Dubstep is possibly one of the most polarizing styles of music out there today: some people laugh it off and make jokes about it sounding like dail-up and Transformers, others find it a unique and exciting subgenre that helped bring EDM to the forefront of American music. Personally, I fall into that second category.
I fondly remember my college days of biking to class while blasting Skrillex’s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP both ways. I was lucky enough to own a powerful synth at the time and I quickly learned how to make wobble bass and experiment with it, falling in love with electronic music. Unfortunately for me, nothing ever came out of those musical experiments… fortunately for the world, though, some people had more success than I did, and some of them are exceptionally good at it.
Tyler Shiffer is one such person. Better known as “Phocust,” this dubstep producer hails from Denver, CO and has been making waves as an outspoken Christian producing some of the grimiest, filthiest dubstep around (that’s actually a compliment). Signed to G&D Records, this young prodigy has shared the stage with artists the likes of Skillet, Megalodon, Newsboys, Switchfoot, SaidTheSky, and more. It’s easy to see why. There’s definitely a big rock sound to his music, making electronic music accessible even to those preferring more conventional instruments. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Shiffer briefly during a break in his busy schedule to ask some questions about his music, his relationship with God, and what his plans for the future are.
Q. Let’s start at the beginning. You said in your label bio that you felt God gave you the name “Phocust.” How did you know that God was calling you into music (and dubstep specifically) and how did you react?
Phocust: Yeah man, it was crazy. So when I was first learning to hear the Holy Spirit, I was driving back home one day and I saw a few different signs on the way home. But some of the letters on the signs illuminated super bright to me and it spelled out P-H-O-C-U-S-T. I asked myself first what did this mean and I was very confused. I felt in my heart that God was trying to tell me something. So in prayer I asked, “Lord, what does this mean?”. I heard that still small voice speak to me, almost audibly, and say “Tyler, I want you to do music again. But this time stay PHOCUST on me.” I immediately started bawling like a baby all the way home. I tried to think things through and honestly, at that point in my life I was very scared to go into the music scene again. But now being brought into these places I feel the most contentment with my heart, because I know God has me here for a reason.
Q. You’re very open about your faith. How well is that received in a genre that’s notorious for sinful behaviors like drug use and open sexuality?
Phocust: I admit it is very hard to be taken seriously in a place like that. But I am here to share nothing more then the love and joy of Jesus. I don’t judge people for what they do. I mean obviously, this is the kinda place where people come to do things like that. I also don’t condone the things people do or encourage this human nature. But I’m here to be led by the Holy Spirit and find maybe even just that one person who is going through something and needs to know Jesus loves them.
Q. You’ve shared the stage with a lot of big Christian names. Do you also play secular shows?
Phocust: It’s funny cause most of the shows I play I guess would be considered secular. I just consider them shows though. But yeah I’ve played at many clubs, bars, festivals, and venues that have that dirty, grimy, hood feel to them. I’ve only recently started playing Christian shows because I have the opportunity.
Q. You mentioned in your label bio about your dissatisfaction with the spiritual state of the EDM scene. I think you’re spot on, but I’m also interested to hear your insight into that some more. Could you elaborate on that a little?
Phocust: Well honestly, when I wrote that last article I was still figuring a lot of things out. I was very sensitive to the spiritual aspect of these kind of places. And I’ve realized now that you kinda are walking into complete darkness. But I have come to a point with myself that has actually cast out all fear I had. I realized that no matter where you are there is going to be darkness, whether you’re at a club or sometimes even at church. Either way, the darkness can’t touch us and is definitely nothing to be afraid of when you are in Christ Jesus. I often refer back to John 1:5 that says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (NLT). Some versions even read that the darkness can not even comprehend it. I have seen many things in the spirit and have let them scare me, but when you are actually walking in oneness with God and being what a CHRISTian really is (an imitator of Christ), then you walk with the authority of Heaven and should not let anything get to you.
Q. You also mentioned in your label bio the loss of your uncle to cancer. I remember that the mention came out of nowhere and you kind of left it at that. I was like “wow, this guy pulls no punches,” and it seems like it was a pretty influential experience in your life. Would you mind talking about that just a touch?
Phocust: I forgot I had put that in there, but yeah cancer has taken a lot of my family from me. I do miss those people being a part of my life and wish I had more time with them. But I do try to take family funerals seriously and most of my family knows me as “the Christian boy” so I am always asked to pray or to say something encouraging to my family. And the most comfort I could give to someone going through something like that (even myself), is to be still and know that He is God, and to not fear for we will see those people again one day in Heaven.
Q. You’ve shared the stage with a lot of big name artists from a lot of different genres. What genres are your favorite to play with and why?
Phocust: Obviously, my favorite genre would have to be dubstep. But I have recently played at HeavenFest and getting to see bands like Memphis May Fire, Veridia, and SwitchFoot was definitely pretty cool. And I have to say Family Force 5 has one of the greatest live shows I have ever seen. It brought back chills from listening to them when I was a kid.
Q. Which show that you have played so far that was your favorite?
Phocust: Honestly, you’re going to think I’m crazy when I say this, but my favorite show was when I played at this coffee shop in Longmont, Colorado. A bunch of my friends drove out and we has this small little place packed out. I mean yeah playing shows like HeavenFest and stuff is amazing… but the best part was that some friends of mine that came brought their kids too, and to see these little kids run around dancing to music I have made just pulls on my heart strings. Similar to that I played at a youth camp called WinterFest. And for the last song I played my remix I made with Kevin Aleksander of Candyland; we got to see these kids worship God to a song we produced just having fun, and it definitely gave more meaning to me when I am writing music.
Q. What artist would you tour/play with if you could?
Phocust: If I could go back to back with Zomboy that would be pretty cool, he’s been a favorite of mine since I was younger. But if I could tour with anyone it would have to be SaidTheSky. His music just takes people to another place, for me I feel like after the shows there would be a lot of open hearts in the crowd and I would love to use that as an opportunity for someone to feel Jesus for the first time.
Q. So what’s in the near future for Phocust?
Phocust: Well right now I have an EP coming out later this year with my new track “Feel It,” featuring various remixes from some pretty dope artists. I also have the opportunity to play at that same coffee shop again, and I might even have the chance to play a show in Miami on my birthday. Still waiting for the details on that one. I also have a few songs coming out and also a couple remixes/collaborations that I’ve been trying to finish.
Q. Open floor. What’s something you’d like to say or talk about that you haven’t yet?
Phocust: Well I just hope that whoever is reading this knows that they are loved. Not only by Jesus, but by myself. I would really like to say that I love meeting people at shows so if you ever stop by one or see me at one don’t be afraid to come say hi!
Geeks Under Grace would like to thank Phocust for participating in this interview. To learn more about Tyler or his music, check out the links below:
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