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Tag: Pete Parsons

DJ AKA – Farside

Here’s one of my favorite 93 tracks… moody hardcore/jungle with tasteful orchestra stabs, brooding soundtrack ambience and fantastic sharp choppy drums layered perfectly by Pete Parsons. There’s a breakdown halfway through where you can practically hear the more euphoric 92 sounds of hardcore melting away into 94 darkside, as the classic “rush!” and “do it now!” vocal samples are answered to with a monstrous “no!!!!”. Excellent stuff, no idea why this single isn’t more appreciated..

Does anyone know what that main snappy break is called / where it’s from? I think i’ve heard it in a few other tracks.

DJ AKA – Farside

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.

Pete Parsons Interview part 1


If ever there was a “behind the scenes” icon who never got his due for involvement in classic jungle/hardcore, it’s Pete Parsons. If you’ve ever heard tracks on labels like Dee Jay, Lucky Spin, Soapbar or Impact, you’ve heard his work – Parsons was the engineer behind the bulk of the tunes on those labels, among others. Aside from mixing and engineering duties, he also did some absolutely classic singles on his own, under the monikers Voyager, Static Substance and more.

The first section of this interview is focused on his Engineering background – future sections will delve into this a bit more, plus his own music. Anyone who wants to contact Pete can do so on his myspace account: www.myspace.com/petevoyager

How and when did you get started with engineering? Did you apprentice at any studios before Monroe Studios and were you involved in any music prior to this (bands etc)?
I’ve been involved in making music and playing drums ever since I can remember.
I was in a couple of punk bands when I was at school, and joined an 80’s stadium rock wannabe band after that, with very limited success. I had a lot of friends who were making music at that time and a couple of them used to use Monroe to record their stuff at. So I used to go up there and hang out with them, and check out how the equipment was being used, Samplers, Drum machines, Atari’s etc. One of my mates at the time was a guy called Danny Langsman, who would later go on to be one half of “Shanks and Bigfoot”. They had a big tune in 1999 called “Sweet like chocolate”
I would hang out with him a few times and watch how he was putting stuff together, as well as hanging out with bands and seeing how they would record.
I knew this was going to be the career for me, I mean who wouldn’t want to work in recording studio and make music all day??? So I asked my dad if he could help me out and send me on a short engineering course, which he thankfully agreed to, I spent a couple of weeks in a studio and learnt how to use a big ass console, and pretty much the basics of recording, outboard processing and midi sequencing, and then hassled the hell out of the owners of Monroe for a job for a couple of months, and landed it in Jan 1990. I finished my job before Christmas as a carpenter, and started the New Year as an in-house producer engineer working 24/7 for £2.50 an hour, I hardly had any money and my girlfriend at the time was seriously pissed off with me, but gotta live the dream innit! I’ll never forget the interview I had, as I told them straight up front that I didn’t really like dance music, I was a bit of a rock dude, and didn’t really understand it, so he told me I’d better learn to love it because that was what I was going to be doing, and gave me a compilation of dance stuff the studio had been doing to listen too over the weekend, and that was my intro into UK underground dance music.

Did you have any engineering mentors?
My main mentor was one of the co-owners of the studio, a guy called Roger Benu, he was an awesome engineer, right across the board. I remember the first week when he showed me in about 10 minutes how to use the Akai S900, the Atari 1040, the 8 track recorder and an M1 keyboard and then left me with my first client. Roger was a top bloke, who worked on a lot of high profile tunes later on.

Were you aware of / a fan of hardcore stuff before you started engineering it, or even while engineering it? Did you ever go to any raves / own records? Any favorite artists?
Back then, around 90/91 I wasn’t really aware of the rave scene at all apart from the guys who I was working with. I had already begun to work with Seduction on some of his really early stuff, as well as Eric Dial from Raze (Break for Love) who was making some Hip-House and Bleep House/Acid House stuff, and was also engineering for UK Rap crew “The Brotherhood” which was where I first hooked up with Dj Crystl who was doing all their turntable work. I’d hear stories from them about this new Rave and Jungle style of music that was like nothing anybody had heard before, and about how the atmosphere inside the clubs was amazing, but I was sooooo busy working that I never managed to get out to any of them! I missed the whole “dancing in a field off my tits with 5000 other people going mental” and had to try and pick up on the vibes of what these guys were telling me and try to put that energy into their music.
In fact the first rave tune I worked on properly (engineering and mixdown) was a tune called “ Must be the Music” by T.A.S which was released on Profile in 1990, but I don’t think I got a shout on that, still got the white label in the back of a crate somewhere.

