Sign Path is a collection that delves into the artistic strategy of our favourite producers and musicians. On this interview, Scott Wilson visits the studio of chameleonic UK producer Logos, whose trailblazing experiments with instrumental grime and “weightless” music have advanced right into a extra cinematic sound.
As Logos, James Parker has explored lots of musical territory throughout his decade-long profession: drum and bass, dubstep, grime (each in his productions and as a founding member of London membership night time Boxed), “weightless” membership music and, on this yr’s Imperial Flood, a head-spinning mixture of ambient, dub techno and sometimes unclassifiable textures. As I converse to him at his London studio to debate the twists and turns of his musical journey, he pinpoints the factor that ties all of it collectively.
“I really like darkish music, I really like darkish drum and bass,” he says. “Not comically darkish, however dread.”
Whereas his debut album, 2013’s Chilly Mission, turned a cult favourite for its exploration of instrumental grime sounds, his newest is a extra summary document that pulls affect from the speculative fiction of J.G. Ballard and Annihilation writer Jeff Vandermeer. At moments, it seems like an imaginary rating for a film about an alien invasion or ecological disaster.
“There’s this sensation of dread hanging over these texts, about what’s probably coming for us in human civilization, and that permeated my strategy to writing the music,” he says. On Imperial Flood, like on Chilly Mission, the sense of dread comes as a lot from what’s lurking within the gaps because it does from the nightmarish sound design. If there’s one factor that Parker understands higher than most, it’s when to deploy silence in a monitor.
Parker’s London studio, which he shares together with his longtime good friend and collaborator Jack Adams (aka Mumdance), is house to a easy manufacturing setup with a couple of unconventional elements: a damaged Roland JP-8000 that he makes use of primarily as a MIDI controller (a repair for the synth voice is straightforward, he tells me, however he hasn’t obtained round to it). There’s additionally the Tradition Vulture, an outboard rack valve distortion unit belonging to Adams that he makes use of so as to add physique to a few of his sounds (it’s the one factor he’d purchase himself if he and Adams transfer into their very own studios), and a used Mackie desk (additionally belonging to Adams) that was a favourite of drum and bass producers within the ‘90s.
Probably the most intriguing object is a small purple field launched by Nord in 1997, the Micro Modular – a shrunk-down model of the Nord Modular G2, certainly one of Autechre’s favourite synths. Though patches are written and uploaded utilizing archaic software program that requires an previous MacBook Professional with OSX Snow Leopard to run, it’s an reasonably priced (£300 used) synth that provides Parker a versatile, distinctive strategy to create crisp, atmospheric sounds. Amongst different issues, it’s liable for the squelchy acid line in ‘Flash Ahead (Ambi Combine)’, a heady monitor that sounds as if it’s sending tendrils into the inky depths of area.
Parker additionally makes use of a more moderen laptop computer that does the extra demanding processing duties – sequencing on Logic Professional, operating delicate synths and programming with Max, which Parker tells me he just lately did a did an introductory course in.
What I uncover is that Parker is a producer that likes to study by getting beneath the hood and determining what makes issues tick. “I aspire to be a lot better at synthesis than I truly am,” he tells me, explaining that he’s extra more likely to tinker with present Nord and Max patches to suit his wants than to writing them from scratch, or manipulate samples in intelligent methods to create his superior sound design.
I observed that you simply use Logic to sequence your tracks. Is that the software program that you simply began writing music with?
The factor that basically obtained me into working with sound was Sound Forge, which I had a replica of on my laptop computer simply earlier than I went to college. I couldn’t actually work out how Cubase labored correctly, so I drew drum and bass patterns however it was all the time the Common MIDI sounds [that came out]. Sound Forge was actually cool since you might do overdubbing, so I discovered how one can chop up breakbeats by hand and make loops so I might overdub samples on prime. I feel that’s how Burial made various his tunes?
Yeah, he’s stated he used Sound Forge prior to now and the idea is that’s why all the things he makes is so unfastened – as a result of it’s not sequenced on a grid.
It was a very good schooling, as a result of regardless that once I was into drum and bass individuals would chop breakbeats with [Reason’s] ReCycle, I used to do it by hand after which put every hit into the sampler in Cubase and replay the loop as an alternative, as a result of it was quicker. I used to be so quick with Sound Forge hotkeys at one level. Even once I was getting extra into grime and dubstep I nonetheless needed to make D&B rather a lot, however I by no means actually felt I might understand the ultimate product.
