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Photek interview, Barcode 2008
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 Drum’n’Bass 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 you’ve 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 you’ve got to make choice, so I went for
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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 that’s 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. Lloyd’s 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 didn’t 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 I’d read magazines and just from the spec in the advertisements I got enough
information to choose a Roland W30.
Was your plan to make Drum’n’Bass right from the start? Well Drum’n’Bass didn’t even
exist then, it was just rave music. It was ’91, maybe ’92. I think for a couple of years before I’d
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 hadn’t 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 I’m
making better than 90% of what I’m hearing. I didn’t think about anything else, everything from
then was instinctive and aside from my business plan I didn’t even think ‘career’ 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 – I just wanted to be John Coltrane. Then I realised that actually what I
want is to be able to make the records that I’m 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 wouldn’t normally think of Drum’n’Bass as an offshoot of Hip Hop would you? The
link would be tenuous? If you just walked in freshly now you wouldn’t see the link, but I think it
was Goldie who thought of the name Drum’n’Bass, 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 we’d all basically been taking beats from old Hip Hop tracks and speeding them
Did you use the famous Amen Break? Yeah, I mean that’s 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 wasn’t
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. I’m doing this film score and saying isn’t it this great, and they’re like, no… not really, you
can’t 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 I’m 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 – 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, I’ve 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. I’d never made a rock song or
some acoustic guitar piece, that’s 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 – it’s taught me a lot. Part of
what’s been taken me so long was obviously moving; I underestimated starting all over again in
What’s the main difference between working on a soundtrack and making a more
traditional album? It’s a huge difference. In some ways it’s easier than making a record because
you’ve got to work within certain parameters. It’s basically not your project, it’s their project and
you play a role, it’s a bit like being a session player in a studio where chances are you’re going to
like what you’re 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 aren’t wanted. It’s a real challenge actually that
makes you more creative because you’re 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. That’s four hours in two weeks (laughs). I listen back to it and some
of the music I don’t even remember making – the thing that’s 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? You’re 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 don’t have time to watch the whole show and think, what is this? What does it mean?
There’s no time for that, you just have to see how the scene unfolds, you watch each scene a
couple of times but you’ve got to respond immediately, musically, to what you’re looking at.
Even the most minimal touches of music can make or break a picture, it’s unbelievable how
destructive or how much you can elevate the music with sound. It makes sense, but in effect it’s
much more powerful than you think. But doing your own album is way harder, because you’ve got
to think about, what am I going to do? What’s 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 you’re written music for each episode on the fly, how do get it to all sound
continuous? There’s a big team on a movie. I’ll 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 that’s my view of it, but then it goes to the music editor. A lot of the time there’s
more than one music editor, then you’ve got the director, a bunch of producers, and they all have
their opinion. You can even find that they’ll slip one piece of music into a different scene or swap it
with another one, and you’re thinking well that doesn’t really work, but it works for all of them
and they’re the ones who matter. Just remember, it’s their project not yours.
You’ve finally released a new Photek album, Form & Function Vol. 2, but why release an
album comprising of remixes and previously unreleased tracks? It’s 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. I’ve got all sorts of ideas what I’m going to do
on my next solo album, and I’m 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 wasn’t 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 I’d just done a couple of new Drum’n’Bass
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 isn’t it? Yeah, I think so – my intention for my next solo album is much more of that
‘Solaris’ headspace. It’s 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 Drum’n’Bass record
– all Drum’n’Bass, and that’s really for all the people that have been waiting for me to do more.
And I want to play this kind of music when I’m DJing, as Drum’n’Bass is definitely a little more
narrow in what’s possible – it’s 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,
Drum’n’Bass is probably a small enough boutique without having to divide it up into categories.
So I think with Form & Function Vol. 2, that’s what it’s saying really – this is all Drum’n’Bass, and
100%. When I released Solaris, people were saying, y’know there’s only three or four
Drum’n’Bass tracks on that album – and I was thinking, well actually there’s really only one
Drum’n’Bass tune on there. There are other tracks on there that sound Drum’n’Bass influenced, by
there’s nothing that you could play in a Drum’n’Bass club apart from this one track. So, I think
I’ve gone the other way with this one; you could play any one of those tracks as a DJ.
When you go about creating a Drum’n’Bass track, are the beats always the first element
of the track you’re working on? Well they’re always first for me and it’s never been any
different – it always starts with a beat. I’ll start a whole arrangement just to make a break, but
sometimes the song idea doesn’t fit that break so I’ll shelve the break and use it another day. I’m
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 – 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 it’s just like one big block with a
little dip on the breakdown at three minutes. If the waveform isn’t maxed out in their audio
window, then as far as they’re concerned it’s 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, it’s
part of why I take so long. There’s 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 it’s a lot more automated and easier to
do these days but I suppose I’m set in my ways a little bit. There’s software that I’m sure if I
spent some time mastering it would probably do more or less what I’m 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 you’re very familiar with everything. But I’d
probably have had another album out in the meantime if I used a lot of those techniques (laughs),
but I’m not in a hurry.
