Although Goldie was the original pioneer of Jungle, Rupert Parkes is arguably the most creative and intelligent artist to have risen from the hardcore breakbeat scene.
Through Photek, Parkes has arguably pushed the DrumíníBass bounds more than any other modern-day producer or DJ.
Now based in Los Angeles, Parkes talks to Barcode about his latest release, Form & Function Vol. 2, and how he wants to change how people listen to electronic music!
I understand youíve relocated from England to Los Angeles, why did you decide to make the move? I first came out here 4 years ago, and was still living half in London (Putney Heath) and half in LA. The reason for that was when I was on Virgin I was hired to do a score for Paramount Pictures, so I came out here to do that and rented a house for six months. I ended up getting a couple of more jobs after that and just started to like it. It was an 11-hour flight between London and LA once or twice a month, plus jet lag, so I realised that I was losing a week in each month from travelling and recovering - eventually youíve got to make choice, so I went for the sunshine.
How indebted are you to the loan you received from the Prince of Wales Trust to get you up and running as a fledgling musician? Well it set me up as being able to do it as a business. What I basically did was scrape a couple of grand together as a teenager when my parents moved out to Suffolk, as it was the Rave era and I didnít really want to leave London at the time. Eventually things got a bit tough so I went to stay with my parents in the middle of the country and bought a Roland W30 workstation and just sat in my bedroom for about a year making beats. I took it from there basically; I didnít know anyone else who made music.
I started going to a record store in Ipswich and met more people who made music and had studios. The record store was actually started with a Prince of Wales Trust loan and thatís where I learned about it. So I eventually put a business plan together and they let leant me £1,000 if I could get a bank to match that loan. Lloydís Bank lent me a £1,000, then Princes Trust, and I won a prize for my business plan, another £2,000 - so I had £4,000 to start a label.
You didnít go to the pub and blow it all on fags and beer? (Laughs) No, I bought Future Music and went shopping. It was actually impossible for me to make music by reading magazines. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a sampler or a sequencer, but I had a feeling that there was, so Iíd read magazines and just from the spec in the advertisements I got enough information to choose a Roland W30.
Was your plan to make DrumíníBass right from the start? Well DrumíníBass didnít even exist then, it was just rave music. It was í91, maybe í92. I think for a couple of years before Iíd been out hearing this music in the clubs and was thinking about what my perfect song would be, combining all my favourite tracks and thinking, you know what, if only they hadnít put that stupid noise in or there was more bass I could do something really cool that people would like. So I spent that year in the bedroom playing around and thinking, yeah, you know what? I like what Iím making better than 90% of what Iím hearing. I didnít think about anything else, everything from then was instinctive and aside from my business plan I didnít even think Ďcareerí really.
Were artists such as Goldie and Roni Size playing in the clubs at the time? We all started at around the same time as far as I know. I think Goldie had only just come from Miami to England and I actually knew of him as a graffiti artist. He did his first stuff on Reinforced Records, and Roni was a matter of months, maybe a year, on the scene before me. I think we all had the same idea at the same time; we decided we liked Hip Hop but we liked the Rave scene even more.
So what were your main influences then? I think it was Hip Hop first and foremost, and I found Jazz through Hip Hop. When I was at school I started playing tenor saxophone, which was my only music experience Ė I just wanted to be John Coltrane. Then I realised that actually what I want is to be able to make the records that Iím listening to rather than be the player; put the whole jigsaw together. But what inspired me to start was hearing the music of the whole Rave era, combining Hip Hop beats and sampled drums with techno, house and hardcore.
You wouldnít normally think of DrumíníBass as an offshoot of Hip Hop would you? The link would be tenuous? If you just walked in freshly now you wouldnít see the link, but I think it was Goldie who thought of the name DrumíníBass, because as it developed we were calling it Jungle and he wanted to separate it from the dancehall influenced stuff - he wanted to make it a purist thing. But weíd all basically been taking beats from old Hip Hop tracks and speeding them up.
Did you use the famous Amen Break? Yeah, I mean thatís probably the most sampled break of all time. I even heard that Michael Jackson owns the copyright to that break these days (laughs). He bought a whole catalogue of publishing that included The Winstons, but he probably wasnít even aware it was part of the portfolio that he had.
