David Parsons, aka Tarquin, makes music to move your brain as well as your body. The London based producer established a name for himself producing grime laced instrumentals but has always blended elements of dubstep, house, bassline and more to create something unique to him. One strong example of this is signature tune ‘Kid U’, a softly treading banger that satisfies ravers and chin strokers alike.
Parsons’ output is prolific and 2017 has seen him churn out seven releases alone, including his Jump Pack EP on Rinse and recently a remix for the Dirty Projectors. Meeting the busy producer for a rare interview and a slice of pizza, he explains that he is not normally the most talkative of people publicly: “I usually try and avoid interviews. I just want my music to do the talking.”
Rewind a few years and Tarquin’s music was talking very convincingly to a group of producers who collectively ran a grime night called Boxed. The night started in late 2012 with the aims of providing a platform for instrumental grime amongst other similarly warped sounding instrumentals. Attended by only a handful of people to begin with, the night quickly grew in notoriety and started attracting bigger crowds, amongst which was Parsons who was inspired by what he heard and saw.
“Those were the first raves I really enjoyed when I first went to London. The thing that I really loved was their approach,” he says. “It wasn’t formulaic in the slightest. From there, I started sending music to all of the producers I heard at the night: Slackk, Mr Mitch, Oil Gang, Logos as well and Mumdance.”
Quickly his production started to turn heads and he begun landing releases with labels like Gobstopper, Big Dada, and Unknown to the Unknown. What is evident about all of Tarquin’s releases is his capacity to write in a variety of styles but still retain his slightly tongue-in-cheek, signature sound.
This range of styles that denotes his ambitions to produce beyond the confines of just one genre, as he elaborates: “I just wanna be an artist. The reason why I got involved with Boxed is more because of the way it made me feel. Going to the dance and hearing Murlo’s melodies or Mumdance’s tropes. It was more the fact that it was very musically creative than because it was focused mostly around instrumental grime.” Proof of this can be heard in his Boiler Room set, which consists of an entire 45 minutes of just Tarquin production but displays all the dynamics of a DJ selecting the best cuts from his collection.
This being said the producer admits that grime, in its essence, is a genre built on experiment and something that he is inextricably linked with: “I think the grime aesthetic is one that allows you to free yourself and it’s something that’s tied to what I’m doing. It’s not dependent on your production values too much; it’s not something that’s polished. It just naturally wouldn’t be something that someone’s meditated on for hours and hours. Grime is an impulse, it’s an energy”.
Given that grime has now exploded to the point of being referenced by politicians and soap operas alike, it’s to be expected that some producers will move beyond it. Parsons insists however that its popularity is not something that has deterred him from making it: “Just cos something’s in the charts and is a bit more mainstream that doesn’t make it less appealing to me. It wouldn’t put me off anything just because it’s become more popular.”
“I kinda like that serendipity, when things happen without a reason. It’s chaotic but it works.”
Tarquin’s first forays into writing music was on his granddad’s computer when he was a kid growing up in Newick, a small village near Lewes. “I started to learn because my Granddad had a Mac, he was pretty into technology. At around twelve or thirteen I used to just mess around on GarageBand, that was my first attempt at composition,” he explains.
From there he moved onto Cubase and started making a lot of drum ‘n’ bass and says his stuff was very experimental before he realised he wanted to start writing things somewhat more accessibly. “I changed certain ways in which I was writing because I wanted DJs to be able to play it,” he laughs.
Parson’s suburban background might seem at odds with his penchant for grime music and his frequent collaborations with some of London’s best MCs (the most recent example being his track with Jammz ‘Come to the Dance’). However his background is something that has only furthered Tarquin’s self-shifting approach and where he mentions an unlikely influence: “I love the idea of playing a character. Someone like David Bowie who took a whole range of different characters, different genres different looks but never just copied, I like that. In the same way with garage, grime, rap, hip-hop – it’s music from a different place to me with different characters, and that’s why it’s right to me to take inspiration and play with it, but to not ever completely side with one or the other.”
Tarquin’s playfulness seems to be threaded into his approach to production too, which involves a combination of intention and accident. “I usually start out with an idea for something and let it go where I didn’t expect it to. I kinda like that serendipity, when things happen without a reason. It’s chaotic but it works.”
The approach is a fruitful one. As well as his seven releases in 2017, the young producer lets slip that he may also be working on his debut album ‘I’m actually putting together a much larger body of work for next year. Usually I’m usually working on a few things at once. It’s sort of an obsession, if I don’t make music for a week I get pretty unhappy’. At this rate Tarquin can quite comfortably sit back and lets his music do the talking for him.