The term “DJ’s DJ” gets tossed around a bit too much these days – but in the case of Spencer Parker, it could not be more accurate. That’s not to say that his music is not for the masses, because it certainly is. Spencer is at the top of a lot of artist’s lists of people they would pay to see perform. Regular appearances at institutions such as Panorama Bar, Fabric, Zouk and the occasional McFit, have given more and more people the opportunity to experience the what the fuss is all about. With an ever-growing catalogue on labels such as Rekids, Tsuba, Ovum, King Street, Crosstown Rebels and Buzzin’ Fly – just to name a few… Spencer’s productions continue to be a staple in record bags everywhere. Aside from being an accomplished artist, he happens to be about as genuine, humble and entertaining as they come. (In our best Tony Wilson voice) Ladies and gentlemen, this is Spencer Parker…
What made you finally make the move from the UK to Berlin?
Girl troubles !
There’s plenty of information out there about all things music associated with Berlin – what’s your take on some of the other important aspects – fashion, food, the art scene, etc….
I’m often asked about the city, since I’ve moved here, and I’ve said in interviews before that you could take every club, bar and record shop out of the city and i’d still want to live here, as there’s a lot more to the place than just the crazy party’s. There’s a plethora of amazing gallery’s like the Neue National Gallery and the Helmut Newton Foundation, some great restaurants in the shape of The Bird, Jolesch, Tabito and Casolare (my personal favourites) and everything else you could ever need, from cool clothes shops like Voo and Wood Wood (a Danish Import) to world renowned hair salons like Viktor Leske, to bars like John Muir, that serve the best cocktails in Berlin – go see Gordon and tell him I sent you !
Not really that glamorous to be honest. Every week day begins with a trip to my local gym, which is charmingly named “McFit”, where i wheeze and try not to faint for an hour or so, and a hour long language lesson. Four days a week I (try !) to learn German and on the other day I learn French. German as it’s my adopted home now, and French, because, if I don’t, my beautiful Parisian girlfriend beats the hell out of me ! After i’m done with that, then I guess I just go about the business of most dj/producers. I’ll often work on music ideas at home (to finish off later in a proper studio) or do some edits for me to play in my sets or record shop online. If i’m not doing any of these things then i’m out physically record shopping at one of the city’s fine vinyl emporiums or spending hours digging in the crates at my record dealers. As well as this i’m doing a little work on all the boring stuff that needs to be done, updating my websites/bios/press shots etc etc or running my label Work Them Records, listening to demos, arranging remixers, preparing the next release etc etc.
A beautiful Parisian girlfriend – sounds like you solved those girl troubles. You recently said that you enjoy playing and breaking new/unreleased music, you called it the “give what they don’t know they want yet” approach. Do you find this being a challenge with any crowds?
It can be sometimes, but I’ve never been the type of dj that bangs out the big hits or obvious records, that’s never been what attracted me to djing. I approach djing, first and foremost, from the position of being a fan of house music, techno music, clubbing, record shopping. So I have always wanted to hear (and, later, play) the freshest, latest music. You often hear people say that this dj or that dj “played an amazing set, the crowd was going crazy” etc but then you ask the same people what that dj played, and you get a long list of the biggest current hits, “mashups” or obvious classics. That shit is easy to do, anyone can make the crowd go wild if you play “Sweet Dreams”, that’s like saying the crowd went wild when someone scored a goal at a football match- of course they did !
My favourite dj’s have always been the ones that take risks, that will play a brand new acetate -or now, file : ) unaware of what reaction it will get, but they play it because they LOVE that record and want to expose and break it to other people, in the hope they will love it too.The dj’s that will have the balls to play a disco record in the middle of a house and techno set, because it has the same aesthetic. The dj’s that don’t compromise, that don’t break out the hits for a cheap cheer, the dj’s that have integrity and present the records they are crazy about right now because they have a genuine, palpable passion for what they do.