Your previous album, Solaris, came out around seven years ago now, and since then I understand you bought out your contract with Virgin Records? When I started doing the film scoring it was a big shake up time at Virgin, mostly with the staff. There was a European Commission judgment on the size of the conglomerate, which was all about Warner and EMI doing a merger. It was too much of a monopoly, so there was a deliberate ploy to squash Virgin Records, and my allies at Virgin Records - the people who signed me - had left and it was a different place to be. Iím doing this film score and saying isnít it this great, and theyíre like, noÖ not really, you canít do that. I was like, what do you mean? These guys in LA are earning a million dollars a score, I want to do that (laughs), and Iím still going to do my albums so it can only be a good thing, right? But the answer was no, so I though, why am I here?
I think Virgin Records in London went from having 55 acts on the label to 12 Ė and I was one of the 12 who was still there as everyone else had left of their own accord. It was not the same label that a couple of years before I thought was the coolest in the world to be on. I have to say, it was a great place to be for all those years before, I loved being on Virgin.
What else have you been up to during this seven year semester? Basically, Iíve been learning about making a lot of different music. The working on film stuff and TV music just made me a lot more broadminded and accomplished a music maker. Iíd never made a rock song or some acoustic guitar piece, thatís just not what I do, but ok, why not? And I actually found that I enjoy making a lot of different kinds of music, and to combine that back into my own form, which I am known for, makes me that much stronger and better now Ė itís taught me a lot. Part of whatís been taken me so long was obviously moving; I underestimated starting all over again in another country.
Whatís the main difference between working on a soundtrack and making a more traditional album? Itís a huge difference. In some ways itís easier than making a record because youíve got to work within certain parameters. Itís basically not your project, itís their project and you play a role, itís a bit like being a session player in a studio where chances are youíre going to like what youíre working on, and you go in there with an idea for it, but some of those ideas are going to help the project and some of them arenít wanted. Itís a real challenge actually that makes you more creative because youíre working in a slightly less free environment and it forces you to think more.
Is it more deadline driven? Amazingly deadline driven, in the past I guess the average album takes 18 months for an artist, but I did a TV series called Platinum, which was five one-hour episodes. There was about 45-50 minutes of music per episode, all original music, and that was done in under in two weeks. Thatís four hours in two weeks (laughs). I listen back to it and some of the music I donít even remember making Ė the thing thatís amazing is that I managed to make it all good, but I literally did it on the fly.
How does it work, are your making music to a storyboard? Youíre working to picture. You get a rough cut of the movie, or with the TV stuff you make an arrangement after importing a file of the movie into Logic. You hit play on the movie and start hitting the keyboard at the same time; you donít have time to watch the whole show and think, what is this? What does it mean? Thereís no time for that, you just have to see how the scene unfolds, you watch each scene a couple of times but youíve got to respond immediately, musically, to what youíre looking at.
Even the most minimal touches of music can make or break a picture, itís unbelievable how destructive or how much you can elevate the music with sound. It makes sense, but in effect itís much more powerful than you think. But doing your own album is way harder, because youíve got to think about, what am I going to do? Whatís my whole philosophy to this record, what style of music is it going to be, how do I want to come across? Whereas in a movie all you have to do is make the picture better by doing the music.
When youíre written music for each episode on the fly, how do get it to all sound continuous? Thereís a big team on a movie. Iíll know what I think it should go like and I make pieces of music that are going to end at a certain point where another one begins or possibly overlap, and thatís my view of it, but then it goes to the music editor. A lot of the time thereís more than one music editor, then youíve got the director, a bunch of producers, and they all have their opinion. You can even find that theyíll slip one piece of music into a different scene or swap it with another one, and youíre thinking well that doesnít really work, but it works for all of them and theyíre the ones who matter. Just remember, itís their project not yours.
