On The Record: Jeff Phantom
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
For Jeff Pham, aka Jeff Phantom, creative innovations come from within. In his search for audible authenticity, taking unconventional approaches to standard practices have led to explosive, out-of-the-box ideas and discoveries.
“I try to mix tracks together that other DJs wouldn’t normally do,” he said. “It’s a lot of trial and error. There are so many ways you can create a set, whether its BPM, keys, song titles and more. I go by the feel.”
Just six years into his career, Honolulu has become familiar with his power mix style of intertwining short, hard-hitting segments of songs both in nightclubs and through a plethora of remixes and mashup projects. His intention is simple: keep the dance floor energy at its peak at all times.
“Staying on one song too long makes me feel like I’m not doing enough to keep my audience entertained,” said Pham, who will be one of six DJs on the Electric Boat Cruise hosted by the Waikiki Ocean Club on Saturday. “I was taught to give my audience a ride of their life, take them up, down and around. Make them feel energetic, dirty, happy.”
Pham, who has opened for Nervo and The Chainsmokers and toured Las Vegas and San Francisco, finds sonic serenity in rhythmic dance tracks with catchy vocals. The vibe trumps all, he said, and remaining on the cutting edge is a state of mind that takes endless hours of work and experimentation.
“When I started out, I was a shy guy,” Pham explained. “Over time I grew to some level of confidence but never to a point where I was a glorified (jerk).
“(To) this day I always try to stay humble and do me, let my work speak for itself.”
Pham, originally from Honolulu, recently spent much of his time on a different career path, studying film at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. This is where he started to broaden his outlook towards music.
“Music is an art and so is film,” he said. “I sometimes like to use film references or movie samples in mixes. I also treat a set as a movie, give the audience a beginning, middle and end. Music and art is always changing and I love change.”
Living in the Bay Area and being away from what was familiar to him in Hawaii couldn’t have come at a better time. Being away from home exposed him to a different lifestyle and broadened his perspective on life and people as well as music he said. The mainland mentality also fascinated him.
“You wake up and you’re on the go, pushing to achieve something great before the next day,” he said. “That’s something I try and do (every) day. Every time I went back to SF for school or work, I would always bring back new ideas, new music and a new attitude.”
While at school, tragedy struck in November when Pham was a passenger in a major car accident. The vehicle was totaled and he suffered neck and spine injuries. Pham still attends physical therapy and chiropractic sessions, and recognizes the car wreck was possibly a blessing in disguise.
“(The accident) changed my life. I realized that I should go forth with something that I really wanted to do instead of something I lost a passion for,” he said.
Pham was just one semester away from earning his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts when he chose to go all in on music. He has no regrets.
“I am confident with my skills right now but I’m not a great DJ,” he said. “I don’t know when I’ll be a great DJ, I’m forever learning new things and new music everyday.”
A second mainland tour is slated for November with plans of relocating to Las Vegas in January.
While distinguishing himself from other DJs is important, so to his giving opportunities to other Hawaii-based DJs. Building an unofficial exchange program where DJs from the Bay Area can play in Hawaii and vice versa is also in the works.
“I’ll be laying down stepping stones for others,” he said. “In the future it would be easier for other DJs to branch out into the mainland. What I’m trying to do is show the mainland promoters that Hawaii DJs hold potential for greatness.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.