Anyone who’s been into UK Hip Hop over the last 10 years will have listened to a track produced by Lewis Parker. You could argue that several of his productions were responsible for the UK scene becoming what it was in the first half of the 00’s, with tracks produced for the likes of Klashnekoff, Supa T and Jehst. He was signed to a major label when few others were, and managed to release two quality albums.
I wanted to ask about his time with Virgin, his beginning’s in music, and the infamous saga of the Champions of Nature CD. It turns out i got a bit more info than i was expecting. Lewis clearly isn’t afraid to speak his mind and we’ll add right here ‘The views expressed in this article are those of the artist interviewed, Lewis Parker, they do not represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, ukhh.com’. I have edited parts out because it’s old news and we’re not really here to get into music politics. I left enough in to give his side of the story, what it shows is that music is a funny old game, that artists fall out, and the business side of music is a tricky place for friends to negotiate through. I’d be lying if i said i hadn’t seen similar situations before, or been at odds with someone within the industry about something myself, shit happens, you move on.
Anyway enough said, it’s an interesting read, and we thank Lewis for taking the time to do the interview..
UKHH.COM: Did anybody else in your family get involved with music?
LP: Yes both my parents were really into music, my mother used to sing, in fact Saxon Sound System wanted to cut a record with her back in the 70’s. My father was (still is) a DJ with a heavy Reggae collection and definitely was the one who got me into recording and such. My Big brother is a real actual fact genius with a PHD in physics, he can play most instruments! My lil sister Akayzia Parker has her own recording career and a lovely voice, also my younger brother was rhyming for a bit he stopped now, I hope he starts again 😉
UKHH.COM: What are your earliest memories of hip-hop?
LP: My Cousin Mark Springer and his crazy Hip-Hop bedroom! I remember when we used to visit them in Harlesden (London), I’d be blown away with the records he had and ill posters on his wall, like the massive ICE-T logo with the uzi.
Shit like Run-Dmc ‘Tougher Than Leather’ on repeat! Seeing local London crew’s rock at carnival, and in the parks back in the 80’s at festivals like Sunsplash!
UKHH.COM: How did you get involved in the production side of things?
LP: From when I first heard Hip Hop it was something that clicked, I was listening for loops and sounds from like 10 years old! I remember being at my auntie’s house and just listening to all the old records she had in the front room on that funny (from the 60’s) all in one record/tape player. At 10-12 years old I started making pause tape loops, I didn’t have a clue about samplers then. I can recall wondering how on earth did they get the loops to go around smooth like that! In about 92 I bought a software program called ‘stereo master’ which was a very basic sampling package, it allowed you to sample for about 20sec on two mono channels, then edit the wave form. That is what I took flight on. Then in 1994 I started going to the local studio in Acton where I learned the 950 and Cubase!
UKHH.COM: What was the first equipment that you got really comfortable working on?
LP: ATARI ST, AKAI 900, AKAI 950
UKHH.COM: Are you still using the Atari and 950’s now? I know you’re still on the SP.
LP: I stopped using the Atari when I got an SP. 1999 to 2000 was a transition point, some stuff was programmed on the SP, some still on Cubase. I was using the s950 heavy til about five years back, now I use an emu rack sampler with the SP!
UKHH.COM: What is it about a sound that you’re looking for?
LP: All depends on my mood or the mood required for specific situations. I tend to lean more toward contemporary band lead orchestral sounds.
UKHH.COM: Do you usually do drums first?
UKHH.COM: Do you layer drum hits?
UKHH.COM: Do you use actual drum loops or just hits?
LP: On my first two records I was mainly looping drums after that everything is chopped up.
UKHH.COM: Do you play any instruments?
LP: Drums! I even had lessons as a kid.
UKHH.COM: Did you ever work with a live band?
LP: I’ve had musicians play extra parts for songs, yes.
UKHH.COM: Tell me about something you do in production which you think is a Lewis Parker method, like something you always do to a sound or drums?
LP: There are many secret techniques, but there is one style known to certain producers called ‘THE TRICK’. This technique is the principle behind my main production method. It has to do with the maintaining of the natural air around a sound!
UKHH.COM: You must have a huge stash of beats that never came out.
LP: Of course! Some (if the break is dope enough) get remade.
UKHH.COM: Are you still out there digging?
LP: Always & forever
UKHH.COM: What catches your eye about a record if you’re sampling?