Youíve finally released a new Photek album, Form & Function Vol. 2, but why release an album comprising of remixes and previously unreleased tracks? Itís not just a bunch of tracks thrown together, I commissioned some remixes by other people such as Hochi and TeeBee, but it was really put together by popular demand. Iíve got all sorts of ideas what Iím going to do on my next solo album, and Iím probably half way through that now, but in the meantime people want to hear something and people loved Form & Function Vol. 1. Basically, Sanctuary Records got in contact with me and that really helped get things cracking. I think when I did Form & Function Vol. 1 I wasnít necessarily even thinking about a sequel, I just called it Vol. 1 because I thought it sounded cool, so Vol. 2 was suddenly put together as Iíd just done a couple of new DrumíníBass tracks, got some mixes and stuff done, and had old tracks that people wanted for years. It spans about 10 years of music.
Previous Photek albums have had shades of ambient and jazz, but this is much more aggressive isnít it? Yeah, I think so Ė my intention for my next solo album is much more of that ĎSolarisí headspace. Itís a lot more varied in terms of the amount of vocals and acoustic instruments. The general feel of it is maybe what you would expect if you really thought about what Photek would do next. What was need with Form & Function Vol. 2 was a DrumíníBass record Ė all DrumíníBass, and thatís really for all the people that have been waiting for me to do more. And I want to play this kind of music when Iím DJing, as DrumíníBass is definitely a little more narrow in whatís possible Ė itís so specialised now that if you want to hear something with reggae samples in it, you have to go to a certain club night. Although I do like specialised music, DrumíníBass is probably a small enough boutique without having to divide it up into categories.
So I think with Form & Function Vol. 2, thatís what itís saying really Ė this is all DrumíníBass, and 100%. When I released Solaris, people were saying, yíknow thereís only three or four DrumíníBass tracks on that album Ė and I was thinking, well actually thereís really only one DrumíníBass tune on there. There are other tracks on there that sound DrumíníBass influenced, by thereís nothing that you could play in a DrumíníBass club apart from this one track. So, I think Iíve gone the other way with this one; you could play any one of those tracks as a DJ.
When you go about creating a DrumíníBass track, are the beats always the first element of the track youíre working on? Well theyíre always first for me and itís never been any different Ė it always starts with a beat. Iíll start a whole arrangement just to make a break, but sometimes the song idea doesnít fit that break so Iíll shelve the break and use it another day. Iím not sure how other people generally work, it seems like these days people are less concerned with the break and more concerned with the energy level of the track. It sounds like everything I hear is full on, loud as it can be Ė it even depends on how you record it. People are doing their own mastering and limiting the hell out of everything. If you look at the waveform of a relatively new producer in electronic music, you look at their master file and itís just like one big block with a little dip on the breakdown at three minutes. If the waveform isnít maxed out in their audio window, then as far as theyíre concerned itís not mastered properly. I still like to have a bit of dynamics in there; my waveforms still look like sounds (laughs).
Are all the beats always programmed completely from scratch on your tracks? Yeah, itís part of why I take so long. Thereís technology out there that does, in part, the technique I was pioneering all that time back. I remember explaining in an interview how I would dissect and put breaks together, then 18 months later you had recycle. So itís a lot more automated and easier to do these days but I suppose Iím set in my ways a little bit. Thereís software that Iím sure if I spent some time mastering it would probably do more or less what Iím doing, but I think the process of doing it manually and chopping up tri-sets to the perfect length and different start points means you listen to each one of the parts and youíre very familiar with everything. But Iíd probably have had another album out in the meantime if I used a lot of those techniques (laughs), but Iím not in a hurry.
Iíd imagine the idea of using sampled loops from a library would be pretty abhorrent to you? Yíknow, I started out that way Ė it was the only thing. Sampling a break was in the dark ages when I started, but the use of sampling has changed a lot. A lot of us guys who have been using and abusing technology had to come up with new uses for it. There was DJs in New York playing breaks with two turntables; they had to get pitch controlled turntables because they wanted to only play the drum break out of the track. I think I still have that mindset where I donít really want to use anything that itís been designed for half the time. I remember sampling that first beat and saying, Iíve found this unknown beat so Iím going to sample this and speed it up and be the first to use it. You can forget that these days, thereís so many sample CDs and libraries; even the process of finding the sound is automated now. There are no rare breaks anymore, put it that way.
