Taylor Phinney - Cannondale Drapac

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If you've been around cycling you know the Phinney's. TAYLOR, the son of legends Davis and Connie has had an incredible career, both for it's success, its set backs and its diversity. We take a deep dive with Taylor into the music he's listened to over the years, teaching himself to play and produce his own music, and what music means to him.


When were you born and where did you grow up?

TAYLOR: 1990 in Boulder Colorado

What is your Current City?

TAYLOR: I split time between Girona Spain and Boulder Colorado often spending a couple months in LA in the winter

Do you take on any musical tastes from where you’re based or your travels during the season?

TAYLOR: I find most of my music on Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Spotify, Tidal or through recommendations.

Whats the music like in Girona? Is there much of a live music scene or anything? Do you find you listen to different music when in LA compared with Girona?

TAYLOR: I haven't spent enough time 'out' in girona because I am usually here only in the heat of the racing season but there is not much of a live music scene at least on the street. There is a jazz club that I have been to but nobody was playing! I've been back a couple times but still waiting for that night when someone is playing live. Earlier this year I went down to Razzmatazz in Barcelona to see Bonobo. The scene in Barcelona is obviously popping off, I plan to explore that a bit more this off season.

What was the last race you did? What music did were listening to to get you through the transfers and travel?

TAYLOR: Over the last few months I have been diving into dj sets from Acid Pauli, Nicolas Jaar (a staple in my music life), Max Cooper, Moderat, a German podcast called Montaggsorbet mit Laut & Luise... among many others

You just did the tour, what’s it like in the last week when you’re pickled, are you just to fucked to listen to music or is that what’s getting you through? You’ve gotta be pretty bored by that stage right?

TAYLOR: I was reading a ton during the Tour de France. I read 4 Murakami books in the 3 weeks. Colorless, Tsukura Tasaki and all the volumes of 1Q84. While I read I put in some ambient world mixes I get off SoundCloud by Oceanvs Orientalis, Monolink or other random mixes my hair stylist Aaron sends me. He is always plugged in to mellow electronic trippy world music, usually in the form of sets or mixes.

What music do you remember growing up around? Who was the first person to get you into music?

Taylor: Some of my earliest musical memories are of U2 Joshua Tree, laying in my living room listening to Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. I was a big fan of Green Day American Idiot when I was living abroad in Italy around age 12 which seems fitting. 50 Cent, The Game, Nelly, Cam'ron, Fat Joe. I went through a solid 70s disco phase as music became available on Limewire, which transitioned into an 80s phase. I have always loved synth sounds. I remember finding most of my music myself as my parents never really played music in the house.

How were you finding music early on if your parents weren’t really listening to much of it around you? Were the other kids your age in Italy listening to similar music to you or were you showing them American music and they showing you European music?

TAYLOR: My neighbor in Boulder Sam Psihoyos introduced me to techno at some point around age 13 when I came back for the summer from Italy. My best friend in Italy Giacomo Casagrande was massively into Kiss and classic rock but I could never quite get into it. I would've gotten most of my music from watching MTV because back in the early 2000s Italian MTV still played only music videos. My other friends were into Italian music but I wasn't a fan, except this rapper Caparezza who had funny music videos and this massive white Italian afro.

My high school girlfriend introduced me to citizen cope and band of horses and I dove from there into other indie bands on my own. Limewire was my primary source for downloading music to my iPod.

I think I've primarily used the internet, initially just google, then limewire, then hype machine and now SoundCloud, Spotify etc. to discover artists, genres and eras of music. Most of my discovery has been on my own.

What is the first song you remember liking?

TAYLOR: I loved the build to stairway to heaven so much and would always get goosebumps listening to that song. There were probably songs before that but that is the one that comes to mind.

Did you play a music instrument as a kid?

TAYLOR: I played piano but hated going to lessons which I now regret. I was an active kid bursting with energy and sitting me down was difficult.

I wonder why piano lessons are so brutal for kids? Not many survive those.

TAYLOR: I think that piano lessons are too short and formulaic. I am teaching myself the piano now and find it serves me best to just sit down and fuck around, follow which notes feel good and slowly slowly start to build up a library of sounds that I like. I think everyone learns to develop a true passion in their own way so it is hard to generalize and have someone teach you out of a book.

I wish my teacher had emphasized that all I need to do is feel when I play, and that what I play needs only to sound good to me. If I recall, piano lessons made me nervous because I felt as if all I could do was mess up, as if every time I played was some kind of a performance. That could just be the way my brain works however so I wouldn't blame the teacher. From what my mom tells me, he worked really hard to keep me into it.

What do you want to be playing on the piano?

