909originals chats to Fireberg about new release ‘Call of the Phoenix’

Dan Berg unveiled his Fireberg project back in 2010, journeying through ambient, jazz, art rock, psychedelic and synth-led melodies before transitioning to a more dance-oriented sound with 2017’s The Drive EP.

In the years since, he has blended elements of house and techno with the experimental leanings with which he forged his sound, and later this month sees the release of his latest EP, Call of the Phoenix, on his new Mishbaka label, which blends “subtle elements of jazz and Latin music intertwined with synesthetic melodies and rhythms”, according to the man himself.

The six-track EP, which lands on 28 October, features three original compositions, Bloom, Within Your Arms and Call of the Phoenix, as well as remixes from Scott Diaz and Prince of Queens. You can purchase it here.

909originals caught up with him.

Hi Dan, great to speak to you. How are things, and whereabouts are you based right now?

Hey 909, nice to speak with you, as well, and thank you for the feature. I’m based in Brooklyn, New York. Things are pretty good. The weather is starting to turn chilly faster than I expected and the landlord always seems to wait as long as possible to turn on the heat!

Otherwise, I’m just doing my best to keep up with this album campaign and churn out the content. I’ve been learning animation which has been mindblowing for me and helpful for adding a visual component to the music, but man, is it a tedious process!

I’m also finishing up some final tweaks on my studio, which I started renovating in 2021. We finished all the structural changes and decor stuff, and it’s all set for tracking and whatnot, but it’s still been taking me a while to get the electronics workflow fully sorted.

It’s an exciting time for you as you celebrate the launch of your new label, Mishbaka. Can you give us the backstory to the label’s inspiration and its eventual creation?

It is exciting! I sometimes forget to celebrate new achievements. It’s easy to get lost in fear around how something will be received or I’ll start anticipating the next task or project. But yeah, this was something I’ve been wanting for a while.

I hesitated for many years because I’m not some kind of business mogul that understands the industry and how to play all the games and schmooze, and even necessarily how to build hype. So it was like, ‘who am I to make promises for other artists or even to be making investments without a clear business strategy’?

But then I realised that the label could be more than a traditional business enterprise. Rather, it’s kind of a sanctuary from the chaotic commercialism and cutthroat competition that you find in the music world. That’s why I ended up calling the label Mishbaka, which is misspelled from the original word, but means ‘family’ in Yiddish. I want to provide a sense of community for artists and listeners and strive for a mentality of collectivism, getting beyond the transactional.

From a musical point of view, I’m interested in exploring ways to revisit heart-based and spiritually-inspired forms of electronic music, since I’ve started to notice in the clubs and DJ sets a leaning towards dissonant sounds and a flatness to some of the minimalism.

Not that those are bad things, especially when certain substances are of aid, but perhaps there’s room to revisit, once again, things like harmony, composition, melody, and message. Ultimately, I want to contribute to and experience a musical landscape in which both ‘light’ and ‘dark’ have room to breathe and expand.

Released in September, Call of the Phoenix is the lead single from your upcoming Call of the Phoenix EP, due out this month. The track delivers the same depth and lushness that your music has become known for over the years. Would you say this track outlines the overall direction that the label will be headed?

Thank you. I feel seen and appreciated when you offer those compliments about my music. It has always been an interest and goal of mine to create a lot of sonic and thematic diversity in my tracks.

Call of the Phoenix also continued an interest of mine in creating a journey with the music where there’s a theme throughout, but the piece travels to different places and feels before returning home, back to the original idea. I also expanded the conceptual components of my music with this track, in particular, adding a lot of symbolism through the cover art and exploring some messaging and storytelling through the vocal samples.

With Mishbaka, I’d definitely like to continue to highlight music that explores these themes. Of course, having a “vibe” and inviting the listener to connect to the physical experience with their body is always a huge priority, but it doesn’t hurt to offer some intellectual and imagery-based components as well.

You invited the artist Prince of Queens to deliver a remix of the lead single, how did that arise?

I had been to a regular party Felipe [Prince of Queens] used to throw at a bar called Lovers Rock in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. We got to connect there and I mostly just knew him as a talented DJ and a sound designer for the band Combo Chimbita.

One day, I saw his modular system in full effect on Instagram. He was making a valiant and successful effort to bridge experimental sound art, techno and musical elements of Latin American traditions. From then on, I was a fan so when I produced Call of the Phoenix, which had a cha-cha piano montuno in it and a variety of Latin percussion, I thought he would be the perfect candidate to create an alternate remix of the track. It turned out awesome, super-dubby but also really driving.

With Mishbaka, I also produced a short video interview with Felipe to learn more about his background and process, which should be up on YouTube by the time you publish this.

The full EP is set to arrive on October 28, and features Scott Diaz on remix duties. We’d love to hear how that came about too?

For this, I gotta give full credit to my point man, Kev O’Brien who I met when I released my Undoing the Future EP on Eyedyllic Music. Kev has been handling a lot of the admin and A&R duties for Fireberg and Mishbaka.

I tend to live more locally and don’t always have my finger on what’s happening internationally on the scene. When I asked Kev to help me find someone to remix Within Your Arms, someone who might give it a little more spunk for the dance floor, immediately he suggested Scott Diaz. What Scott came back was perfect on the first go: bouncy, soulful and tight.

Where my mix stayed in the dreamy and atmospheric space, Scott brought the sounds into a deep club-ready format. I’m super appreciative to be working with a veteran, in that regard. And to have people like Kev on my team that can fill in the blanks where I’m not as expertised!

How have you found the process of creating and launching Mishbaka – what has the experience been like for you?

I kind of wish things were a little more spaced out, honestly. It’s my first Fireberg release in a while, so I’ve had a lot of duties to handle with a bit of a relaunch there. I wanted to redo the logo, the bio, photos, etc. and I also switched distributors to Labelworx.

I knew that I didn’t want to release any more music without getting the label going, but it’s hard to put the new brand out there in the world when it’s so young and green. In reality, you have to start somewhere, but as an artist and entrepreneur, one is always contending with this idea that people won’t be interested or supportive unless you ‘look’ established and polished.

Of course, that’s impossible to really have right from the get-go, especially when my main priority is the production, but I guess, if I was to do it again, maybe I would have started by rolling out Mishbaka as an event production brand and then move into the records sphere. But there’s really no time for regrets. I’ll just say I’m excited to flesh out the label thematically, broaden our roster and get prolific.

What’s your main intentions with the imprint? Will the label serve as an outlet for Fireberg, or will it also welcome originals from other artists?

I definitely want to feature many other artists on the label, both in the live setting, through interviews and panel discussions and with releases. I’m starting with Fireberg, because I’m still learning the ropes.

I also have various other projects in the works that are more centred around either songwriting and piano or ceremonial healing modalities, so there may be a time in the near feature where I wish to shift focus, creatively, for a couple months but the label will be a way to keep connected with the electronic music world and continue to provide a service for other artists who are developing their sound and career.

To round off, is there anything else on the horizon that you’d like to share with us?

Thanks for your time and interest. I’m excited to see where Mishbaka goes as well. I have a couple releases already on the docket. One is an EP centred around a track I produced for the incredibly talented vocalist and songwriter J Hoard, which will include remixes by some huge heavy-hitters, including Rick Wade and Prefuse 73.

I also have a super leftfield collab that I did with the performance artist and singer, Jennifer Vanilla. We’ll probably do a compilation in the spring which will definitely be unique in some way. Beyond that, there’s a full-length Fireberg album formulating itself in the bowels of my computer, which should be out later next year! Stay tuned…

Fireberg – Call of the Phoenix EP is released on 28 October.

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