Will you even take a hi-hat or snare drum for from a library? It will be a combination always. Letís say you have a library called Ďbig fish audio Latin percussion successioní, there will be some loops on there and kits and I might take all the shakers or some snare drums out of that. Then thereíll be some drum session that I did years ago and Iíll put some kick drums from that or maybe use the crash cymbal thatís sampled from some old jazz record - put all of that together and programme it all at a slow tempo until it sounds like a record that I want to sample. The next step would be, once it sounds convincing at a conventional tempo, Iíll start to pitch it up to see what it sounds like at the tempo I want to work at. What will often happen is that all the snare drums will sound too high pitched, the kick drums arenít really hitting the spot anymore, so Iíll go back and tune them down again but I might leave the hi-hats and cymbals at the pitches they were before.
"Even the most minimal touches of music can make or break a picture, itís unbelievable how destructive or how much you can elevate the music with sound."
Tuning percussion is a big part of it; I think a lot of people who start out making electronic music arenít even aware that bongo drums have a pitch, yíknow? They do (laughs). Itís important you get different harmonics by putting your bongos at the right pitch relative to your kicks and snares, and then in turn the whole key of the song. And itís something I just learned by chopping it up, itís not like I went to any music school and that was explained to me Ė I just figured it out.
What tools do you use in the studio to create your music? Well probably more gear than ever. I mean Iím looking around the room and compared to my first studio itís pretty outrageous. Iíve got two studios now in the house, like an A and a B studio. The amount of equipment in here is insane; Iíve got two entire Pro Tools HD systems in one room. So thereís two Mac G5s here, both of them run Logic with Pro Tools HD cards and Apogee converters. Thatís like the basic set-up. So thatís two systems, one has some more sound cards in it like Universal Audio UAD-1 and TC Powercore and the other oneís got more XL HD cards. And then in the upstairs studio, a smaller room, thereís a new 8-core Mac running Logic, also with Apogee converters. Thatís a completely native system, which I have to say is the most stable system I have ever worked on Ė itís crashed like once.
Are you using multiple PCs as back-up or because you want to work on simultaneous projects? Itís mainly come about from working on different projects at the same time and trying to keep updated whenever thereís a new upgrade coming along. One of the machines is right on the cutting-edge; the native machine is updated as soon as thereís any small update available. One of the Macs in the downstairs room doesnít change; it hasnít changed for about a year or two. Of course, there are certain old songs you pull up and some of them arenít going to play back anymore if you keep changing your gear all the time. Actually, thereís even a third system downstairs, in the bathroom of the studio (laughs); itís kind of like the cable room, and thereís actually a Pro Tools Mix Plus system in there thatís fully functional just in case I want to record something from years back that just wonít work anymore on all the new software updates. Stuff moves at such a fast pace now.
And what about external hardware or outboard gear? Do you have any? Yeah, thereís a bunch of keyboard in here. Iíve just recently got a Korg Oasis, which looks like an aircraft carrierĖ just huge. Iím not using it for half of what it can do, but itís just got some of those rock solid Korg basic sounds that you need. Thereís also an Alesis Ion in here. Iíve just wired all the keyboards through a new SSL rig that Iíve got; thereís a whole rack with the Alpha Channels from SSL, which is amazing. I would recommend getting some kind of analogue channel that you can go through if youíre making electronic music, because you can almost hear the plug-ins that people use these days. Plug-ins are almost like instruments in themselves, even compressors Ė you can hear the instrument in every single song. So, if you throw one of these Alpha Channels in your chain, youíll suddenly get a whole new character. Iím running all these keyboards just to give them a bit more character, they all go through this SSL XL Logic system now, which then patches into my overall system.
So thereís no need for an analogue desk for mastering? Thereís no desk in this room, thereís no desk anymore in my studio Ė just these SSL Channel strips and an Audient Sumo, thatís it! It just bounces back into the computer having gone through all these channel strips Ė thatís how I create my master. The knobs on the SSL are the closest thing to having a mixing board in the studio now.
