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It's about music - interview with Alex Parsons

Reported by Bunny / Submitted 03-11-04 16:53

Chances are if you’re involved in the clubbing world – in fact if you’re on this site and reading this introduction – then you’re passionate about music. It takes more than a passing interest in the Top 40 to spur us into embarking, each weekend, on our pilgrimage to the sensual kaleidoscope of clubland; to make the transition from listening to music to producing it and from dancing to sets to mixing them. One such devotee is Alex Parsons, and we caught up with him to find out more…

Bunny: Good Morrow Mr Parsons! How’s tricks?

Alex Parsons: Hello there Bunny. I’m very well, thank you.

B:You broke onto the scene in a big way; six months after learning to mix you played your first set at the George 4 before becoming a resident and playing main room of the Fridge. What was it like to be part of the XLR8 team? How did you become involved in all that madness in the first place?

AP:XLR8 was for me a major turning point with regards to my involvement in the clubbing scene. It inspired me to really get involved in it all from more than just a clubber’s point of view. I first went along in my first year of university, when it was at the Office Bar and was roped into joining the team by a crazy guy called John. I never regretted it, even when I was dressed as a giant tomato, flyering outside Brixton tube station. It’s great to see members of the team still involved in the club scene today, running monthly promotions, Skwosh! and Afterlife where, as resident, I still get to play music the team and crowd loved back then.

B:Tell us a bit about your DJing style. How do you prepare for a set – do you prefer to plan it out in advance, go with the flow on the night or a mixture of the two? How do you think your style has progressed?

AP:I spend a quite lot of time preparing for my sets, though I have never planned one in advance (further than selecting certain records I’d like to play). During the week, I’ll re-edit and, in some cases, bootleg popular tracks to make the set that little more interesting. Unless you’re performing a live PA, which is more similar to watching a band play, I believe it’s important to let the crowd and the tone of the night itself mould the majority of your set, throwing prepared elements in for that extra kick. I’d say my style has become more eclectic over the last two years, as I’ve really been getting into the funkier side of dance music and my own production work.

B:Although you started out as a Hard House DJ you’re part of the fresh crop of DJs who are branching out into other genres, and now alongside Hard Dance you’re adopting a more versatile sound incorporating breaks, funky house, electro and techno. What made you personally, want to branch out and why do you think there’s an emerging trend within the scene to mix within a range of styles?

AP:First of all, as hard dance/house etc. began to get harder and faster, although I was still really enjoying it, I needed an escape from the high bpms. That got me into collecting and mixing slower, funkier records beginning with house and then moving into more techy and electro sounding house and breaks. I chose to branch out to slower dance music styles to give me more opportunity to include many different genres and sounds in my sets. It was being asked to play regularly as a rotation DJ for Kurruption that allowed me to do this for the first time. I believe it’s the quite restrictive nature of hard dance which is currently leading DJs to explore other, less structured, areas of dance music.

B:You’ve played Turnmills, the Fridge, Mass, Camden Palace and Brixton Academy. Which was your favourite and where would be your ideal venue/location to play at?

AP:It’s an amazing experience playing at all of those but if I have to name one, it’ll be The Fridge. I’ve always had a fondness for it, as it’s where I first started clubbing. I actually have a set coming up there this Friday (5th November), playing a funky techno, electro and house warm up in the main room, for Bedlam. Two clubs I’d love to play at would be Fire Club and The End. Both are top venues from a clubber’s point of view, with unbelievable sound systems and playing at them, no doubt, would be an absolute delight!

B:Your b2b sets with The *Ting* are raved about by everyone who’s experienced them. Any plans to do another soon? How do you feel about back to back sets, how easy/difficult is it to make them work? Is there anyone you haven’t played with yet that you’d like to?

AP:Our next is this Saturday (6th November) at 7am on the internet radio station, Worldwide fm. The show’s on from 6 until 10 and can be listened to at . In my opinion, a decent b2b should be different to a normal DJ set in the way that two hands are better than one (or in this case, four are better than two). If there are two DJs playing, they should be doing things that one alone can’t, whether it be tricks and effects, or simply being more exploratory with their track choices. I find that this is the case when I play b2b with Ting. We get this real energy going that allows us to push each other and the music in directions which perhaps alone we wouldn’t normally consider. I don’t believe it’s the case that it’s either easy or difficult to make them work, I find they either work or they don’t.

B:Aside from DJing you’re also making your mark as a producer and engineer, collaborating with Simon Rutherford on the recently released Twisting My Mind, with K-Komplex on Random Mutation as well as producing a double-sided EP in your own right for Proactive Records. You don’t mess about, do you?

