Interview: Andrea Parker
Date: March 2001
Location: Andrea’s flat, London, UK
Words / interview: Des Berry
2009: Setting the scene:
Back in the spring of 2001, Andrea Parker was about to release her mini-album, ‘The Dark Ages’ on the Belgium label Quatermass. As part of the promotion Breakin’ Point were approached by ePM to do a piece for the mag. I went along to Shoreditch to interview Andrea in her studio flat on Kingsland Road somewhere near Herbal. She was in the process of planning a move, but took time out to chat for a good 90 minutes.
Sadly, due to Breakin’ Point’s somewhat irregular street dates, the subsequent article never got used. A shame as Andrea was great to talk to and even said hello a few months later down at The End when DJing. One thing though, she did make an awful cup of tea!
Back to 2001…
“I wanna get into testing car systems. I wanna make bass tones for car systems yeah! I don’t wanna get mixed in with all those XR3 boys though They’re testing 2 step in there!”
Welcome all, to the world of Andrea Parker.
Recording for labels like R&S, Infonet, Sabrettes and Mo’ Wax over the last 7 years or so, you should all be pretty aware of the music of Andrea Parker. If not you’ve probably heard or read some sort of opinion on her musical style.
“Every review I got for ‘Kiss My Arp‘ the word dark was mentioned” Andrea states, “so I did them all a favour and called it ‘The Dark Ages'”. We’re talking about Andrea’s new record out on the Belgium label ‘Quartermass’. A one off mini LP of tracks collected together since her departure from MoWax.
“People find my music too menacing, but I think its quite melodic” she says laughing. “The Unknown” on Mo Wax was the most commercial thing I did. Jo Whiley and Radio One liked it, but they wouldn’t play it because they said it was too dark! God! They should hear the rest of it.”
Along with the new LP there is a 30th birthday bash to organise, numerous remixes (De La Soul – ‘I’ll make them sound darker then they’ve ever sounded before’) and collaborations in the pipeline and judging by all the boxes of records lying around, an imminent move from her studio flat.
” Yeah. Its a weird time to be buying a new place!”
Oh yeah and theres also the new label, Touchin Bass. The first release which will be Andrea featuring DJ Godfather and DJ Assault. “The whole element will be about bass. Its not really about a style of music. The way that I DJ is how I want the label to be, not crap though” she laughs, referring to, by her own admission, her DJ style. “I play hip hop, electro and techno. All sorts of genres. I want to keep the label like that while getting artists to do stuff they don’t generally do. I’ve got people like Tipper who has done some wicked tracks, just weird stuff, using bass tones. The Space DJs, DJ Panic and the DMX crew. Its gonna be right across the board. Even King Britt is gonna do an electro track. It should be quite interesting, but its gonna be quite hard work really!”
Sounds it. “I am actually going to be taken away in a straight jacket! You’ll see me in 6 months with grey hair”.
Why set up the label?
“I was in a very unfortunate position with the merger that was going on at Mo Wax. My project got held up for a good 3 years. It wasn’t Mo Wax’s fault it was just a very unfortunate situation. I’m not signed at the moment and its nice as you get the creative flow back again.”
“Its just about having control again yourself and been able to put out anything you want. Also there are other artists that want to do different styles of music, but they can’t do it on the label they are signed to. People like DJ Panic who did all the Panic Tracks stuff like the Bass Junkies. Their not doing anything for anyone else at the moment and I think they really are amazing.”
There are not that many UK labels that are concentrating on this particular field of music. The Miami bass scene has never really kicked off over here even though LPs from Magic Mike and DJ Assault came last year from Mo Wax its never really grabbed the press headlines.
“Its a funny scene for over here” Andrea explains. “You can get DJ Funk and the Chicago side of it, but it is very hard to get hold of it. I also think people have a problem with the lyrical content, which I don’t think is as bad as people make out. Its actually got a sense of humour to it. I often get asked questions like why I’m female and working with Assault and Godfather? But loads of women listen to Dre, Snoop Dog and hip hop. And those guys are serious about what they are talking about. Like Eminem. But people seem to have a severe problem with the arse and titties ha ha!”
