You were an underground producer – albeit at a time when “underground” could still meaning you were selling thousands upon thousands of 12″s – signed by a major label and given the time and money to create something substantial and challenging. It’s hard to imagine a young producer getting the same sort of opportunity now, isn’t it?
“To do what I did, you had to be a person of that age, with these particular opportunities, in this precise location…and I still feel like I was really very lucky to be one of those people. At that time you could still be a kid making vinyl records of whatever style, doing exactly what you wanted without compromising anything, and sell you could sell those records – there was a whole movement around it that was organic, and enough excitement to sustain it for years and years. I was able to sign to Virgin on what was really the perfect deal – they basically wanted me to do whatever I wanted to do, and they had the budget to back it.
“Thanks to that deal I actually had the time to take a year and think about the album I wanted to make. Economically that’s just not possible now. But back then there were a number of producers – like Goldie, like Dilinja, like Roni [Size] – who were given similar opportunities and were able to take a year to think about their music. It changed music a lot. It’s funny, there was actually a bit of a hole for a year where several key jungle producers effectively disappeared to think about and work on their albums! [laughs] But without that time spent, there would’ve been no Timeless or New Forms or whatever…
“I actually had the time to take a year and think about the album I wanted to make. Economically that’s just not possible now.”
“Nowadays, well, of course people don’t buy artists’ music, basically. You can’t really spend that kind of time on an album, not unless you’re financially free – you know rich, retired and free to fuck around! [laughs] Back then you could be a kid, and you could get lost in it. I really feel lucky that it happened to me. That said, the album as a thing is still a big deal I think, and perhaps even a bigger gamble now than it was back then. In fact I just finished my latest album, I’m about to head back to the States to mix it.
“I remember being proud of the record when it came out, because I felt I’d done something uncompromising. There was obviously a bit of goldrush happening at that time, sort of like what’s going on with dance music in America at the moment, you know – rumours of producers getting signed for crazy amounts of money, that kind of thing. And I managed to do a truly uncompromising record in that environment.
“I felt I’d done something uncompromising.”
“I’m glad I included stuff at different tempos, because there was a lot of pressure at that time to fix yourself to a style, you know – are you prog-house or drum ‘n bass or downtempo or trip-hop? People were quickly getting pigeonholed, and I suppose I subconsciously anticipated that. I wanted to leave my options open. It’s important that the title track, ‘Modus Operandi’, was a downtempo track, you know? You want to make a statement with an album, but then also you don’t want that statement to be what you’ll always be about! [laughs]. That’s the kiss of death of creativity: when people start telling you the kind of music you should be making, even your fans.
“But yeah, looking back, I just feel like I did the best job all-round that I could’ve done. The best legacy to look back on. At the end of the day, I think I got out of it what I put in.”
So you mentioned you were working on a new album. Tell me about that.
“It’s funny now, there’s seems a general sense across the board in clubs and electronic music that, well, everything’s pretty flexible and anything goes. And for that reason, you don’t have to get quite as hung-up on making an album as you used to. You feel like it’ll pass so quickly, things move quickly…I suppose this new album is a sort of Modus Operandi for 2012 – it’s got quite a lot in common with the first album – but less hang-ups. These days, I know I can DJ the week after and play a set of completely different style music and it not be a problem. With the album, well, it’s just a case of what statement you want to put out, and how long it’s going to last. To tell you the truth, it feels like music’s much less permanent and lasting than it used to be.”
“To tell you the truth, it feels like music’s much less permanent and lasting than it used to be.”
You put out a DJ-Kicks mix recently, what was the driving forcebehind that?
“Well, I didn’t want the mix to be too locked in time. I didn’t want it be just, you know, a mix that was hot in 2011 or 2012. No big anthems…a bit like those old mixtaped, old pirate radio mix tapes…interesting, cool new music with that underground feeling, not Smash Club Hits Vol.9 or whatever. I wanted to capture that feeling when I was driving around when I was 17 listening to tunes. You know, when you’ve just got your driving license and you’re driving around, listening to some tape over and over again! [laughs]
“As for the original tracks I made for it…I thought, well, there’s quite a range of styles on there, I should do a couple of typical Photek-sounding things for people who know my stuff from ‘Hidden Camera’ and that era… I thought, yeah I should give them some of that kind of stuff, let’s mix it all up with all the tech-house and broken beat or whatever. At the end of the day, I just wanted to make a journey that people would feel was worth going on.”