Interview With TWK
The U.K. Musician TWK sits down to discuss his debut album.
TWK is an extraordinarily new acquaintance and it is my honor to be hosting his thoughts, words and musings on music of his own design, as well as others’. He once again comes to us by way of, well first the UK, but you guessed it, the Netvio Crew (I’m going to soon start referring to it as cult, haha)!
To my knowledge has been a member a fairly long time now, but he was the personality type to observe, or so it seemed. Chat him up and you’ll find this notion to be quite to the contrary. As he has became more and more engaged within the Netvio sphere, I learned just what a kind soul he is. Aside from that, though, I sure as hell met one talented musician. This was affirmed to me wholly, completely and without shadow of a doubt upon hearing his forthcoming and debut release, 290617, out 9/18/2020 (Meaning it’s out now!!!!!). Be sure to listen here because it’s a DAMN doozy of a record and I was shocked by the level of skill and proficiency heard on this, TWK’s 290617!!
CW: Before we jump off the diving board into the deep end here – I need to give the readers the 101 on you – It’s what people want. It’s what people deserve! So! TWK, please enlighten these glorious people as to where you now reside and if that is different from where you grew up, wherever that may be please?
TWK: I reside in Exeter, England. I originally grew up in Wolverhampton, England (to anyone outside the UK Wolverhampton is the UK version of a slum like run down city) While Wolverhampton has a huge role to play in English production history it’s sadly extremely neglected and way too chaotic and unsafe for my liking so I took the first opportunity I could to move to a more passive and relaxed place.
CW: For some reason I had this assumption you were somehow older than myself. I cannot really pinpoint why I feel that way, but why not let everyone know just how young you are to be putting out this freakin’ monolith of a record that is, ‘290617.’
TWK: Most people assume I am older by the way I speak and present myself as I take pride in the way I present myself on a verbal and mental level. Others that see my IRL human form assume I’m 5-7 years younger as I guess I still have my baby face? But I am 25. Born 01-21-95! (Editor’s Note – He had written the date all Euro, but I fixed it so it was decipherable again ;))
CW: This next one I ask everyone with a stage name. Do not feel obligated to show your hand if you do not wish to, but I want the inside scoop! What’s your REAL name?
TWK: My real name is Tobias Parsons, most call me Toby for the sake of being informal. Going by Toby more than Tobias along with being an avid Star Wars fan…TWK stands for: Toby Wan Kenobi.
CW: I’d like to please ask you to forget about categories, classifications, genres, and all that fun stuff for a moment. It’s for the sake of this next one. Who is TWK?
You can choose to answer that as the man who is not TWK. You may choose to answer it ‘in character’. But, like I said before, I give my non-existent readers what they want! I know the answer to my next question, but it is not something everyone may know. It will lead to more interesting questions in a moment. If I may ask, what was your native instrument?
TWK Is Someone
TWK: Who uses music as a main form of emotional expression. TWK’s starting as just an ambition to be a well known artist and now developed into an emotional outlet. The Musician TWK now allows me to present emotions that I struggle with daily. That’s big for me because I can find emotions overwhelming most times. So I find myself hiding behind this mask that allows me to express what’s going on from Happy to Sad and everything in between.
Wish I could sing so that I could apply more thoughts and moods to my creations. I have a lot that I suppress and deal with internally. Most assume I’m okay. But I have so many internal battles from bullying myself, to feeling insignificant and a burden to everyone around me.
TWK Is That Escape.
An escape from others of whom I fear to annoy, disappoint and upset. I know it’s sad. But I don’t know how to talk about or express my emotions as much as I’d like to. I know how much that effects friendships, and definitely relationships. However, I only know how to hide and confide within myself.
CW: How long have you been at it? Also, what ‘flipped the switch’ for you? What made you realize you wanted to branch out further as far as instrumentation goes? Into synths, keyboards, MIDI, etc.?
TWK: Well once I left home and school at 16, I no longer really had a way to practise drumming. So I slowly dropped off as opportunities became far and few. While at College, I got the chance to learn about Reason 5, Sequencing, Sampling and Midi music creation. From that point I discovered a need. A way to escape reality and express myself even if it doesn’t get released.
After 2 Years
After 2 years of loosely playing around with Reason, I released my first track on YouTube. It was my submission for a module “Silent Hill – Alessas harmony (TWK Remix)”
CW: What made you ultimately decide, “That’s it. I know what I’m dedicating my Earthly time towards. I’d never have it any other way than the route of music?” I can point to a few ‘A-Ha’ moments such as these, but I’m curious about yours?