LP: Catches my eye! The right artist/label/year maybe a sexy girl on the cover 😉
UKHH.COM: What are some of your favorite drum breaks?
Power of Zeus
Impeach, Funky Drummer, Whatnauts
UKHH.COM: Is there a project that you’ve recorded or worked on at the studio other than your own that you’re particularly proud of?
UKHH.COM: Can you explain what is it about that project that makes you so proud?
LP: Well, those sessions were incredible, it felt like how you want to feel when making an album. I had the time, space and peace of mind to create. The luxury of being in studios which cost thousands by the day. Having money behind a project makes a big difference, and you can hear that in the recording, and mixes.
UKHH.COM: What do you think gives you the knack for putting beats together?
LP: Having the ear for it. Knowing what kinda sounds should go together. Being able to hear the break and make the beat in your head before you even get it in on the sampler.
UKHH.COM: How important is it to have an understanding about the business side of the industry in order to make moves?
LP: Extremely important, most artists get jerked by record company sharks at sone point.
UKHH.COM: It says on discogs the first Lewis Parker release was the ‘Wonderwall’ 7” is that correct?
LP: HELL NO! It was B-BOY ANTICKS, the one sided white label that was my first record ever, 300 only (pressed)! That ‘Wonderwall’ 7” was never meant for release, Trevor Jackson pressed it up without my knowledge, I was angry about it at the time cos i only did that record as a joke for my crew!
UKHH.COM: Speaking of Trevor Jackson your first couple of official releases were with his Bite It! record label, he’d released music from The Brotherhood and other early pioneers, how did that come about?
LP: I sent him demo’s a year before I put out ‘B-BOY ANTICKS’, then after my record was hot he picked me up and re-pressed ‘B-ANTICKS’ with the instrumentals on the flip, then put out ‘RISE’ and that dam 7” 😉
UKHH.COM: You also did that 98# series releases on Lowlife didn’t you?
LP: Thats right.
What a tycoon Joe ‘Braintax’ Christie is! I wish I had stuck to my original feelings about him and never let him into the circle of trust! You see, I knew Joe through DJ MK, they were flat mates. I would often go round there with Supa-T to check for MK, Braintax used to try to come up in the cipher, and I was never even feeling dude like that and would tell T I wasn’t feeling him. But T was like, nah he’s cool, then next thing I know T’s recording with this fool. I end up over there, we get high, and I get on his ASR and T pulls out that record, I loop that shit, next thing we got ‘Life and Breath’. Back then I used to rock like that, but he took advantage knowing I had a big name after I just signed to Massive Attack. He used it with the distributor’s to get his record better placed and take his label to a higher position. It’s a shame he was a snake because Low Life could have been a real great home for Hip Hop artists.
UKHH.COM: Many people have heard one story or another about what went on at Lowlife, what’s your take on the demise of the label?
LP: He jerked all the artists, made enough so he could set him self up for the rest of his life, and broke the fuck out to Australia, never to be seen again! Slick snake.
UKHH.COM: Was that the only production you did with Lowlife records?
LP: No, I also produced 3 tracks on the Low Life album “falling Down” (Jehst)
UKHH.COM: And the Champions of Nature tracks were all done around this period as well? We know a CD was, although never officially, why did it never see the light of day in an official capacity? And what was the deal with the unofficial CD?
LP: That CD was the straw that broke the camels back and the final reason why I can’t fuck with Jehst no more. After Champions of Nature broke up, it was clear the album couldn’t come out, people wasn’t even talking. Sorting out the business was far too hectic.
Now Jehst and me had another problem over money for his Lowlife album that got sorted in the end, but that had left a bad taste in my mouth, cos we were friends. I even told Jehst, NO, (to releasing the C.O.N CD) before when he tried to get Champions of Nature stuff from me.
(I still got unreleased C.O.N tracks) So when he put out that CD me, L.Dolo and A.M (the only members of champions of nature I still keep up with) were like, what is he doing now? Why is he still trying live off those C.O.N props, selling other people’s music he had no right to sell.
When I confronted Jehst backstage at a Bootcamp (Clik) show in Camden he started to apologize, if it wasn’t for Skinnyman I would have laid him out that night.
UKHH.COM: So you made the move to Melankolik and did your first 2 albums with them right?
LP: I was signed to Melankolik in 1997 and put out two LP’s with them yes.
UKHH.COM: In your previous interview with ukhh.com in 2002 you were talking about how the label never really supported you, how does the whole experience feel now looking back on it?