Round that point I began to make use of boards and engaged with numerous communities of individuals into D&B in London and made some associates who confirmed me how you can do issues. I made buddies with someone I’ve recognized a very long time, a producer referred to as DB1 who works on Hidden Hawaii and different labels. We first made D&B at his home. He truly had a sampler and he had Logic, sounds within the sampler, little bit of an previous desk, little little bit of synth gear. The stuff we each made in all probability wasn’t that tremendous however it was a great studying course of. I feel with YouTube tutorials and stuff now it’s fairly straightforward to study, I all the time discovered the easiest way to study was to work with someone to allow them to present you straightforward methods of doing one thing.
One among your earliest singles, again in 2009, was principally straight dubstep. How was your sound evolving round that point?
I used to be going out to golf equipment, FWD and DMZ, round 2005 and 2006. The individual I look as much as probably the most in dubstep is Mala – I utterly idolized his strategy to DJing and his manufacturing is superb. I actually favored Primary Channel and music like that too, so I used to be into that type of zoning, low-key, bass-heavy, bizarre dubstep vibe. So ‘Medicate’ was my try and make that. I feel it’s fairly a great monitor truly. It didn’t get picked up by anyone. Issues don’t get performed until you understand how to get tracks to individuals.
How did you get into the grime sound you explored across the time of Kowloon and Chilly Mission?
By the point 2009/10 got here round, dubstep as a pressure for producing turned barely much less fascinating as a result of issues had been accomplished to an extent. I used to be nonetheless fairly an enormous dubstep fan, and I actually like System and Vivek and other people like that who nonetheless do stuff at 140, it’s superb, however that period for me was [back] then. And I’d adopted grime for a very long time however I’d began to think about enjoying round with some grime concepts. That’s how the primary document on Keysound happened – the Kowloon EP.
I don’t assume what I did was essentially that radical. In case you take heed to some stuff from 2003, like Danny Weed and Wiley’s satan mixes, they’re as radical – if no more – as grime that’s self-consciously summary. I used to be simply inquisitive about enjoying round with sounds. And I dropped the tempo somewhat bit to 130 intentionally as a result of individuals have been enjoying slower. Oneman and Ben UFO have been all enjoying stuff round 130BPM and also you kinda make stuff since you need individuals to play it. And it’s fascinating to drop tempos so that you’re not making grime per se.
It’s fascinating that you simply say a part of the rationale you made ‘Kowloon’ at 130 was that there was a higher probability of getting performed. Some individuals may name that cynical, however do you are feeling like that opened a door so that you can attempt stuff that really proved extra fruitful?
Yeah. It’s essential to be trustworthy about this stuff – it partly was genuinely so it might get performed and you need to perceive that at that time, in 2011, these DJs who got here up in dubstep weren’t enjoying 140 music anymore. So should you gave them a 140 monitor they could say “I actually like that” however they in all probability wouldn’t play it in a set, on Rinse or it on a mixture on RA, FACT or any of the platforms that have been popping across the time.
For those who take heed to the Kowloon EP a few of the tracks on there are usually not grime – they’re extra like 808-style, Swamp 81-ish exercises, as a result of that was the sort of vibe on the time – Addison Groove-y sort issues. And that doesn’t work at 140. However I felt I used to be a part of a group of like-minded individuals. That’s how scenes work – an change of concepts between the producer and the individuals which might be gonna publicize and play the monitor. So perhaps it was partly cynical, however it was primarily as a result of I needed to do one thing that wasn’t simply straight grime and a part of that was dropping the tempo.
Chilly Mission nonetheless stands out for me as a result of it felt prefer it outlined a second, and even now it nonetheless feels distinctive from that period – it felt like a self-contained universe. If you wrote it, did you compile tracks or have been you aiming for a selected temper throughout the album?
I feel on the time I needed to seize a number of the cinematic points of grime with out doing grime as such. Grime influences are there, however there’s no straight grime monitor. Truly, ‘Seawolf’ is sort of a straight grime monitor however once more, that’s at a slower tempo. I suppose it was an try and seize some points of grime with out essentially going over the identical previous tropes. And there’s all of the influences I had from drum and bass – the sci-fi cinematic features, the hazy vibe you get in D&B.
It’s arduous to speak about it now as a result of it looks like such a very long time in the past. It was, to an extent, a set of tracks – it’s simply what got here out and it’s the identical with the brand new document. I don’t write 30 tracks and edit down, I can’t do this. I simply don’t have time so I have a tendency to only find yourself with what I find yourself with.
You stated that a yr and a half to write down that album was fast for you. Would you think about your self a sluggish employee?
Sure, I’m a very sluggish employee within the studio. It’s partly by way of lack of time, as a result of I’ve all the time labored full time. And truly it’d be good to do music full time, however it’s actually arduous in London to try this. If I needed to do music full time I wouldn’t get a 400% improve in productiveness, it simply wouldn’t work like that. I’d in all probability spend as lengthy arising with the ultimate product, as a result of I simply work fairly slowly.
