Thursday, November 24, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Vincent Parker

Vincent Parker is one of Vancouver’s most prolific and idiosyncratic artists: you’re as likely to find him booked at an ambient show as a noise show as a synth show as a dubstep(ish) show, but there’s a few reasons for that.  First would be his versatility: the dude can do everything from, well, drone to noise to hip-hop to something resembling other forms of dance music without ever quite conceding to their conventions.  While his sets can often devolve into torrents of noise or exploratory synth odysseys, especially lately he’s been casting at least one careful eye over the dancefloor.  It might be a consummately fucked-up, misfit dancefloor, but there’s room to dance there nonetheless.
It was Vincent’s set at this past September’s New Forms Festival that finally convinced me of his cross-platform potential -- I’d had an idea before, of course, but I hadn’t seen anything this direct or bull-dozingly effective in one set from him before.  Preceding a bill that included L.A. hip-hop weirdo Shlohmo and Bristol grime/dubstep lynchpin Superisk, to properly warm up the crowd Parker played an all-originals set completely primed for the dancefloor.  Representing some mutant hybrid of dubstep, garage, and hip-hop, his crashing beats and distorted synths were moulded into recognizable shapes, crash-landing in captivating configurations before doing it all again, shifting subtly over the course of an hour without too many of the wild changes in direction that might be expected from Parker.  It was exciting to hear him so capably play to a dancefloor crowd like that, and sure enough the material he’s been working on lately runs along the same thread -- sacrificing none of his edge or energy, Parker has been crafting genreless bangers, notably unleashing them on the self-released (and absolutely fantastic) collection of cosmic hip-hop Respecanize.

When I asked Parker for a mix to contribute to the series, I certainly wasn’t going to tell him what to do, but for coherence purposes -- and certainly after seeing him destroy the Waldorf Hotel at New Forms -- I was hoping he’d fashion something similar to that set, a concentrated burst of his most brutally effective, propulsive tunes.  And I think he’s delivered.  The roughly twenty-minute mix jumps from his most melodic to his most gnarled: grizzled synths shrieking, fading, buzzing, and disintegrating, it’s a fascinating journey and even more so knowing that it was all done live and on-the-fly.  There are bits from Respecanize in there and a whole bunch of other stuff, and hearing it compressed into an easily-digestible twenty minutes illuminates Parker’s odd little view of dancefloor music.  While his beats might share propensities with dubstep or hip-hop in terms of arcs and crashes and booms, the way he builds his tracks is more akin to trance, pounding bright and cheery melodies ad nauseum until they’re about to explode.  But you’re not going to find any hissing snare rolls or euphoric breakdowns here: instead of giving into the temptation, Parker simply snuffs out a beat at critical mass and pulls in the next one.  It has the effect of keeping the music almost unbearably on edge, providing both the thrill of build-up and almost-climax without any of the come-down or mawkish, hackneyed melodies.  Just because I had no idea what the hell to expect, Parker’s contribution was one of the Futureproofing Vancouver mixes I was most excited for, and over a period of months I had build up a rather unrealistic set of expectations for what could come out of it; yet, somehow, Parker has fully and completely made good on every promise his music has ever made to me. This is twenty-minutes of uncompromising but accessible dance music made by someone who doesn’t give a fuck about genre, about what’s happening in “UK bass” or whatever the hell “dubstep” means anymore.  Much like fellow Vancouver denizens Prison Garde & Eames (already profiled on this very series), this is pure dancefloor music: drum machines, synths, and a whole lotta crazy ideas.
When you’re done with this, and you’re appropriately blown away, download the album too.


Back and Forth (originally from Prism Myst)
Slippery (originally from Prism Myst)
Dense Colour Wall (Respecanize)
Slither (Respecanize)
Ice Caps (unreleased)
White Petal Night/First Desert Highway (Respecanize)


Have you always been based in Vancouver? If not, where were you before, and why'd you move?

