INTERVIEW: Josh Parkinson

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Josh Parkinson discuss his foray into DJing and producing, the unusual trajectory of his career, and the importance of Stephen Hawking’s message.

In the last three years, Josh Parkinson has enjoyed a string of chart-rivaling releases via Ministry of Sound, and a hefty house discography under his belt. With a nod of approval from Essential Selection host Pete Tong. Josh Parkinson’s intergalactic tune “Alternate” is an early contender of being a warehouse-set favorite in 2019. Josh Parkinson discuss being a staple on BBC Radio 1, the unusual trajectory of his career, and the importance of Stephen Hawking’s message.

First things first, you’re a man of many talents and aside from DJing and producing, you’re also a model. Which one came first?

Hello, hellooo! Ah, cheers. It was the music for sure. I was given a mixer when I was 13, wired it up to 2 ghetto blasters, bought a £5 mic and a handful of Jungle CDs. It definitely didn’t sound good for quite a while, but I persevered…for years ha. I started DJ’ing in my mate’s pub when I was 15, playing a proper mixed bag of tunes. His Dad would make me finish with Frank Sinatra pretty much every week!

The modelling came about pretty out of the blue. I was scouted by Select Models when I was about 18/19. The thought of doing it as a job hadn’t even crossed my mind. It was quite a shock actually, as I’d always been the ugly duckling haha. I’m very grateful for how everything went though, it’s been quite a journey.

You have a great social media presence and one thing stood out recently, you went bleach blonde! What brought on the look?

Boredom haha. I’ve had the same haircut for about 12 years! I just really fancied something different, however previously, every time I went to dye it, I’d end up booking a modelling job so couldn’t. This time, it was ADE the next day and I had Halloween gigs the weekend after so thought, here’s my chance! I had bought a DIY kit from a shop and had dyed it myself, the night before flying. Just a bit of advice…don’t do that! I told my girlfriend of the time that I had a surprise for her when she got back (not sure she enjoyed it). I kept phoning my Mum as I didn’t know when to take it off. Anyway, when I did, it was yellow! I looked a right plum haha. I had no time to rectify it though and just had to own it. I woke up in the morning to head to the airport and forgot I did it. I got a severe shock when I looked at myself in the mirror. I ended up liking it after a day or 2 though, it just took some getting used to….and a load of Purple shampoo (I also didn’t know what that was before, so to all the lads out there – it sorts out yellow hair ha)

You’ve released a fair bit on Sam Divine’s DVine Sounds label in the past, how did the first track with them come about?

I was in Bali for New Years Eve 2018 and saw Sam was playing at the W Hotel. I already knew Jess Bays and dropped her a message to see if she could hook anything up. We almost didn’t go as I was really jetlagged but it was New Year’s Eve, I couldn’t bare just sitting in bed knowing all these parties were happening! Long story short we ended up with Sam and Hatcha (Her now husband) and hung out for a few days. They are absolute diamonds. I was writing the first track she signed in Bali while just sitting around the villas. I finished it on the airplane back and sent it straight over. The track was, ‘Round My Way’ and she has been super supportive ever since, can’t thank her enough. 

What’s been the most eventful and fun show that you’ve played?

Hmm, always a tricky one. I love doing festival sets, as everyone is just fully there to go for it. I mean people don’t risk camping in the pissing rain in muddy field for no reason ha. If I had to choose though, would probably be We Are FSTVL last year with the DVine Sound stage. I played my set then ended up on the mic for Hatcha playing b2b with Matt Jam Lamont then stayed on for Sam Divine’s set too. Was such a sick vibe. I was playing there again the next day for Paravana and the same happened again. I played then ended up MC’ing for an out of the blue b2b with Parris and Richy Ahmed. I love it when the energy is just flowing and impromptu b2b’s start happening and that. There have been quite a lot of those situations but I’ll end up rambling on if I continue. 

El Dorado last year will stick in my head for a while as well. I played ‘Alternate’ for the first time and the reaction was mad. I could see people Shazaming it haha. It’s a relatively new festival but the size of the crowd is great and kind of intimate at the same time. It’s perfect, as I love it when you can properly connect with the crowd.

Take me through the way you create your music. What’s the general start for you and what equipment do you use?

Normally, I’ll be trying to finish one and get distracted and start another ha. I normally work on at least 2 at a time. I like bouncing between them as they are sometimes different vibes so depending how I’m feeling I’ll work on what one I fancy.

