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Pete Parsons Interview, pt 2

I’m away in London so no tune postings for a couple more days, in the meantime though here’s pt 2 of the Pete Parsons interview. Don’t forget to check his myspace page at www.myspace.com/petevoyager, drop him a line and let him know if you liked the interview.
As much of this as you remember/ care to mention, what was your setup back then, especially in the 92-95 range? Any particular hardware synths, what sequencer / sampler, etc? Favorite gear at the time?
Back in 90/91 I was using Steinberg’s Pro24 sequencer which was a bit of a nightmare with the GUI, it wasn’t very intuitive at all, and relied on you specifying looped bar lengths and stuff, plus we had the Akai S900/S950, a Korg M1 and a Roland U220, and that was about it for making sounds. But when Cubase 1 arrived it was like a god send, so easy to use, much more user and client friendly, and I think I was still using the Atari 1040 with the Akai’s right up until I stopped working at the studio in 97. PC’s were still very much in their infancy, and at that time stupidly expensive for what you were getting. So I didn’t get to play with all the plugins and softsynths on any of the tunes I did at Monroe at all. In the main studio were I worked though we had a big 24 – 12 – 2 Soundtrac analogue desk, some Yamaha NS10s and a huge pair of custom built studio monitors that I used to batter the hell out of, only blew them once though! We had various bits of outboard, Multifx, Eqs, Gates and Comps, nothing top top end, but it all did the job. One of the mains bits I used though was a beaten up old compressor that I’d run some of the beats through just to really crunch them up. If you listen to some of Crystl’s stuff from 92 onwards you can hear the beats being mangled through it quiet heavily. Though I didn’t tend to use too much compression overall on most of the tracks, as they were always being mixed and eq’d as they would be written, so you got a much better vibe from the track, and also, so it didn’t sound totally dynamically different from when it got a final mixdown. I always prefer to work that way, to try and get everything working and sounding as it should from the conception, especially for the vibe and feel of a track.

Which jungle artists got the most involved in putting their tracks together? And, if you don’t mind saying…. which ones basically left it all to you?
Pretty much everyone was hands on, and was getting involved, some would trust me more than others to do all the programming, and we would vibe it out, and I’d be getting ideas from them. Some would still be learning the craft and were quite happy to sit and take it all in, and some would just need the sampling and mixdowns done and they did all the rest. But they would all come in with a pretty solid idea of what they wanted to do. I’d been working with a lot of the DnB dj’s/artists for a while and I’d know the vibe they were on, and I think they trusted me to know that as well. From time to time though I’d get some regular clients in who didn’t really know what they were doing, only that they fancied making a tune, had seen a track with my name on it, and had booked the studio. I had a few who turned up with nothing at all, a few with some seriously cheesy samples, and some who wanted to sample tunes that I’d worked on and use the licks in their tracks!

Do you have a favorite style or series of styles to engineer? A favorite artist/artists to work with?
Pretty much right from the start I was always into the more melodic side of jungle/DnB, which to begin with was almost all of it till the first wave of dark tracks started coming out. It was at that point that rave and jungle kinda split from each other, with the rave scene staying on the happier side of things, and DnB being a bit more experimental. I never did many of darker tracks as my heart wasn’t really in it, I found the soaring strings and “cathedral of sound” vibes a lot more appealing. In fact one of the main reasons I loved making DnB so much was the scope you had to be as experimental as you wanted to be, you could, and still can, take your influences and vibes from any genre you wanted to

What are your best and worst memories from the old days regards to your studio time?
I’ve got so many amazing memories and experiences of working in the studio with all those guys, it was definitely the best job I ever had, but a few of the stand out moments were writing the “Intelligence” Lp with Dj Rap, writing the tracks with Crystl was wicked as we were on such a roll at the time, pretty much every time he came in the studio we knocked out a kikass tune in the same day, also working on a lot of the DeeJay stuff was awesome, but one of the top moments was recording the vocals with Conrad for Promised Land 1, I’d not heard the mix that Danny (Bukem) had done so it was all fresh to my ears, and hearing the mix with so many of my tunes on it loud in the studio with Conrad vibing live over the top of it was pretty epic!