I’d imagine the idea of using sampled loops from a library would be pretty abhorrent to
you? Y’know, I started out that way – 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 don’t
really want to use anything that it’s been designed for half the time. I remember sampling that
first beat and saying, I’ve found this unknown beat so I’m going to sample this and speed it up
and be the first to use it. You can forget that these days, there’s 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. Let’s say you have a library called ‘big fish audio Latin percussion succession’, there will be
some loops on there and kits and I might take all the shakers or some snare drums out of that.
Then there’ll be some drum session that I did years ago and I’ll put some kick drums from that or
maybe use the crash cymbal that’s 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, I’ll 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 aren’t really hitting the spot anymore, so I’ll go
back and tune them down again but I might leave the hi-hats and cymbals at the pitches they
Tuning percussion is a big part of it; I think a lot of people who start out making
electronic music aren’t even aware that bongo drums have a pitch, y’know? They do
(laughs). It’s 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 it’s something I
just learned by chopping it up, it’s not like I went to any music school and that was explained to
me – 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 I’m looking around the room and compared to my first studio it’s pretty outrageous.
I’ve got two studios now in the house, like an A and a B studio. The amount of equipment in here
is insane; I’ve got two entire Pro Tools HD systems in one room. So there’s two Mac G5s here,
both of them run Logic with Pro Tools HD cards and Apogee converters. That’s like the basic setup. So that’s two systems, one has some more sound cards in it like Universal Audio UAD-1 and
TC Powercore and the other one’s got more XL HD cards. And then in the upstairs studio, a
smaller room, there’s a new 8-core Mac running Logic, also with Apogee converters. That’s a
completely native system, which I have to say is the most stable system I have ever worked on –
it’s crashed like once.
Are you using multiple PCs as back-up or because you want to work on simultaneous
projects? It’s mainly come about from working on different projects at the same time and trying
to keep updated whenever there’s a new upgrade coming along. One of the machines is right on
the cutting-edge; the native machine is updated as soon as there’s any small update available.
One of the Macs in the downstairs room doesn’t change; it hasn’t changed for about a year or
two. Of course, there are certain old songs you pull up and some of them aren’t going to play
back anymore if you keep changing your gear all the time. Actually, there’s even a third system
downstairs, in the bathroom of the studio (laughs); it’s kind of like the cable room, and there’s
actually a Pro Tools Mix Plus system in there that’s fully functional just in case I want to record
something from years back that just won’t 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, there’s a
bunch of keyboard in here. I’ve just recently got a Korg Oasis, which looks like an aircraft carrier–
just huge. I’m not using it for half of what it can do, but it’s just got some of those rock solid Korg
basic sounds that you need. There’s also an Alesis Ion in here. I’ve just wired all the keyboards
through a new SSL rig that I’ve got; there’s 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
you’re 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 – you can hear the
instrument in every single song. So, if you throw one of these Alpha Channels in your chain, you’ll
suddenly get a whole new character. I’m 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
So there’s no need for an analogue desk for mastering? There’s no desk in this room,
there’s no desk anymore in my studio – just these SSL Channel strips and an Audient Sumo, that’s
it! It just bounces back into the computer having gone through all these channel strips – that’s
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 I’m very much from Drum’n’Bass, that’s where I learned my craft. I care about it enough
after all these years to put a 100% Drum’n’Bass record out. But I’d be selling myself short if I said
I was a Drum’n’Bass 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
“Photek the minimal, martial arts-influenced Drum’n’Bass nerd”, that’s not me. That was a very
particular trip that I was on, and it’s really more a part of my technique rather a summary of my
You mention the words ‘martial arts’, which I’ve 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 – 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. It’s the reason why DJ Tee Bee did the remix of Ni-Ten,
because he’s still a dedicated martial artist. I remember when we first met, he was jealous that I
managed to get that track out before he’d got his interpretation of that out first, so it was only
right he did the mix.
What’s your opinion on the state of Drum’n’Bass 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. That’s the
reason why we have this Indie Dance sound now, it’s a good thing. Of course at all moments you
can have some cheesy, awful music out there, but you can’t eat hamburgers every day y’know?
You’ve got to at least be aware of the other possibilities, even if you’ve been specialising in one
tempo and a particular drum pattern for two years, go and just hear what’s 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. It’s not like I’m giving million dollar advances, it’s a bit more like a stepup - 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. It’s what I did; I
was on one label in particular – Certificate 18. I did all my first releases on that label, and at a
certain point I thought, y’know what? I’ve got my own ideas about how to do this, and you
wouldn’t have Photek otherwise. I mean Photek was the name of my label; it wasn’t even the
artist name. So I don’t expect people to be exclusively signed to some tiny contract with my label,
it just doesn’t make any sense.
