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Is there no one darker than Andrea Parker? Tom Magic Feet speaks to the first lady of sinister electro
By Tom Magic Feet
"I’m actually the complete opposite of how people imagine me from my music," states Andrew Parker. This is true. Listen to Andrea’s new release, The Dark Ages, with its yawning bass and thick, moody atmospheres, and you imagine her as some kind of introverted, super-serious goth. In reality, she’s chatty, friendly and giggles a lot. But then, when you make music as undeniably sinister as Andrea often does, it’s not surprising she gets tagged as ‘dark’. Unable to shake the label, she’s decided to embrace it.
"I was pissed with Terranova one night," she explains, "And they just sprayed it along the wall – ‘There’s no-one darker than Andrea Parker’! [laughs] I’ve been fighting against this dark thing with the press for so bloody long now, I thought, ‘Right, I’ll call the record The Dark Ages and have ‘no1darker’ as my email address! [more laughs]"
Pointing to the old axiom about comedians using humour to mask their gloom, Andrea struggles to explain the contrast: "I think it’s because I’m such a ‘sound’ person – I love low bass, I like cellos, and they’re a lot darker than, y’know, flutes and these f**king happy hi-hats that they put in house music nowadays. I don’t know really, because I’m really not dark at all. But then I love horror films and soundtracks that are a bit dark as well. I don’t know – it’s like why do some people love trance and some techno?"
She started out in music as a session singer for hardcore producers, but soon tired of being a hired hand, saying that listening to the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto, Steve Reich and Philip Glass made her want to get into making sounds – "that whole analog cyber thing" she says blithely, as if I should know what the hell she means. Today she takes her sounds wherever she can find them: cutlery, carwashes.
Indeed, her DJ career began by experimenting with sound effects records on three decks and led to a five-year residency in Lost’s second room. A move into production was inevitable, and recorded output began with Inky Blacknuss, her collaboration with Alex Knight and Ian Tregoning. Yet it was a chance meeting with Renaat and Katrin from R&S at Lost which led to her hookup with David Morley, the German producer with whom she’s worked ever since and of whose collection of vintage synths she is in permanent awe.
"We’ve been working together for years now," says Andrea of Morley, "and he’s like my musical soulmate, the one person that understands me with music. We just got on, he’s got no ego at all and it's all really, really easy for us."
Their first venture together was Two Sandwiches Short Of A Lunchbox’s Too Good To Be Strange on R&S's Apollo spinoff, which they followed a year later in 1995 with Angular Art on pivotal but now-deceased UK techno imprint Infonet. A deal with Mo’Wax was next and over the next five years Andrea – together with David and, occasionally, Uschi Classen – released a handful of EPs like the much-feted Rocking Chair, which featured some 40 members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and had to be re-cut ten times because of its immense, gut-shaking bass. As if that wasn't enough, her solo album for Mo’Wax, Kiss My Arp, proved beyond all doubt hat Andrea Parker just doesn't do things by halves.
Another example of this is Andrea’s frequent inclusion of vocals, although they don’t feature on The Dark Ages. Why? "I don’t really classify myself as a singer, it’s just another thing that I do and it’s not like I think I’m particularly good at it either. And it’s quite hard singing over the music that I write, I can assure you [giggles]!"
This explains why she’s amazed to hear that someone has taken the time to write out her lyrics and put them up on the net: "That’s a bit frightening, isn’t it? I thought I’d put enough effects on them so they'd be disguised!"
"Lyrics do take me a long time," she continues, "and you’re not always inspired to sit down and write a song. I always do the music first, though. It’s something that’s really important to me, actually – I don’t like all that ‘wave your hands in the air’ stuff."
Since being dropped by Mo'Wax, her new home for the time being is Quatermass, a division of Belgian label Sub Rosa. In the meantime her own label, Touchin’ Bass, is close to leaving the drawing board: "It’s going to be very electronic. The first release is by myself featuring [DJ] Godfather, but I’m going to get Ed [DMX] in. But I’ve also got people like Gescom, who are Autechre, and Tipper, who are giving me tracks. The main thing about the label is going to be bass – as long as there’s a fat bassline, then I’m happy! [laughs]"
Electro is the common thread that runs through Andrea Parker’s music and DJing, contrary to musical fashion: "I have a massive, massive passion for the 808," she explains, "I love the sound of that drum machine, so I think it has a lot to do with that. Electro’s really funky, there's something about it I just love. I’m not actually very keen on the type of electro where they just recycle old Newcleus samples, though, I like it to move forward."
"I’m one of those people who's gone through experimental music, I’ve gone through hip-hop, old Chicago house music, all the Detroit stuff and techno. So sometimes I do a hip hop set, sometimes I do a full-on electro set, but at the moment I’ve got a new one because I’m playing a lot of ghetto-tech, Miami bass and booty, which has kind of followed through from the electro because hip hop and electro is my main thing."
Doesn’t she have a problem with ghetto-tech’s misogynistic lyrics, I wonder. "No, I find it really funny," she replies quickly, and perhaps a little naïvely, "I’m not a feminist, you see, so I don’t really give a fuck."
But then it’s a question she’s had to face before: "I’ve got loads of hassle from having a Magic Mike remix of The Unknown. I did an interview in Japan and they were like, ‘Don’t you think it’s bad having a Miami bass guy doing a remix because of that music’s lyrical content?’ And I thought, that’s a good one, coming from a culture where you can buy used schoolgirl’s knickers from a vending machine!"