Afriqua is the pseudonym of Adam Longman Parker, a classically trained pianist, who also attended the Royal Academy of Music in London. Adam is now based in Berlin and is currently releasing records via F4T Music. Adam’s style of music varies in the realms of deep house, techno and minimalism, but for me his music is deeply entrenched in the ‘Perlon’ sound.
We caught up with Adam to find out more about his musical heritage and how studying at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan and Royal Academy of Music in London has helped define his approach to producing electronic music. His mix features music from Onur Ozur, Margaret Dygas, Ricardo Villalobos, Marcel Dettmann, Mike Dehnert and Tobias. Below Adam describes his inspiration behind his mix.
“It would generally be a tough task to speak on what inspired a mix for me as it’s typically simply the music that I’m playing in my DJ sets at the time I need to record one. But, this one is exceptional for me in that I really feel it’s a culmination of the experience I’ve had over the past four months moving to and settling in Berlin. It’s been a very challenging, but exciting experience for me, and really feels like the defining experience of my “adulthood” so far.”
“I recorded this right before going home to the US for the first time in what’s been a crazy year, so it kind of closed off a chapter! In the mix there are lots of tracks I love that have been in my library for quite some time but somehow never made it into previous mixes, plus some that I’ve happily rinsed in the past few months. Along with that, there’s some music of mine I’ve been working on, some lovely stuff from my friends Peiman Khosravi and Tom Gillieron, and a short piece for piano by Alexander Scriabin, one of my favourite composers.”
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to over the past few months?
My name is Adam Longman Parker and I’m a musician currently living in Berlin. At the moment, I produce and DJ under the alias ‘Afriqua’, and I’m also a classical pianist. As I’ve recently moved here, over the past few months, I’ve just been meeting new people, learning German, slowly unearthing what the city has to offer, and continuing the endless pursuit of trying to create great music, of course!
What’s the story behind the name ‘Afriqua’?
It’s really quite a silly one… One of my brothers and I were back home in Virginia for winter break two years ago having a very stoned conversation about what the most stereotypically Black name in the game would be. We settled on a combination of the word Afro and the name Shaniqua. I happened to be creating a Soundcloud account at the time for some music I had just made, and honestly couldn’t care less about the alias I produce under, so it was an easy choice. It somehow works with my hair as well, I guess.
Tell us about the mix you recorded for Inverted Audio? Where were you when you recorded it and with what? (vinyl or digital) Plus what’s your reasoning behind the track list?
The mix I’ve recorded is a combination of me mixing live and also a bit of editing work in Ableton. I was alone in my room in Berlin when I recorded it and used two Allen & Heath Xone 1D controllers, Traktor, and a Xone 92 mixer. In the track list, I incorporated a lot of music I’ve been playing a lot lately plus some stuff that I had to remember and dig deeper in my collection for. I also threw in a bunch of unreleased stuff from myself and a few friends, and a short piano piece by Scriabin, one of my favourite composers. So, ideally, it will present some sort of picture of who I am as a DJ, producer and musician, or at least who I was at the time I recorded it.
You’re originally from Virginia, USA. Tell us about the environment in which you were brought up and exposed to music back then?
I feel very fortunate to have grown up in the musical environment that I did. My parents both kept all of the records they had been collecting since they were young so my brothers and I always had access to an amazing collection of old funk, soul, and disco records. Also, being the youngest sibling of four, I got a lot of exposure to different music through my older brothers. Most notably, my oldest brother got involved in planning B-boy battles in our area, which is why I ended up getting interested in DJing and buying my first turntables and mixer when I was 10.
On top of all that, the area I’m from in Virginia- Hampton Roads- was like the Vienna of pop music at the time. Teddy Riley, Timbaland, Missy Elliot, The Neptunes, and many of the artists affiliated with them are from the same area. While I hardly ever listen to their music anymore, I feel like people my age from the US were quite lucky to have had their music on the radio while we were growing up, as opposed to the unbelievably repetitive and predictable bullshit that’s on it now. I really think these artists pushed pop and rap music to a higher musical standard than it’s been since and they were my original inspiration for beginning to make tracks around the same time I started DJing.
You then attended the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan to study the piano? What pianist were you focusing on back then and do you see the piano being an essential instrument to making you who you are now?
Halfway through my high school career, I transferred to the academy after having an incredibly inspiring time there for their summer program. This was the point in my life at which I consciously decided to dedicate my life to music and art in general. I discovered most of the pianists I still revere the most while I was there. Most of my favourites – like Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein, Alfred Cortot, Vladimir Sofronitsky, and Dinu Lipatti, to name a few – died long before I was born. But there are many living pianists I admire greatly, like Marc-Andre Hamelin, Martha Argerich, and Arcadi Volodos, who is the performer in the Scriabin recording I used in the mix.
