The story of Pham: how a young Polish producer broke through the noise to achieve viral success
Polish producer Pham perfectly embodies the next generation of breakout music producers: self-taught, streaming-savvy, and relentlessly creative.
The 22-year-old Nysa-native is a relatively new name in the scene, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to his music. Pham champions a multi-genre style that spans the gamut of trap, future bass, R&B and more. His penchant for vocals is just as clear as his affection for lush soundscapes and heady hip hop-inflected beats. While he’s dabbled in remixing, taking on the likes of Danny Brown and Azealia Banks, his greatest appeal in lies in his infectious originals, which have thus far enamored the streaming communities to no end.
Pham’s largest success to date is Movements: a 7-track EP released independently in early 2016. Despite arriving over a year ago, the EP’s title track and lead single “Movements” has continued to amass plays, and now, momentously, has achieved over 20 million streams on three separate platforms: SoundCloud, Spotify, and YouTube.
To commemorate the achievement, Pham has shared his story on Dancing Astronaut, touching on everything from his challenging upbringing in Poland to the genesis of “Movements.”
Read Pham’s story below.
On growing up in Poland
“You know, I grew up in a really small village that is occupied by around 300 people to this day. Growing up in Poland was quite a challenge. I just started to realize how much influence that time had on me. I remember that as a half asian kid it was tough to appear similar to my peers in class so I got called out and whatnot (and it went for almost nine-ten years). I looked different and my contemporaries didn’t have that awareness back then. I tried to adjust, try to see what was going on inside of every single kid’s head, I learned empathy, I started to guess who would do what, bullying stopped being so tough. The city where I went to technical school of computer science was like 40,000 people. I accommodated there immediately but I wasn’t into learning much.
I would read some newspapers, try to draw, attend dance school. I tried everything to kind of let go and repair my self esteem — you know, do something well and make people like me for something I do — not for how I look. I forgot about it quickly because with time appearance was something really optional. The music scene is nonexistent here. I mean, it didn’t exist. We had some minor clubs we would attend and DJs would spin music that I wasn’t very fond of – neither were my friends. So most of the time I would browse internet and see if there is some new music. As a kid, I was listening to whatever got into my hands, from Modern Talking, Sandra, Vengaboys, through ’90s hip hop, polish rap – to some schranz or hardcore or what was really popular back then: stupid house (I don’t know who is accountable for this name).
On learning music production
So with this background, I was really into music, I didn’t know that it’s not as hard as it seemed. It was always magic to me but one day I got this CD from a magazine with Fruity Loops on it. At that time I had a crush and I wanted to impress her; she liked music a lot so I thought: “I’m going to write the best song in the world for her.” I was around 15-16 that time. Time passed and my feelings for the software and creating tones outgrew my longing for this particular girl. So I just kept going.
Few years passed and I never ever thought of a music career. I was planning to be an IT technician and work at Intel or Nokia. One day someone showed me this orange site with plenty of music just sitting around, ready to be discovered. I uploaded a track or two and then I reached out to someone with this remix of “Stay”, I loved the original and Henry Krinkle liked the remix. He clicked. He clicked that repost button and that was my first repost ever! I cried with joy because back then it was me as a fan, and the music was just a thing that I did after hours. I was so motivated to show more music to people, because I would get a lot of attention from listeners, so I just uploaded a track after track and everything felt unreal. That was my first small success. After that it was just a snowball and I never had a moment where I thought: “this is real, I’m a musician now,” even after a huge success of “Movements.”
Yeah… “Movements.” I never thought that would be THE song. The beat seemed to be funny to me and I would upload it because it was something else. Honestly I never experienced something like that, still trying to push the envelope. The idea for the track was created long before I finished it. It was this funny drum pattern with just bass and the pluck and it would sit on my hard drive for a year before I came back to it and got it done. I released it as an instrumental and after a month maybe, someone e-mailed me with an attachment. This rapper would tell me he did something with it and there was his girl featured on it. It landed in my spam but I always check it, so I listened to it. It had some mixing flaws but boy, I freaked out because it was top notch lyrics, amazing flow and I asked him if I could mix it down and we released it. That was it. We wanted to do more music and this track was just sitting around and getting a ton of exposure. I was just doing my everyday things and peeped from time to time: “oh, a million plays”, “wow, ten”. I never had this feeling that it “popped” but I was unbelievably happy that behind this numbers there are people that are in love with the sound. And I just tried to do something different. As a musician, I was just making music that I needed at that moment and I couldn’t find it anywhere. So, in a way “Movements” is my child that grew up really fast and is still growing and it left the house and sends me texts every week.
With this song in my repertoire, it’s hard not to think “when the *bigger* song will come along?” Actually, it’s not that hard when you realize that this moment when it blew up was something I didn’t wait for. I just kept going. It’s not about trying to make it pop but to patiently wait. Put in the work. Take a deep breath when you feel like rushing. This whole life is about being patient. My plan is to do more music, let it evolve and advance. Maybe I’ll start to sing, maybe I’ll play keys, play live. Who knows. Change takes time.”