AP:Yeah, it’s really exciting! Twisting My Mind went out on Whiplash last week and the EP’s due out on the 10th November. Proactive are having a launch party for it this Sunday afternoon at Afterlife (7th November), where I’ll be joined by Proactive label manager Paul Jack, amongst others. Random Mutation’s due out on NEC Recordings but we don’t have a scheduled release date as yet.

B:Can you tell us how you go about arranging a track, and what you’ve got coming up next? So far you’ve produced purely within the Hard Dance genre – any plans to move into other styles?

AP:I have recently set up a new studio at my place, which runs a combination of software and hardware tools, including Logic 5.5 as the sequencer alongside Recycle and Acid Pro 4 for percussion building. I use a collection of soft synths as well as a Virus C to make bass, lead and other sounds. Usually, I try to build up all the sounds and loops before I lay the track down, so when it comes to arrangement; it’s easier to be more unpredictable.
Future projects include a track I have recently engineered for Lee Osborne called Listen, due out on Whiplash Records and continuing to produce for Proactive records, working both with members of the team and independently. I also definitely intend to branch out into other styles. I’ve already started working on some breakbeat tracks, as well as incorporating other styles, including electro and breaks into Hard Dance.

B:What’s your involvement with the Proactive team?

AP:I’m their in-house producer and resident for Party Proactive. I also help out with A&R for Proactive records. You can check out our website at

B:What came first – The producing or the DJing (the clubbing equivalent of the chicken and the egg question)?

AP:It was the producing that really came first. I played around with Fruity Loops for about 7 months before I started DJing, writing trance and bouncy hard house. At the time though, I’d never even heard a dance track from start to finish, so my arrangements were a bit fuzzy! A few months after I got my decks, I finished what I considered to be my first proper track, Pump Me Up! I still play that out from time to time.

B:Your musical prowess (rah!) isn’t just confined to the clubland. This year has seen you finish a Masters degree in music at Goldsmiths College as well as composing soundtracks to some projects for Channel 4. Tell us more about your musical background, your work for channel 4 and what you’ve got in the pipeline.

AP:Yeah that’s right, I got my results early last week and have been celebrating ever since! Music’s been the focus of my life from the age of four, when I started learning the violin. I enjoyed that so much, a few years on, I took up learning the piano, saxophone and singing and went on to perform abroad in countries including South Africa and Kuwait.
While I was at university, I composed a classical soundtrack to a short animation, which was shown on channel four in Wales. Since then, I’ve completed soundtracks for two short animated documentaries, one of which was in a Bollywood style! At the moment I’m working on the sound for a late night cult TV series called What You Looking At? It’s going to be classical style meets twisted drum n bass and techno (rubs hands with glee).

B:How do you think your musical training has affected or benefited your DJing and production work? Which do you prefer; writing soundtracks or dance music?

AP:Having musical training, when you compose and/or play any sort of music is an advantage. Not only does it open your ears, helping you to create interesting sounds, it also changes your music from a structural point of view. The structure of a single track is equally as important to the structure of a DJ set. I enjoy writing all styles of music. Although both soundtracks and dance tracks have their restrictions, it’s great to have the challenge of making the music original whilst remaining within the boundaries.

B:Who or what would you say have been your main musical influences?

AP:While I was doing my masters, I listened to a lot of what is known as electro-acoustic music. Much of it involves a great deal of sound manipulation, transforming recorded material into unrecognisable sound. I always compose, whether it is dance music or soundtracks, with this in mind. Electro-acoustic music also has an unregulated structure, which inspires me to be more adventurous and unpredictable with the way I build both my productions and my DJ sets.

B:Let’s recap: You DJ, produce, compose, play x amount of musical instruments and go clubbing every weekend. Do you not, like, long for a bit of silence every now and again?

AP:Yeah, that’s why I’m about to move out of London to a new house in Orpington. I’ll only be disturbed by the passing tractors and there’s an adventure playground less than a minute’s walk away with one of those zip line things. It’s going to be hard to drag me off! Wink

B:What tracks are doing it for you at the moment, and which producers and DJs do you rate.

AP:My track of the moment has to be the Aviators’ remix of Craig Obey and the Elektrik Force’s Hyp-Ma-Tize Me. It’s a chunky funky house track with an electro eighties tinge. You can’t not dance to it! My hard house fave at the moment is OD404’s remix of Who Is Elvis by Phenomania. I know it’s quite a few years old but I got my hands on it a few weeks ago and it’s great. Other than those, producers that are doing it for me are Sebastian Ingrosso, Steve Angello, Nick Sentience and K-Komplex. DJ-wise, there’s so much talent out there but the ones that are really rocking my boat at the moment include James Zabiella, The *Ting*, Tommy Four Seven, Shaf de Bass and the Skwosh! residents.

