your eggs: Hatched & growing up to become happy chicken


Favourite Track right now: Aretha Franklin - Say A Little Prayer (Liva K Rework) Favourite word: Zatar

3 words to describe your mix: Warm, elegant, mesmerising

Berlin Mixtapes - Phonique 051


Essence of TIME x LDG - Pura Vida - Zatar

NIIXXII - Magia - Zatar

Jus/T - Reflective Observation - Zatar

Phonique & Bakka (BR) - Guarana - Vudu

Phonique & Bakka (BR) - I’m watching You - Do Not Sit

Phonique & Bakka (BR) - Breathe - Do Not Sit

Fairplay - Farwa - Zatar

Golan Zocher & Choopie - Make Me Famous - Zatar

Ece Ekren - I Feel You (Pete Sabo Remix) - Zatar

Helen&Boys, Phonique - Taste Of You (Phonique Touch of 242 Remix) - Zatar

Phonique feat. Erlend Oye - Casualities (NVCV Remix) - Zatar

Phonique - Voltage (Maxim Lany Remix) - Ritter Butzke


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