I think anybody who ever pursues piano playing as a serious artistic endeavor is invariably shaped by the experience of doing so. Along with the more romantic, philosophical ones, there are certain basic lifestyle implications that go along with being able to play a work by Bach or Liszt at a high level. It requires a lot of time spent alone, an obsessive attention to detail, and an appreciation for a bygone era, all of which have had a huge influence on who I’ve become personally and musically.
What does the medium of vinyl and analogue equipment mean to you?
While I started with vinyl and still love to play with vinyl from time to time, I almost always play with Traktor now because of the loop functions, FX, and, most importantly, because I can mix harmonically with it. I’ve always produced completely “in the box” as well, and while I may buy some analog gear eventually, I’ve never felt an inability to create music I like without it. It may be important to have an understanding of and some skills with vinyl and analog gear because all of the ideals we currently have in electronic music, in terms of great DJing and great producing, stem from them. That being said, it’s totally ridiculous that anybody my age (or anyone, for that matter) should feel pressured into using a medium that is less natural or accessible to them.
The attitude of some die hard analogue proponents these days seems to be that of people who confuse the medium with which one chooses to work with a strong artistic philosophy one can base one’s work and career on. Fortunately, I think that all truly great artists, regardless of what medium or equipment they choose, still and will always realize that art can only be judged by the content and quality of the final product.
Who/what triggered you to focus on electronic music? Can you remember what record you heard that spurred this interest?
Since I was playing at B-boy battles a lot when I first started DJing, I was familiar quite early on with a really eclectic selection of different disco and electro records – stuff like Soulsonic Force and Paul Hardcastle. So, I guess I always realized that “club music” existed. For some reason, though, it took hearing all of the French electro-house guys that blew up in the states while I was in high school for me to decide that I would actually make it. Then, it took hearing a few key things like Richie Hawtin’s ‘Concept’ album and Ricardo Villalobos’ fabric mix for me to realize it was something I could use as a serious creative outlet.
Tell us about your time spent at the Royal Academy of Music in London? What did you focus on whilst studying there and what did you master whilst at the academy?
The two years I spent in London at the Academy were definitely the most important two years of my life thus far. Everything from moving there to study, the things I learned and accomplished while studying there, to ultimately getting kicked out halfway through my course – although it felt more like graduating, to be honest – were quite self-defining experiences for me. It’s unfortunate it ended the way it did as I learned a ton of new repertoire, theory, and music history while I was there and could have accomplished a lot more there with two more years, but If you have any sort of individualistic artistic ambition, studying the most traditional subject at the most traditional school in the most traditional country is probably not the best idea if you’re seeking a degree and not planning on compromising your personal philosophy. Through my experiences there, though, I left London with not only a much higher level of musicianship, but also a much stronger faith in myself and my artistic decisions.
Was the Academy really where you picked up house and techno or was it more London’s club scene?
Absolutely the club scene in London. I actually can’t think of any other place in the world where one would be less likely to discover house and techno than the Academy.
Are there any particular environments, which you prefer to create music in?
Not particularly. It’s more a certain state of mind that I prefer to be in. As long as I’m healthy and inspired, I’ll work anywhere.
What venues, parties, areas and environments of London did you live in and be involved with – do you have a special relationship with the city?
London is absolutely my favorite city in the world. I want to learn German here in Berlin first, but definitely plan on moving back at some point. I lived in Camden for the majority of the two years I was there, and then Caledonian road – by some divine coincidence, in the same student hall flat as Darling Farah, who’s now a good friend of mine – the last few months. Fabric is my favorite club, so I went there the most, but also hit a lot of the underground parties like Lo*kee and Toi Toi, and smaller venues like Crucifix Lane, Basing House, Café 1001, and Plastic People as well. London currently has the best electronic music scene, I think. It’s amazing how many fantastic nights there are to choose from every weekend and that, along with the amazing international vibe of the entire city and the countless cultural events and places, makes London a really special place for me.
You’re currently based in Berlin. Did you move over solely for music?
A combination of that, to save on the cost of living for now, and to not have to deal with any visa issues.
You produce both electronic and classical music; tell us about how you go about writing music?
I actually don’t do any traditional classical composing at the moment. I improvise a lot at the piano and occasionally will write out things that I think sound good, but have never composed a piano sonata or anything. For some reason, I can almost never start a good track with the drums anymore so generally, my process for composing electronic music starts with some sort of sound design experiment, which can either be me just messing around with Reaktor or Max devices or trying some interesting FX chain or process that I thought might sound good while sitting on the U-bahn. The type of sound this ends up being- whether it’s a rhythmic element, a harmonic element, or something in between- determines what I’ll add next, and somehow, by repeating this process, I eventually end up with an adequate amount of different sounds to work with. If I get to the stage of arranging it at all, which only happens for about 20% of the projects I start, I usually spend, by far, the most time on that.
Tell us about your current studio setup, what instruments do you use and do you have any special instruments that you’re particularly fond of?
