Former Pensacola Musician Goes On To Techno Success
BY RACHEL CUNNINGHAM
Christopher Phipps hit the road nearly twenty years ago in his 1969 Chevy Impala with guitar and surfboard, leaving behind Gulf Breeze to chase his dreams of success in the music industry. His musical journey continues at his new high-tech home recording studio, after remarkable success early in his career with national hits emerging from Miami's radio stations.
Phipps' love of songwriting, synthesized music and punk rock roots was inspired by the likes of Depeche Mode and The Clash. Writing and performing original music with the Gulf Breeze punk band The Bad Habitz set the stage for his later successes with London Exchange in Miami. Phipps' new band liquorland's self-titled album has brought renewed interest in his unique techno-dance trance sound.
"I'm hoping to bring some pop rock elements to the dance trance stuff; bridge the gap between dance and pop rock," he said of his creative process. "I ask myself if anyone else is doing this? Not in the way I'm hearing it my head."
It's a creative process that started in the early '80s. You may remember Phipps from the Pensacola and beach scene along with Bad Habitz guitarist Marcus Leahy, whom Phipps refers to as his "musical brother," drummer Wes Watkins, and vocalist Richard Madden. Dean Lambert also performed with the band early on.
"I loved that lifestyle-- surfing and fishing. My first year away I was homesick, but I just put on blinders and roughed it out," Phipps said.
Within five years of leaving Gulf Breeze, Phipps was a commercial radio hit and quickly became a prominent fixture on the South Beach dance club scene. Phipps said it wasn't easy but encourages other musicians to go for it.
"It's tough to leave the comfortable life with your family and the friends and take a chance. But if you have the desire, and you're chasing the dream then that's what you have to do."
Following his recording successes Phipps picked up his bags again in 1998 and toured Europe playing solo in London and Amsterdam clubs promoting CDs from his own label, Teal Green Records.
One of his most memorable experiences during the tour was seeing Neil Finn of Crowded House perform at the Royal Albert Hall, according to Phipps. "It hit me so hard because he was a guy who was doing exactly what I wanted to do--with class and reserve. Nothing contrived."
"They follow music like we follow sports," Phipps said of the Europeans he met during his tour.
By the looks of it, American record producers are following Phipps again. Legendary producer Hy Weiss is interested in his new liquorland CD. However, Phipps says he is most proud of his new home recording studio.
Phipps has invested significant money into studio equipment, but said it is his time with production studio masters Steve Robillard, best known for his work with Collective Soul, Lenny Kravitz and The Allman Brothers, and Mike Fuller, who mastered CDs for Eric Clapton and The Eagles, that is truly invaluable. Phipps tailored his studio to his own needs.
"I've set it up like a songwriter's laboratory," he said. "I'm mainly interested in electronic sound. Instead of using a tape machine I'm recording onto the hard drive . . . a virtual studio inside my computer."
After two decades Phipps believes that as much as things have changed, some things remain the same in production.
"Music production techniques are a lot like fashion--things come and go out of style. It's the songwriting that's the body of the work and the production is the fashion," according to Phipps. "A good song is a good song."
In Phipps' estimation the advent of the Internet and MP3 downloads are an excellent way for the unsigned group to get exposure.
There are pitfalls, according to Phipps.
"I see the record industry as a big machine, with more big business involved. The commercial music is more commercial and the underground music is more underground. Today there is more disparity between the groups who are really making it and the indie guys."
Phipps' affinity to new sounds seems constant. When he's not on the lookout for new talent or mastering a new album he said he's drawn back to songwriting and performing.
"I love my twelve string guitar and from time to time pick it up to write. I get offers to do acoustic shows and since I like to play it's hard to turn them down."
Hard pressed to turn down any new opportunity Phipps seems driven toward fulfilling his musical journey--this time from his home studio.
"I don't want to look back and have any regrets."
For more information on Phipps' newest releases, visit www.tealgreen.com.