Do you like to keep am eye on press reviews for your material? Do you think the genre you represent is well understood by the mainstream media? I think I established years ago that Iím very much from DrumíníBass, thatís where I learned my craft. I care about it enough after all these years to put a 100% DrumíníBass record out. But Iíd be selling myself short if I said I was a DrumíníBass artist because it probably accounts for less than half of what I do. I kind of realised that early on, even my first album, Modus Operandi, had a lot of downtempo music on it. The title track was more like an old Roy Ayres instrumental. If all anyone wants to talk about is ďPhotek the minimal, martial arts-influenced DrumíníBass nerdĒ, thatís not me. That was a very particular trip that I was on, and itís really more a part of my technique rather a summary of my music.
You mention the words Ďmartial artsí, which Iíve read in connection with you before. Is this some sort of bizarre music philosophy? Yeah it is, because the track Ni-Ten-Ichi-Ryu (Two Swords Technique) is literally a musical representation of the technique of fighting with a long sword and a short sword. This is a technique created by Miyamoto Musashi Ė a Japanese historical samurai figure. I grew up doing martial arts before I got into music. Basically, my martial arts suffered from that (laughs), because I was just in the studio sitting in a chair clicking a mouse rather than out there training. Itís the reason why DJ Tee Bee did the remix of Ni-Ten, because heís still a dedicated martial artist. I remember when we first met, he was jealous that I managed to get that track out before heíd got his interpretation of that out first, so it was only right he did the mix.
Whatís your opinion on the state of DrumíníBass music at this moment in time? Is it evolving in your opinion or is it impossible to evolve substantially from this point? Yeah, I think everyday is a new day. You can turn round tomorrow and inject a whole new energy into it. With electronic music especially, it goes through periods of being very specialised and niche and then it becomes a bit more open-minded and absorbs all kinds of other influences. Thatís the reason why we have this Indie Dance sound now, itís a good thing. Of course at all moments you can have some cheesy, awful music out there, but you canít eat hamburgers every day yíknow? Youíve got to at least be aware of the other possibilities, even if youíve been specialising in one tempo and a particular drum pattern for two years, go and just hear whatís out there and put a big twist on it. I think the only way to stay creative is to know what the potential is.
How is the Photek Productions label coming along, is it fully functional and have you signed many new artists to the label? Yeah, mainly what I ask of people is just to come and contribute. The concept of signing anyone to an independent label like mine is not something I would ask anyone to do. Itís not like Iím giving million dollar advances, itís a bit more like a step-up - so someone can come and do something on my label for a while and be part of that little crew, but then have an opportunity somewhere else or even start their own label. Itís what I did; I was on one label in particular Ė Certificate 18. I did all my first releases on that label, and at a certain point I thought, yíknow what? Iíve got my own ideas about how to do this, and you wouldnít have Photek otherwise. I mean Photek was the name of my label; it wasnít even the artist name. So I donít expect people to be exclusively signed to some tiny contract with my label, it just doesnít make any sense.
Are the major label sharks snapping up all the independents? I think that also goes in cycles, itís the whole reason I got signed in the first place to Virgin. When the majors donít pay attention to all these underground unsigned people, they suddenly turn around and thereís a whole batch of amazing music there. And then they suddenly think, my god, this is worth looking at Ė thereís a whole movement. If you look at who turns up to a Tiesto show, the guy could fill Wembley Stadium these days. Now, as a label you have to pay a lot of money to get a new pop act and Wembley maxed out with people, but if you look at electronic music in that way, the demand is stronger than it is for pop music.
With pop and rock music paying to tour is kind of a new concept (laughs); to me, you go on tour to earn money and promote Ė you donít pay for the privilege. So I think theyíre kind of crazy not to be more obsessed with electronic music. People want it without being told to want it, so if they force fed it to people as well then surely thatís a better business model if youíre going to be a ruthless industry.
But wouldnít that over-hype also spell the end for electronic music? Yeah, but the cost of entry to becoming an electronic artist is far lower than becoming a band you know? Electronic musicians need less and think more autonomously anyway; I was putting out records and doing my own thing as a teenager and functioning as an artist with a Princeís Trust Loan and a bit of hustling. Whereas a bunch of guys in a band might struggle forever and not do anything other than have a mySpace page.
