He slices. He dices. He chops shit up. If Photek were a blender, he’d be a Cuisinart. Not only because his music is sleek and streamlined, fully functional with a completely sinister edge, but also because he’s skinny and white and your mother might like him as well as you do.
Not to say that Photek, or, as he’s known around the sleepy English town of St. Albans, Rupert Parkes, is toned down. Au contraire. It’s just that his beats, his breaks – the skeletal framework of his drum and bass, is so elegant, so precisely twisted, that it makes clear why critics are calling this music “21st century jazz.” Old news to Rupert, who has been hailed as the redhead harbinger of original breaks for years now, shunning ready-made breaks for his elaborate constructions of jazz snares and hip-hop downbeats. Modus Operandi, his soon to be released first album, is more of the same; a summary, according to Rupert, who says, I’m not taking things that far forward in it. A sneaky comment for someone already ahead of the pack, someone whose original samples and subversive background bass lurk in the minds of drum and bassheads everywhere.
Whether mellow, like his Aquarius project on Good Looking, or mashed up, like his “Seventh Samurai” tune on Photek, Rupert’s concoctions have critics racking their brains for descriptions other than “intelligent.” For one, his tunes work it on the Metalheadz floor, while having nothing to do with hip-hop samples “I think it takes away from being your own thing…you can only go on like that so long” or move-your-booty-to-the-basslines. At the same time, he screws over those who try to bite his compositions, which take at least four weeks to finish, at least. “The way I construct the tracks its impossible to take anything without it being stupidly obvious,” Rupert asserts. And, deviously, “I know what its like to try and sample breaks…so I’ll fuck it up for them.”
If this DIY attitude and less is more philosophy suspiciously resembles the ethics of seminal techno, do not be alarmed. Photek not only attributes his dark undertones, but also a great deal of influence, to the golden years of the illegal underground, when he used to go out six nights a week and listen to pirate radio on the Sabbath. It was here that he tasted early breakbeats alongside early Detroit sounds and started to sense there was something worth going on, worth looking for. “1989-90 was a real peak in the intensity of a scene,” Rupert says, “I don’t think anything will affect me like that again.”
Photek may be clubbed to death, but he’s still influenced by the early rave vibe and also by modern breakbeat den Metalheadz, where the infamous Goldie and Grooverider always have his tunes on dubplate. He also credits the Japanese massive, whom he says “have an instant understanding of what (drum n‚ bass is) all about.” Rupert notes that the music “has fitted into their everyday culture almost exactly like it has over here (in England),” which may account for his longing to move there. Of course this desire is also a healthy fascination with classical Japanese thought, his martial arts training as a teenager and a kick-ass dueling samurai named Miyamoto Musashashi. The first two taught him about “space and the relationships between objects and different natural balances,” a way of thinking that he finds “logical and natural.” The kick ass samurai accounts for the dueling breakbeats on “Ni Ten Ichi Ryu,” where two breakbeats battle under a title that, roughly translated, means “two hands, one style.”
Ask Rupert to explain the appeal of Japanese philosophy and he’ll tell you “its just simple straightforward points that you lose sight of.” And, in the midst of all this complex music, Rupert really does care for the simpler things- among them, his dog, Yoshi, named after a character from the wondrously wicked video game, Tekken 2. He loves a series of BMW commercials, which he calls “a visual parallel to what (he’s) doing musically.” He can laugh when his track is turned down for a Pirelli advertisement, only to hear that a “banging, lairy tune” by the Chemical Brothers has won over his “moody music.” Even the Photek name is a bit airier than it sounds – it was chosen because it “fit with the logo and looked good in print.” Simple answers for a guy whose complex music definitely doesn’t come with the instructions included.
Rupert Parks Top 5 of All Time
Rhythim is Rhythim “Nude Photo” [Transmat]
Roy Ayers “Running Away” [Mercury/Polygram]-
Black Dog “Bytes” [Warp]
Ramp “Come Into My Knowledge”
BDP “Criminal Minde”