On April 12th, James Parker aka Logos, released his second album ‘Imperial Flood’ through the Different Circles label. We caught up with him a few weeks ahead of release in a chat online. Transcript below.
Congrats on the new album and everything you’ve been up to since Cold Mission - DJing, releases under other pseudonyms, the Different Circles label, The Sprawl, Boxed club nights killing it on the regular. You’ve been on one. How do you manage to juggle all of these different creative outputs? A lot of people would call it a day working on just one of these things.
Ez - nice one for having me to chat.
Is that a lot? I don’t know really - I’ve probably put out a couple of releases a year since 2015, I suppose the label has actually taken most of my time, apart from writing Imperial Flood but even that seemed just to merge in to the ebb and flow.
How do I juggle? I mean I work full time so generally music is an evening thing but that’s fine for me, it’s generally a case of punctuated equilibrium so I can go long periods not really generating new musical ideas and then write the skeleton of tracks in a night. Otherwise I guess just keep it moving.
The only irritating thing is not having long hours to practice new techniques (this holds you back in certain situations - I’m learning Max at the moment but that is hard to do in two hour snippets after long days)
It’s even more of a big deal that you’re working full time while you do all of that. This is a massive thing that doesn’t get spoken about too much, just the pure graft of it to make things happen. There’s an illusion out there that there’s always money coming from somewhere hidden, but a big proportion of producers, promoters and label heads are juggling a lot in the background that doesn’t get seen - it’s important to have those things out in the open now and again as a reminder. Especially now that sales are what they are and even live is pretty saturated, it’s a passion and a necessity for most people that keeps the wheels turning.
The news of Imperial Flood sent a good wave of excitement across tuned in heads online. A lot of people have been waiting for new album from you for a long while since your last hit really hard. Here we are a few weeks ahead of release. How’s it all going? Does it feel different as both an artist and a follower of music in general in spring 2019 to how it did in winter 2013 ahead of your last?
Agree with all of that. No one I know in music has private money. But full respect to those who graft full time in music too, especially in high rent/cost of living environments like London.
Feels good going in to the release, once I hold the vinyl in my hand it will all seem concrete.
The month before CM for released was a weird one - it was done without any PR apparatus (although the online press landscape was different then) but I remember I had a good feeling, like the timing was right.
But that was more just a feeling that I would get respect from my peers, which is all I hoped for.
Spring 2019…I hope the audience who enjoyed CM will be in to it and that newcomers to my music will enjoy it. I hope it will make some producers think - how did he do that? That’s just part of the b-boy competitive edge I enjoy.
It obviously feels different in 2019 because I am a known quantity, to an extent.
Jumping back even further, can you define a specific point when the Logos project began, and with that, do you remember what you were setting out to do at the time? Have your aims with it shifted a lot since then?
The name itself was originally a forum name so my sound developed around me rather than it being a specific project - but my first release was a fairly good attempt at Mala style dubstep; not amazing but ok. LV did a great remix (out to Okzharp all day). But I suppose Logos proper was commenced with the Kowloon EP on Keysound and I did deliberately mine grime for concepts but (a) tried to make it as weird as possible (b) slightly slower tempo.
So I guess I was trying to do some of the same things there, which are common to all the dance music I’ve loved the most, which is to make stuff as wide-screen and as visual as possible, and as modernistic in attitude. Basically the Photek gospel lol.
Before that time I was just in a sort of zone of indecision where I didn’t have much self confidence about the music I made and could never finish stuff. The good thing about Kowloon is whilst the execution could have been a lot tighter in terms of mixdown etc, it teaches you that a good idea, rawly expressed, can often touch people better than something with a professional sheen but which is ultimately boring as fuck.
So true. Looking back to the present and recent past, when did you start working on the music that became the new album? Your intentions sound really considered and specific with the Logos project, responding to a certain set of sonic and stylistic cues you’re drawn to as a jumping off point. Was making Imperial Flood a sort of defined process with a fairly clear goal from the outset, or more exploratory with it changing a lot over time? Did you have particular processes, ideas or tools that set things off on a certain path that led you here?
I started writing for it properly in 2015; how I tend to work is just go in to the studio with an idea or something I want to try out, either a technique or a mood, and then see what happens. Sometimes the product seemed like a fit for the LP project, sometimes not, so stuff was just filed away to percolate until enough material accumulated.