So, to finally answer your question, yes, sometimes it is a challenge, but it’s one that i have no problem with rising to. Of course, I could just break out the current hits or play 1 shitty loop over another shitty loop, over another shitty loop over another shitty loop, all pre mixed in my laptop with a added burst of white noise if the crowd look like they’re flagging… but there’s many, many people already doing that, so I will leave that to them. When I go out, I want to hear great records, music to get excited about, songs that you go home with stuck in your head, so that’s what i try to do when I play. Some will love me for it and some will hate me for it, but i’m very lucky that, at this stage in my career, it’s mostly love.
Speaking of crowds – what are some of your favorite crowds to play to besides the obvious Panorama Bar?
Well, in my mind, that club is the best in the world at the moment, and i count myself as very blessed to play there on occasion. I played the closing set on a Sunday, a couple of weeks ago, and ended up playing to a full floor for 8.5 hours (when the blinds finally came up and stayed up), so that place is kind of in a league of its own I think. But, of course, there are great crowds all over the world, Concrete in Paris always has a pretty loony atmosphere with people punching the air and rushing the crowd barriers as you play, I’ve only played once, but the Sub Club in Glasgow was definitely a great crowd to play to and Dance Tunnel in London has seemingly done the impossible and provided a venue in London with great sound, phenomenal bookings (Tama Sumo, Gerd Janson, ItaloJohnson, Gene Hunt, DJ Nature etc) AND a crowd that know decent music, are not jaded and love to really, really dance ! I also have to say that the Zoo Project in Ibiza always has a crowd that are ready to party hard but dont need to hear only the latest hits to do it, that’s a really great place to play, for sure.
It was a lot of fun, their recent guests had included Marco Carola, Sven Väth and Mike Huckaby so I was in good company. The booth is something to behold with a Gary Stewart Audio system, E&S crossovers and a Urei 1620 mixer, so to play on a set up like that is always going to be enjoyable, of course. Going back to your earlier question, I played everything from disco (Patrice Rushen, Debbie Jacobs) to techno (my favourite tracks on the Non Series and It’s Not Over labels) to the likes of Omar S, Dwala and the excellent Delano Smith remix of Ian Pooley’s latest single- and the crowd that was there seemed to enjoy it all. The room stayed open nearly an hour longer than it normally does so I guess it was a good night there. It’s not a “typical” european crowd, but the people there were pretty open minded and enjoyed what I played, so hopefully, a good night was had by all !
Your releases, much like your sets, tend to range from the deep to peak, to techno and an occasional nod to US Garage; is there a particular sound that you enjoy producing more than the other?
Not especially, I like a lot of different types of house/techno so I like to produce a variety as well. I think that, in the past, I’ve fallen into the trap of producing a few different styles of house music and that has confused some people, so, in the future I’m only concentrating on producing exactly what I play out. I’ve made a lot of records and remixes that i’m incredibly proud of but, unfortunately, you can never underestimate how stupid people are. When I did the remix of Mood II Swing “Closer” people would assume that I played only US Garage or when i did the “Show Him You’re The One” track for Tsuba, some assumed I only played deep house. My latest recorded set on Soundcloud is just as likely to include tracks from Developer or Truncate as it is MAW or Boddika, but, as I said, some people are rather too easily confused. So, from now on, i’ll be concentrating on trying to distill exactly what I play in a headline set, into my productions. I’ve nearly finished my second album and that’s exactly what it will be made up of.
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This isn’t a question but just a statement but your remix of P’Taah’s “Your Soul On Mine” is one of the finest, heaviest and most impressionable records to be made in some time. It could have been made 15 years ago or it could be made 15 years from now. It’s a mood changer and a night changer.
Haha thank you very much ! I remember playing it a while back and both Scott Grooves and Jerome Sydenham going crazy next to me asking me what it was, so that mix always has a place in my heart. First and foremost though, I have to give props to the producer of the original track Chris Brann (also known for his work as Wamdue Kids, amongst other aliases). The original was a great record and the parts that I was given to work with were just phenomenal and of such a high standard. It’s not every day that you get to work on a mix with strings and pianos like that, so it was a real pleasure to do.
We have to ask… you recently had a track named in your honor “For Spencer” on Cabin Fever – any story behind that or is it just a clever marketing ploy because putting the name Spencer on anything makes it sell better?
