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Philippa - There’s Magic All Around Us
7 min

Philippa - There’s Magic All Around Us

Dec 15
7 min

Bringing an exciting year of musical and culinary exploration to an end, The DJ Cookbook concludes with a finale that resonates with the harmonies of life—a special feature interview with New Zealand house DJ and producer Philippa McIntyre. Born into a world where music and the love for fresh, wholesome food were the very rhythms of existence, Philippa's story is a song that begins before her first breath.

Her mother, a music teacher whose piano lessons filled their home with classical resonance, and a father who cultivated the fields as a farmer, Philippa's upbringing was a melodic dance between the classical music and the rebellious beats of her older siblings’ Neil Young and David Bowie records. Her fingers began their own dance on the piano keys at the tender age of five, setting the stage for a lifetime affair with music.

In her teenage years, Philippa was captivated by The Cure's post punk atmospheric sounds and the alternative/indie-rock vibes of the 90s. She vividly recounts that encountering house music for the first time was a truly transformative experience. For the last ten years, Philippa has been rooted in Berlin, using it as a hub to share her extensive musical expertise as a senior tutor at Catalyst - Institute for Creative Arts and Technology when she's not in the studio or behind the decks. Clearly, music talent runs in the family!

This month sees the release of Philippa’s latest EP, "Latent Magic," a three-track house record released on Freerange Records, showcasing her sonic brilliance and inventive approach to house music.

With Philippa's palate as our guide, we savor our way through New Zealand's flavors. From the sacred Māori Hāngī to the sweet aroma of her mother's legendary apple pie and the unparalleled freshness of real New Zealand fish and chips, we uncover the gastronomic treasures accompanying Philippa's musical narrative.

Q: Do you like to cook? 

A: I cook 100%. I don't eat out, and I don't eat processed food. I love cooking. I was born into a family where cooking and food were important. My dad was a farmer, and when I was a kid we had a big vegetable garden. And mum was really into cooking. Maybe it was a cultural thing like she was expected, but she did have a genuine love of food that she imparted to me. So, I learned how to cook, and it's one of the things that I love to do. I cook every day to support my health, but I also do it to support my well-being and mood. And once a week I cook something special because I live alone, I'll eat it for a few nights. I plan it. I find recipes, I do research, and I go out, and I get all these weird ingredients. I go to specialty stores, and I love the whole thing.

It's a hobby. It's a distraction. It's something to do and, like, happy vibes. There's nothing like your apartment smelling so delicious and the anticipation. I used to cook for people and friends quite a lot. It has been a while since I've done that. The pandemic stopped all that, and I haven't gotten back into it. Cooking is a thing for me, for sure. That's why I was happy to see what you guys do.

Q: What types of meals did you grow up eating?

A: It was very traditional New Zealand dishes. In New Zealand, we eat a lot of lamb, and pork is very uncommon. We ate a lot of lamb roast and roasted vegetables or roasted chicken with roasted potatoes. I'm the youngest of five kids, but according to mum, she was cooking three roast dinners a week for years. It's like British colonial cuisine - it was always meat and three vegetables.

Q: What is your favorite family recipe or childhood dish?

A: My mum’s apple pie. Whenever I go home, I get her to bake me an apple pie. The smell and taste are just delicious. In the dish in which she bakes it, she places a little pottery elephant air-vent, which is very cute. I'll send you a picture!

Homemade apple pie by Mary McIntyre, Philippa's mum.

What you’re seeing is a buttery shortcrust pastry with stewed apples and a dollop of 50% fat heavy cream that’s been lightly whipped with no sugar. All the tart sweetness is in the apple pie. You can see the little trunk of the air vent pottery elephant standing in the middle. She has served me the elephant in the middle of the dish since I was a little kid.

Q: Have you ever eaten Māori Hāngī, the traditional earth oven cooking style? What would be some of the signature foods you would eat at one of these gatherings?

A: Yes! I'm incredibly proud of the Māori part of being a New Zealander, and it's so unique to New Zealand. Everything is slow-cooked in a pit dug underground. You can have chicken, fish, lamb, pork, potatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin. The Hāngī is left in the ground for about three to four hours, depending on the amount of food. This process produces tender meat and delicious vegetables rich with smoky, earthy flavors. Traditional Hāngī used to be wrapped in flax leaves, but nowadays, linen cloth, aluminum foil, and wire baskets are the most common. 

Q: Tell us about New Zealand street food/fast food.

A: I grew up eating fish and chips at least once a week. A fish and chip shop is like a family-run neighborhood store. You would know them, go in, and get your five pieces of fish and five scoops of chips in the same package. The thing about fish and chips in New Zealand is that I've never had anything like that anywhere else; the fish is fresh. The ocean surrounds us. When you get fish and chips, you can choose your fish, and snapper is the white fish from around Auckland. They cook it fresh, it’s so good.

Fresh seafood is huge, for example, sushi is massive. When I lived in New Zealand, I had sushi thrice a week - really high-quality fresh sushi.

Q: Did music play a role in your upbringing? Do you play an instrument?

A: Yes, my mum is a music teacher. I learned piano from age five, and my mum taught piano in the household. Every afternoon after school, students would come into our music room for music lessons. And then she was always listening to music. Music was incredibly important in her life, and the rest is history. I get my love of music from mum.