My current studio setup is just my computer, interface, a MIDI keyboard, and my Mackie monitors. I also have a Yamaha DX7 on loan to me right now, but it isn’t working, so it’s just here giving things a more vintage feel, I guess.
I personally classify music into record labels, not genres. What labels do you admire and aspire to release records on?
In terms of electronic music, Perlon, Arpiar, Ilian Tape, and Archipel come to mind. All-Inn and Pluie/Noir are two newer labels that I really love as well. In terms of classical, Deutsche Gramophone and Hyperion are my favorites.
How did you get involved with F4TMusic and do you see this as a lasting imprint to release records with?
I had heard and enjoyed a few of the releases F4TMusic had done and was also really attracted to the idea of a “Deep Music” label. The word ‘Deep’ has been given some sort of a different, stylized meaning because of “Deep House” existing as a genre, I think. But, to me, in terms of music, deep means not shallow. I got the impression from their output that F4T had the same idea, and so decided to send some tunes to Mattias, the head of the label. He really liked them, and we’ve since released two records together and become very good friends. He takes his work as the head of the label very seriously and does a great job putting together very strong releases across many different genres. Plus, he’s just a super chill guy. So, I certainly think the label and our relationship will last!
It’s difficult for me to ignore that your music has a certain Perlon vibe. What’s your opinion on Perlon, Zip and Markus Nikolai?
Perlon’s definitely my favorite existent electronic music label. Zip is one of my favorite DJs and I rate both him and Markus Nikolai really highly as producers. I think that Ricardo Villalobos, Margaret Dygas, Fumiya Tanaka, and most of the other artists affiliated with the label are some of the best examples of producers creating fine art within the context of music for the dance floor, and I love that they focus so much on the visual aspect of their output as well.
In December 2012 you released a two track EP ‘Eliot / Moncrieff’ – Two very deep/minimal tracks. What’s the story behind these tracks?
These tracks were both made around the same time in the beginning of 2012, when I was still living in London. I’m really interested in the functional aspect of techno and explored that with both of them, but also kept some sort of more emotional, harmonic feel to them. So both are effectively just cool DJ tools in a way, but also get very expansive and sonically deeper at moments throughout. I think it makes them really fun to mix with, and hopefully also quite nice to listen to. Adding the piano riff to Eliot was probably the most exciting part of making both of them as it was one of the only times that a melody and accompanying harmony have come into my head so suddenly and clearly. I recorded it in one take and it was the last thing I added to the track.
What releases do you have planned in 2013? Can you tell us a bit about the record?
I have a few releases in the pipeline for the first half of this year, but the only one I can announce at the moment is another F4TMusic release coming this June! About the record, I can only really say that I’ve been getting more experimental and pushing my sound further in a unique direction, and that the tracks will be a reflection of this.
When are you next playing in London?
Nothing confirmed I can speak of at the moment, but a few potential dates in the works for this Spring, so be on the lookout!
Do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Nothing could do less for preserving the lasting tradition of great art than replicating your favourite.
1. Peiman Khosravi ‘Convergences’
2. Station Rose ‘Smoother Than Strange’ [Milles Plateaux]
3. Stereo People ‘Stereo (Global Communcation Remix)’ [Tweekin Records]
4. Onur Ozur ‘Oval’ [Cocoon Recordings]
5. Ion Ludwig ‘Love And Koko’ [Resopal Red]
6. Margaret Dygas ‘Veering Information’ [Power Shovel Audio]
7. Afriqua ‘Mir Zeit’
8. South London Hifi ‘Idea 1’
9. Matmos ‘Keine Zaehne’ [Milles Plateaux]
10. Alexander Scriabin ‘Enigme, Op. 52 No. 2’ [Performed By Arcadi Volodos]
11. Afriqua ‘Tanz’
12. Ricardo Villalobos ‘Mochnochich’ [Perlon]
13. Afriqua ‘Tanz’
14. Pied Plat ‘Ode To Ede’ [Rush Hour]
15. Dimbiman ‘Papa Puffi’s Secret’ [Perlon]
16. Afriqua ‘Ist Phem’
17. Cleymoore ‘Sigismund Schlomo (Easy Changes Pseudology Remix)’ [Musickollectiv]
18. Lazăr Cezar ‘Tulbara’ [Understand]
19. Lucien N Luciano ‘Behind My Soul’ [Cadenza]
20. Afriqua ‘I Found You’
21. Marcel Dettmann ‘Deluge’ [50 Weapons]
22. Radiq ‘The Grass Roots (Dimbitronic Remix)’ [Logistic Records]
23. Half Hawaii ‘Mir Nichts’ [Hello?Repeat]
24. Mike Dehnert, Rydell ‘French Lesson’ [Fachwerk Digital]
25. Tobias. ‘Party Town’ [Ostgut Ton]
26. Peiman Khosravi ‘Convergences’