TAYLOR: I dream of developing my own style of playing the piano that is unique to me. I learn small bits of pieces I like, from Erik Satie for example, or even from modern house artists like Disclosure, and then I play with the order of those notes.  

What musical phases have you been a part of throughout your life? What songs defined each of those phases?

TAYLOR: Fuck this is a hard one to answer. I went through my Green Day, Switchfoot, Papa Roach, AFI but mostly Sum 41 90s rock phase when I was maybe 10-14. Somewhere in there rap was introduced with 50 Cent's In Da Club music video on MTV all the time in Italy. Rap opened up a whole new world of beats. I never was much one for lyrics and loved songs for their musical quality. As the internet started to take over I dove into 70s Disco and then into 80s around age 15-17. At 17 I remember starting to really like Citizen Cope, Band of Horses, The Shins and other indie rock style groups. At the same time I dove into Techno and Trance with early Bassnectar, Alice Deejay (Do you think you're better off aloooooone), other shit I can't remember the name of. I discovered The Hype Machine website around age 18 which opened up my world to remixes, mashups, new rap, groups like Grizzly Bear. I listened to most of my music on hype machine through to my early twenties. House music started to take over along with new rap from Kid Cudi, Kanye, Drake and the occasional indie track.

After I broke my leg I was introduced to Bonobo who blew my mind, and then subsequently to Nicolas Jaar whose music I definitely did not get at first but for some reason always came back to. Nico was the first artist I felt I developed a relationship with, and whose music could somehow put what was going on in my life into perspective. I remember laying on the floor of the first house I bought in Boulder listening to his essential mix for BBC radio 1. One night a friend and I laid there and listened to it twice. It is 2 hours long. Through Nico I discovered his two up band Darkside, classical pianists like Keith Jarrett and Erik Satie, rediscovered Daft Punk and a whole host of other similar electronic artists. David August, Moderat and Recondite have been other staples of this kind of genreless experimental dance music phase that I am still in now. I'm also a sucker for Travis Scott, Migos, 21 Savage and Atlanta trap in general but so is the rest of America.

I've summarized this and not mentioned a lot but you get the gist.

Fuck me that’s a detailed summary and a wide range of stuff there. I don’t even know where to begin. Can you name some tracks and artists from 70’s disco? What about Band of Horses and The Shins phase, what was a track that sticks with you from then? Are there any bands from your past that you go back and listen to now and what stuff makes you cringe now? Are you this curious in the rest of your life?

TAYLOR: 70s phase included a lot of rock too; Earth Wind and Fire, I loved Kool and the Gang (I remember my dad telling me he loved them when he was in his 20s), ELO, Fleetwood Mac, The Jacksons + Michael Jackson, and I always dug Santana. I think the Bee Gee's Saturday Night Fever soundtrack with Staying Alive may kicked off this phase. Now that I think of it, soundtracks to movies and TV shows have had a big part in introducing me to music.

Through general internet discovery I cranked through all the radio jams like More Than A Feeling - Boston, Toto

The band of horses phase was kicked off by my high school gf, and then I was obsessed with the Garden State soundtrack and that's how I found the Shins. From that soundtrack came Frou Frou, Zero 7, and I forgot about my Coldplay phase! I clearly remember being obsessed with Rush of Blood to the Head around age 13 in the summer in Italy. I had an 'older' American friend in his early twenties who was driving my sister and I around Italy following my parents bike camps, and we listened almost exclusively to that album. I fell in love with it pretty hard.

This reminds me of another indie phase, Death Cab for Cutie around age 15. There was a time where I only listened to Death Cab and Modest Mouse. The first and only time I vomited from drinking in front of my father, I couldn't sleep and he stayed in bed with me while I cried and listened to Transatlanticism.

I cringe a bit when I think about listening to Papa Roach but I can't deny that the song Headstrong gets me jazzed..I can handle about a minute of that song now though before I must change.

What was the first album you bought with your own money?

TAYLOR: The first CD I remember purchasing was with my Dad. Significant Other by Limp Bizkit. We bought the explicit album, and started listening to it when we got home. By the first track my dads face had gone completely white and he decided that at 10, I was too young to be hearing it. I later found it in his sock drawer, classic... and would play it when my nanny Lisa came over. Thank god for nannies. I did it all for the nookie!

No shit, almost the exact scenario you just described happened to me, except it was the Chocolate Starfish album, my mum and she hid the cd in her cosmetics draw I believe.

What was the first gig / concert you remember going to?

TAYLOR: The wallflowers at Red Rocks, age 11.

What's the best gig / concert you've been to?

TAYLOR: Oof. Probably Nicolas Jaar at the Gothic in Denver last November.

Who's a teammate with the worst musical taste you’ve had to endure?

TAYLOR: Most of my European teammates listen to European top 40 which can be pretty unbearable.