My mum listened to a lot of classical music. Lots of Bach, lots of  Beethoven, she played a lot of Mozart. I never really connected with Mozart, but I absolutely love Bach. My mum also really liked Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s "Jesus Christ Superstar" was a big record in my house. I also grew up with three older brothers and a sister. Two of them were really into music, and I would listen to their Neil Young and David Bowie records.

When I was about 15, I discovered The Cure and never looked back. Before finding electronic music, I went through a massive gothy, alternative/indie rock phase.

This is my mum, Mary McIntyre, and I standing in front of Franz Josef Glacier, a maritime glacier in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. Check mum in her Vivaldi t-shirt - that’s my mum, nerdy and musical, and the biggest influence on me as both a human being and musician, bar none.

Q: How did you discover electronic music? Did you go to a rave? Did you hear a track?

A: I moved into a flat with two girls immersed in electronic music. They were into rave culture and really into drum ‘n’ bass. I used to go out with them. New Zealand has a big drum 'n' bass scene. This is one of the things about New Zealand that's amazing - because it's such a small scene, you get all these different genres happening at the same time. There are only so many nightclubs, and the same people go to all of them. As a result, you are exposed to a wide variety of music.  The first time I heard proper house music was from a DJ playing deep house. He played Mood II Swing's " Do It Your Way." And I had never heard that deep strident house philosophy before, which changed me. I had an epiphany—a transformative moment on the dance floor.

When I found deep house, it took over. It became my all-day, everyday obsession. So it was pretty dramatic. 

Q: Are you a dancer? 

A: I love dancing.

Q: Are you a  vinyl digger?

A: Yeah, not so much at the moment. Not so much since I got to Germany because I've been earning significantly less than before. I'd have to spend almost €100 a week to keep up with it - that's serious money in Berlin, so I don't buy records as much as I'd like to, but I still have a significant collection from the first ten years of DJing.

Q: How do you prepare your sets?

A:  It's about catching a vibe to play well. Suppose I'm going to play a set in a cocktail bar. It's going to be a completely different situation compared to If I were to play in a club. I probably will not practice so much. But if I play in a club, I do much more research beforehand and practice more than three times a week before the gig.

Q: What's your favorite sound in a track? 

A: Samples. I also have a thing for reverb; I like a moody reverb. There's a lot of moody reverb in tracks from the 90s. I’m a big hip-hop fan, although I am not listening to much of it now (90s hip-hop is my jam). I listen to a lot of jazz, and I love instrumental music. 

Q: What was the inspiration behind the "Latent Magic EP?"

A: I'm trying to touch people. I'm more about human beings than function or aesthetics, I'm trying to relieve the pressure. One of the themes behind the naming of the EP is this idea that there's magic all around us, and sometimes it's lying there undiscovered, and there's this process. When you're writing music, you discover it. It's magic. It's just been sitting there and veins of gold, streams of gold, just waiting to be unearthed.

Q:  Which DAW, instruments, and plugins do you use?

A: I use Ableton, my Poly D, a mini Moog remake, and my Sequential Prophet Rev2 analog synthesizer. Sometimes, I use plugins; it depends. I’m a big fan of Spectrasonics and Spitfire. They're hybrid virtual software producers that make vsts based upon recordings of electric and acoustic instrumentation, which is then "played" via complex algorithms. So, the sound quality is much stronger than that of a VST software company trying to design synthesis from the ground up. You get the actual flavor of the original analog synthesizer, but it's embedded in this digital technology—Spectrasonic and Spitfire are genius.

Q: Do you think you've gotten addicted to getting gear? If you had the money, would you invest in more gear?

A: It’s funny you are asking that. I spent about €600 last month, but it was overdue, and I knew what I was doing.

 Q: If you were holding a listening party for "Latent Magic" at a club, which track would be the opener, which would be the dancefloor banger, and which would be the closer?

A: “Hold” would be the opener because it is deep. “There It Is,” the club banger; that’s very much peak time for me. “Latent Magic” is the closer; it’s moody.

Q: Do you think the electronic music community is doing enough toward social change?

A: Musicians have a responsibility to think about their contribution in terms of ethics and politics. I consider myself an artist that is socially conscious because I see that I'm on a ground level supporting people and helping them reconnect with who they are. Hopefully, through the very essence of appreciating music and being sincere in music, people can genuinely connect with themselves. Musicians do have an indirect job for humanity. We do rescue people. I hope that doesn't make me sound pretentious, but I'm in service to humanity. Yeah, that actually sounds so pretentious.

You have a responsibility as an artist to at least be aware of what you're contributing to the world. Look at yourself and consider whether what you're doing is worthwhile, has depth, and is sincere. Is what you're doing all about you? What are you saying with your music? What's the point of it?

Q: Our final question, what are your music plans for next year?

A: In December, I'm going to New Zealand for six weeks to spend time with my mum. I have loads of gigs in New Zealand. When I'm in New Zealand, that's also a pleasure. I reconnect with lovely communities while I'm home and with people I've DJed for over the years. Then I'm also going to spend a bit of time in nature. So, yeah, it's going to be great. When I return to Berlin, I will be in the studio a lot, finishing an EP for Razor-N-Tape, for which I'm keen to do more releases. And I'm constantly writing, and I'm also thinking about writing an album, at least a mini-album.

Q: Philippa, thank you so much; that was great!

A: It was an absolute pleasure!

Follow Philippa on Instagram.

You can purchase "Latent Magic EP" here.

Listen to "Hold" the first single from "Latent Magic EP."