The Next Evolution: Interview with Neil Parkes

7 months ago by Matty Adams

Driven beyond the dance floor by the perfectly balanced combination of both passion and talent, UK DJ/Producer Neil Parkes is a name that has been on the cusp of many lips in recent years.

Following spectacular sets at the likes of Fabric, Space Ibiza and Rainbow Venues, the resume of this Deep House selector has only become more impressive.

With a growing discography constructed through releases on such highly regarded labels as Hot Creations, Leftroom and Madtech, Neil’s production catalogue has expanded in terms of support from names including Jamie Jones, Hot Since 82, Richy Ahmed, Matt Tolfrey and Mark Jenkyns.

We recently caught up with Hot Creations regular, Neil Parkes, and discussed his clubbing years and earliest career influences, his latest track entitled ‘Peil Narkes’ released as a part of the Hot Jams EP and what he has lined up his sleeve for us in 2017.

Your passion for electronic music first began on the dance floor as a fan. Before you started creating music, what were your favourite events to attend? Was there a specific set/moment that inspired you to make the raver to artist transition?

My club life came in two parts really, with two different scenes. I first started going to Hard House/ Dance clubs like Sundissential, Insomniacz, GateCrasher and Storm around 2001. These seemed like unbelievable places compared to the local clubs, with commercial music I was used to. We would travel to different cities every week chasing the rave ha. Early on, I had bought some Technics 1210’s for about £250 at the time, and some hard house records. I didn’t have a clue what to do with them, but I picked it up – eventually!

When I went to Ibiza to do my first season in 2003 – I went wherever my mates were, mainly staying around San An going to Eden, Es Paradis, Garlands, Kanya, Bar M and Manumission. It wasn’t until 2004, I went to DC10, and I couldn’t believe it. The place was something I’d not experienced before! Music I had never heard, in a one off venue with walls, and a tent like top on it, which started in the daytime! This was the music I wanted to be listening to, and playing!

After DC10, we would go straight to Cocoon. This became a standard Monday at Amnesia and gave a totally different experience to DC10, and even though I may have felt like I was flaking a bit – I soon got back into it once I got on the Terrace just after midnight!

I came back to the UK, and noticed loads of cool parties popping up. I’d go to Below, Dirty Disco, Fabric, Sankeys, Abbatoir, Mint Club and Asylum. I started getting my record collection together, and wanted to become the entertainer, not just the raver!

Speaking of inspirations, who were your earliest career influences and why? What appealed to you the most about their sound?

When I started getting into the ‘Ibiza scene’, I would always look forward to seeing Luciano at DC10! It always went off when he was on! The sound was more minimal at the time, it was wicked! He had this groove and energy that no one else seemed to have in their sets.

I remember watching Ricardo Villalobus on the Amnesia Terrace in 2005, when the DJ booth was on the right as you walk in. The sun was up, and he was awesome! I have a video of him playing on an old camera with a young Jamie Jones, Richy Ahmed, Mark Jenkyns and Russ Yallop in it ha. We were all out there doing the season. His music was like hypnotic, where it was minimal, but locked you in. The Terrace at Amnesia is by far my favorite venue. I think it’s the memories the place holds, and it’s always a good night there.

This was the year I also noticed Richie Hawtin though. He blew my mind. I didn’t know what he was doing behind the decks, but he was messing with his laptop a lot and creating sounds I had never heard. Before that, I was just used to a DJ mixing two records without a laptop. Amazing!

Dorian Paic and Rene (DC10) were always on form when I saw them. They tended to play earlier, and I thought the music they played set the pace for the rest of the night. Listening to them definitely inspired my warm up sets for future years, and with my first residency at Below, at the Rainbow in Birmingham.

Switching gears now, your latest track titled ‘Peil Narkes’ has been released as a part of the Hot Jams EP on Hot Creations. Can you tell us a little more about the production that went into this track and what you were trying to achieve with it?

‘Peil Narkes’ was actually a re-write of an original track. I had made a few new tracks, and Richy Ahmed (a good mate of mine for a long time) had been playing in Nottingham, and came round mine after. Regardless of the time, I grilled him on his opinion. He said a few things – so I went back in the studio the following week and changed all the tracks.

With ‘Peil Narkes’, I went in there to make a track, with a big sound to define it, and some strong hats. The bass line I decided should be a solid groove, and the flow of the track created by everything else. I had been using Phoscyon by D16 a lot, so decided to use that for the main hook, with a kind of Matthew Johnson vibe.

I wanted the breakdown to proper slow the track down, and take the energy out. The synths calm the track down nicely, then it all comes in when the track drops!

I only called it ‘Peil Narkes’ because I wanted to send it Jamie Jones before New Year, and when he went to BPM last year. I couldn’t think of anything because I usually use the vocal for the name – but there wasn’t one – so that just came in my head. I was buzzing when he texted me in the early hours of New Years Day saying he wanted to sign the track… it helped the terrible hangover I had.

Aside from your own, which of the other three records on the Hot Jams EP is your favourite and why?

I think the whole release is solid, although Lee Walker – ‘That Little Ditty’ is my favourite. That main hook is awesome. After the main drop, it still has energy, with a unique sound. Always going to go off.