I spend lots of time listening to loops. I can sit round listening to a loop for 2 hours and tweaking it. Typically I can put one thing collectively actually shortly, however I’ve discovered that I spend a very long time engaged on parts and I’ve to allow them to percolate and are available again to them later. Typically when a monitor’s 70% full it gained’t actually sound completed and every little thing comes collectively within the edit on the finish. So I don’t work in an actual time method – I [use] a drum and bass means of manufacturing, which is working within the timeline, positioning issues in that 4 or five-minute timeline, then going forwards and backwards and doing the construction that method.
Even when I’ve used outboard I’ll have loads of issues recorded, then I’ll edit down and do a number of post-processing. Once I’m at 80% full, I spend lots of time on the ultimate 20%. In order that’s why it takes my such a very long time, despite the fact that my tracks are actually minimal. Some producers have the power to focus have loads of issues operating in parallel of their head, in order that they’ll have 30 tracks open with a bass that’s resampled in seven or eight totally different layers – I simply can’t work like that, I don’t really feel like my mind can cope with it. So I typically have perhaps six, seven tracks most in parallel for the ultimate edit in Logic. I simply want to work that means.
Do you will have a typical course of once you sit down and determine to start out writing a brand new monitor?
The very first thing you do is you are feeling superb since you’ve obtained a clean Logic challenge and also you assume “that is gonna be superb – I really feel so good as a result of I’ve obtained a clean display in entrance of me!” It relies upon. If I’m writing a straight grime tune, which I do typically – what I might name ‘enjoyable stuff’ underneath an alias or tunes I’ve achieved with Boylan, I’ll begin with the drums and bass. If I’m not likely doing style stuff and I’m making an attempt to experiment it’s very open ended. I’ll very often begin with some strings. Or it’d simply be a few samples to get the thought going.
It’s onerous to elucidate, often what will get me going is an concept. So, for instance, I’d simply have an concept from a ebook or a movie that sparks off a considered a monitor. Or, typically it’s messing round with the Nord with a patch that I discovered on an internet library. Do I perceive it? Perhaps, if not I’ll attempt to work out the way it works, after which run it by means of some outboard, just like the Tradition Vulture. I typically simply attempt to copy – not copy entire tracks, however for instance there’s a monitor on the album referred to as ‘Flash Ahead’, which is an acid-y loop factor, [inspired by] listening to a Porter Ricks monitor from their album on Chain Response. There’s a number of issues about it that sound actually sub-aquatic, and I simply favored the thought of making an attempt to make sluggish tempo acid-y loops like that. It by no means finally ends up sounding like that – it’s actually arduous to breed individuals whose degree of manufacturing is so excessive, however then again it leads you down fascinating alleys. And then you definitely superimpose your predilections of the way you issues to sound or work on prime.
I assumed numerous the sound design on Imperial Flood was intelligent synthesis however a few of it’s truly sample-based. How are you manipulating them?
I aspire to be a lot better at synthesis than I truly am. One of many causes I’ve been studying Max/MSP is as a result of I need to get away from timeline writing for a little bit of a change. But in addition I need to push myself when it comes to my capability to synthesize from scratch, and you are able to do all types of synthesis inside Max. Typically I can do stuff with synthesis however truly I fairly like discovering fascinating samples and dealing with them. Typically I’ll discover an fascinating pattern library on-line, typically I’ll pay for it as a result of it’s a bit like shopping for a synth – you’re shopping for in high quality you could’t reproduce. More often than not it’s stuff that I’ve recorded, subject recordings or samples from data which were flipped indirectly.
There’s some cool little free instruments round I exploit – there’s a pleasant processing app for OSX referred to as Cecilia I like utilizing as a result of you are able to do fascinating granular-type processing on samples and find yourself with one thing that’s typically fairly near the unique sound or can typically be utterly totally different. So it’s simply putting these round in Logic and designing the sound setting by hand. There’s one thing magical about it – it’s like having an ear for the best pattern principally. I even have some nice-sounding plugins, just like the plate reverb plugin I exploit quite a bit.
Imperial Flood sounds very constant regardless of the totally different textures and concepts. Did you propose out the texture of the album beforehand or was the method extra intuitive?
There have been a few tracks on Chilly Mission that I feel, on reflection, didn’t have to be on there. It felt a bit bit too sporadic in locations. What I needed to do with this album was actually focus in on one thing that was much more constant and recreated the identical vibe for the listener however with totally different buildings and totally different sounds. I actually like Raime’s second album Tooth, which superficially can sound like various the identical sort of factor however truly it requires you to pay attention fairly rigorously to it. It’s an excellent album.
