With two EPs already released this year, a single out on Monday and just halfway through an extensive touring schedule that has seen him take in Glade and Glastonbury, Photek is as busy now as he has ever been. We caught up with him as he took some time out from his hectic schedule to discuss his latest releases, an album project and how the music industry has changed beyond recognition.
Your two EPs that landed this year, Avalanche in March and Aviator in June, both received some awesome feedback. What’s the thinking behind them?
It’s basically about getting on with getting some Photek music out there instead of waiting ages to do a whole album project. It’s been a good exercise because it keeps your creative flow going. It means people are aware that you are doing stuff and you can drip feed music to them, while thinking about an album at the same time. It’s been a plan that is working for me anyway.
There are two main reasons for doing the EPs. One is to keep the flow of music going so people have something to engage with. The other was creatively speaking. You can make smaller statements regularly and get some momentum going regularly, rather than getting hung up on delivering a masterpiece that could take two years.
You’ve got two EPs under your belt already this year, how many more can we expect?
There is no set cap on how many there’ll be, it’s just whatever fits. I’ve already got the contents for the next EP, the music is ready. It’s just a case of whether that will definitely be the tracklist or not or whether I will do a remix on some of the tracks. Between myself and Hope Management we decide what we’ve got and what we are going to do with it, there is a lot of flexibility.
The important thing is that I’m happy with the music I’m making. I’ve been very lucky with the response I’ve had this year. You can’t take anything for granted though, there are a lot of people making music, so whenever you get good response it is appreciated. The response from I am getting from radio, especially Radio One, has been incredible, probably more than I have ever had before. It’s nice to come back out of the shadows and still be validated and to know that I haven’t been wasting my time and you haven’t completely lost it.
So what are your album plans? When can we look forward to this?
The plan is for an album early next year. We were looking at the end of the summer, but touring is playing a more dominant role than it ever did. It’s important to make sure you are out there doing that. You can only do so much in a day so realistically the idea of delivering an album had to be put back until early next year. I’ve been doing more festival stuff than I’ve ever done before – I’ve still got Exit in Serbia and Lovebox in London still to come.
The EPs form a good platform for an album though. Can we expect any of the tracks from Avalanche or Aviator to make it onto the full length release when it comes out?
It’s possible the album will have six out of 12 tracks that will be modified versions of things on the EPs, I’m not ruling that out. The good thing about doing EP after EP is that you can see which ones withstood the test of time or which ones have a continued theme on and that can constitute part of the album, you know. I suppose it is being more efficient. You can gather the music together, be creative and at the same time keep moving forward.
Maybe some of these tracks will appear on the album. One of the things I have been thinking about is to have an instrumental of the track, maybe Avalanche would appear on the EP and then later we could add some vocals for the album, that sort of thing.
The way music delivery is changing, do you think there is still a demand for albums in the current market?
Yeah, I think there is – it may not be a good business decision, but musically speaking I think there is. There are plenty of people who can make a few tunes and put them online, but it takes more committed and creative people to make a good album.
The conditions have changed that make it harder for people to make albums, but it doesn’t lessen how great a good album is. I think you have to do it, both as an artist and for yourself.If there are no great albums out there, then you should make one!
That's a fair point! So how does this latest project compare to the way you used to work when you were first starting out?
Oh man, so much has changed. When I think about when I started, never mind the music making process, we didn’t even have hard disk recording, so it was tapes and MIDI. There wasn’t even email. Email did not exist yet, the internet wasn’t public domain. It sounds like my granddad talking about the war or the invention of the combustion engine, but literally it was paper and vinyl.It was literally a case of ‘I will phone you, or you can leave a message or I will see you when I see you’ and that was it. It’s incredible what’s happened in the last 20 years.
I can still remember what samples I used on a tune that was made on a DAT tape and midi and if I couldn’t afford to buy new blank DAT tape I had to record a tune over another tune I wasn’t done with.That is still fresh in my mind, and now it’s like 1,000 emails a day and five cell phones and five different social network platforms that you have to participate in continuously. That was never part of music making before, or being an artist, and now social media probably plays more of an important role than the actual music.
What do you make of all the social media platforms – there are certainly plenty out there?
I think now you have to live and breathe through your social media presence, which is a whole new skill set. Artists can’t really delegate a lot of that stuff out.
These days, people want things more immediately and you need to have constant news going on.That’s the big difference really – when I first started you could just get on with it and it was ready when it was ready. Today it’s like, if you don’t Twitter everyday people think you have retired, whereas all I was just trying to make some music, but if I’m not on Facebook every 30minutes people think I’m not in the game anymore.
Do you think it makes it easier for producers to get started in the business now? Surely it is far more straightforward to make music these days.
It’s definitely easier now – pretty much anybody can make and publicise a bit of music and I suppose when I started you needed at least £50k or free access to someone’s studio. It weeded out a lot of people who weren’t really cutting it or couldn’t raise the money. That has been blown wide open now – there are no barriers to entry anymore. You can cause a storm now literally overnight with nothing more than a laptop and connection to the internet.
I remember my first steps involved trying to figure out what I needed to make music. I decided I needed a sampler, a sequencer and something to record it on. I happened to buy the right piece of equipment, which was a Roland W30 keyboard workstation and I was fortunate enough to get some studio time with a couple of friends. You can get all the kit for free now with pirate copies of all the plug-ins, whereas you can’t do that with an E-MU sampler that costs £3,000 – I couldn’t afford the magazines for £3 to even look the things up in!
You must definitely have some fond memories of those early days. Do you still keep in touch with the other guys from back then?
I try, it’s harder to catch up now – I have been living in LA for the past ten years now, but whenever I’m in the UK I like to catch up with people. I did the Boiler Room recently and it was like a Blue Note reunion, all the crew was there – Goldie obviously, Breakage, Shy FX – it was good times.
Are there any other artists that you are particularly feeling at the moment?
There are quite a few, I always struggle to remember them all. If I was to name a few it would be Swish by Pinch [Deep Medi], Farewell My Lovely by Bastille [Deceast], Diminishing Returns by Alvin Risk remix [DimMak], and Caveman Style by Africa Hitech [Warp]. There is also a track called Shelter by Birdy that I did a remix for, I’m really pleased with that track.
So what else can we look out for from Photek?
I have got a release out on July 11th on Tectonic called Closer. It’s got a remix from Pinch on the other side. So that will be next, then there will be more EPs and few collaborations, which I can’t tell you about yet, but I’ve been working on some things. I’ve also done a couple of remixes, the Birdy track I mentioned just now, and there’s another for Moby called Lie Down in Darkness – I’m a bit on fire when it comes to remixes at the moment.
There is a lot of music still to come. The important thing is that I am as inspired now as I was when I first started making music. I’ve still got the feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all down, which is a really good place to be. I feel really blessed to be in that position.
Words: Matt Jane
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