One of your earliest engineering credits was for DJ Seductions “Hardcore Heaven” – how did this come about?
Seduction used to come into Monroe and make beats from 1990 I think, he’d come in with a bunch of records and a lot of ideas on how it would all fit together, and I’d sample everything and map it all out on the keyboard for him, and he’d jam with the samples till we got a groove going. It was always a bit of a joint thing as I’d know what he was trying to achieve, and would offer up suggestions and stuff, but the main vibe and melodies would always come from him. He was always very precise in what he was doing, and I knew he was onto something as a lot of the time he’d come back the next time and tell me how it dropped and how the floor reacted to it, and it was always wicked. We worked really well together, I’d know from his sample selection the vibe of the track he was looking for, and would loop up the samples and do a bit of pre-production for him, and gradually over time the process would get quicker and easier.

DJ Seduction – Hardcore Heaven

Soon after this you also started engineering for Lucky Spin, Dee Jay and Soap Bar – what were the circumstances leading up to engineering for each of these labels?
I did a tune called “Burn 2 spiff” with a guy called Ollie Red Eye who was a friend of Dj Crystl’s, and who also knew the 2 guys who ran Lucky Spin and DeeJay (Justin + Sacha) it all started from there really, I did another tune with Ollie and was already beginning to make tunes with Crystl as well, and it all just fell into place from there.
The Soap Bar connection was from the main people who ran the label (Joe, Nicky + Sky) as they also had a record shop in East London called Total Records who were stocking the Lucky Spin stuff as well as some of the other bits I was doing then as well, and I think they liked what they were hearing in terms of the production and quality of the releases, and tracked me down at Monroe. I started working with a couple of the guys from the shop at first, and then with Joe and Nicky on few other things.

Rufstuff – Burn To the Spliff

Were there any differences in engineering for each of these labels? (different budgets or studios, etc) or did it all come down to differences between individual artists?
To begin with everyone used the same studio and was on the same hourly rates, but there were always slight differences in the way the tracks were put together. The basics were always the same; sampling, beat mapping, loops etc But each artist had a very good idea of what they wanted their track to sound like, even if they said they wanted it to sound like somebody else’s track at the time. My main thing was to try and get some emotion into the music, if you listen to quite a lot of the stuff I was doing at the time with those guys, there were a lot of big string and pad breakdowns, or dreamy arpeggio’s and stuff. I was finding that pretty much everyone I was working with wanted that, as well as the beat programming and edits.

A lot of younger people don’t know what it was like in the days of studio-produced jungle done with a proper engineer. For the uninitiated, can you briefly say how that used to work? Would people bring you partially finished tracks to fix up, just a disc with some samples, or just an idea? Or was it all of these depending on the person? Were you able to build up a sample library using stuff from individual sessions, or were you not allowed to “reuse” stuff from a session someone else paid for?

You had to be ready for anything depending on who you had the session with. Some people didn’t have access to any studio equipment or anything back then, remember we’re talking about early 90’s Atari 1040’s and Akai Samplers, so they would come in with a bunch or records or CD’s and sample CD’s, and we’d sample everything up, or search through sample CD’s for sounds. I think I must have wasted so many hours just sitting and listening to endless sample CD’s, that I knew a few of them off by heart in the end. I used to have a big metal flight case that was jammed packed full of floppy disks with everyone’s samples and Cubase songs in it, as well as my own personal primo library of all the beats and samples that were commonly used back then. With most people using the same beats it wasn’t a problem reusing them, however I had to be careful not to duplicate the patterns, or edits tricks too much. The patterns that Crystl and I came up with on “Let it Roll” were pretty unique, and I couldn’t then start putting the same licks into everyone else’s tunes as well. I did get into a little trouble a couple of times for reusing some string pads or an effect sound or something, but there was no way I could reuse a dominant or instantly recognisable sample from someone else’s tune though, so I had to keep my shit together, or separate, depending on how you look at it.