Biography

Photograph by Autumn Robertson

Ergo Phizmiz is the stage name of UK based composer, writer, collagist, opera maker, radio playwright, songwriter, and visual artist Dominic Robertson. They have been a key figure in underground art and music across the last 20 years, through releases of over 400 hours of recorded music on labels across the world including Touch, Gagarin, Discrepant, Care in the Community Recordings and Illegal Art, award-winning radioplays for the BBC, WDR and Bayerischer Rundfunk, film and television music for work by Ellen Page, Frankie Boyle, Christian Marclay, Vicki Bennett and Lloyd Handwerker, and highly acclaimed work in the far extremes of experimental opera through independent productions and collaborations with Tete a Tete, Mahogany Opera Group and the Cleveland Orchestra. Their work is referenced in the autobiography of John Peel, and has won praise from public figures including Matt Groening, Michael Nyman, Tom Ravenscroft, Frankie Boyle and Goodiepal.


Ergo Phizmiz Live at Tate Modern, 2004
Photograph by Martha Moopette

Their earliest work was created for Resonance FM and WFMU, much of which was collected on the retrospective "Nose Points in Different Directions" in the mid 2000, around which time Ergo was also becoming a central figure in the Creative Commons netlabel and free music scene, becoming notorious for their cover versions of Aphex Twin, the Velvet Underground and the pop hits of today, then.

In 2005 they created "M: 1000 Year Mix", a six hour sound-collage work attempting to pull together disparate strands of sonic history to create new musical conversations and possibilities. This was recently re-issued as a triple cassette pack on Freuq & Repreuq Records.


People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz
Photograph by Peter Knight

At the same time Ergo was cultivating a long-term collaboration with sound-collagist People Like Us, resulting in the albums "Perpetuum Mobile" and "Rhapsody in Glue", the 10" record "Honeysuckle Boulevard", the single "Withers in the Waking", the DVD and performance piece "The Keystone Cut Ups", two short films for Channel 4 & Random Acts, and the extensive sound-collage composition radio series "Codpaste".

Between 2005-2007 Ergo presented the weekly radio show "Phuj Phactory" on legendary US radio station WFMU.

In 2010 the netlabel Headphonica released "The Faust Cycle" by Ergo Phizmiz & Friends, a 15 hour adventure in sound described by Continuo as "The most ambitious music project conceived in the 21st century and certainly the only one able to challenge your listening habits".


A pop-up book opera on yodelling, Rotterdam, 2013
Photograph by Koos Siep

The Rotterdam based artist and curator Peter Fengler learned one day that Ergo Phizmiz had spent their teenage years writing DIY operas, and asked Ergo to re-stage one of these pieces of juvenilia. Unfortunately, all the scores had gone missing, so instead Ergo offered to write a new opera, marking a return to the form that ran throughout the 2010s and yielded the productions "The Mourning Show", "Fulcanelli's Shoes", "The Third Policeman", "Gargantua", "UOEIA - The Histories of Yodelling", "Gala", "Mozart vs Machine", "Nibiru!" and the work-in-progress "Adapting Don Quixote", a continuing collaboration with Frederic Wake-Walker.

These lost teenage operas formed the subject matter of the radioplay "Disappearing Boxes" for WDR, which won Hoerspiel das Monats at the Deutsche Akademie der Darstellenden Kunst. Previously the BBC radioplay "Paul Klee, a Balloon, the Moon, Music and Me" had received special mention in the composed radio category at the Prix Italia, and the 2010s saw Ergo pursue the radioplay form through a series of collaborations with Bayerischer Rundfunk in Munich, including the pieces "Conversations With Birds", the live radioplay "Hollywood: A Bestiary" ("The benchmark of live radio has been raised" - Medienkorrespondenz), "Sonora Mystery", "Die Bayerische Prinzessin" and most recently "Animalium Kepler 22B".


Ergo gives Marc Riley a kiss at the 6music studios, 2013

As a songwriter Ergo has released three albums on Care in the Community Recordings ("Things to Do and Make", "Eleven Songs" and "The Peacock"), the collaboration with Rotterdam guitar superstar Lukas Simonis, IG Witzelsucht "Sometimes Puns Are a Sign of a Damaged Brain", and more lately the politically fuelled "Fstarstark Mstarn Winkyface" on Avanthardcollective.


Ergo Phizmiz & Lottie Depresstival Bowater / Avanthardcollective
Photograph by Bruce Wang

Since 2017 Ergo has been collaborating with their partner Lottie Depresstival Bowater on a wide range of performance and music projects, including the pop single "Walerian Borowczyk is Dead", the performance piece "Nibiru!", an extravaganza at Cafe Oto, and the animated set design for the Cleveland Orchestra's recent production of Richard Strauss' "Ariadne auf Naxos". In late 2019 the pair piloted the experimental radio station Wolverton FM.

Ergo has written articles for The Wire Magazine, the Journal of the Flann O'Brien Institute in Vienna, and their work has been featured in The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, Mojo, Uncut, The Times Educational Supplement, Loud & Quiet Magazine, The Quietus, Louder than War, Stereo Stickman, Drowned in Sound, and the New Statesman. In 2015 the art publisher Content Series published the book "Cold Collation" by Ergo Phizmiz, consisting of collages, music scores, notebooks and cuttings from the studio floor.

In 2020 they produced one of the first large scale works of art produced during the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown. "The Dimbola Mikado" is an intermedia feast in the form of a 2 hour 40 minute audio-visual performance piece with quarantined performers, a virtual exhibition, an album, a remix project, and an online miscellany of samples and sources. 

Ergo Phizmiz's new album "Elmyr" is released in October 2020 on Strategic Tape Reserve.

Current work-in-progress involve a visual collaboration with the Deutsche Symphony Orchester on productions of work by Hindemith & Martinu, and new theatre scores for works by Les Antliaclastes Marionettes, and Hallidonto.


From "Gargantua"
Photograph by Rebecca Vaughan

The documentary by Iain Chambers "The Life and Dreams of Ergo Phizmiz", shot between 2009-2019, is released in 2020.

Ergo Phizmiz is an autistic artist who welcomes the inevitable oncoming neurodiversity revolution with big, wide open arms. 


2019, with geese.
Photograph by Lottie Depresstival Bowater

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