I produce on Logic. I’ve been tempted to have a go at Ableton but I’m quite a visual person and like how logic looks and feels. Occasionally I use a Moog Subphatty and Subsequent 37 but I don’t really use anything fancy to be honest. Most of the time I make my tunes at home on my set up there, then just go to the studio to tighten them up. You really don’t need much to get your ideas down though. When I was younger I thought I needed to work in big studios and all of that, when the reality is there’s people out there writing hits with just a laptop.

What did you draw Inspiration from when creating ‘Alternate’?

It wasn’t inspiration as such, more just playing with synths and finding new sounds. At first, I thought it might be a bit much, but I was personally loving it, so just carried on. Any producer with a girlfriend probably does the girlfriend test too. I sent my girlfriend at the time the track to listen to while at the gym. She came back and said she had it on repeat for the whole hour and made her absolutely go for it haha. So I kind of felt like I was on the right path with the sound and carried on.

How was it to have Pete Tong premiere the track?

It was quality. He played another one of mine a few times a couple of years back but this time I was even more excited as it’s more the sound I want to go forward with. I was a bit unsure I was pushing the sound a bit too hard but then getting support from Pete confirmed to me that I’d made the right choice.

I read somewhere that your original mix of ‘Alternate’ had a speech from Stephen Hawking on it. What was the speech about and why did you choose it?

I felt it was missing something and thought a computerized speech, warped up etc. would sound good. I was searching for a while then thought Stephen Hawking would definitely have something good to say. The track is kind of spacey anyway so when I found the speech I thought it just fitted perfectly.

I’m still a bit annoyed this wasn’t the version we could release as we had trouble clearing it. The speech is really poignant for our times too and I truly believe if he was still around, that he would be more than happy for it to go forward. He had a great sense of humour and I’m pretty sure he would have enjoyed having his voice and message belted out at festivals and raves. It would be such a great way to get the message out to younger generations who otherwise probably wouldn’t ever hear it.

The full speech was placed on a piece of music by Vangelis and beamed at a black hole in honour of Stephen on his memorial day so it’s clearly a message they wanted the whole universe hearing. It’s a shame but who knows, the version may end up being released at some point in the future.

Below are the parts of the speech I put into the track. The very last 4 lines have become a great motivation for me –

One of the great revelations of the space age has been the perspective that has given humanity on ourselves.
When we see the earth from space we see ourselves as a whole. We see the unity and not the divisions.
It is such a simple image. One planet, one human race.

We are here together, and we need to live together with tolerance and respect.
We must become global citizens.
It would be an empty universe indeed if it were not for the people I love and who love me.
We are all time travellers journeying together into the future.
But let us work together to make that future a place we want to visit. 

Be brave.
Be determined.
Overcome the odds.
It can be done.

Read: Vangelis – Tribute to Stephen Hawking

Will you be featuring your own vocals on a tune anytime soon?

In regards to my House stuff, I’ve been experimenting with it a lot but again, not sure how far to push it. There’s a fine line I think, which is why some of my music is like marmite, you either love it or you hate it. I’m fine with that though, it’s better than just being alright!

I have my other alias though JDP, which is my MC side where I can just make whatever I like. I MC and host on my live shows, it’s kind of a taboo thing to do on House music I guess but I never override it or go in with aggressive bars. It’s all about good vibes and good energy. I also feel it bridges that gap between the DJ and the crowd. An aim for me this year is to produce an album. JDP is unknown really and I quite like the idea of just coming out with a whole body of work straight away rather than trickling bits out. I’ve got quite a lot of tracks already, from Hip-Hop and Grime to more mellow Lo-Fi stuff. I also almost sing on one…and I’m definitely not a singer ha.

How is your 2019 shaping up, can we expect some more tracks from you in the near future?

It’s looking nice! I just had another track out with On Circle Music called ‘Check Check Shamone’ and I’ve got another out next month called ‘Be Your Lover’ with Another Rhythm, the label that released ‘Alternate’. I’ve been writing a lot so hopefully, they will go down well and get them out soon. I’m pretty excited to be out in Miami this month though. I’m playing on the 27th for the Dvine Sounds family. If any of you guys are there make sure you come through!

Thanks for having me WOTN! Josh x

Josh Parkinson is shaping up to be a staple in the electronic scene, as his supreme production capabilities continue to flourish.

LISTEN: Josh Parkinson – Alternate

STREAM: JOSH PARKINSON – ALTERNATE
STREAM: JOSH PARKINSON – ROUND MY WAY EP

Josh Parkinson – No More (BBC R1 premier)

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