TWK: I guess I’ve lived a life where I felt more of an inconvenience and burden than anything. Due to medical difficulties that led me to be exceedingly more dependent on others. As I said before, music is my escape. When I don’t release something, it’s for me. Because it captured a certain moment. One that I couldn’t clarify with simple thought. When I do release it’s because I feel like I have something to offer for once. I am SHIT with expressing feelings, especially positive! I’m good at hiding but shit at expressing. I try, but I find most times those struggles outweigh all and music is that personal mental translator. It doesn’t have to be my music either. I connect with others’ pain and find myself lost in sad music more than happy.
When I Learned
CW: When I learned that Drums were your natural baby as well, I knew we were full-fledged friends, haha. I recall asking, “Are we related?” After listening to this record in the morning, I’d have sworn up and down your native instrument was Piano. This album features some absolutely pristine piano playing. Sometimes knocking me loose from my chair, your fluidity on the keys is jaw-dropping. How long have you been playing some of the other instruments on the album? And, to be hyper-specific, what are the instruments?
TWK: I can only play drums. Can’t play anything else for shit. Piano, I use as a means to carry out certain sounds. Often times, dynamics and sustains for that emotional investment and translation that sequencing lacks. Do everything by ear.
I Imagine The Sound First.
Then, often can recreate that melody after a few mistakes. I have absolutely no idea about melodic theory or any ability to play a melodic instrument. I just make do I guess.
CW: This is a fun one to just throw in the middle. It leaves you scrambling for an answer, so EXCELLENT TIMING, MWAHAHAHAH!!!! PRESENT GEAR RUNDOWN! WHAT YOU ARE USING AS OF TODAY???!!! GO, GO, GO!!!
TWK: As of today I am using: Erazer Gaming Notebook, Reason 5 and Alesis Vmini. I understand this is nothing compared to others setups. Often times, I see others in Netvio with their crazy nice setups and here is me with utter peasant gear!!
And Yes You Did See Reason 5.
I’ve learnt to make do with what i have and am fine with that. There’s a certain old, rawness that comes with it. Frequently, I see younger producers wanting to be the next big thing. Their biggest mistake is thinking they also need the newest DAW. All this, along with the shiniest hardware. The kinds with all the latest presets and samples to make it. In reality it’s the difference that makes it.
CW: Regarding this forthcoming LP of yours, I’m going to present you a hypothetical. You’re sitting down in your music space. You are itching to write a full-fledged song and not just mess about. With your most serious face on, please enlighten me to the TWK process of songwriting. How do you get from A-B, then ultimately A-Z?
TWK: I often have inspiration from my favorite artists: Bring Me The Horizon, Jaden, Woodkid, 6lack, Deftones & Childish Gambino. The moment inspiration strikes I often have a certain mood and tone in mind (BPM & Chords) . From there I create a simple drum pattern and the chords with a specific sound to drive the desired tone. From there I expand on the main full drum pattern with all the desired sound and most EQ done. If my drums are bad I often lose interest and motivation quick.
Once I Have
Once I have a satisfying rhythm and tone I start expanding. I expand on chords but layer in different octaves with different sounds. Maybe a cello, detuned violin or brass section that flows parallel with a Reese bass. Perhaps it is Sidechained house bass or toned 808. Then I expand on a high octave chord layer. Maybe violin, harp, sax, pluck, Rhodes piano or toned mallet/percussion. From the high end I play around with rhythm and notes so create some form of memorable hook to match mood.
Then, those sort of routine fundamentals I start messing with different sounds with the midi melodies I now have. I always consider different types of orchestral instruments to add that dramatic organic grounded feel as that tends to most people’s idea of organic sounds. I’m a huge fan of vocal chop manipulation as it often can breathe both comfort and discomfort at the same time with the human voice being something we all hear more than anything.
Once I’m Happy With
Once I’m happy with the overall instrument lanes I then start to fill out space and structure with some foley sounds that are gated, distorted, somewhat toned and stretched. Along with various percussion elements to compliment.
All my tracks stages of creation can vary, depending on the mood and influence. One thing I’ve found that tends to add more of a unique feel to my music currently, is straying away from common practices like generic structures and builds/drops.
DOWN TO BRASS TAX – 290617
CW: There’s something to be sad for crafting a full LP in the modern era. Talk these days is always of Singles this, Singles that. I sometimes feel it de-mystifies and instead, commoditizes, music even further down a rabbit hole of despair and financial inequity. Given the climate surrounding you within the music business at the present, what was the catalyst to say, “Aww, you know what. I don’t care and will be doing it in my own way and voice?”
While I Understand
TWK: The thoughts and points of bringing out nothing but singles, there’s only so much you can put into such a short amount of time. I reached a point of wanting to express a journey through various pieces of a bigger picture. All my previous inspirations do that so well and those types of artists create not just fans but dedicated fans for life.