LP: It’s a real shame!
UKHH.COM: Did that experience change how you felt about record deals?
UKHH.COM: Your work on the early Klashnekoff releases are still held in extremely high regard from the whole UK Hip Hop community how did you and K Lash Hook up?
LP: I knew Klashnekoff through A-Cyde, I remember being blown away by his freestyle about a year before Daggo was released (Daggo Mentality).
UKHH.COM: Did you realize at the time how popular those tunes in particular would be?
LP: Yes, i knew Daggo would smash it cos there was nothing like out at the time.
UKHH.COM: Would you like to work with Klashnekoff again in the future?
LP: Yes I would, he’s a real one of a kind talent and I miss the energy we had in the lab, I love you my brother!
UKHH.COM: You then released Put A Beat to A Rhime which was essentially a remix album wasn’t it..
LP: Yeah just quick sick remixes. That record done it all in a month def a dope one.
UKHH.COM: Looking back 2000 – 2007 was a good time for UK Hip Hop what do you think happened that made it drop off?
LP: People don’t have good direction!
UKHH.COM: So you moved to the state, has it been what you thought it would be?
LP: I didn’t come with preconceived thoughts on how it is going to be. It felt like the right thing, and logically at the time it was my best option. I do love New York all the same though.
UKHH.COM: Is it something you’d recommend to other people to do who are serious about trying to get into the beat making scene in the states?
LP: No, just master you craft!
UKHH.COM: It’s interesting that you have stuck to your musical guns whilst the sound of Hip Hop changed over the past 10 years, what is it that keeps you digging in the dusty crates?
LP: Simple, I make what I like! I master my style to precise measurements so evolution is a natural thing with my sound. So any changes are for improvement on the same technique, not starting a new style or completely loosing a sound or technique!
UKHH.COM: Do you think that’s alienated you from a new audience of up and coming Hip Hop fans?
LP: Well that’s the problem, you can’t re-invent the wheel. Real hip hop is based on the breaks, if I ain’t hearing no breaks in your joint sonny then you on shaky ground!
UKHH.COM: Most recently you’ve been working with King Underground, and you’ve got the 2nd part of The Puzzle coming soon, when is that to be released?
LP: When it’s ready!
UKHH.COM: Tell us a little about that project..
LP: The Puzzle is a continued espionage thriller about the trials and tribulations in mine and others’ lives, while I’m putting together the missing piece’s to the mystery of man and the universe..
UKHH.COM: Clearly you like the whole spy / thriller / espionage subject, were you into them type of films when you were young?
LP: When you really look at man’s modern world you soon see that all enterprise is going to have espionage and counter espionage! I started to be aware of industry spies when I got signed to Virgin. Where strange guys in the office who didn’t even like hip hop would ask me questions, like how I get my drums like that, and, what machine’s I used and such like. Those type of question made me paranoid in my new found major label situation, and seeing how I never had any love for the empire to begin with, it was easy for me to be very cynical about all the industry was doing!
I have always loved films from the 60’s and 70’s, they have a way to really dramatize a story, idea’s seemed so much more romantic then. Also, things weren’t all PC back then, those old films are real raw, mad racist and sexist with heaps of propaganda. When you get down to it you find espionage is usually at the bottom of most plots!
UKHH.COM: Any particular fave films?
LP: Empire Strikes Back, All 3 Shaft films and TV Series, Enter the dragon, The Spook Who Sat By The Door, Three The Hard Way, Black Ceasar, The Ipcress File (editor: I love this film also), Live And Let Die, Goldfinger,Man With The Golden Gun, Spy Who Loved Me, Thunderball, From Russia With Love
UKHH.COM: Where do you see Hip Hop going in the next 5 years..
LP: True skool Hip-Hop will make a strong stand as the current trend of over poppy rap will die down for a little bit, that’s until someone comes with a new way off selling Hip Hop out
UKHH.COM: Who’s been on your playlist recently from the UK or US..
LP: I don’t have a play list, I don’t listen to my music on a phone or ipod!
I got that T.R.A.C produced Kiddrums and Icerock “STAY TRUE” that’s dope!
I heard the new Premo / Bumpy Knuckles “We Are At War”, that’s dope! Gensu Dean’s LP is on point! I’m rocking my man Mr Spyce’s joints produced by my brother J.U.ICE holding down on SP1200, now his shit is what I’m talking about!