Any funny stories related to engineering sessions?
There were quite a few people that would leave me hurting from laughing so much in the studio, but one of the maddest was the first session I did with Fabio. I’ve known him from 19longtime after being a regular at the club night “Speed” he used to do with Bukem, and we’d always chat and I’d tell him I’m ready for whenever he wanted to go in the studio and get a tune together. So we finally hooked it, but by this time I wasn’t working at Monroe any more, and I had a studio in my basement at home which was still running Atari1040 and Akai 3200. The tune we were doing was a remix of the Carlito track “Heaven” So we got all the parts together, looped everything up and was vibing out some beats, and everything was coming together really well. I was dead chuffed, as Fabio hadn’t been in the studio too many times before, so we were both really pleased with how the track was sounding, and worked solidly for about 5/6 hours straight and by the end of it had something really wicked, with the best part of the arrangement done and dusted. So its gets to about midnight, and I’m saving up the tune, and the Atari freezes! Basically wiping the whole tune off the floppy disk, there was no Cntl+Alt+Del on the Atari, no backup saves, so we’re both sitting staring at the screen in disbelief, and there’s only one thing I can do, and that’s turn it off, and loose the whole thing! So after apologising to Fabio and trying not to reach for a hammer to smash the 1040 into tiny little pieces, we decided to do the whole thing again from scratch in the same night. We still had all the loops and samples all timed up in the sampler, so it was just about recreating the vibe and all the parts, arrangements, beats, edits, mix……you know, no pressure!
So after 2 hours or so we got the whole thing pretty much back to exactly where it was before, and it sounded wicked! I heard him drop it loads of times at Swerve and it always went down well, and sounded wicked on the system in there.

Probably one of the biggest trademarks of your sound was your cut up and layered breakbeats. How did you first get started with this beat chopping? Were you influenced by something or someone in particular (or, say, a background in drumming)?
When I was a kid I’d sit and listen to the radio and play along to the music using my mums wooden spoons and pots and cushions and stuff, so I’ve always been drawn to beats and rhythms. So dance music was always going to pull me in at some point, purely because of its beats. I’d played in a lot of bands from an early age before working at the studio so I had a lot of live experience with drumming to bring to a sequencer and sampler setup. So working with beat loops and doing all the edits seemed to come pretty naturally. It’s all about getting a groove, if you’ve got a solid one, and a wicked bass line as well, then at least 75% of your tune is done.

Where did you source breakbeats from back then? Vinyl comps, sample Cds? Other jungle records?
A lot of the samples came from sample CDs, some from the DJ Tools Lps. We’d get some from old rave and acid house Lps. I had so many different samples of the Amen break and the Bobby Bird break as well, and those 2 used to get absolutely battered, they work so well together or separately, and you can put anything with them and it will just work.

That whole style of intricate beat chopping has gotten much more popular over the years, with an entire sub-scene of left field dnb now dedicated to intricate beatwork. Is there anything else you’re willing to tell these newer break-nerds reading your “beat chopping” back then, your theory behind it etc?
It’s all about the flow, even if your changing up your patterns and rhythms on the 4th 3rd or 2nd beats its gotta roll, you gotta get the head nodding, and not the chin scratching.

How do you perceive the production scene to have changed since the dawn of the internet and the surge in software piracy?
I think the internet and piracy, for any dance music genre has had a massive effect. It’s made it totally accessible to anyone, whether you’re musical or not. The software now is making it easier and easier to be creative, and I think that can only be a good thing. A lot of people can now use music to express themselves, or be creative in many different ways. So in turn what that has done is made a lot of artists have to up their game, simply because of the amount of people now making music. We did have a period where there was a flood of new music into a lot of existing styles, with the best for me being Grime. Here was a style of music that was as original as the early Jungle/DnB stuff for me, and a lot of it was made on PC’s in small or bedroom studios, with a bunch of guys all vibing it out, and to some extent the availability of any bit of software you needed, plus a PC, some speakers, a mic and the internet maybe helped that along.

Since you’re still producing now, any thoughts on the wealth of new software / hardware out there? Anything software packages in particular you like or don’t like?
I saw the promo video for the new version of Cubase the other week and it looks pretty tasty, it’s got a lot of new stuff to it which is about time because they’ve not really added much to it for ages. It will take a powerful machine to cope with all the processing but it looks worth it.

Any favorite current electronic producers in terms of production quality?
To be honest, I listen to so many different styles of music, and I’m useless at remembering peoples names that I couldn’t tell you anyone at the moment. But I’m feeling the whole “fidget house” thing, there’s such a wicked groove in a lot of the tunes I’m hearing, and the fact that Vlad makes some kikass fidget tunes as well now means I get to here a lot of it.

What do you think of new “neurofunk” / production centric DNB stuff like Noisia and Phace?
Trace sent me an MP3 over msn one night, and told me to play it, and tell him what I thought of it, the tune was Noisia’s “The Tide” and I was f**kin blown away. I listened to it god knows how many times, and thought it was one of the most sickest DnB tunes I’d ever heard, in both production and sound quality, it was from a whole new level. It manages to be really intricate in the edits but still has a wicked balance with the groove, and all the twisted sounds on top of it make it a seriously awesome piece of music.

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