If you listen to the bare bones rattle of a proper dub version or lose yourself in the deafening space in a DMZ track, it becomes clear that so much of the power in soundsystem music comes from the art of stripping things down to the basic essence. Consider Parris a disciple of this school of thought, pinging the art of minimalism into a daring new area where weird, mutant tones and crushing low end vibrate in a starkly rendered vacuum. This sensation came across especially on his Your Kiss Is Sour EP for Hemlock last year, where fragile arrangements using the least amount of tools removed the dancefloor urgency out of the music but kept all the sonic heft intact.
Dwayne Parris-Robinson has quietly carved himself a path as an important protagonist in the contemporary bass-orientated landscape, where genre definitions are nigh on irrelevant and yet an interlocking network of artists and labels share a similar interest in abstracting the possibilities dubstep implied. His Soundman Chronicles label precedes his recorded output, providing a home for artists like Etch, Facta, Rabit and more recently Wen and K-Lone. While those artists may be particularly distinct from each other, their output could surely sit comfortably in a mix together in these genre-bending times.
Meanwhile the Parris sonic output has slowly kicked into life, with the past two years seeing releases land on Idle Hands, Ancient Monarchy, the aforementioned Hemlock and most recently The Trilogy Tapes. The latest 12” 2 Vultures EP has successfully dashed any hope of knowing what to expect from a Parris release, and that’s what makes him an exciting artist. Combined with his low-key approach, his artistry marks him out in particular – easier said than done in a scene where every producer worth their salt has to sound somehow distinct from their peers.
Not that he sees his approach like that at all, as you’ll discover in the interview below. We were just keen to tap up a producer who has made possibly the best use of the classic Nintendo Game Boy start-up blip we’ve ever heard in a track.
Things have picked up for you in terms of productions/releases in recent years, but you’ve got a longer history in the music industry, right? Could you perhaps explain how things started out for you, and how you ended up getting involved with music on an active level?
It’s so hard to know where to start with a question like this. I guess the best place is via BM Soho. I worked there from 2010 till around 2014. It initially started as a work experience role in the online part, so posting out orders and updating the website. Eventually I managed to work my way into the shop and would do a bit of selling in the basement which was the dubstep / drum & bass section. As I was always out and about I guess I just became a trusted face which eventually led to me getting more music based jobs and roles including working at a distributor / label managing for Tempa. To be honest I just fell into a lot of these things!
Soundman Chronicles has been going a few years now. Was there any specific idea or motivation you had when starting the label?
I just literally heard a tune I wanted to sign in a mix and decided to start a label! There was never really any mission statement and to this day I still don’t think there is. I feel more like the label is just an outlet for music I like and artists who I believe stand out and it’s nice to give them a platform. I'm not too sure if I see the label as having a role, but if it did then I guess it's to help artists find their sound; which in turn hopefully means that they can move on to somewhere else where they can help them grow and develop.
Do you see the label as being a kind of stop along the way for artists then? In a way it results in a catalogue of pretty daring material. Sometimes an artist can make the wildest stuff in their early years.
I think that because neither the artist nor me rely on the label, and this ensures that there’s less pressure on the both of us and we can take more risks. As a label grows sometimes there becomes more pressure to create careers for artists and Soundman Chronicles has never really been a space for that, but rather a place for an artist to feel sonically free to do what they want. Wen’s record with me took around a year and a half to put together and the K-LONE record also took about 12-15 months. As we’re never in a rush it means that we can work to make the record as good as possible.
It’s been quite a wait between the Wen double pack and the K-Lone release coming out. Why is that?
The K-Lone record was supposed to come out earlier in the year but for reasons out of my control it ended up coming out when it did. With the label I’ve never really taken demos so maybe that’s one of the reasons why the output has been so slow. I like to have a connection with someone and give him or her the focus when we’re putting a record together. If I’m signing loads of music I don’t really have enough time in the day to make it work (between other commitments) whereas if I’ve got a small amount of people to work with I can focus on a specific project to ensure we get the best possible record out.
Is there any reason why you’ve not released any of your own music on Soundman Chronicles?
I prefer other people A&R’ing my music for me. It’s nice to have someone else’s ear in helping me understand the best parts of what I create.
In terms of your own production, things also seem to move relatively slowly. Is there any reason for this?
I rarely finish solo music. 2015 I think I finished three tunes. 2017 has been more, but only due to the fact that I’ve been doing more collab-ing and remixes. Outside of those I only finished two solo tunes in 2017 which both came out on The Trilogy Tapes. I just end up scrapping a lot of WIPs as I don't think they're good enough so I'm always working on stuff, but I just very rarely finish.
Stylistically, the common thread throughout your music is a tendency towards quite stark minimalism. The Hemlock release really threw me at first - like some of the best music it took me a few listens to sink into it. Do you have a specific aim when you’re working on this stuff - a desired goal of minimalist music?
I feel like it’s more wanting to be an individual in music. Because I consume music so much I hear a lot and this in turn ends up putting me off a lot of structures because I’ve heard it so much over time. I guess my point of minimalism is to take the parts of music I love and strip it back to the bare essentials, keeping the parts I like and creating something new out of them.
I think that everything comes from wanting music to have a natural flow. I don't really like to over-think things and most times when I write a track, if it doesn't sound natural, I'll scrap it. Even though I finish very few tunes, at least 7/10 are written within a day. The rest will end up being developed over a couple of weeks or a month but that's mainly because sometimes certain ideas need more details, so I spend time working on that.
Considering the soundsystem roots of the music you’re involved with, it seems like tracks like 'Skeletal' are a confident step away from the demands of a peak time floor. Is this all still music to move to? Does it even bother you?
This is a hard question for me to answer because I never really think about what or who I'm making this music for. The only tunes I've ever written specifically for a dancefloor was 'South East Of The Mountain' and 'Hot Blooded' because it made sense to have a dancefloor tune on my EPs. Outside of those I just fuck with sounds I like and make things. Some tunes have an intention. For example 'Hanging With The Birds' was created to be a really long loop with subtle changes and I felt like I achieved that. That’s very rarely the case though. Functional music will always have a place in clubs and that makes complete sense because people want to dance. My DJ sets are different from the music I write and I very rarely play my own tunes in clubs.
It feels like, with your own productions and the label, that you’re part of a loose fit scene that I might lump labels like Hessle, Hemlock, Wisdom Teeth, Livity etc in with. Does it feel that way to you?
I've never been keen for the word scene for the fact that it just lumps things together and also scenes begin, grow and die (In my personal opinion). I prefer to say that we're all sonically similar because at any point we can all move on to something completely different but yes, I do feel an affinity to those labels and there is a strong community of people. The good thing about being around such an open set of labels and producers is the fact that we're all just doing our own thing. It does feel amazing to definitely be put in a group with labels which I had massive respect for such as Livity, Hemlock and Hessle as these were labels I looked up to loads (and still do). They also meant a lot in terms of my musical maturity in the early 2010's.
Other than that, all that’s left to ask is what’s coming up at present for you?
I'm doing a shared 12" with Kowton, which should hopefully be coming out soon! Also working on another 12" for Mr. Chris Farrell for Idle Hands; to when that'll come out I have no clue but guess it just depends on how long it takes me to finish the tunes. I'd like to hope it'll come out by this year.