B:Penultimate random question: If you were offered a gig DJing in Space (entertain the astronauts’ kind of thing), would you take it?

AP:Well… Onwards and upwards as they say Wink As long as they don’t make the decks too high, I’m game!

B:Ultimate random question: What’s your favourite type of roasted vegetable?

AP:Parsnip (naturally) Big grin

B:Alex Parsons, thanks for your time!

With thanks to Amy_Anders, Beth and Daf for their photos
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Other Features By Bunny:
Monkey business as usual: interview with Shaf De Bass
Twistathon – Twist’s 12 Hour 1st Birthday Bonanza
Zoology's 2nd Birthday - Review!
becomeone: Unified in Sound - Review
Logic's Fourth Birthday - Hooray! (review)
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.

From: Rob Kane on 3rd Nov 2004 17:36.28
Nice work Alex! To the Mooooon!Big grin

Don't forget that you can catch Alex this Sunday at Afterlife. The Launch party for his tracks: "Televised" & "Intruders" :thumb

From: Zoelee on 3rd Nov 2004 19:19.21
Great Stuff Alex! Love both your Hard and funky style Heaps!

From: paul jack on 3rd Nov 2004 22:48.27

From: Arsene Wengers coat on 3rd Nov 2004 23:45.10
Good stuff you nipper Wink

From: Beth on 4th Nov 2004 09:38.35
RA! Go Mr Parsons Go! Thumbs up
awesome work with the words buuny as always Wink

From: My little pinkie on 4th Nov 2004 10:21.29
So much talent packed into one so small! Love it!
Remember Alex, your the reason I'm here -
it's all your fault! Here's to many more years partying
together and best of luck for the future.

From: Maria on 4th Nov 2004 11:22.32
+++++B:You broke onto the scene in a big way; six months after learning to mix you played your first set at the George 4 before becoming a resident and playing main room of the Fridge. What was it like to be part of the XLR8 team? ++++++
=========I WAS THERE!!! NICE MEMORIES!!!============
Keep it hard babe!!!DJ

From: shazzabazza on 4th Nov 2004 12:16.42
Big well done to Mr Parsons. Every DJ who i have spoken to who has played with him has nothing but the highest praise for this incredible talent. Long may it continue Not worthy...

From: Andy Reilly on 4th Nov 2004 14:02.19
Nicely done matey! Glad everything's rockin hard for you in the big smoke and all the hard work is paying off!!

From: *charlie*! on 4th Nov 2004 21:03.44
Well Done babe u are such a legend and so fun to party with Big grin U rock babe and we are all so proud of u Big stylie
U have got so much talent WATCH THIS SPACE 4 MR PARSONS
U are certainly going places babe!
U are a legend and u never fail to make me laugh (AHH FUMAR MATA Laughs out loud: ) *alex will understand Big grin*
I look 4ward to hearing all ur sets and U can guarantee me and bunny will be Oinking down the front Thumbs up
Keep up the good work Honey and I'll see u this weekend!
weve been playing ur un released Wink tunes all week at home they rock and i cant wait to hear them at afterlife!
come over ours before 4 another celebration Woooooot!

Love ya loads Babe ur a legend! Mmmwwah!

From: *Ting* on 6th Nov 2004 10:21.01
YOU ROCK!!! But WTF happened to you this morning!?

From: gravitational pull on 6th Nov 2004 11:38.03
Roast parsnip is my favourite too. Smile

Onya Alex.

From: jdou on 6th Nov 2004 17:36.22
Well done "tonton" great stuff
luv ya lots

From: twist on 6th Nov 2004 22:54.39
was very impressed with your Bedlam set and one of my top 3 DJs to out for. Wont be long before the Fire system beckons

From: DMX on 8th Nov 2004 06:22.46
Nice one, Alex! Hope your new tracks do well.

From: Lizzie Curious on 10th Nov 2004 11:19.40
A brilliant person and obviously with such musical talent and drive is set for big things!
Go Alex!!!

From: Dr DUZZIT on 10th Nov 2004 17:17.55
exellent dj, wicked bloke!!

keep up the good work mateThumbs up

From: Zimma on 12th Nov 2004 17:38.57
Nice interview Bunny and Alex, enjoyed reading that Smile Your Bedlam set was wicked mate, keep up the good work. Thumbs up

From: Jack Blue on 19th Nov 2004 21:44.29
A man of many suprises!!. I remember you when you first started out at XLR8. Keep up the good work mate and congratulations on your degree. Mr J.Hoover.

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