NOT TOO LONG AGO, my good friends Dysqo and Rhyno called me, all hyped on a certain DJ they wanted to bring out. He uses a telephone as his headset (the old school kind) and scratches House Music better than any DMC DJ I’ve ever seen.
Enter Mr. Terrence Parker from Detroit. With over 100 productions under his belt and top 20 hits such as “Love’s Got Me High”, “The Question” and albums such as Detroit After Dark, he gives us hope that being a successful producer does not mean compromising to the hip and trendy.
He has a fairly young label called Parker Music Works that has churned out 28 releases in just two years. He is one of the true pioneers of Gospel House, and listening to his mixes brought me back to the earlier years of House with big churchy vocals, uplifting piano chords and deep deep basslines. In this day and age when every producer/DJ is screaming “tech”, “electro” or “minimal”, Terrence’s music is timeless.
But more than that, Terrence Parker is an inspiration. After just ten minutes on the phone with him it felt like talking to an old friend. Strongly rooted in his faith, he emanates an energy that was palpable as we talked about losing faith in the music industry, being saved and why even bigtime DJs still need to get a job…
You took a one year sabbatical from the music industry, can you tell me more about that?
Oh sure. Actually it was needed for a number of reasons. I knew that it was possible for me to have a career on the Hip-hop side but as I got into House Music, I didn’t see it so much as a career until I started getting closer to people here in Detroit like Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, Blake Baxter, Eddie Fowlkes… And looking and watching them really gave me the idea that, hey, I could really make a career out of this!
As I started to get more successful over the years, the business side of it became more and more stressful, to the point where I wasn’t enjoying it. The love never died, but I just wasn’t getting the same type of satisfaction. The passion was overshadowed by all the politics and business drama that goes along with the music industry. I was really beginning to lose faith in people.
Even beyond that I was going through this whole spiritual thing. I mean I always loved God, I grew up in church and that whole thing, but I hadn’t truly made the commitment or the sacrifice of myself. I said I’m going to turn my life over to God because I really wanted a change. So I went through that whole thing of reconnecting with God, being baptized, being saved… the whole nine yards.
Was there something in your life such as a tragedy that triggered it?
Well let’s just say that God has a way of getting one’s attention! In 2001 when we had the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it was shortly after that that my bookings started to decline. I went from making quite a bit of money to basically nothing. Like no bookings coming in, nothing happening at all. Everything dried up. Things started going down. When you go from making quite a bit of money to not making anything at all… you wake up quick!
In Memory of MJ & just to get you a little hyped for the upcoming Terrence Parker live show we though we should pull out a classic mix we featured by the man himself.
Be sure to check out the gig Saturday 24th Sept presented for plenty of similar vibes.
Thank you for listening to the Terrence Parker Mix Show Podcast and making it one of the most popular mix shows on the Internet. This show is not brought to you by any corporate sponsorship and therefore I have completely creative control over the show’s musical content. Your generous financial support is needed to help keep the show going. Large or small, any amount you can give is greatly appreciated. However, for any gift over $25 US Dollars I will send you one of my latest TP Mix CDs (please allow up to 14 days for shippping and handling).
Detroit has been credited as one of the Soul Music capitals of the world, spawning legendary artists like The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross just to name a few. Detroit’s Underground Music Movement has brought rise to artists such as Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Carl Craig, Kevin Saunderson and a host of others. But unlike the aforesaid names, Terrence Parker has established himself as a producer, remixer and DJ of the classic sound of House Music, and is known as a pioneer of the Inspirational / Gospel House movement!
Terrence Parker has performed as a DJ in more than 100 cities throughout the world. Since 1988, he has released more than 100 recordings, and had top 20 hits with his songs “Love’s Got Me High”, “The Question” and albums like “Detroit After Dark” in the U.K., The Netherlands, Germany, and France. As one of the headliners for the 2004 Detroit Movement Festival (May 2004), TP (along with his friend & Detroit legend DJ Mo Reese) performed a stunning Tagteam DJ set on 4 turntables with 2 live vocalists for a crowd of over 100,000 people. As part of the Detroit Historical Museum’s History of Techno International Exhibit, TP’s collective musical works and pioneering efforts have been recognized as a valuable contribution to Detroit’s music history, as well as the International History Dance Music. This exhibit is currently touring museums throughout the United States.
Ahead of his only London date, Legendary Detroit DJ and innovator Terrence Parker takes a few minutes aside from his ’30 Years Of DJing’ tour to answer a few questions on his esteemed career Grand Master Flash, his European tour, today’s music scene and his famous telephone….
1) Congratulations on 30 years of music and your current tour, I’m sure there have been many but can you tell us about some of your favourite moments?
WOW! There have been countless wonderful memories over the past 30 years. One of the events I remember the most is the very first party I ever played. It was our eighth grade graduation party hosted by my classmate named Mike Muirhead. Before that party I had been known for the mix tapes I made, but that party was the first time a large group was able to witness my DJing skills directly. It was a great party which launched my DJing career right into high school. After that party word began to spread and by the time I was a senior in high school I was DJing events at high schools throughout the Detroit area regularly.
