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On Island Profile: Phil Merchant

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Dec 3, 2006 — For more than 20 years, Phil Merchant has been playing music because, for him, "music is life."
Merchant began his musical career at his mother's dining room table as he taught himself how to play the drums.
"Drums is where my inspiration comes from, Merchant said. He was nicknamed "Pixs" by close friends for his ever-present toothpick and his ability to "pick" any instrument and master it.
Merchant was not professionally taught any of the instruments he currently plays. "I am basically self taught," he said, adding that drums were his first instrument.
"I would be sitting around the dining table breaking mommy's silverware, drumming on everything from pots to biscuit pans."
His background in the church helped further his musical education. "Church helped teach me timing," he said.
For years, Merchant and the members of his current band, D.A.P.P., provided the music for Midnite Band. "Midnite was my bread and butter," Merchant said.
When the band dissolved, Merchant and fellow band mates Dion, Ras Abijah and Junior P formed D.A.P.P. to symbolize the fist-pounding greeting commonly known throughout the islands.
"It's our way of greeting," he said. "Once we break that barrier, we soothe you with music."
According to Merchant, forming the band was the best step they could all make, but he acknowledged what the time spent with Midnite meant to them.
"Playing with Midnite gave us the opportunity to do what we've been doing for a long time," he said. The dissolution of the band was a blow for Merchant because now the artists had music but no one to sing.
Merchant said writing songs was not something he had a great desire to do. "I thought it was enough to just hear music and play music, doing the harmonies and melodies," he said.
Merchant writes songs now, as much as he plays, making sure to leave the listener with a message at the end of melodies. "I use my music as a voice to speak for people who can't speak for themselves," he said.
Now when asked what instrument he plays, the soft-spoken artist simply says "music — because music is life."
Merchant likens his love for music to his love for God. "Playing music is my way of praising God, and I love to praise him; that is why I play so many instruments," he said.
"Music is energy, vibes," he said. "Once you know how to ride the vibes, the roots and soul connect deeply."
Merchant's love for the craft does not make his journey any easier. "Music is a lot of hard work," he said. "It definitely ain't easy."
Merchant currently has a featured drum track on Bambu Station's new release "Break the Soil on Mt. Nebo Records. He and D.A.P.P. are currently completing their new album, which Merchant hopes to be released late this year.
D.A.P.P. can be seen regularly at Brew Pub on the Christiansted waterfront.
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