Speaking of ‘Peil Narkes’, you recently had your very own ‘Peil Narkes November Hot Chart’ available on Beatport. This included records from artists like Andrea Oliva, Bontan, Ki Creightion, Vibe Killers and more. Talk us through your some of the tracks that made your chart and what you like about them the most…

‘Opio’ by Ale Castro is a wicked track. I like deep grooving tracks, and when I heard this I thought: “This is mint!” You know when a track just gets you. It reminded me of my early clubbing days, and an old Fabric mix I used to listen to about ten years ago.

‘Floor 13’ by Vibe Killers is a big track! I’m really into their stuff at the moment. I used this track in a recent mix I did. I like music that moves forward, but if some elements can take me back to happy memories, even better!

‘Penetrate’ by Ki Creighton is a dark track you can’t help but like. Different from everything else, but with a solid bassline and groove! I had someone message me about this one the other day- buzzing off it!

Continuing with Beatport charts now, Jhonsson’s remix of your record, ‘Bittersweet’, made Hot Since 82’s Xmas Hits. This support is pretty impressive coming from an artist of Daley’s caliber. What are your thoughts on him as an artist? What’s your relationship like with Daley?

Daley and I have been mates for a very long time! Think it must be 15 years now. We get on really well, and it’s always good to catch up and hang out. I went to see him on New Years at The Rainbow. He is one of the most genuine guys I know… a proper mate, and always has time for you.

As an artist, Daley has done amazing over the past six years. To be able to establish himself as ‘Daley Padley’ tour around the world, then sack it all off, and start again with a new name, new music and get to where he is, is incredible! I remember when he was asking me what I thought of “Hot Since 82”, and I said: “that’s cool – but maybe say 84 or 85” haha. His first release was a hit, and after ‘Bigger Than Prince’, it has boomed for him since then. A great sound, and superb DJ.

Can you tell us a little more about the story behind this track and how Jhonsson’s remix differs to the original?

I was using acid sounds in quite a few of my tracks when I made this one. I wanted the track to have a lot of energy, and when the breakdown came in, it literally sounded like I had put another record on. Nice and calm, then the track creeps back in again. I enjoy spending time on breakdowns, as you can be clever, and put stuff in that would not really fit in the track otherwise. This wasn’t the leading track of the EP- but it got a lot better response when released.

Jhonsson and I do a lot of remixes for one another. I like his music, and know, whenever he does remix for me, it will be wicked!

I’d say my version is more of a driven track with acid rifts through. Jhonsonn’s is very much his own style. His version uses more pads, and has a kind of progressive feel to it. I was well pleased with it.

Judging from all of your recent releases, production really seems to be your forte. What is your current studio set-up like? What piece of equipment do you enjoy utilizing the most?

I tend to use soft synths rather than hardware. I am currently working at my home studio (as I was renting studio space last year) and have my MacBook Pro, Motu Ultralite soundcard, Adam A7 speakers, and midi controller.

I used to use Logic, but have moved to Ableton over the last few years. I am currently using Rob Papen Sub Boom Bass and Predator, the Arturia V selection, Waves and Fab Filter. I like to stick to the same plug ins, too many just gets confusing, and you end up not knowing their real capabilities.

In relation to production, it can seem quite daunting for those artists who are just beginning to learn the process. What advice would you give to people who are interested in learning production?

I think you need to let someone who knows the program teach you the basics, and keep going until you feel you need to know more. There is so much to learn, and you end up forgetting a lot if you take too much in too soon. Use the same program your friends/ circle use. Then, if you have any questions or problems, they are there to help. I moved to Ableton because all my mates were, and I prefer it to Logic now.

Keep practicing, and making tracks, sounds, loops, getting familiar with the program. The more time you put in, the better. Get samples together, but don’t get too many plug ins or pieces of hardware. A lot of people think the more hardware and software they have, the better they are. It doesn’t work like that. It’s what you can do with what you have. I know producers who have a basic set up, and they can make amazing sounds with what they have.

Sitting in with someone, watching them, to see how they make a track from scratch is so helpful! You learn so much. I paid to go to SAE College in London, and although helpful, I think I learnt more from my mates.
You will get to a point where you will want to know more, create more. Have a session with an Engineer. Go in with ideas, loops, samples, tracks you like, and they will help you create your track. Take notes on what they are doing, and don’t be shy to ask questions.
Making music doesn’t happen over night. It takes years of practice! You are always learning, and although everyone has their own way of doing things, yours will come to you eventually.

With 2017 now here, what does the future have in store for Neil Parkes? We noticed that you signed up two new EP’s recently to Material Series and Smiley Fingers Records…

I have a lot of releases coming up over the next six months. I have releases on Cream Couture, Suah, Under No Illusion, Material Series, Roush, Smiley Fingers and Carpe Diem Music. I am really pleased to be on these labels, as they are ones I see as current, and are constantly putting out wicked releases.

Finally, in terms of musical talent, who do you think is a rising star of ‘The Next Evolution’ and why?

The industry has so much new talent at the moment. I think Jhonsson is one to look out for this year (not being biased because he’s my mate ha). He has some amazing music coming out, and each track he sends me gets better. He has just started his own show on Pioneer DJ Radio once a month, and is a Knee Deep In Sound resident!

Neil’s latest track, ‘Peil Narkes’, part of the four-part Hot Jams EP release on Hot Creations, is available to purchase here. For more information on his latest releases and appearances, you can follow Neil on the social media links below:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/neilparkesmusic
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NeilParkesMusic
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/neilparkes


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