I also remember in 1990 sending demo tapes out to many mix show DJs and record labels. Only one person responded. That one person was Tony Humphries! I remember when he first contacted me about the demo, telling me how much he really liked it. He played it on his radio show (which at that time was on Hot 97 in NYC). The track on that demo was “Hold On’, which was later released on Kevin Saunderson’s Trance Fusion label (a division of KMS Records). Tony went on to break my Seven Grand Housing Authority track “The Question” while he was resident at Ministry Of Sound in London.
Some of my most memorable DJ events were in Detroit, but also other countries like Japan, Russia, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Serbia, Belarus, and many others! The largest audience I ever played for was at the Movement Festival in Detroit with over 100,000 people. It has truly been a great 30 years!
2) What’s your opinion on the current state of the music scene?
People do not seem to value music they way it use to be 20 (and more) years ago. Music is viewed as an intangible audio file rather than a tangible piece of artistic work. There are a lot of fantastic creative people today making some amazing music. Unfortunately they are not being recognized or appreciated as perhaps they would have been years ago. The advances in technology are great but it allows for easy pirating and file sharing. Hopefully people will realize the best way to show support for your favorite artist is to buy their music.
3) Working with labels such as KMS Records, Serious Grooves, 430 West and Simply Soul, do you feel this is where you gained the experience and confidence to launch your own labels and what would you say to people who would like to launch their own labels?
Yes I learned a lot from watching Kevin Saunderson, Santonio Echols, JD Simpson, The Burden Brothers, Mad Mike Banks and several others. My advice to anyone who wishes to launch their own label is simple. Find some people you feel are successful with their labels and watch how they operate. If you do not know the person directly, read any books, blogs, or other material they have available.
4) Being a such an icon for so long, does this put a lot of pressure on your life as a whole?
I do not feel any pressure because I stay true to who I am. Many years ago I use to feel a lot of pressure to live up to a public image. But now I have my life priorities in order of God first, family second, and everything else follows behind.
5) What was the determining factor that made you want to pursue a career in music and what was the biggest challenge you faced?
Even as a young boy I have always enjoyed music. Watching people like Michael Jackson and George Clinton made me consider a career in music. However, it wasn’t until after I saw Grand Master Flash rocking the turntables that I knew for certain I wanted to enter the music business. Over the years there have been many challenges. Perhaps the biggest and most common challenge I faced was getting someone to listen to my demo and ultimately sign me to their label. Although I have released my music with many labels over the years, the process was very difficult and often times quite discouraging. My frustration with the “demo shopping” aspect of the industry is what motivated me to launch my own label (known at that time as “Intangible Records”).
6) With so many achievements including top twenty hits with tunes including “Love’s Got Me High“, playing in more than 100 cities around the world and hit albums in the U.K like “Detroit After Dark” are there currently any goals you set yourself?
I would like to do more television & film projects. I have a few under my belt but I would like to get deeper into this area. I would love to DJ on the African continent, South America, South East Asia, Australia, and many other interesting places in the world. Most of all I would like to help others (not just with DJing or music, but in life).
7) Your current tour started way back in March taking you all over the world, we are looking forward to seeing you appear here in London at East Village on the 26th November, what can we expect to hear and will it differ from what you have played in other countries?
Although the tone of my DJ sets are the same (strictly positive) I play a different set everywhere I go.
I plan to play a lot of inspirational house music, funk, soul, and disco classics. You may also hear a few of my own productions tossed into the mix.
You come from a golden era in music when the whole world seemed to be taking inspiration from Detroit, what was different there and how was it different to what was happening in other music capitals around the world?
Respectfully I cannot accurately compare Detroit to other areas because I do not know their music history from a personal level. I can only speak from the perspective of a Detroiter. Many years ago music was regional and strictly localized. But in today’s world with the internet, it is much easier to become familiar with music and culture from a global perspective. As I have personally traveled to various places throughout the world I can see the Detroit influence in the up and coming producers in various countries. But I will say that Detroit was very unique because of the tough economic climate, and it’s rich music history from our classical symphony, to jazz, to Motown soul, to hip hop.
9) Your known for mixing with a telephone, how did that come about?
I started using my telephone headset back in the 1980s. A friend of mine went to Chicago, saw a DJ there using the telephone headset, and then he came home and made one for himself. When I saw the headset my friend made I asked if I could use it at a party. I used it at a party and liked it very much. So I asked my friend to show me how to make one and he did. I was very good with electronics so I figured I could make one with no problem. I went home that night and made my own telephone headset. I have been using one ever since. The one I use now I have had for 18 years, and I still enjoy it very much.
10) Your set at Fuse-In during the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2005 was a master class in scratching and working a crowd, do you have an idea of what direction your going to take a set in or do you just see where the vibe takes you?
I usually vibe off the audience. If the energy from the people is great, it tends to boost my energy as well.
11) Lastly, if you could give budding DJ’s and Producers a word of advice what would you say?
Take time to develop your craft (do not rush). Be true to yourself (do not compromise your principles). Be professional at all times. Do not look down on anyone unless you are reaching down