‘Modus Operandi’

Photek, the creator of intelligent drum and bass, headlines NYE

In-home “F—k the Strip” parties have become a popular local response to high admission prices at megaclubs, holiday weekend traffic and frustration over the same superstar DJs rotating through. But we’re stoked for the Shelter New Year’s Eve party at Beauty Bar, featuring two areas of sound and headliner Photek. Vegas Seven caught up with L.A.-based Brit Rupert Parkes—a recent Grammy nominee who’s considered the creator of intelligent drum and bass—to chat about the evolution of bass music and who is possibly electronic music’s No. 1 terrorist.

You revisited your groundbreaking 1997 album Modus Operandi this year with a special throwback set. Do you have some of that in store for Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve?

It depends on what the crowd wants, and on New Year’s it’s only fair to make it a party. You could take it really art-y and ruin everyone’s night, so I owe it to the crowd to read the landscape when I get there and act accordingly. You’re still going to hear some interesting music. If you’re sick of the same-old same-old LMFAO—I won’t be playing that. It’s not going to be a routine raise-your-glass-in-the-air, pour-your-brand-name-vodka-and-spray-it-around-a-bit and do-all-the-stuff-you-saw-in-a-commercial-on-TV [event]. You don’t want to be those people. If you don’t want to be participating in the real-life version of Ralph’s supermarket shelves, then come to the Beauty Bar.

With some electronic music being dumbed-down for mass consumption in the U.S. over the past couple of years, many reviews from newer writers/bloggers praise commercial EDM, but didn’t like—or didn’t understand—your recently released KU:PALM, which we gave four out of five stars [CD Reviews, Nov. 29].

It is a bit weird, isn’t it? It’s really contrived. I read a terrible review on ResidentAdvisor[.net] and I was like, “Wow, I don’t ever remember having one that bad!” I remember thinking, “Where do you fit, Resident Advisor? I don’t know what you’re about in that case.” It’s always presenting itself as this really highbrow tastemaker, and I’m like, “Really?” I can be quite objective about my music, but I can put my ego aside and go, “OK, let’s really look at this album. Let’s go through what could be the flaws in this record—and I know what they are—and I’m pretty realistic about what I’ve done in music, so that was a really funny one to read like, “Wow, I feel like I’m getting a battering here like something poor Skrillex would be getting from Resident Advisor. That was harsh.”

Popular culture and youth culture as a whole is a reflection of that. There’s a wave of deliberately “I’m an arty hipster kind of artist and I make stuff that’s unlistenable.” There’s been a sort of fake art wave going on for a while. I think like me and Goldie and Dillinja and those guys and what we are all doing back in the day was full-on, read-deal art just from the street; Banksy would be the equivalent, that’s art, but we weren’t being pretentious. It just came out that way, we weren’t trying to pose ourselves on Facebook as an art-y type of phenomenon; we just were that. Or like Massive Attack, the more art-y sort of music that is posing itself that way today is kind of a joke, very premeditated and weird and then music that’s just so awfully obvious and has been done a thousand times in weird European cities for the last 20 years is now cool in America? Give me a break. America’s cool—at least in my lifetime—it’s where cool stuff came from. Now they’re the losers of the world. [Laughs] What a bunch of clueless, uncool kids. It’s the kind of naïve lameless that you ridiculed some Eastern European country before the wall came down. It’s turned on its head now and you’re like, “Ohhh … Really?”

Certain big-name producers such as Afrojack say they can make a song or remix in an hour or two. Is that the norm now, because it seems like it should take more effort and hours?

That to me means you’re just putting in library loops and presets. Maybe an afternoon’s work is the quickest I ever turned a remix around, but that’s extremely lucky; I was vibing and went completely tunnel-vision for the afternoon and came out with something great at the end. A remix in an hour? Nah. [Laughs.] I mean, it takes five minutes to listen to the original, so you’ve only got 55 minutes left right there. And if you listen to the song you’re working on five times, there’s a half an hour gone, including listening to the original. C’mon. Not possible.

Producers including Junkie XL, Daft Punk and you have delved into scoring films. Is that the next logical progression for producers when the club thing gets to be monotonous?

I think so. I’m definitely inspired by a lot of movie scores, and I moved to L.A. in 2001-2002 to work on a score for Paramount Pictures. I’ve spent off-and-on over the mid 2000s working on film and TV stuff. I always need to do something different. You do film scores for too long and think, “I wish I could just make whatever I felt like making for a bit.” So the grass is always greener, but I’ll probably wish I was making a Michael Mann movie next week and not an album; I’m always changing what I want to work on.

Jazz influences are evident in your career. If Miles Davis or John Coltrane made electronic, what style do you think they’d lean toward?

Probably some weird, gangster luvstep. A four-to-the-floor, 130 BPM frame would be way too restrictive. Maybe they’d do something with Gold Panda.

Are the current EDM trends disheartening or frustrating to you? What could be done to reinvigorate creativity in the industry?

There’s hope. If you have a mature or seasoned ear in electronic music, you’re probably feeling pretty bad about the situation right now. We’ve seen this a few times around the world, and once all the cheeseballs get bored of it or move on then something always comes out of it. Actually, the one good thing is you always need a bad guy, so maybe Avicii is our Osama Bin Ladin. [Laughs.] Let’s rally against the axis of evil; we need something to motivate the nation to get back on track and go to war musically. … I’ve not been playing in Vegas that much, maybe that’s just the nature of my music, but I just get the impression that it’s one holocaust of the same song again and again at every club.

The people who want to bring some cool music through need to help draw in some of that wider crowd to help neutralize it. You can go more and more extreme because you’re angry about the situation, but the people with a bit of juice like the Richie Hawtins and the Carl Craigs can draw people in, but push it a little bit toward the center to at least open the door for new people. That’s important, too. You’ve gotta help fix the situation. There are plenty of people out there who are difficult and unlistenable, and really going the other way, that’s not helping either.

Maybe some of the solution will come from bands a little outside of what’s called EDM now. Some of the more edgy, crossover electronic bands like Justice are able to pull a crowd into more interesting music.