There’s An Omnipresent Sadness
CW: There’s an omnipresent sadness, always countered by hopefulness or at least an attitude sounding similar to, ‘fake it till you make it’. Was this intentional, or simply put, brain to fingers, this is how you find music … just sort of …. flows through you?
TWK: It definitely flows naturally. Things I have endured and struggled with in life have a massive part to play in that natural sadness and its hope and love from a handful of people along the ride that have helped me push through. I don’t think I am capable of faking such and it coming across as so genuine? (***Editor’s Note – I have to pause out of respect for this question pointed back, because my answer would be uhm…. any pop star / someone doing it for the esteem …. uhhhh …. ever? haha)
You’re Not A Terribly Old Dude.
CW: I think 25 is actually a fantastic age to be self-releasing your first cut. Even still, I’m surprised to hear this is your first release because obviously you play enough to keep your chops up, but how have we not previously stumbled upon you inside of … I don’t know, name a streaming service, haha – ?
TWK: I never really considered Spotify or Itunes. Was always under the assumption that you need to be an “artist” and well known, with money behind you to get music on to such platforms. I only discovered how to push my music through from the Netvio family. Many encouraged me to do so, telling me I would do well if I did. Took a while but I finally did and now I tend to push my proudest and more personal feeling tracks to those platforms. As for YouTube which i guess is my main catalogue of released music, I’m terrible with being social and advertising. For ages I have been telling myself I need to connect and engage to build a fan base for myself but I lack the social commitment to do so.
From The Initial Track
CW: DAWN, you manifest a sense of tension immediately. Ominous, near didgeridoo soundsscapes are processed and filtered for our aural pleasure square off. Heading into a few beeps here and there, slowly progressing towards a theme for the song, as well as a fascinating piano part. To me, this truly sounds like what waking up at dawn is like. A bit hopeful, a bit sardonic, mostly wishy-washy and adrift. Does placing emotion with outcome so well come easily for you, or what is your process for making sure it all ties together in some way?
TWK: I would say a bit of both, I often can’t sleep in silence. I need ambience so my thought with the start was waking up to some sleep soundscape/binural beat along with the mind and body haze. Dawn had some inspiration from Animal Crossing sound design and gentle phone alarms. To me that capture a generic morning along with the dread or hope that comes with whether it’s gonna be a good or bad day.
CW: Track Two, Wanderlust, could have easily confused me. This is until I realized it is a staple of the album’s aura and a recurring motif.
TWK Has This Affinity For Really Making You Think A Song Is Over, Just To Reel You Back In.
The first instance, though, features a crisp Violin solo any Grandmother would be proud of upon re-entry. I have to assume this was manifested through MIDI? If so, can I ask you to please elaborate on how exactly you blurred the lines so well between person and machine? It was hard for me to tell the difference, so I’d love to hear your take. How did you mix something that sounds so almost human into genuinely sounding freakin’ human? Any plug-ins I should know about? Asking for a friend.
TWK: I studied violin solos and tried to grasp what makes it sound different from a preset or sample. I learnt if certain organic elements of subtle plucky/percussion bits along with how string sounds can somewhat bleed into each other as a mild portamento. The hardest part was fine-tuning the portamento without it losing its individual note body. With all that in play the parts themselves were all played with midi keyboard.
This Is Not So Much A Question
CW: But something from my notes that I know I’d be humbled to hear someone ask me my thoughts on, so I’m going to paste in some notes from what I heard on track five, and if you could be so kind as to simply share some thoughts with me on your sentiments surrounding mine –
“. . Break midway through, while something which can be anticipated given the overall style one must lump this inevitably into, but I’m beginning to notice a common theme. This portion just confirms it. While this part WAS something to be anticipated, TWK gives this unique sheen or coating to his tracks, specifically in regards to the actual mix. It’s super polished, which alone is impressive but not something my virgin ears are yet to hear. What I’m referring to goes even beyond that – this dude’s brand, namesake, musicianship shine through in his most perfectionist of moments, where many of us flail and struggle, this keeps a nice, calm demeanor and has a unique tonal color that I still cannot quite place my finger on….Simply put, wow.”
TWK: One of the things that I guess gives my stuff it’s “unique tonal color” is my work is far from properly mastered. I tend to avoid mastering, I do a little as I go but very little is done on the final stages as I don’t want to turn what I love into a chore. And let’s face it’s the mastering side of creation is incredibly boring. Plus I find it can lead me to second guessing whether or not I want it to be heard by others. With all that’s felt in the moments of creating and producing I don’t want to over hear my own stuff.