How about the teammate with the best music taste?

TAYLOR: Steve Cummings mixes his own sets that I've always enjoyed. That dude has a deep knowledge of U.K. house and just music in general.

I’ve never met Steve but I always got the sense he’d have a good understanding of UK house. I’m gonna have to get in touch with him. What song would you listen to put you in the right place for a race?

TAYLOR: I used to listen to deadmaus' Strobe before time trials, still the most epic build in an electronic song. Shit I forgot to mention deadmaus. That song specifically I will never tire of.

Do you listen to music now before you race or do you have another ritual to put you in the right mindset?

TAYLOR: I listen to music all the time before and after races but not really with the intent to put me in a racing mind set, more just to enjoy my time. I also crank on GarageBand on my iPad while in the bus. Music is a healthy escape from the stress of the racing environment for me.

Does anyone take control of the music on the bus and what do they play?

TAYLOR: Yes mostly top 40 dance tracks. My music is usually too strange as I don't play a lot of tracks with vocals.

Have you ever played any of your music on the bus and people been unimpressed?

TAYLOR: I tried to play Darkside before a TDF stage and my teammates complained that they were falling asleep. They vibrate on a much higher strung frequency than I do.

Have you ever had a ‘victory’ song or a track you associate with any performance, good or bad?

TAYLOR: Besides We are the Champions, no lol

Do you associate that with one of your wins? Or is it just the Mighty Ducks?

TAYLOR: Nah I don't really have any songs that I associate with victory to be honest.

Have you ever worn your ipod during a race?

TAYLOR: Have always dreamed of doing that, but no.

What song do you play to get things started when you’re throwing a party?

TAYLOR: I used to always throw on Storm Queen - Look Right Through (MK Dub III) the extended mix

No messing around, just straight into it. What sort of party you starting with this song?

TAYLOR: Just a dance party at my apartment. Some drinks, some food, but mostly I just want to dance.

You’ve experimented with producing music yourself, is that correct? What sort of stuff are you making? Where can we hear some stuff?

TAYLOR: I find that what I make tells more of a story than anything. All instrument sounds are generated by the computer. I like to mess with echo, panning, phasing... I am working at getting better at using the interface, right now Logic Pro, but my music is a series of builds and breaks. I like to mess with the tempo and love creating various beats. I find that I always crave a good beat.

I bought a Roland Juno DS synthesizer a couple weeks back and have been messing with layering sounds and beats on that. None of my stuff is on the internet, I'm still learning about mastering tracks and how to export them to sound the way I want. Also, it's something I do and have for myself first and don't feel ready to subject myself to the internet. I play music for friends.

Does musical taste influence how well you’re going to get along with someone? If so what’s a song that if someone played would let you know you’d probably get along?

TAYLOR: If someone threw Nicolas Jaar on I'd know immediately that we will get along. I can't get enough of Nico as you can probably tell. If they played something off of his experimental album Pomegranates then that person might just be a clone of me. Yes, musical taste is super important.

Have you seen film ‘The Colour of Pomegranates’ that Nicolas Jaar made that soundtrack for? Its an old Soviet surrealist film that Jaar remade the soundtrack for and then dubbed it over the original in 2015. A song that would instantly turn you off someone?

TAYLOR: Ha! Dunno... Nickelback ???

I think that’s a universal truth. Have you ever played a song to impress a person or group? If so, what was it?

TAYLOR: Mm not really to impress. I usually try to gauge people or a group before I put something on, but always put on music I like.

Have you ever played something and had it backfire?

TAYLOR: Not really. I'm pretty easy to allow other people to put their music on if they're not happy.

A song you’re embarrassed to admit you like, but listen to often?

TAYLOR: Phil Collins - In the air tonight.

Which song would you choose to soundtrack the highlights reel of your career?

TAYLOR: Flume - Take A Chance but the highlight real would have to end with a transition of my life from cyclist to artist. ;)

Mike Woods gave me a blow by blow rundown of how his reel would play out. How would your transition play out?

TAYLOR: I magically step off the bike after my last race and I am in my studio apartment in Lower Manhattan and spend the next 30 years traveling and creating like a mad genius.

What’s the best way to listen to music?

TAYLOR: With a joint. Am I allowed to say that ?

You can say whatever you want man. If you were colonising Mars and could only take one album, what would it be?

TAYLOR: I hate this question.

If you don’t answer it though, you don’t get to take anything. Imagine that, no music not only for you but no music for the colony of Mars. They may never discover music otherwise. Think, it’s an opportunity for you to introduce and influence the direction of music for an entire planet for evermore.

TAYLOR: Space Is Only Noise

Take it easy man, thank you. 

Angus Morton