I had a loose collection of ideas around constructing a ‘place’ for the listener or describing an imaginary environment in sound
I was interested as well in honing the sound from Cold Mission, so I choose to emphasise homogeneity of style and mood rather than heterogeneity - an example of this is the way Youngsta constructed his DJ sets in 05/06/07…an extremely effective construction of a sonic zone through repetition and a narrow palette.
The title Imperial Flood feels very apt - the record is full of deep, ornate, majestic landscapes - very visual and cinematic. How much does imagery inform the release and what you do in general?
There’s a definite sci-fi atmosphere running through your work, from the sonics to the artwork and track titles. In context even the acid lines in Flash Forward somehow evoke a malfunctioning machine more than a 303. Is science fiction something you follow and draw from? Do you see any parallels or crossovers in current music and sci-fi literature or film in terms of imagining other worlds?
As I think I will have said elsewhere, I had an initial concept with this album about making a more or less self-consistent sonic place…that kind of got diverted into something less literal. But you can say there is a visualisation in my mind that is in dialogue with the music as it is being made. Maybe this is just a brief snapshot - from one or two angles - that your conscious mind allows you of a huge vista.
On SF; yes for a start I am a huge SF nerd so I can’t even dress that up in high art terms.
My favourite SF (etc) of recent years has been where the writer can take you to a world where human agency has become called into question…definitely the Southern Reach books, also The Windup Girl for example - the chaotic encroachment of fecund nature threatening to overwhelm the world humans were still desperately carving for themselves… completely visual and inspirational on many levels
Would love to dive into the idea that’s come up a couple of times of a sonic zone. Could you talk more about that idea and what it means to you? Do you think a lot about soundtracks in relation to your work as Logos?
I think it’s another way to talk about world-building. One of the things I like about the best club experiences I’ve had is where they become like a Temporary Autonomous Zone. DMZ at Third Base was like this, completely changed my mentality about how music and space can interact to alter perception. So in the context of the listening experience, can you build a similar world for the listener?
I’m not actually a big soundtrack fan in the sense that I dig for them or anything - I much prefer soundtracks in context with their visual counterpart. Rather than just listening. But, I suppose, conversely, as part as creating that zone, I am trying to but the listener in a visual space bit just using music alone.
The album plays with a kind of complex chiaroscuro of frenetic drum programming set against long passages of deep, beat-free textural soundscapes. What connection do you feel with ambient music, from the early days through to the current resurgence of beatless electronic music? What do you think is driving ambient into a more central than peripheral role here in 2019?
I’m not sure I’m really qualified to comment. I mean, I know Eno’s work, particularly On Land and Apollo but I’m not an expert on early ambient music. On Land was a specific inspiration for this record; it really does capture a sense of place and I like it because it has a darker edge than the other Eno Ambient records.
But as to ambient music more generally, I mean I don’t differentiate between electronic music with drums and that without - an example would be Terrence Dixon who sometimes makes stuff on the grid but where the drums are almost fleeting gestures. It’s all a continuum to me.
With your part in DJing and organising club nights, how much do you feel drawn to or not in writing music specifically for club use?
I find I don’t really have the luxury of choice - I write what comes out and usually when I try to make something dancefloor it goes wrong anyway and I end up with something beatless or more of a free composition. I’ve actually got a 12" coming out sometime this year which was a deliberate attempt at writing interesting but functional sound system music, so we’ll see how that goes down. But I think I had to deliberately frame it as such in my own head to generate the necessary focus.
Definitely tried to channel peak Dillinjah on that one even though that might not be obvious when you hear it.
Celebrating 6 years in 2019, Boxed is thriving at a time when London nightlife is still reeling from a rash of club closures across the city and there is a clear move towards safer booking policies in many spaces as it gets harder to draw people off of insta and out to experience something IRL. Do you feel a kind of responsibility to provide these nights right now as a kind of service to the London scene? What would you like to see in nightlife yourself away from your promoter role as a punter out in the crowd?
I wouldn’t underestimate how difficult putting on a night in a mid size venue is in London and we have to graft and be very conscious about cost, and work with artists we can have a relationship with because we don’t have the resources to buy in headliners. Even little things are a headache - for example since GDPR resident advisor won’t give you email addresses of the people who bought tickets. This is all perfectly correct because that’s what the law says, but it means people have to consciously sign up to email lists - which no one ever does. So it makes it really hard to speak directly to your core audience who have actually been to a previous event. Anyway - it just means you have to hustle and be more creative with your approach.
