Some mixes are just mixes, but some change the agenda. Rupert Parkes, aka Photek, was determined that his DJ-Kicks set would be the latter. ”I wanted to create one of those classic listening experiences,” he says. ”With a mix like this, you can either bang it with the most current dancefloor tunes, or you can put a theme into it, or you can make it a journey. I was thinking about the classic LTJ Bukem mix tapes that I first came across in ’92 and ’93 and how epic they were. There was such a range of styles on there, they were so timeless and had real character. They had some personality. That’s what I wanted to capture with my DJ-Kicks mix.”
He’s certainly done just that. Starting with his own Azymuth, the 19 tracks range from the moody, downtempo throb of In 2 Minds by Kromestar to the broken, tribal beats of Boddika’s remix of Photek’s 101 to straight-up tech house such as Baby Ford’s 1994 classic Dead Eye. The thread linking them together is a brooding atmosphere that recalls Parkes’s classic drum’n’bass releases in the ’90s (although there isn’t a drum’n’bass track to be seen). Fountainhead, a collaboration between Photek and Kuru and exclusive to this DJ-Kicks mix, sums up the vibe perfectly with its swirling textures, echoing vocal cut-ups and stonking low-end. ”It’s music with some atmosphere,” explains Parkes. ”It’s introspective. I imagined that this would be the mixtape that you listen to later on – after the club. It’s more intimate. I’m not trying to show what I would do in a club, it’s something completely different.”
”In 2 Minds by Kromestar is a key track,” he continues. ”I stumbled across it on Beatport. It reminds me of Art Of Noise, that weird early electro music. I mean it is very weird. Then there’s one of my all time favourite tracks, Dead Eye by Baby Ford. That song is always in my mind. It’s moody as fuck. It came out in ’94, but it sounds like it was made this year. I listened to it everyday for a year, then I listened to it on a new pair of headphones and started hearing new things in it. It’s magical when that happens with a track you think you know so well. I hope people will listen to this mix with that kind of repetition because there are some quite detailed moments.”
Such as the way he mixes in No Agenda, another of four Photek exclusives, including the aforementioned Azymuth and Foutainhead, plus Levitation. But, in fact, he doesn’t ever quite mix it in. You never get to hear the full track, just snippets dusted around. Indeed, it would be easy to miss it entirely. ”I don’t like to make things too obvious,” says Parkes. ”There are clean powerful moments and murky moments that you have to hear a few times to know what’s going on. The way I mix in No Agenda is very deliberate. You look at the track listing and there’s a track called No Agenda, but it’s hard to work out what it is, unless you go to the individual tracks and then work out which bits have been used in the mix. You don’t get to hear the song in its entirety. It’s little bits sprinkled here and there, as though I start to mix it in then change my mind.”
The DJ-Kicks mix marks a new era for Parkes, who seemed to withdraw from the music scene in 2007. He had long been disillusioned with the constraints of the drum’n’bass scene he helped pioneer. ”When I played in clubs, there was never any music I liked either side of my set. I wondered why I was part of this niche when it seemed I was a square peg in a round hole.” When he started releasing music again last year with the Avalanche EP it had more in common with post dubstep than anything else ‚Äî bass heavy music that’s hard to categorise ‚Äî but really it wasn’t like anything else at all. ”If dubstep has taught us one thing it’s to let it all go,” says Parkes. ”Just let stuff happen and sort it out later.”
He’s currently working on a new album. It’s going to be a varied affair. ”Lot’s of differently styles and sounds,” he says. And he’s starting monthly club night in his adopted home of Los Angeles. ”I want it to have the feel of Metalheadz at the Blue Note in London in 1995. It’s not just a tear out, it’s a creative atmosphere. People can play what they really want to play.”
A bit like his DJ-Kicks mix. Exactly how it should be, in other words.