I discovered that I had a go-to synth patch, which began off being lazy after which I noticed that really I discovered a course of of creating it sound actually cool, and it didn’t in any respect sound prefer it was from a 10-year-old delicate synth, so I made a decision to mine it. I attempted to construct a sonic setting round a handful of various issues – the strings, a few of the similar samples, which I reused in barely alternative ways. Then I had a core, which might tolerate sure stretching whereas sustaining the identical vibe. It’s slightly bit like listening to Youngsta DJ in 2006 – he was so cautious and particular about what tracks he reduce and what he performed, and he simply created this superb sound world. However for me it’s very intuitive. I take into consideration music quite a bit, however I don’t give it some thought once I’m arms on with instruments – I’m a way more intuitive author.
I’m actually fairly superstitious and I get actually infuriated when individuals make issues within the modular and I say, “that’s actually actually good, that you must report it” they usually’re like “oh no no I’m gonna tweak it” after which it utterly disappears. So one of many issues that I’ve discovered myself doing so much is that I’m very conservative about tweaking patches. Typically I’ll discover one thing I like after which simply work with that, attempt to push it in several instructions with processing issues. However I don’t like fiddling round with patches. If I used to be working with somebody in collaboration they’d in all probability discover that fairly infuriating since you’re not essentially testing all the chances and it creates one thing a lot better than you’ve obtained already. However I simply personally get infuriated when individuals make stuff after which lose it. Particularly with modulars the place you possibly can’t save presets. So save, save, save presets after which return to them and tweak them. I discovered myself doing that quite a bit with this album. That’s probably why it sounds so homogeneous perhaps? I acquired the sound I needed and I didn’t actually need to begin mucking with it, principally.
You talked about that typically the inspiration for a monitor can be one thing that you simply’ve learn, and of all of the literary influences behind the album, the one which stood out for me is Jeff Vandermeer. Is ‘Lighthouse Dub’ a reference to the lighthouse in Annihilation?
Yeah, principally. I in all probability named it that about two years in the past when the monitor was being written and I by no means bothered to vary it, and thought “I’m wondering if individuals will get the reference?” I didn’t have a precise scene [in mind] as a result of that lighthouse seems in several scenes within the books, nevertheless it was a pleasant anchor reference level for me. And in addition as a result of a lighthouse [evokes] a flickery dub techno type of setting, with a rotating mild and mist. It’s typically a suggestions loop with monitor titles – naming a monitor has a type of magic to it typically and it may give you fascinating suggestions as it’s essential to develop a monitor to its last conclusion.
At sure factors, Imperial Flood is extra like a cinematic music than membership music. Was it your intention to make it sound like an imaginary movie rating?
I did need to make it sound like a – a rating’s not fairly the best phrase – however a rating to a spot. I wasn’t notably fascinated by the shifting picture, however a kind of soundtrack to an setting. I didn’t set out with the intention of writing stuff that wasn’t gonna be performed by DJs – there’s a few tracks on there you possibly can combine – however I didn’t really feel any obligation to put in writing stuff that wasn’t going to suit into units. It didn’t actually hassle me.
I feel I mentally carved an area out for myself the place the album is gonna be. Sure tracks I made through the years whereas I used to be making the album weren’t proper [for it]. I’ve received one other launch popping out later this yr on one other label, which is a reasonably bizarre tune however it’s presupposed to be for dancefloors. For that challenge I wrote tracks that might check out techniques and and you’d dance to in a membership. I didn’t really feel any obligation on the album to try this. I suppose over time, the extra you have got that mindset the extra you’re ready to go additional with the fabric than you’d be. You don’t really feel any barrier.
Is movie rating work the sort of factor you’d need to transfer into when you had the chance?
Yeah, I’d have an interest. My notion is that it’s like another music freelancer factor – sure elements of it may be extra like producing a product for a shopper, and that’s not the identical factor I’m used to with making music for myself. So whether or not I’d be snug, and in addition whether or not I’d have the technical chops to ship precisely what this shopper needed, [I don’t know]. But when I used to be doing a real collaboration with any person who was doing a movie the place I wasn’t simply producing one thing for a shopper to order however I used to be truly collaborating then yeah, I’d undoubtedly have an interest.
Scott Wilson is FACT’s tech editor. Comply with him on Twitter
Filming and images by Pawel Ptak
Imperial Flood is out on Totally different Circles now. Logos performs B2B with DB1 at Boxed at London’s Corsica Studios on Saturday, June 15.
Learn subsequent: Richie Hawtin on his origins as F.U.S.E. and the way he made techno within the early ’90s
window.fbAsyncInit = perform()
appId : settings.stats.FbAppId,
xfbml : true,
model : ‘v2.6’
(perform(d, s, id)
var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s);
if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
js.src = “//join.fb.internet/en_US/sdk.js”;
(doc, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));