Lewis Parker Interview (by Redeem)
Sometimes things just fall together, perfectly. A few weeks ago, I dug out an old favourite album from the ever-increasing collection. “Masquerades & Silhouettes”, by Lewis Parker. This incredible album, along with Roots Manuva’s, “Brand New Second Hand”, were always with me when I would zone out at Coogee Beach, in Australia. If only I could thank the guy. Next thing I know, Parker has a new album out, “It’s All Happening Now”. It’s been four years since “M&S”, and I got a chance to interview the man, scheduled for the one day I have off during my working week. Bloody Perfick!
After four years of growth, how does the man himself feel now about his firstborn?
LP: I hadn’t listened to it in ages, but cause the new album’s coming out, I started listening to it again. And I love it. ‘Eyes Of Dreams’ is classic! Originally, I hated some of the tracks. I felt when I finished “M&S”, there was more tracks I wanted to put on it. I felt like it was a bit short… I was actually really pissed off, ’cause it was meant to be promoted as an EP, and sold as an EP… ’cause that’s what it was. But it didn’t happen that way. Plus, Virgin didn’t wanna even sign me to be honest with you. It was Massive Attack’s Daddy G and Mushroom in particular, pushing my shit, that got me signed. The reason that album is only seven tracks long is because Virgin said to me that they didn’t wanna put a full album out. I HAD the material – I had double the tracks that were on that album, all of that style. There were some tracks, like ‘Songs Of The Desert’… I didn’t wanna put that track on there, to be honest with you. And ‘Crusades’ – I wasn’t gonna put that on either, but it was like, ‘Songs Of’ was a label favourite, so it ended up on there… see what I’m saying?
Still, it was all good, ’cause I had my record coming out, but they didn’t actually wanna put an album out. And I’m no fool, I know how to make shit work, you give me a thing and I’ll fucking make it work mate, know what I mean? I put it together to make an album, to make a theme – that’s the way it was running. And when they realised that, they promoted it as an album. They heard it as an album – not off me telling them… they just sold it as an album! And they called it Lewis Parker’s LP. It was meant to be called a Minute LP. But, you can go into the shops and buy the CD for Â£12.99 or whatever, and fo’ real, I was like, “Nah this should be more of a smaller thing.
Parker had a game plan for his produc… and that was “The Ancient Series”. But listening to him, it sounded like Virgin didn’t make it easy for him to achieve his plan.
LP: So when I got signed for the second album, I didn’t wanna get played out for the same thing. For the new album, it was a completely different way of how I went about finishing tunes, compared to “M&S”. That album was really just demos I’d been doing for ages, going into the studio for like 7 days, and banging ’em out, finishing vocals and everything. So it was a concentrated piece of work in a small period of time. This time, these are tunes which have been done from my house, from my yard, where I live. And that’s the main difference… and you can really hear that difference – not just how the sound is mixed but just on how it all sounds. It sounds like everyday shit. It’s more “me”. And not me trying put across any kind of image at all. I’ve always been aware of that – with “M&S” I wanted a particular style for it. There were other tracks that I wanted to add, but I knew they woulda sounded like a contrast to the rest of the tracks on the album at the time. But it worked. And I think a lot of people took that album as my one style, But I think this new album shows a broader spectrum.
He’s been held back, messed around and wrongly marketed… enough to make some pack it in and return to the shadows. But it’s clear to see it’s his passion that keeps him fighting to be truly heard.
LP: This music elevates you… every single thing – its elevation through music. That’s what its about. Travelling through the inner mind, leaving the mind as illuminous beings, cause that’s what we all are. It’s all possible. Reaching the next level there are higher forms – I know there are and this is something I’d love to get into. But I know right now, I’ve gotta master my hip hop. I think I’m on top of my game now, whereas before with “M&S”, I wouldn’t have necessarily said that.
With such a strong debut, how come the Ancient Series Part Two didn’t follow on?
LP: Its all part of the saga, but I’ve missed one out – this one is called “The Ancient Series Three”. Really, it WAS recorded, but if I ever do it, they will be new tracks that I will go back to that really should go on. But it does all make sense from a picture of what I’m gonna see… but I will finish it, there will be more to the series. But it’s not the only thing I’m working on. That’s why I called “It’s All Happening Now” (The Ancient Series Three), because it wasn’t true to call it the number two. I would have done if it had come out previously, about three years ago, beause the tracks back then were more of a straight follow-on from “M&S”. People might think I’m mad with all this or whatever, but it WILL all work as a series. I know at the end I will look back like, “yeah, my personal running theme”. That’s what I’m about – you gotta elevate. A record for me is like… you can have tunes, all day, but that feeling of holding onto tracks is when you’ve put it out, it’s the only time when you’ve let go of a tune. Then it becomes a record of that period of time, and I listen back and I see how I’ve learnt, I see my whole self and how I was back then. And from the differences I am now, it’s quite mad, cause it shows not just how I’m making music but who I am as a person. All the difference aspects of what’s going on around me at the time.
Something that’s been going on around him for some time now, is his crew. Champions of Nature. They’ve released many singles and all warmly received.