I grew up mostly on Vancouver Island but as soon as I graduated I escaped to go to Emily Carr University of Art and Design. That happened in 2002 and I have been a Vancouverite since.

Do you find the Vancouver electronic music scene healthy? What do you like about it, and what problems might it suffer from?

I find the Vancouver electronic music scene to be very healthy... some very diverse, very interesting and extremely innovative and talented people have come from Vancouver. Just recently it has changed for the awesome. More venues and the warehouses have come up, so it seems there is always something amazing to see or place to play.

Problems I have... even though Vancouver has this rich smorgasbord of [local] music… it seems to still be most interested in imported culture. That frustrates me.

Why do you think Vancouver has such a focus on "imported culture" and is there something that promoters could do or aren't doing to improve the situation surrounding local talent?

Vancouver is just weird… it seems it isn’t ever good enough unless it's imported. I think promoters are stuck in an old model based on electronica in the 90s or even the early 2000s.

Why do you think it's so hard for local artists to make a splash outside of Vancouver? 

Cost of travel mostly. It's retarded.

Of all the producers I'm featuring in this series, you're one of the hardest to pin down in stylistic terms. How would you describe your music if you had to?

It’s just as hard for me. I am not a big fan of stylistic genre names for categorizing music, especially in electronic music. I find the genres are coined then it limits you in the mind of an audience. And then certain expectations happen and that can be frustrating all around. I would rather be known as a good show.  To answer the question, I have described my style of music as “if Sebastian Tellier and Mr. Oizo had a kid and raised him on thrash metal and gangster rap.” When forced to name it something short and sweet, it’s the futuristic. [laughs]

You can definitely hear those French Touch influences in your static-y, distorted textures. What are some other influences on your sound, if I can ask that stupid and annoying question? 

I listen to lots of different stuff… I listen to a lot of American song writers (Springsteen, Hold Steady, Dylan…) but the applicable acts that influence my music would be:

Sebastien Tellier, Mr. Oizo, Apparat, Modeselektor, Fennez, The Knife, Daniel Lanois, Washed Out, Flying Lotus, Metronomy, Chemical Brothers... Also lots of hip-hop: Wu-Tang, Kanye, Neptunes, J Dilla, Madlib, Just Blaze, T.I., Yelawolf, Pusha T, The Weeknd, and list goes on and on… But the biggest influence on my production would be from my good friends at Laptop Battle and Matthew Willox aka WNY aka Winnie The Shit aka Spark.

I was involved in Laptop battle (see more at since 2005 as either a judge or a featured performer. In 2009 I competed for the first time at the Seattle battle and won. It really pushed my methods and kept my competitive spirit stoked. Matt Willox got me into thinking outside the box in my programming and use of controllers… he was running Buzz machines back in 2004 on a basic laptop with a 16-fader controller (this was a controller before the USB MIDI -outs era) and he fucking slayed… building sounds like spider webs… always changing the sounds and composition by flicking the little switches. So fucking awesome.

From what I can see your sound seems to be moving in a slightly more dancefloor-friendly direction lately. Your set at New Forms was especially... accessible. Is this a conscious/deliberate move or is it just where your head's at? Or is club music just getting more experimental?

For me all my tracks are fully sequenced and conducted live… so it really depends on what’s going on environmentally.  My New Forms Festival set was designed to be a dance floor set cause that’s what was called for. That night the room was really sounding great and it wasn’t like the place was empty… all that affected how the show went down. Sometimes I open for bands in cabaret style shows (Protomen, Diamond Rings, shout out out out outs). In that case my set has lots of me singing, lots of complicated heady glitching, also my pace is more stop-and-start as I am trying to keep it more about each track and less about dancing.

As to the question about consciously trying to be more accessible… I have been learning more and more that I know my songs better than listeners, and I shouldn’t go glitching it so much that only like two people are following cause they know the beat. I have just been letting the beat breath a little longer before I go and change it. I have also been focusing on melody a lot more and so that might be helping..

