Two recent innovators of the UK underground compare notes.
‘Cold Mission’, last year’s universally acclaimed debut album from producer James Parker aka. Logos, bore the recognised trappings of Grime – yet sounded wholly and excitingly original. Inhabiting a frozen netherworld of spacious ambience and reverberating gunshots, Robinson’s deconstructed interpretations tilted genre tropes on their head, positioning him at the forefront of the latest wave of artists to work within the Hardcore continuum. His roles as a member of London’s Boxed collective and as head of his and Mumdance’s Different Circles label have seen him continue to push sound forward right at the cutting edge of a scene that seems to evolve in new ways with every passing month.
Dwayne Parris aka. Parris has headed up imprint Soundman Chronicles throughout its two year run, overseeing releases from Etch, Facta, Epoch, Rabit and J.Robinson that variously explore the contemporary mutations of British soundsystem music. He’s also collaborated with Wen on a series of heavy duty rollers – most notably this year’s superb ‘Caught/Collide’ 12″ for Tempa, whilst his solo productions are continuing to take shape as he grows in confidence and ability.
Both producers feature on ‘Certified Connections’ – a compilation that constitutes the 50th release on Dusk + Blackdown’s excellent Keysound label. A follow up to last year’s ‘This Is How We Roll’, the collection caps off a fine 2014 for Keysound, who have already released LV & Josua Idehen’s ‘Islands’, as well as the label heads’ recent ‘Back 2 Go FWD>>’ EP. Alongside cuts from Murlo, Wen, E.m.m.a and others, the two tracks from Logos and Parris reinforce Keysound’s status as the premier purveyors of up to the minute bass-centric British electronic music. Before ‘Certified Connections’ drops 24th November, we got the pair to grill each other on everything from the diminishing amount of bass on UK soundsystems, dream sandwiches and Lana Del Rey…
Parris: I thought I’d ask a little odd question first. What is your dream sandwich?
Logos: Dream sandwich? That’s a hard one. I think probably right now –
P: Let’s go for right now.
L: Roast beef on some pretty basic bread – nice, but basic bread. Don’t ask me to quote you types of bread.
P: Fine, Hovis medium.
L: No, not Hovis – white though. Like a white-ish bread. Definitely not…what’s that thing that everyone has now? Sourdough? Not sourdough, because sourdough’s impossible to actually eat. Roast Beef, Horseradish, maybe some cress or lettuce. A pretty basic sandwich but high quality Roast Beef that’s the thing.
P: Quite a good answer.
L: Feel free to tell me what your favourite sandwich would be.
P: Probably chicken, but its gotta be real chicken – not the little thin strips, I don’t like them. Might have a little bit of lettuce and tomato in there, not too big on the fillings though. Salad cream – I’m quite hooked on salad cream.
L: Yeah, I’m all over salad cream at the moment.
P: It’s gotta be Heinz though – I’m not about any brand other than Heinz.
L: I think people overdo sandwiches. I think you’ve gotta keep ‘em…
P: Short but sweet.
L: You’ve gotta keep ‘em real. Like street level sandwiches…I was gonna ask you a boring question. Literally what was the last record you bought – not were sent on e-mail, I mean what was the last record you want to buy?
P: I bought Lana Del Rey’s album ‘Ultraviolence’ on vinyl last week.
L: I didn’t think you’d be a Lana Del Rey fan.
P: You know what? I think her voice is pretty amazing in all honesty. I listened to her first album ‘Born To Die’ quite a lot. Its in the car and on my phone. So I decided I would buy this one on vinyl – gotta keep the musical options open. What about you?
L: I bought an old thing on PAN by this Japanese guy NHK’Koyxeи – I say old, like two years old. It was alright, but yeah I haven’t really been in a record shop for a little bit. I’ve been mainly stamping vinyl for ‘Weightless Vol.1’ on Different Circles – go cop that .
P: So as someone who has a wide musical interest over the spectrum of music, what keeps you interested in 2014?
L: You wanna be interested in something new. Mainly when people flip something that should be familiar and present it in a completely different way. I’m not a huge fan particularly but as a cultural thing PC Music is doing something new. They weren’t saying, ‘we’re going to work within the loose confines of soundsystem music’, they are coming at it from a completely different perspective with completely different reference points and they’ve had an impact. I quite like the pop sensibility of PC Music with SOPHIE, QT and all those guys. That’s an example where someone’s come at a problem completely differently. Instra:mental and d-Bridge did a similar thing with Drum and Bass in 2008 and flipped it with Nonplus and all of that stuff.
I also love the moment with an album where its like reading a book and you just can’t put it down and you listen to it all the time. That’s what keeps me interested.
I wanted to ask you: How do you feel 2014 has gone, for yourself and for the kind of spectrum of music you’re into. I kind of feel like a lot has happened, the cards have been up in the air and now they’ve fallen down again and I’m not quite sure we all know where we are – its quite interesting.