Are the major label sharks snapping up all the independents? I think that also goes in
cycles, it’s the whole reason I got signed in the first place to Virgin. When the majors don’t pay
attention to all these underground unsigned people, they suddenly turn around and there’s a
whole batch of amazing music there. And then they suddenly think, my god, this is worth looking
at – there’s 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 – you don’t pay for the privilege. So I think they’re 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 that’s a better business model if you’re going to be a
But wouldn’t 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 Prince’s 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. We’re 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, there’s a lot of people in the studio with you?, and he said that he’s 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 I’m here? I’m 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 – such great opportunities that I’d be embarrassed to tell you about the
ones that I’ve 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
I’ve 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 that’s entirely Photek but still does him justice.
Are there any artists that you’d personally love to work with in the future? I’ve been
talking with some people about meeting Andrι 3000 (OutKast), although he’s been working on a
movie so we haven’t sat down face to face to talk about it yet but the intention’s there. Often with
these things there’s a lot of coincidence involved in just who was approachable at the time – 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 couldn’t 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, I’m probably working on the most extreme clash of styles possible at
the moment. We’re finishing up an album project working with a singer called Roxy Saint; she’s an
amazing performer, more like punk rock – 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 we’ve
been working for 18 months now on a record together and it’s probably going to be some of the
best music I’ve ever done, with an amazing performer, and as a band. It will be a more committed
project than anything I’ve done before; this is the antithesis of a DJ tour, which is easy.
Do you listen to much Drum’n’Bass in your spare time or would that drive you mad? Well
spare time is a bit of a joke really, I don’t have any (laughs). I listen to a lot of different stuff, like
classical music – I listened to Bach recently, and I’m not just saying that trying to be intellectual,
there are technical reasons to it. There’s a big technical growth that I’m 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 it’s a given today. Just like when Phil Collins did ‘Coming In The Air
Tonight’ with a talkback compressor and a reversing reverb sound, that’s 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,
there’s so much music out there of varying quality, from terrible to exceptional. Aside from that,
there’s 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 you’re working on music.
Sometimes you can end up making a track that doesn’t even represent what you want to hear,
just because you follow the path of least resistance. I’m 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. I’m going to some amazing lengths and I’ve got an amazing guy who I am
working with who is a visionary, Dr Henry Nicholas – an amazing scientist basically. I’ve been
talking to him a lot about pioneering new ground. I’ve been reading a lot more than I’ve ever
done; strategy, philosophy, neuroscience.
What might you discover from that which is revolutionary to the field of music? There
are some things that I’m really excited about that I don’t want to reveal until I get to be the
person who did it first. I’m a little bit cagey about some of it, but some of the examples of the
type of material I’m 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
I’ve come across is that the average person, whether they like music or not, literally low cuts
music in cognitive terms. They don’t hear low frequency; they put it to one side as irrelevant and
often don’t know the bass line to a song. Even their all-time favourite Rolling Stones song; they
don’t even hear the bass – 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 Drum’n’Bass is such a boutique genre, because it’s all about drums and bass,
so you’ve 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 ‘bass’. Now reading this book on neuroscience; it’s 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. I’m 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 don’t hear the bass line to
a song? I mean we’re not even talking about sub bass, we’re 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 they’ve always been very intelligent with their
approach. Funny you are saying that because later on today I’m going to begin some 7.1 surround
mixes of instrumentals for this project. We’re doing a lot of experimentation; I don’t 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 ‘X’ taped on the floor in
the middle of the room, and this was the point that you monitor from – 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 that’s like dismissing stereo, or colour TV, it’s just ridiculous, and I’ve got to say I’ve
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 people’s home setup apparently? The
thing that will facilitate a revolution in that is the tendency for people to have a home
entertainment system. I don’t 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 they’re
going to play on it actually becomes secondary to the device. There’s a switch that’s happened at
some point where music has had to fit into people’s 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 they’re being fed, and after while they’re thinking,
“who needs this?” They like a few of their old school classics, like Pink Floyd or rave music, then
get on with their life – they’re sick of being treated like idiots. They feel like a mug – Britney
Spears at the VMAs last night, what are you surprised that people aren’t buying records anymore?
It’s 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.
What’s 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 – but I really want it to come out of nowhere so I’m not going to tell
you the name of that band yet. The Photek album will probably be done by March next year, and
I’m very excited about it and it’s quite possible that I’ll finish it sooner as I’m a good way through
it already. I can honestly say that in the last couple of years I’m making by far the best music yet.
I’m actually more fired up and excited about making music of any kind since I first sat down with
that Roland W30 and thought, “wow, I can sample stuff.”