I understand you worked on the Nine Inch Nails album, With Teeth, a few years ago, how was it working with Trent Reznor? I was asked recently for some of the highlights of my career and one of them was finally working with Trent Reznor. Weíre such similar characters in a lot of ways and very different in others, but one of the first things we talked about when I met him was, wow, thereís a lot of people in the studio with you?, and he said that heís trying to change his ways and be more open and receptive to stuff instead of being a hermit. And I was like, well guess why Iím here? Iím going through the same thing; I want to work with you. I have turned down so many great opportunities over the years just through being focused, but ultimately narrow-minded Ė such great opportunities that Iíd be embarrassed to tell you about the ones that Iíve blown.
To me, everything was unfashionable except my music. When I did the Nine Inch Nails mix for The Hand That Feeds, I did three different mixes, although I was only asked for one. I did a personal tribute version for Trent called the Rough Mix, which I think was one of the best pieces of music Iíve ever done. That specific moment is probably one of the highlights of my career, I pushed myself as far as I could and did something thatís entirely Photek but still does him justice.
Are there any artists that youíd personally love to work with in the future? Iíve been talking with some people about meeting Andrť 3000 (OutKast), although heís been working on a movie so we havenít sat down face to face to talk about it yet but the intentionís there. Often with these things thereís a lot of coincidence involved in just who was approachable at the time Ė Talvin Singh was in LA for the last month trying to meet up with me - and he was staying down the street, but we just couldnít connect at the time. A lot of projects fail or succeed on chances like that; you need the will and a lot of good luck to make stuff happen.
Talking about clash of styles, Iím probably working on the most extreme clash of styles possible at the moment. Weíre finishing up an album project working with a singer called Roxy Saint; sheís an amazing performer, more like punk rock Ė it was the last thing on my agenda to do an album project with a punk rock singer. My wife insisted that I come to a show and see her, and weíve been working for 18 months now on a record together and itís probably going to be some of the best music Iíve ever done, with an amazing performer, and as a band. It will be a more committed project than anything Iíve done before; this is the antithesis of a DJ tour, which is easy.
"Iíd be selling myself short if I said I was a DrumíníBass artist because it probably accounts for less than half of what I do."
Do you listen to much DrumíníBass in your spare time or would that drive you mad? Well spare time is a bit of a joke really, I donít have any (laughs). I listen to a lot of different stuff, like classical music Ė I listened to Bach recently, and Iím not just saying that trying to be intellectual, there are technical reasons to it. Thereís a big technical growth that Iím trying to push forward, for example this collaboration with Roxy - I want you to be blown away by what you might hear as a music maker as much as the music itself. Some of my earlier stuff, just chopping up beats, was revolutionary at the time, but itís a given today. Just like when Phil Collins did ĎComing In The Air Tonightí with a talkback compressor and a reversing reverb sound, thatís like an established thing that you hear more and more, but he owns that sound, and I want to own a lot of technique and sound on this new record.
In that respect, are you driven to make something beyond the ordinary? Very much, thereís so much music out there of varying quality, from terrible to exceptional. Aside from that, thereís so many more things that you can do if you just push yourself a little further and give yourself space to think, because you can get tunnel vision when youíre working on music. Sometimes you can end up making a track that doesnít even represent what you want to hear, just because you follow the path of least resistance. Iím trying to fight smarter now, trying to think of the destination before I set out. You can leave a lot of stuff to chance but you get magic moments that way. Iím going to some amazing lengths and Iíve got an amazing guy who I am working with who is a visionary, Dr Henry Nicholas Ė an amazing scientist basically. Iíve been talking to him a lot about pioneering new ground. Iíve been reading a lot more than Iíve ever done; strategy, philosophy, neuroscience.
What might you discover from that which is revolutionary to the field of music? There are some things that Iím really excited about that I donít want to reveal until I get to be the person who did it first. Iím a little bit cagey about some of it, but some of the examples of the type of material Iím reading are straight up neuroscience, the cognition of sound within the human brain. For example, how do you interpret and receive music? One interesting thing that Iíve come across is that the average person, whether they like music or not, literally low cuts music in cognitive terms. They donít hear low frequency; they put it to one side as irrelevant and often donít know the bass line to a song. Even their all-time favourite Rolling Stones song; they donít even hear the bass Ė their ears hear it but the brain filters that out as junk mail.
