Archive: Andrea Parker interview March 2001

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.

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.

Kiss My Arp

Kiss My Arp – album artwork

“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
Photos: unknown.

Archive: Attica Blues interview July 2000

Interview: Attica Blues
Date: July 2000
Location: Vibe Bar, Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London
Words / interview: Des Berry
Photo: Dan King

2009:  Setting the scene:

Summer 2000 and Sony / Columbia Records are about to release the second album from London’s Attica Blues.  Its a sunny day when we met and talked in the courtyard outside the Truman Brewery / Vibe Bar down there on Brick Lane. I was there with Dan King who snapped the photos and helped with the chat. Charlie Dark arrived first and that talk of leaving the band was just a joke. Sadly they all left the band when it came to a natural end a year or so later. Charlie and Tony are making music today, but anyway back to ’00.

Attica Blues

“Yeah I’m leaving you guys” laughs Charlie Dark, one third of Attica Blues.

We’ve been sitting around waiting on the late arrival of fellow band members Roba El-Essawy and Tony Nwachukwu . The delay has given Charlie the opportunity to fill us in on the groups future plans, as well as his own. Something the others seem unaware of when they join us.

Attica Blues are here. Back again on a new label, feeling good and happy to be away from the constraints of old. The new LP ‘Test, Don’t Test‘ is a mix of jazz, hip hop soul and R&B. Its sound is probably closer to the one they’ve wanted over the years and surprisingly something they could never achieve while on Mo Wax.

“Changing labels has certainly made us more liberated,” Charlie explains, “we’ve been able to just go out and make music rather then been pressured into creating a more radio friendly sound, something that Mo Wax were keen on us doing.”

With Mo Wax the label is always going to be bigger than the artists. Attica Blues were the only real band on a mainly producer led roster and looking for a big hit A&M were keen to hear a more commercial sound.

Attica Blues What Do You Want?

“We’re a small collective of people used to working together so it does not help when others come in to the mix. But luckily our A&R now is the guy who signed Loose Ends and Soul II Soul“. Someone who is more used to, as Charlie states “against the grain black music”.

“We started working together around ’91/92” Charlie points out, only to be corrected by Roba. All three are very close but Charlie is very much the loudest. Tony’s deeper voice battles with this while Roba is happy to sit back, listen and correct.

“No it was December 1992!” she laughs, “it gets earlier every time we do an interview”. Roba sets the record straight, “Charlie knew James Lavelle and he suggested that he went into the studio. Charlie needed someone to translate his ideas, so he brought in Tony aka The Midi Assassin”.

“Ladies love Tony Tone” Charlie butts in…

“And I went down with a friend of Charlie’s and ended up singing with them”, Roba finishes.

“We all had day jobs back then” Tony points out, “we’d be in the studio throughout the night working on stuff.” Laughing he remembers some of the earlier sessions. “We’d be literally falling asleep at the control desk, trying to EQ the tracks and leaving to go to work absolutely knackered.”

“Yeah I was working at Planet 24, doing stuff for The Word” Charlie points out.

“I’d go into work for ideas meetings first thing Monday morning, absolutely mashed! Asleep!”. Banging his fist on the table he lets the others remember the sacrifice he made for the band.

“Back then the guy sitting in front of me was Andrew Newman, who is now the head of entertainment on Channel 4. Just so you know what I gave up for you!” He points to the others “The Mercedes, the 50k salary and I knew more about TV then he did!”

Tony was a programmer with a manager pressuring him into doing commercial projects and Roba took a year out from college for the early recording sessions. All are London born and bred with family backgrounds originating in Ghana, Nigeria and Egypt.

“The music we do could only come out of London…”, Charlie pauses to look at a girl, “and as you can see its a fantastic place.”

“Its a melting pot of cultures”, he explains. “My influences lye in hip hop, but around ’86 I got into jazz. Fiendishly! You had Brian Priestly on Radio London playing traditional jazz and then he’d be followed by Gilles Peterson who would play this crazy music. I’d go out and buy stuff like the Pharoah Sanders‘ “Black Jazz’ LP. 18 minutes of him just screaming on a sax. Crazy stuff”

He continues, “I then realised that hip hop was based around samples of rare groove. I remember being out once and Norman Jay played the break from ‘Straight Out The Jungle” and I was like woaaa what is this?”

“I went into shops and saw that these tracks were real collectors items. There was a real stigma in the early days with hip hop people been accused of only having an interest in jazz and rare groove for the samples. You’ve got to remember that it was real different back then. You’d go into shops like Soul Jazz when it was in Camden and they’d say “oh you shouldn’t be in here. You don’t respect the music and your only after the first 2 minutes”.

Attica Blues article in Breakin Point magazine

Attica Blues were born out of the frustration of the scene around that time and Charlie felt hindered by the lack of originality around him. Though the name is stated on record as coming from an old Archie Step release, Charlie points out that it was meant to piss the traditionalists off.

“Attica Blues is like a traditional sounding jazz name and we chose it to piss people off. Its funny now, but back then, those in the jazz scene wouldn’t play stuff like hip hop. It was only when the likes of Kenny Dope started going into shops spending large amounts that these people realised it was cool to have the hip hop guys in.”

Electronic music like Depeche Mode, Human League and anyone who embraced computer technology like Peter Gabriel and Herbie Hancock was influencing a young Tony.

“I remember seeing an edition of the South Bank Show with Peter Gabriel on it using one of the first sampling keyboards, a Fairlight. Now back then this machine was the price of a small house and I was blown away. I got into stuff that was using samplers. Artists who were using whole chunks of samples!”

Around the time artists like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest were releasing their debut LPs. Hip hop acts who plundered the past for jazz and rare groove samples.

“These guys were taking elements of the jazz scene and in turn the jazz purists embraced the hip hop culture. Around the same time acts like KC Flightt and Marley Marl were sampling all the funk stuff like James Brown. It definitely was a revolutionary time.”

There are plans to have the next LP completed by Christmas and a label of their own, ‘Surplus’ is currently on standby for solo projects. With the backing and support of a new label (they insist there are no horror stories to tell) the group should reach a wider audience.

“Now we’ve got that big label push behind us to take it to a higher level”, Charlie concludes, “and there is no reason why bands like us shouldn’t be a household name”.

Listen: Attica Blues – Test. Don’t Test

Breakin' Point magazine Vol 2 Issue 4

Originally published in Breakin’ Point Vol 2 Issue 4 Nov / Dec 2000

Archive: Mowax presents Build And Destroy

Build and Destroy

Flyer for Mowax Build And Destroy night at Fabric, London circa 1998 / 1999. Front and rear displayed.

Build And Destory

UNKLE @ Lazarides, London


Managed to get down to Lazarides on Saturday afternoon. There you’ll find an exhibition of artwork inspired by and from the Unkle album ‘War Stories’. Works include pieces from teh Robert Del Naja (Massive Attack), Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones, Will Bankhead and Ben Drury.

The exhibiton finishes this Friday, 25th April.