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Photek Interview - page 2

How has software affected your approach to writing music?
It makes you get into it quicker. With analog it’s like, ok, I got that sounding the way I want it, so I’m not going to touch it. I’m going to leave it like that. With software it’s easier to switch things right there, like to change chords more effectively.

When you start writing a track, do you have a preconceived idea of how the final song will sound? Or do you begin by designing new sounds and build from there? What’s your mental process?
Well there’s always something that makes you sit down and start to work. So, it’s kind of like an atmosphere or mood that you start from. I usually know right away if it’s going to be drum & bass or something downtempo. I start with a few sounds and play around and see what I get. Many times the final track doesn’t have anything to do with what I sit down to do. I start with certain sounds that make the overall feel of the track. And I used to always start with beats, and that would be enough of an indication, but these days I go more for sounds than I do beats, especially over the last year and a half. It may have something to do with the fact that there are a few house type tracks and many drum & bass tracks on the last album, and I didn’t start with beats. Drum and bass is always about the drums, drums first. I guess over the last year and a half I’ve done less of that than I have before. So I’ve had to take a different approach to it.

You've worked with so many varied sounds over the years. When did you start producing and can you take me through the different styles you’ve developed over the course of your career?
I started out in 1992. I'd say that I never really switched styles. They just came out of everything I've been doing. So the first thing I ever did when I started making music was hip hop beats, and I guess the reason why drum & bass exists is because people like me, hip hop heads in
Europe, who didn't have MCs, were going out to raves. And that's how the music began for me, beats in a rave environment. Then I did a couple of techno tracks and I did something on the “A.R.T.” label. I did a drum & bass track and then a techno mix of that track. So at the time labels like Mo' Wax were bringing sort of trip hop in and techno tracks were getting drum & bass mixes, so I came in from the other way. A drum & bass track that had a techno mix. I also did some house tracks with Robert Owens, which were really Chicago house beats. That was in 2001. But lately I've been focusing on drum & bass and trying to keep focused. I think I want to define Photek as being about beats rather than all the other music. I started to realize that when I’d listen to my favorite producers. I want to hear a very particular thing. And I started to look at it from that point of view. You know, if you want to hear Derrick May, you want to hear Derrick May, not Wu-Tang doing techno tracks even though they really like it. (Laughs) So, I started to think about it in those terms a bit more and decided I should define Photek with the essence of what it was.
What kind of music do you listen to on your own time and how does it affect your music?
It’s usually hip hop, and it’s kind of like the usual suspects you know? The same people that always make one beat are always in my car permanently. Anything that the Neptunes or Timberland makes. The Trackmasters, Alchemists, those kinds of producers. It’s been the dominant influence over me always. That and techno too, but I don’t listen to techno now. It just doesn’t fit. I don’t listen to drum & bass because, well you start doing what everyone else is doing instead of doing something new.

How important is the mastering process for you and why are you adamant about working with Stuart Hawks?
Stuart’s like the cutting edge man, and that’s major. I don’t know what I’d do if he retired. I’d always go to him. I cut at a couple of other places till I came across him. And now it’s down to Stuart. I spend a couple of days with Stuart mastering stuff. And we’ve done some pretty innovative stuff even at the cutting process.

Your music is very appreciated in the drum & bass scene although it does not feature a very obvious sub bass line, it has more pressuring features and a more intelligible mix than a lot of other productions. What is your secret?
Caring about it. Laughs. Actually giving a f*** as to what it sounds like. I know a lot of people in drum and bass just bang it out. Who cares about it?
It's got to sound good. It's not about making money, although I expect to make a lot of money, but the first issue is, is it good or not, and do we care? I mean that's part of the reason I wanted to get off Virgin. I've been on Virgin since '95 and just got off January this year. There's a load of politics that's got nothing to do with making music succeed. It's got nothing to do with music period. And it's just like I don't want to be in that environment. Music is like 24 hours when I'm doing it. And I'm working all out. I'm not sleeping. I may want to sleep and I might want to go on a holiday, but I don't do either because I care that much about what I'm doing, and I think that anyone who doesn't care that way should get the f*** out of the music business. For instance, I'm sure the guys that put your software together, they don't sleep. I’m sure the guys at NI work like crazy, the engineers. And personally, I don't want anybody other than those kind of people around. People that work at these record companies just want tickets to a party somewhere and get a pay raise and get their lunch break. They should go into another industry. This is about spirit. Music is a sacred thing for me.

That’s nice to hear. Thanks so much for the interview.
No problem, thanks for coming out.

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