How do you feel about being grouped together here with what are primarily dance music producers/DJs? Do you feel like you're part of a particular scene in Vancouver in general or are you more of an outsider?

I feel the “scene” is doing its own thing. And it seems to be pretty genre centric (dubstep, moombahton, house). Since I am hard to pin down, refuse to make genre driven music and I don’t DJ, I think I am pretty quickly excluded from whatever scene we may be talking about.  My homies are doing their own thing their own way. Not designing tracks to fit the genre… they are making their own thing happen.

What does your live set consist of and what kind of equipment do you use? Do you feel like live electronic music is a legitimate form of performance? A lot of people criticize it for being too easy or somehow invalid.

I currently play a laptop running FL studio with an akai mpd32, two kaoss pad v2 linked, and I have the TC Helicon VoiceLive Touch.

And it really depends if there is a performance. If there is true interaction with the equipment and sound then of course it’s a legitimate form of performance. People who criticize or think its invalid are probably washed up try hard douchebags that are jealous that I have so much fucking magic sex energy.

What motivated you to do a self-release with the Respecanize album? Why did you choose bandcamp, and are there any drawbacks to releasing in the way you did?

Well, I hate trying to explain my music… especially to electronic labels that are constantly inundated by newbies and clones. Just to get their attention is tough. Then I wouldn’t be interested in strictly a web release… I have released before on a netlabel (Run Riot Records R.I.P.), however the trade-off never seemed fair. I’d rather be in control of my promotion if it isn’t going to be done to my high standards.

Bandcamp allows me to have control over every aspect of the costs and I find that people trust it. The only drawback I see is the limit of 200 free downloads…

What separates Respecanize from your other work? Did you make these tracks with an album in mind?

Respecanize Part One was put together out of many different live takes that I had been collecting for the last ten months. I wanted it to be track-oriented while still giving the listener a good idea as to how I sound live. There are a lot more tracks that I wanted to include but I thought it better to first push these tracks before they get old to me. The release model was inspired by Pusha T’s Fear of God mixtape. The first stuff was free kept people listening.. get them on board with my freaky style then do a physical to sell.

Do you find it hard to get bookings -- or even establish a reputation/name -- when your music is so.. all over the place and unpredictable? Or in a place like Vancouver, is that actually easier?

My reputation is harder to solidify cause I don’t play a genre and roll fluid. However, I think the underground has been super accepting. 2004-2006 was difficult but since my punk booty bass group, Artemis Jackson, I have been rocking pretty good sized rooms. Must give mad respect to BassCoast, Michael Red, LongWalkShortDock, the Red Gate, Monolithium, Cam Reed (Babe Rainbow) and My Gay Husband for really allowing me to play some really amazing parties to show off my styles and prove that my style isn’t just experimental wanking and that I can rock the party.

Can you talk a little bit about the mix you did for Futureproofing? ]

The mix is pretty much me playing through the songs live. When I say played I mean that they are conducted like how a conductor and a symphonic orchestra rolls. The parts are written but they always come out different each time I run through the tracks. It all depends on my timing and choices as to how the songs come out. I put the two tracks from Prism Myst on there cause I wanted to really exemplify the difference between recordings and plays. If you compare them you’ll see vast differences however it’s the same tune. You’ll see the same variations with the new tracks in compared to the album version

With the advent of a certain type of dance music hitting the mainstream and 'club culture' arguably bigger than ever in Vancouver's mainstream, do you think it's harder to market experimental music now in Vancouver than it was a few years ago?

I'm not really marketing “experimental music,” I am more pushing an original and fun dance party.

What's the most exciting thing/person/whatever to you in Vancouver right now?

I would have to say the most exciting thing is the Music Waste festival now having electronic showcases for the last two years. The festival doesn’t give a fuck about genre as long as people are pushing boundaries. The vibe is really inclusive and fun and its also cheap to attend.

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