photek kbd nov 1997 .pdf
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He's been electrifying Europe for years with his edge-cutting drum'n'bass work, but over across the Atlantic,
Photek is just getting plugged in.
Hailing from St. Alban's, England, Rupert Parkes (his real name) has released half a dozen 12” disks on his
own label over the past five years, but until recently the only one to hit the States was the critically
acclaimed Hidden Camera EP. His style, adequately summed up in his bio, is a 'combination
of '70s jazz fusion, Detroit techno, and unscored film music.'
Photek's low profile in the States is about to change. Thus far in '97 he's been featured on MTV's Amp and
companion CD, but even more exciting for jungle-heads is his new full-length release on Astralwerks called
Modus Operandi. 'Out of the 11 tracks [on Modus], three were previously released', he tells us. 'But
everything else is new'.
Rupert's tracks are a lesson in intricacy, and he takes his sweet time realizing them. 'I work at home most of
the time', he says, 'and it's best 'cause I spend such a long time on my tunes. Since the past year and a half,
the pace that I work at has slowed down 'cause I spend a lot of time away from the studio just thinking
about what I'm going to do next. The way I'm working at the moment...I'd say five weeks, minimum, to
complete a track. And that's the reason my music sounds like it does, because I don't care how much time
I'm putting into what I'm doing. That's the way I've always treated it.'
In his home studio, Rupert uses a surprisingly sparse setup. 'The only equipment I use is just the usual,' he
reports. He has an E-mu E4 and e64, Cubase on the PC, 'and various outboard effects. Sometimes I'll use a
module like the Roland JV-1080, but quite often I'll use the less distinctive sound. I'll find a nothing-inparticular sound, and then work with filters, effects, and EQ to give it some character. I might put a highpass
filter envelope on the hi-hats, for example.'
Speaking of hi-hats, Rupert's beats are among the best in the biz. His secret? 'Well, the thing about the
beats is...Like Photek #6, I don't sample any breakbeats off records, and that's why it takes me so long to
make tunes. I'm programming like you would on an 808 drum machineby sampling, like, a couple of snare
drums and a few hi-hats, and just programming them in. The trick is crafting a drum program into sounding
like an old R&B break. That's what I'm tryin' to do, and that's what takes so long. I'm not lifting loops off any
records - I'm programming from scratch.
He'll often grab sounds off vinyl, 'but because I break them down to such small molecules, like a hi-hat,
there's no rhythmic content in my samples. And the source can be anything. So sometimes I'll go to a studio
and do one big session. Last year I sampled a drum kit, and I did, like, 50 snare drums at different velocities
and different areas. And then I did the same with all the cymbals and drums, so I have a stock of flatly EQ'd
drum samples. I sample CDs sometimes too.'
Drums aren't the only live instruments he samples in the studio. Upright and electric basses are also targets
of his microphone. 'I've got a few DATs from session I've done where I had bass players come in and play all
up and down the scale,' he explains, 'and at different strengths so you get the strings buzzing and all that.
Then I'll use EQ to make them sound different.' Those sounds eventually get poured into his E-mu samplers,
'but if I sample something raw,' he cautions, ' very rarely will it sound like that on the record. I do a lot of
strange EQ, and things like playing it a few octaves away from the original. I mean, sometimes I might make
up a multisample so I can play up and down [the key range], but I do like to take specific notes and play
them like I do with the drums - shifted up or down a couple of octaves.'
Except for the occasional offsite sampling session, everything Photek does to a track is accomplished at
home. Including mixdown. However, 'I never really sit and mix a track,' he confides. ' mean, I'll work on it,
and adjust it to sound right as it's developing. Then, once I reach a point where I think it's done, I'll record it
straight to DAT.' His nearfield monitors of choice are Soundcraft Absolute 2s, 'and a lot of the time I'll just
work on Sennheiser headphones. But I think it's more a question of time and experience to get a good mix.'
If you're anxious to catch Photek in concert anytime soon, don't hold your breath. 'I don't think the live thing
is something I'm ever going to get into,' he concludes. ' Because of the way I work, I don't really see playing
live as something that makes sense. It's such a laborious process in the studio, and it's so controlled, that to
make that happen on the spur of the moment, after it took five weeks, is too unlikely.'