But I do think Boxed still tries to provide something that is a little bit missing in London night life now, and we do focus quite a lot on repping London talent I believe.
In terms of what I’d like to see: I mean I dislike exclusivity policies but having run club nights I can see why they happen especially with international touring DJs. It’s so competitive and the theory is there isn’t enough of an audience to go around to sustain multiple appearances by the same artist in London in the a six week (or longer) period. I’m not sure whether that has ever been properly tested - and in some ways it’s probably more of a self fulfilling prophecy - but I don’t like it.
Other things - more realism about fees from agents? But again it’s tricky in the marketplace.
In terms of closures I’ve always taken a slightly longer term view - these things happen all the time. Plastic People was a huge loss but before that places like the End closed and even places no one remembers like Bridge and Tunnel. That was a fucking great club with an amazing system. Nothing new under the sub, basically.
I’m hoping we get to rave in central again soon. Like Soho, around Oxford Street; wouldn’t that be sick?
But clubs seem very conservative at the moment. It’s house and techno basically.
So, live… can’t recall if there have been live Logos sets in the past, but you’ve been playing occasional The Sprawl shows in recent years for sure. How did that project come about, and has the experience of writing and performing in that way fed into Imperial Flood at all? Maybe Logos live is something we can look forward to this year? We spoke a lot about the deep connect between sonic and visual imagery, so should we be braced for something AV to bring the record alive IRL?
I’ve done a couple of live things - the most fully fledged was at LEV festival (in beautiful Asturias) a couple of years ago. But I’ve always struggled a bit how to translate my music, which is very ‘through-composed’ in to a genuinely improvisational live environment. Mostly I’ve failed but sometimes you can reach a nice compromise. But I definitely want to do some more.
I’m personally not in to huge stage shows for electronic music - I mean, personally, for, for me, I prefer the dark, loud room vibe. But I’ve worked with someone doing semi- improvising algorithmic stuff in Jitter before for visuals, and that’s what I’d like to do again. Whereas The Sprawl is much more improvising to the extent that it can get a bit chaotic. But when it comes together it bangs hard. The last time we did it we introduced some fast sequenced acid stuff and that was sick.
One thing people who have just read your production name and not heard it spoken might not realise is that it’s LOH-GOSS and not LOW-GOES. So Jungian theory reference to judgement and reason as opposed to one about branding and identifying symbols. You said earlier on that the name was a quick forum handle that stuck from back in the day, but as you chose to keep it, what does it mean for you now?
It was definitely a philosophy reference at the time. I’m not actually sure on the consensus of how that Greek word was pronounced. I’m not sure I like it that much now lol, mainly cos it’s shit for Google searches But I think it’s too much to change it now.
Btw just thinking back (cos ‘Logos’ was actually a forum name for Dogs on Acid) shout out to 555-5555 taking me back in a pleasant way to DOA/Subvert Central/Dubplate.net /Hyperdub.com
On the subject of change, returns, environments and culture; generationally you’ve seen a lot of shifts and developments in how this all works, radio, clubs, community, records, local —> global, vinyl, mp3, streaming, anonymity, insta, festivals - even YouTube. Any reflections on what was, what is and what you’d like to see coming?
I’d like to see a well curated - but open minded, and open in terms of contributors - journalistic culture. When I was at school I read Melody Maker and NME every week and I felt more in touch with what was happening in pretty raw obscure US underground music than I do now with music in the field in which I work, just because of the abundance of info on the internet.
Obvs that era was almost useless if you wanted to know about anything but white (and male, mainly) guitar music. But I did find out about Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear, Shellac, John Spencer, Liz Phair, Guided by Voices, Royal Trux, Pussy Galore etc etc in the middle of an isolated part of England. And countless bands you’ve never heard of again. I think that’s very hard with the current advertising climate. Cash is such a big problem. One crew I’ve noticed is Trench mag they seem to have popped up with a different perspective. But - just as an aside - YouTube is one of the beat things ever to happen for music. Who are these random people who rip old records? Amazing tbh.
Logos ‘Imperial Flood’ is out now on Different Circles
https://differentcircles.bandcamp.com/album/imperial-flood // https://open.spotify.com/album/4Scr4FSA4B9Vz2PS3LR7rO // https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/imperial-flood/1458512948 //
Photo credits: C. Parker & R. Griffiths