Thanks to the so-called, electronica revolution, of the mid-90s, techno music quickly gained a newfound visibility and a set of celebrities. What had once been a pretty faceless genre of music: DJs hidden behind decks of turntables and producers churning out the tracks they spun, saw a rise of faces to go with the newly popular sound. Stars like Moby, the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and the Prodigy all took places on magazine covers and videos on MTV.
However, not everyone jumped into the spotlight. Take Photek for example. Born Rupert Parks, Photek quickly emerged as one of the best artists in drum and bass, undoubtedly one of the most popular forms of electronic music today. Still, he’s always been content to be known more for his music than his personality. The GW Hatchet was able to talk to him after the release of his new album Solaris (Astralwerks), which looks set to give Photek the mainstream popularity and recognition this overlooked artist deserves.
Parks got his start in electronic music thanks to the inspiration of the UK’s Summer of Love in 1988, when electronic music and the rave scene were sweeping Britain. Parks said that time was one of the peaks in music history. It gave him the inspiration to go out and buy his first sampler and sequencer and begin to make tracks with the help of a friend who had a home studio.
Parks said he went into the jungle sound that was starting to be heard in the UK underground due in part to the fact that the Euro-rave sound, popular during the Summer of Love, was starting to die out as he got started.
Plus, Parks said, drum and bass was one of the more challenging styles of music at the time. The challenge of getting all the breaks together and mixing it all up appealed.
Parks’s love of hip-hop also influenced his decision to go into drum and bass.
Hip-hop music stole left, right, and center from anywhere, Parks said. Drum and bass was just an extreme form of stealing. In fact, I would love to produce a hip-hop album
Parks took the name Photek as his moniker in part to all the music he was releasing.
The name Photek comes from the label I started in 1993 to release my music on, Parks said.
Before settling on Photek, Parks released music under a host of aliases, including Special Forces, Studio Pressure, and Aquarius. Ten in all.
When you started out, Parks said in explanation for all the aliases, if you released a track that was kind of jazzy sounding, then the next one was tough, there was the fear you would kill off your audience.
Parks settled on the name Photek when he signed to Virgin Records in 1995.
All of the music on the Photek label was created by me, Parks said. People heard the tune and said it was a Photek tune and didn’t look at the credits.
On his new album Solaris, Parks moved away from his signature drum and bass sound to a more dance-friendly approach. Parks even used vocals for the first time on Solaris, enlisting the aid of house music diva Rob Owens. Parks said it was an easy decision to use Owens on the album.
I knew 13 years ago when I first heard him that I’d want to make music with him. It was easy to get him, just a phone call. We sat up all night talking about music and life.
Parks said the reason he changed his sound on Solaris was a sense of maturity.
I’m gonna do it now because I feel like it, Parks said.
A lingering fear Parks had was that fans and critics would attack him for moving away from the sound he was known for. Parks didn’t need to worry though. Fan and critical reaction alike has been overwhelmingly positive.
I was relieved that critics like the album, Parks said. There was the fear that I would be pigeonholed. And I’ve gotten a lot of support from the entire drum and bass community. Of course, there are always going to be the diehard fans that don’t like it.
Parks is taking time out from making music to go into the other half of techno, DJing. Parks is launching a small DJ tour of America that will also have a few sets broadcast over the internet for those unlucky enough to live in cities where he’s not coming. At the time of this interview, Parks was in the studio, creating new dubplates (vinyl versions of songs) that he has recorded but never released to use in his sets. Parks playfully refused to describe the sound of the new tracks, instead saying you had to come to his sets to hear them.
After the DJ tour, Parks plans to get right back in the studio. He plans to work more with Rob Owens and to go back to creating drum and bass music, releasing some next year.
I’m hungry to do more stuff, Parks said.