Photek, in case you are unfamiliar, is a major Electronic Dance Music producer (or EDM for short). He’s remixed songs by some of the biggest names in music today – David Bowie, Lana Del Rey and Daft Punk, to name a few – and also works as a composer for television and film. In other words: the guy is kind of a big deal.
And now it seems that Photek is determined to stretch his resume even further, taking on the role of host for Do Androids Dance and Complex Media’s new interview series “The Drop.” Each week, he is paired off with other incredibly talented and renowned figures in the EDM community for some in-depth, interesting and pretty personal chat sessions.
The series, which can be found at both DoAndroidsDance.com and Complex TV, is now three episodes deep in its first season and gaining momentum fast with guests like Moby, The Crystal Method, and Borgore.
So what are you waiting for? Crank up the volume on your favorite EDM track, check out our interview with Photek below, and get familiar with “The Drop”!
What attracted you to doing “The Drop” with Complex?
PHOTEK: It was something completely different for me. I’ve always been on the receiving end of interviews, and my manager asked me if I’d be interested in doing it and I thought it was a great thing to try. I know that it might make an interesting interview to have a musician sort of do it. I know having done so many… I don’t know, hundreds of interviews over the years, what questions you get asked repeatedly. And i did my best to avoid any of those questions. I’m sure everyone tries to ask sort of unique or most interesting questions, but I had the benefit of having been asked a lot of these questions myself. So i thought it’s be interesting and a fun conversation. And there was things i wanted to know about other artists i’ve met and spent time with over the years, most of them. I never had a particularly sort of “searching” questions. No “Where are you off to next?” “What are you working on?” It’s usually in some sort of ingenuine environment or something. And i thought it’d be better to get more interesting questions answered.
I was watching the first episode and it’s very, very chill. It definitely feels more like a relaxed conversation.
Yeah, some other stuff outside the musical process directly as well. I know from my experience that there’s all kinds of other stuff that goes on in your life besides the future of what you’re going to do. So I wanted to… what’s wrong with sort of getting the feel for subjects that have had the same experiences that I’ve had. Outside of music, what propels the whole thing? Cause it’s pretty relentless endeavour making music for no reason other than for the sake of music. You know? There’s no practical equivalent, if you know what i mean. “Well, I built that house because that’s my job and i put a roof on their house so someone could live in it.” Why did you make this specific song? Well because i felt like it.
Were you familiar with Complex and Do Androids Dance before you took on this project?
I knew Do Androids Dance, and I knew the name Complex, but I didn’t realize what their setup was. I didn’t realize it was such a web-based structure. So that was sort of an interesting bit, realizing oh, you’re sort of all of the media under one roof. That’s got quite a reach, you know. Cause i’m not the best person with social media. So I thought ‘Yeah, internet, big numbers. Okay, I can do this one thing that I find really interesting and then I’ll be able to market it.’
And you’ve done how many interviews so far?
I think I’m five in.
Has there been one that’s been your favorite?
You know I really liked doing the Moby one because I think that he has a lot of side opinions outside of his music. He’s able to actively pursue other things of interest. He’s had these successes for years and years and years with production and he’s had the time to be that hermit, that DJ that’s only focused on that and has experienced a long career. So I was really happy to talk to him about that. The connections with other artists, and he’s had such a big impact on electronic music reaching a broader audience, bringing it in a very bold way. So there’s so much to talk about with him. I guess there are younger, fewer acts lets say, sure there are loads of exciting and cool stuff, but there’s only been a few chapters written so far. So Moby was interesting because you could point in any direction and his has a lot to say and a lot of narrative.
Was there anything you learned about him that you didn’t know? Anything he kind of surprised you with during the interview?
I didn’t know that he was such an amazing guitarist… he jumps on the bass guitar at the end of the interview and you know, there’s a nice little sketch at the end with him playing a few little bass lines, and then as he was leaving the building, he said “Ah, an acoustic.” And picked it up and started playing a classical spanish guitar beautifully. Again, I had no idea.
Do you play any instruments yourself?
I started out playing saxophone, and I got to an adequate level. I stopped playing saxophone when I started making music, as in making records. So, you know, I got to a basic level and then I basically would just copy jazz records. I wasn’t too interested in becoming a really outstanding player. I just wanted to emulate John Coltrane…he rose from that world. What was actually very interesting was when I did the Borgore interview, I knew he was an amazing pianist and a drummer, but i didn’t know that he started out playing saxophone too. So that was surprising as well. funny. He was a really good saxophone player.
Do you have any dream guests you’d like to see on The Drop in the future?
I expect we’ll get to everybody eventually. Anybody and everybody. I’ve already had a bunch of dream guests so far, I mean everyone could’ve said “Photek interview, nothing about music; that’s weird and awkward.” So now we’ve gotten over that hump and everybody seemed happy to do it. So I’m expecting that to basically take its course and not sort of “Wow, there’s someone I want to talk to.” I think we’ll get around to it.
Aside from The Drop, what else have you been working on lately?
I just finished a show which premieres this Thursday actually, it’s called “Gang Related.” Which is, it looks like it’s going to be a pretty big show on Fox. Another show I started for Shonda Rhimes, who did “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” and that show’s called “How To Get Away With Murder.” And that’s just been picked up, so that’s what I’ll be doing for most of the summer, I think. I had three Grammy nominations in the last two years running, which was Daft Punk from the “Tron” soundtrack, Moby “Lie Down in Darkness”, and Bob Marley “One Love” was this year’s nomination. So that’s what I’ve been doing since 1992!
Well it sounds like you’re busy! We’ve got just one more question: How did you get your name?
That name actually came from a label in 1994, up to that point I’d been doing music under a bunch of different aliases on various labels. In ‘94 i started my own label and i had a friend of mine that had designed a logo, sort of a geometric kind of shape. And I liked it so much that I asked him if I could use it for my record label design. I was sitting there looking at it and I didn’t know what the label was going to be called, so lets think of a name that fits with this shape that he made. So I came up with a few ideas and though Photek sounded kind of halfway techno halfway hip-hop — sounds very played out now that this was 1994 and I was having this conversation. And then we looked at what that would look like in different fonts, and I think we went through a couple of different names and thought “Well that sounds great, but it looks like crap.” We wanted something that sounds good and look good in print. And my label was called that and I didn’t really have an artist name. And then when I signed to Virgin they said “Well, we’ve got to put some kind of name on the contract, so who are you going to be?” And I went as Photek for the artist name from that point.
So it kind of came down to the wire? You had to choose a name, and that was the one that you chose.
Yeah, it came right before i signed that deal. At the time I didn’t think of music as being personalities and artists so much, as just a project that you were working on. These days a DJ or an artist is a brand and pretty much has to be. Every artist has to have their own font now that goes on the flyer, and have something that they do, whether it be I always wear a black t-shirt.
That’s so true. You don’t think about it much, but it’s mostly gimmicks nowadays.
Yeah, if i wave my hand this way or that way! It’s a given now, but at the time I don’t think any of us really thought about what our image was.
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