P: I agree with you and I think that’s the perfect thing about what ourselves and the people around us are doing at the moment. I think that people are finding their feet but at the same time there’s more confusion than ever before. People have kind of defined their sounds, like ETCH has made alot more 160, Wen has kind of been playing with other tempos within what he already does. I feel like its been very interesting to watch the growth of the music this year and how each scene has developed – Grime has had the biggest resurgence, Dubstep is still in quite a weird place and you’ve got people who are quite heavily into House. I also feel like there’s a space which no one really knows how to describe and there’s a lot of different places to it. You’ve got people like Beneath and Batu who encapsulate a certain vibe at a slower tempo. Its an era of experimentation where everyone’s got the freedom to do what they want and not actually worry about what they’re doing, which I think is perfect because it means everyone can just make music.
L: I haven’t really put any music out this year, but Boxed has sort of taken over a lot of my time – which is really cool and we’ve had a strong year. I’m kind of thinking 2015 is going to be quite interesting.
P: Me too. Personally for me its been one of the best years for the fact that I feel quite excited. A couple of years ago there was nothing I was excited about, but now I look at next year and I think I don’t know where its going to go. The doors are open.
My next one is: How do you judge space in your music? How do you know what is too much or too little? I think out of all the people I know, you make the most spacious music – you do it in quite a way where it’s empty but it still feels filled, so how do you know where the limit is?
L: There is no limit, just take as much out as you can basically. There’s a technical art to making tunes with a lot of variation or a lot of things happening at different levels frequency ranges, alot of things popping off in the end etc, and I’ve never been particularly good at that so I just play to my limitations really. You can never have too little music if that makes sense. There’s this noise artist called Eleh, he’s brought stuff out on Touch but no one knows who he is, its kind of this weird thing. He’s done whole albums exploring different waves, like ‘Homage To The Sine Wave’. Its not as minimal as it sounds, because there’s quite a lot going on, but its perfect music as far as I’m concerned.
I was going to switch tack a little bit, but stay on music. You’re a Londoner aren’t you?
L: I was thinking the other day about the life span of venues. It always seems like good venues get shut down after a while – Third Base is an example. What was the first London rave you went to? Are there any venues you miss or want to reminisce about?
P: The first thing I went to which was dance music based was probably Fabric on my 19th birthday, when I was still kind of getting into dance music but I wasn’t too aware. More of a memorable place would be Plastic People with the original system. I wasn’t there in the old school, pre smoking ban days. I was probably there in 2009, 2010.
L: It was good before they banned smoking in there.
P: I’ve heard so many stories about it. I guess to me that would be one of my most memorable experiences because I pretty much spent my first year and a half going FWD>> like every week stood at the right hand side to the front by the speaker, not speaking to anyone and just watching DJ’s play and being fully immersed into the music. I literally went because my friends were long and I just wanted to go listen to this music that I’d got into. I think I went around the period when the music was changing: Dubstep was pinnacling and becoming more commercial, the Hessle lot and people like Oneman were coming through as well.
L: Yeah cos they were going in a slightly different direction weren’t they…
P: Yeah, so it was quite interesting for me because now when I think back on it, I actually got to witness music changing without even knowing it which is kind of the best thing really. I remember watching Loefah there in 2010 and I was expecting him to play Dubstep because of his back catalog, but he didn’t play any of it, it was stuff like ‘Footcrab’ – at the time I couldn’t really get my head around it. Those are the most memorable experiences where you don’t quite understand but you’re still there picking it up, immersed in it.
Since that kind of time I don’t feel like I’ve had those experiences because I don’t feel like I can go and be that focused to the dancefloor and the music.
L: I agree with you. You end up going and chatting ‘scene chat’ to you mates don’t you? Its quite hard to go somewhere and just ignore everyone else. Obviously Plastic People is there, but they’ve changed it quite a few times – but everything changes doesn’t it.
P: I think I was speaking to Martin (Clark aka. Blackdown – co-founder of Keysound) about it, but the death of soundsystem culture in London and the UK has affected the output and the way people accept and perceive music. A lot of the music I play is very bass heavy, but there aren’t really any venues that can handle that so the kind of sets I can play are affected. Then that affects how you perceive your own music because you can’t hear half your set.
L: That’s a point. About ten years ago you could reliably go to The End or Plastic People and you could hear heavy bassline tunes. At the moment there’s not many places to go do that. People are doing spaces with their own systems in order to achieve that aren’t they?
P: Well that’s the thing. Back in the day people used to build tunes to play at Plastic People because they knew the system could handle it – whereas now you make a tune like that and you can’t hear it on any system.
L: We sound like grumpy old men! (both laugh)
‘Certified Connections’ is out 24th November on Keysound.
Interview: Christian Murphy