Ex-Mars Volta Drummer Deantoni Parks Creates an Album with One Stick and a Sampler
Published Nov 27, 2015There was a time when the name Deantoni Parks was synonymous with experimental rockers the Mars Volta. As their drummer, he cut his teeth with rhythmic improvisation and energetic live performances before they dismantled in 2012. Since then his name has popped up in the strangest of circles; he's pounded skins for John Cale, Flying Lotus and Boots. Now, Deantoni Parks may be known as the man who made an entire album without leaving his drum stool.
Technoself (out December 4 on Leaving Records) sees Parks jettison his band, all notions of editing, and even one of his drum sticks to create one of the rawest albums in recent memory. Split between onstage performances and one-take studio recordings, Technoself is no more than Parks sitting at a kit, with a sampler resting on the bass drum, but the results are staggering.
"I challenged the one way that I've recorded every other thing in my life," Parks tells Exclaim! "This was basically the antithesis of all my other experiences — no over-dubs or anything, with the conclusion being whatever happened in the moment. I wanted a journey. To be able to go from a live situation to a studio situation, which is pretty much the complete spectrum of music. I wanted that as a parameter for the record so people could understand the method a bit better. When it's done live or in the first take in the studio, it's literally the same thing. Knowing that makes it a bit more palpable for people, I think."
Seeing as these are largely unchartered waters, Parks thought it wise to test out his uncluttered onslaughts on some unsuspecting Atlanta clubbers before recording. So, sandwiched in between trap DJs, he unleashed his minimal weaponry and tried to connect to an audience who weren't entirely sure what was going on. Anything that flopped was cut from the roster and anything that the audience identified with became the foundation for Technoself.
Just as those initial guinea pigs were no doubt thinking, the sight of someone drumming one-handed, while simultaneously hammering a synthesizer/sampler is a curious sight to behold, but for Parks it's all connected. "If you're a drummer, you're a percussionist and what people don't realize is that the piano is part of that family, so it makes perfect sense to me," says Parks. "Then, adding the element of having samples run through the synth or the midi-controller is just a natural progression."
Though his approach is somewhat radical and certainly unheard of to most, Parks was messing with a crude version of this setup when he was just a kid. Having been a drummer since the age of three — by age five he was in a fusion band with men in their early 30s — he was constantly experimenting in his formative years.
"Around six or seven is when I got really into sequencing and piano," Parks notes. "I would just sequence and then hop on the drum set and create a drum pattern to that. I've been trying to work my way back to that without having to separate the two, so it took a while to arrive at this format. I just couldn't have imagined dropping a stick, which easily would've opened up that window, but I was thinking like a drummer at the time, and a drummer would not do that."
Check out the video for "Bombay," one of the album's more jarring tracks, below to see Parks in action.