“But the girls who go to the clubs in Miami and Detroit are not forced. Its not a bad thing, they just get up and shake their booty and thats just it with the basslines. When I played out in Bournemouth at the weekend I played 2 Live Crew and all these guys came up to me I said I can’t believe a female is playing this. They said to me ‘you DJ like a man.’ I’m like what! If I said to a male DJ, ‘you DJ like a woman’ they would probably slap me ha ha!”
If you play anything slightly dark though its a bit weird. People get a bit shocked.
“I’ve been heavily into DJ Godfather and DJ Assault. I’ve always really loved electro and I’m used to playing Drexicya and the darker edged stuff. Really old school electro. But it can get a bit dark for the dance floor. Its quite nice to just throw in Assault and Godfather. Its a much more party sort of music. Even the ghetto tech stuff is quite housey. But it is the bass. I do like the bass element of it. And the Miami bass I really do like.” Just what is this bass obsession all about?
“I spend a lot of time in the studio trying to get really low bass tones. Thats my favourite part of making music. Going into a studio. Turning on all the analogue synths and just making sounds and programming. People don’t generally write in that old school way any more, because technology has made it so easy. People should work a bit harder. I love pioneers of different genres, like Steve Reich, Phillip Glass and Sakomoto, Laurie Anderson and Anne Dudley. Those type of people really experimented with sound. But now its so digital and you can write a tune just on a computer. Some people do it really well, but there are so many people doing it, thats its become saturated.”
So what is doing it for you at the moment?
“Artists like Photek. His LP is really good. Its not just the drum ‘n ‘ bass thing, but your on to a winner though if Robert Owens sings on one of your tracks! He’s got such a great voice. Its a timeless record. Techno people can mix that as well as house people. Its good to get into every category. Theres not much timeless music around at the moment.”
“I know its about age but when I was growing up it just so wasn’t like that. The first music that I started buying was ska and 2 Tone. Every Specials record. But it was all innovative. Even when it went into the 80’s, when you had people like the Human League. It was still them and it wasn’t about the stylists.”
At what point did you start to want to make the sort of music you were listening to?
“It was when I started listening to the Art Of Noise, Jean Michael Jarre, Ritchie Sakomoto, that type of music. It was like where have they got this sound from? People using synths and analogue sounds. Thats what made me want to write music. I did start as a singer over a lot of hardcore when I was a teenager. I moved on and did the Inky Blackness thing. I then started DJ’ing at Lost
I played an old David Morley track at the club and Renaat and Sabine from R&S were there at the time. They couldn’t believe I was playing this track out. I said I was huge fan of his and they said maybe you should hook up. I turned up at David’s studio and there was just Fairlights and all the synths that had been used by the people who had influenced me. So it wasn’t until I hooked up with David that I actually found someone who liked the same sounds as me.”
Alongside the obsession for bass is the fondness for finding new and interesting sounds. Theres a sound effect library stretching to 3000 records and tales of recording everything from sneezing, car washes to tyres running over cat eyes.
“I like experimenting with sound, but it becomes a pain in the arse. Like if I’m pushing a trolley in Sainsburys and it starts squeaking, then I’m constantly thinking that it sounds like a sequence in a track.”
“On the new EP its all very 808 drums, more sequenced stuff and not so organic. I always like to shove the odd sound in there somewhere though. Like ‘No Excuse’. Its a bit dodgy actually. I hate brass but I used it on it!. Ha ha. Rather then using knives and forks I’ve gone for a cheap brass section! Its all beatboxing tuned down as well and basically there is no excuse for a tune like that! That was one of those moments when I’ve tried to do something cheerful in the studio.”
“I like that twisting menacing sound though. I don’t know why I do that. David says ‘your doing it again! It sounds like Psycho’. Its always a menacing piano line and strings! I should just be doing horror films soundtracks!”
“It was like that with The Swamp. My music is quite visual and cinematic. I listened to that in a dark room and it really reminded me of a nasty swamp.”
Finally back to the hobbies and those XR3 boys. “They need a bit of Miami bass in the cars because that will that just shit over them! Ha ha! They’ll be vomiting left right and centre!”
“Its either that or clay pigeon shooting” ha ha!
Originally written for Breakin’ Point magazine 2001. Unpublished.
Link: Touchin’ Bass
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