We All Have Had
Those moments of starting to despise what we make because we’ve overheard it and now it’s stale. This often leads us to lose motivation and lose the feelings and vibes that got us even starting the piece in the first place. So I guess you could say there’s a certain rawness to my work? Over mastering can remove and smudge that certain texture from various timbre that we fell in love with in the first place. And sometimes we don’t know when to stop over mastering.
CW: A lil ways down the road we’re back to head bobbin and unintelligible vocal samples, all led by a slick transition that you can almost miss if you bat an eye . . The attention to detail is fantastic.”
Vicariously, through a chat seen with another Netvio member one day, I learned we share many of the same opinions on merch. As well as receiving remuneration for our wares as artists.
I’ve Somewhat Come Around
To feeling less weird accepting money for my craft because it was explained to me one day by someone much wiser than myself that there is no shame for being compensated for what is your naturally given talent. However, there’s always a slight nauseous reaction when thinking of ‘selling myself’. In the chat with the other individual you were asked why your store’s prices were so low.
Your reply, and I’m paraphrasing, was that you make your merch for your fans, friend and colleagues. It won’t make or break you to miss out on $10 you could maybe have netted profiting on and it’s free advertising. The money for the merch itself has already been spent. I don’t quite know how to phrase it as a question, but please, can you articulate for anyone out there your sentiments in a somewhat more elaborative fashion?
I Often See A Lot
TWK: Of overpriced merchandise that is only really selling it’s name. Like most high street, well known designer brands you’re paying for their name. It’s often recolors, half assed styles if there is any thought put in at all. Going back to artist merch while I understand the need to finance your skill and the point the wiser being made, it sometimes feels insulting as a fan of something to be charged so much to show my love and appreciation.
There’s 3 points I’ll make about my mindset of wanting to charge as little as I can for any of my TWK merch.
- I appreciate and adore any fan I may have and I would want them to get best offer they can to show their love and support. Hell for the price some charge for one item, a fan of mine could get 2 items!!
- I believe heavily on giving what you want back! I see so many artists and companies from different media platforms fail to practice that and have fans drop off. If you want someone to spend time with your product, you have to spend time on your product. Want someone to spend money on your product? Spend money first. If you want someone to show love and support towards you, you have to show love and support first!
- I’m nobody, I’m nothing. Why should I charge more for something that essentially represents nothing to everyone?
CW: The tenth and final track, Serene, is an excellent and complimentary piece to the previous 9 just heard. There are these synth stabs a minute before conclusion of the album that just really grab you. They show the uniqueness of your work as a mixer/producer.
I Think This Album
really showcases your producing above all, but I say that as a ‘gun to my head’ answer, since your composition and execution are also stunning. – The stabs I mentioned are well, I’l just say it; They’re. The. Shit. They don’t feed into any angular qualities that may turn off some listeners. Same time, they are not ‘un-sharp’ stabs. I attribute this to your own personal style and touch. You tow the line excellently between mixing something both properly/seemingly traditional and supplying it with a stamp reflecting your name in bold right up-top. Thoughts on the uniqueness of your production style that may lead a listener such as myself to this conclusion?
The Stabs You’re Referring To
TWK: Are just simply brass hits, pulled down a few octaves with a little tweak on attack and release and very weak reverb to fill space and give that distant feeling. I guess my production and sound feels different because I lend traits and ideas from such diverse genres throughout, almost a collage of my favorite sounds from other artists. Like the influences I said previously I’ve tried making tracks in their styles previously to better grasp their creative techniques. From there I just tried to see how such ideas could work together and how I could now manipulate what I’ve learnt for my own listening pleasure.
CW: And, suddenly, Serene ends – Transitioning out to beauty – Again, near somber timbres find a distinct but befitting dichotomy in the form of some bright, mostly hopeful piano. …. Then ….. Just like that ….. It’s gone.
I always take notes when doing an analysis of anyone’s music. Keeps me objective, on-task and purely listening, really hearing the tunes. In my conclusion notes for my first listen this is quite literally what I wrote –
Composition – A++
Planning – A++
Skill/Ability/Chops – A++
Mix/Master/all that shiny shit – Jesus, A++ If that is any indication, you might confuse these attributes as something belonging to Wish You Were Here, KID A, or Sound of Silver. Alas, it’s one dude. Somewhere in the UK. Just absolutely killing it. I hope to see this first album as number one in a series that has no finite number assigned. I hope TWK excels far beyond the reaches of the chump mainstream artists I listed two sentences back. This album certainly proves he deserves to do so and only time will tell! Till then, folks, don’t ever stop rockin’ and rollin’!