Haha, I’m not sure if the name Spencer makes people pick the record up, or very quickly put it down again ! The artist who made it is a good friend of mine and I was very flattered indeed when i saw how he had titled it. You’ll have to ask him for the story I guess.
Well, the Spencer name drew us to the record, so that’s at least one! While we’re on the topic of vinyl, what are some of your favorite shops to get to in different ports?
Aaaaaah, so many, where do i start ? Well, in Berlin, i’m a big fan of Hard Wax (my local store!), Rotation and Spacehalle, Barcelona has the excellent Discos Paradisos, Paris has Techno Import and now Smallville, I love the Smallville store in Hamburg too, Sounds Of The Universe in London often has some interesting records, as do Kristina Records, also in London. And there’s another million shops all over the world that I love to visit, whose names i cant remember- that’s normally my first question whenever I arrive in a city- the promoter always asks me “Are you hungry, would you like to eat, do you need to go to the hotel to sleep?” and i always reply “I will eat and sleep a little later, but are there any record shops near here that are open right now….?” If the answer is “yes” – the food and sleep are put on hold 🙂
We like to hear that. Next time you are in NYC, check out our buddies over at halcyon. Having worked in record shops yourself, do you find a lot of the shops to still be a communal experience or has that changed with new generations?
I think its the same as it ever was, whatever record shop you’re in, there’s normally a lot of enthusing about (or slagging off!) of this record or that record, people tipping each other off on what tracks they are loving right now, talking about what clubs they went to last weekend, who was playing etc. I would say that it’s certainly a communal experience and one I definitely enjoy, as I’m sure a lot of the newer generation of dj’s do as well.
You have established your love of playing new music, are there any classics that are always in your crate ready to go?
It is the most obvious classic ever but i really do love “I Feel Love” and I have a really nice edit I love to play of that, as well as the Glenn Underground instrumental version that, i think, was only released in Japan, thats where I got mine anyway! I play it quite sparingly as it’s so well known and played so often, but i have to say – i love that record! I also adore The Nightwriters “Let The Music Use You”, Loleatta Holloway’s “Dreaming”, Fallout’s “Morning After” (Sunrise Mix), Patrice Rushen “Havent You Heard” I always seem to equate classics with the end of the night and I think it’s always nice to end with a great song, so i tend to lean more towards songs, rather than tracks, when it comes to classics. Having said that, i’m also a big fan of Carl Craig’s “Throw” or his remix of Theo Parrish’s “Falling Up”, Lil Louis’ Video Clash”, X press 2’s “Muzik X Press”… I could go on forever !!
You’re quite active on Twitter which is shocking due to your shy personality – do you find this to be a good avenue for your witty comments? Have you tweeted anything that has gotten you into a bit of trouble?
I’m not sure if they’re funny comments or just the ramblings of a bored bloke in an airport most of the time. I think Twitter and Facebook are really good tools for letting people that like your work, know what you’re doing, whats coming soon, what you’re working on etc but I think people attach way too much importance to both of them. After all, having a lot of likes doesn’t make you a good dj or producer. Deadmouse probably has more “likes” than Ryan Elliot, one is a clown that dresses up to “dj” like he’s playing a children’s party and the other is a phenomenally talented dj and producer that’s a resident at the best club on the planet so….. you know, people can get too caught up in it i think.
They’re both great tools, but that’s all.
As for getting me in trouble, I simply express my opinions, but sometimes this can get people unnecessarily upset. Every now and then someone will misread something i meant in a certain way, or take something out of the proper context it was meant in, but I think that’s always a risk with these types of social media, unfortunately.
Well, we find alot of it quite amusing….. Any upcoming plans for the Spencer Parker road show in NYC any time soon??
The Spencer Parker Roadshow ! I like the sound of this ! I will try to bring my one man cabaret show to the US of A, hopefully sometime toward the end of this year. I love playing in New York and I haven’t been for a couple of years so I’m looking forward to it.
So are we!
Stay locked into all things Spencer Parker at www.icametoparty.com