LP: I came up with the name Champions Of Nature. We was doing tunes, me and T… Bolo was doing tunes with Profound and at that point we was still safe with Braintax and then Jehst came thru from up north. So I met up proper with Braintax and then that all fired off. So that was a crew waiting to happen. The reason it madly happened was cause the way Braintax was running his label. Before he had signed Taskforce or anything, me T and (Joe) Braintax had come with a plan for the 98 Series. The first ’98 Series had a tune ‘Life By Life’, with me, Supa T, and Braintax. It was a bad, bad tune. I hooked up the drums, Braintax looped it and shit, and that was all cool – we put it out. That was actually gonna be one of the tunes for “M&S”. But we put that on a B-side of one of T’s tunes he had done with Braintax. He put that out, that was the first ’98 Series, and it done fucking well. It was sort of a small independent release. And it pretty much changed how his label was going. So we put out the second one, pretty much the same line up – we put out ‘Easter Island’. And that was the last tune that I done on Lowlife. There was a lot of shady things going on. Now, I am not cool with Braintax on any sort of level, Jehst done things with him but that’s him. For me, I cant work with that guy cause I don’t trust him as far as I’d throw him. In the past, I know he did pure shady things for me – basically we split up, we’re not with Lowlife no more, but we’re all here… we wanna put out some tunes. We’ve got some sick shit, let’s put it out. And I had the name C.O.N, which I just wanted to call the crew for a while. But on our first release we didn’t use that name – we just put out tunes… four solo joints, two produced by me, and two by Bolo. But by the second release we just put the name to it and it stuck.
We then put out 3 independent releases. Then the last independent release, ‘Salsa Smurf’, got signed for a Source compilation and was put out as a single. But they fucked it up – people had been playing it a year before it had been out… DJ’s were smashing it… but they released it mad late, which just lost the vibe of the tune. But we were gonna get signed to Source, they offered us a deal for 70 grand. We said, we should be getting more than that. Basically, we sorta slept on it a bit, but when we went back to them, they changed the whole story, and tried to come with 30 grand And we like, “What? What happened??” At that point there were six people, we had already lost a member cause of politics. And us six were ready to sign. It never happened though, it just didn’t feel right. And we woulda ended up skint. But if we woulda went for it, right now, we’d be making more noise as a collective. But because it didn’t people sorta forgot about Champions Of Nature. But really C.O.N. are the sickest out here, with the most potential – because everyone of us makes beats, the B-Boy shit, we know what its about, and that’s the difference between us and a lot of other crews.
It is definitely All Happening Now, for Mr. Parker. But can it all be so simple now?
LP: I’ve been doing shit with Klashnekoff… I’m on that… I’ve just been trying to sort my shit out to a point where I’m independent. Now I’m at a point where I can finish tunes and I’m happy, I’m just trying to get collateral so I can put records out. I’m not relying on these people, cause I’m not really being “backed”. I’m working every fuckin’ weekend for my parents, selling food at the markets ya know?! You can come buy jerk chicken and rice and peas from me. That’s me… people see Lewis Parker, been signed to Massive Attack’s label, he must be doing all right, I aint doing all right! Not at all. I am just getting by. And not really with Virgin’s help.
But this is hip hop, you can answer your critics and so-called enemies in the traditional way. Are we gonna see Lewis Parker turn into a Chino XL all of a sudden??
LP: I ain’t gonna waste my time, sitting back writing rhymes, about how Trevor Jackson and Wayne Jackson ripped me off. I could do, but for me, I aint gonna waste my energy. I’d rather tell the straight facts. On ‘Incognito’, it’s pretty much there, saying how it is. People fuck around, they gonna get cut off – I aint gonna work with no snakes. I say that on my shit, whether I mention your name or not its irrelevant – I aint got time for your bullshit, there’s bigger things out here.
“Your game is suspect, money can always cause upsets, so you have to deal with the business. I cant let it slide, you wanna take me for a ride, treating kindness like a weakness, but I’ll cut you off sharp…” – from lead single ‘Incognito’
Parker has got his head on straight. He’s excited by his new album – to him, his first full LP. But it’s clear, he’s been burnt in the past by label’s and artists. This time, what does he expect and want to happen?
LP: I wanna sell it! I just want it to do well, I wanna release another single and do a video. I wanna have some sort of success. That’s not asking too much – ask my label to have some support for my shit and that’s it. I don’t feel like I’m being looked after. All I wanna be able to do is get my music out there to enough people and be able to say to myself, “Okay, my music is being exposed” and let the people make up their mind whether they like it or not – not relying on someone else to tell em whether it’s good or not. That’s what all music should really be judged by – the people. I just want a chance in this shit, nahmean? Cause I know I’m gonna do this whether or not. Five days during the week, I’m making beats, if I’m on a label or not. I know that’s what I’m gonna be doing. That’s my calling.
Hopefully, the hip hop masses will provide an answer. Lewis Parker definitely deserves it. Check the review of “It’s All Happening Now” for further proof…
Thanks to Lewis Parker for taking part, and Serena at Source for hooking it all up.