I think up to the age of 12 I was probably the same. Yes, you have to be obsessive about music and really want to find out, and bypass that junk mail filter in your brain. The next step is how to draw attention to parts of the song that you want people to hear. It would explain a lot about why the demand for dance music is far greater than pop music, and yet pop music gets the high investment. Why is that? Well maybe to a Western Brain rhythm is less important than melody. It would explain why DrumíníBass is such a boutique genre, because itís all about drums and bass, so youíve got rhythm plus a frequency that no one even wants to hear.
For me, experiencing bass in a club was like an epiphany, I guess I was just lucky enough to be at a certain moment in time of pop culture when 90% of British kids were out raving every weekend, so we got to hear Ďbassí. Now reading this book on neuroscience; itís not specifically relative to music, but part of it was just cognition of visual and sound experiences, and that lower octave which is of no interest to people. Iím not looking it as a business tool rather that our brains are the most important thing and I find it very exciting to know that people donít hear the bass line to a song? I mean weíre not even talking about sub bass, weíre talking about The Beatles or something, some of these Beatles fans never even hear the bass line, they only hear the melody, the guitar and maybe a handclap or something.
Speaking to Gary Cobain of Future Sound of London for Future Music, he was also explaining how surround sound could be used to open up different opportunities for listeners to receive music. Yeah, I think that theyíve always been very intelligent with their approach. Funny you are saying that because later on today Iím going to begin some 7.1 surround mixes of instrumentals for this project. Weíre doing a lot of experimentation; I donít have a lot of experience with surround. I was at the surround mixes of the Nine Inch Nails album, and that was quite a revelation in an amazingly prepared surround room. They had an ĎXí taped on the floor in the middle of the room, and this was the point that you monitor from Ė you stand on that point and suddenly you go into a whole other world. I had dismissed it as a bit of a gimmick to be honest, but thatís like dismissing stereo, or colour TV, itís just ridiculous, and Iíve got to say Iíve been guilty of that. Well, what about if we look at surround as another tool that can be abused? Like the sampler was intended to multi-sample pianos, and we used it to twist out all kinds of sounds and make whole genres of music from abusing that.
In the field of surround sound, one limitation is peopleís home setup apparently? The thing that will facilitate a revolution in that is the tendency for people to have a home entertainment system. I donít know people who get excited about stereos anymore, but there are people who want a big flat screen TV with a home theatre in 7.1 surround sound, but what theyíre going to play on it actually becomes secondary to the device. Thereís a switch thatís happened at some point where music has had to fit into peopleís life, whereas before it would inspire and lead people. There are less music-obsessed people than there used to be and I think that people are very disillusioned with some of the crap that theyíre being fed, and after while theyíre thinking, ďwho needs this?Ē They like a few of their old school classics, like Pink Floyd or rave music, then get on with their life Ė theyíre sick of being treated like idiots. They feel like a mug Ė Britney Spears at the VMAs last night, what are you surprised that people arenít buying records anymore? Itís not exactly Bob Dylan is it?
So how does music fit in with someone who works 9 to 5? They get home and have the option of watching their favourite TV show, or the news - going to sleep or playing video games. Where does the music come in? Maybe you need a surround sound MP3 player. To perpetuate the sale of an MP3 player you need to make it surround so that people are excited about hearing music then need the device. The problem initially might be undervalue material, but if that can be elevated by the efforts of artists and certain influential people, I think music can be elevated again and inspire all kinds of things.
Whatís next for you on the horizon? Can we expect a brand new Photek studio album soon? This record with Roxy Saint is going to be done probably by the end of this month, so that will be appearing this year Ė but I really want it to come out of nowhere so Iím not going to tell you the name of that band yet. The Photek album will probably be done by March next year, and Iím very excited about it and itís quite possible that Iíll finish it sooner as Iím a good way through it already. I can honestly say that in the last couple of years Iím making by far the best music yet. Iím actually more fired up and excited about making music of any kind since I first sat down with that Roland W30 and thought, ďwow, I can sample stuff.Ē
Photek interview, Barcode 2008 ©
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