Terrence Parker’s illustrious career started with Detroit in the ’80s, on the eve of the house music revolution that would take the American Midwest by storm. In a scene that’s always changing, he has regularly released records that act to remind us what proper house sounds like – uplifting, emotive and rhythmic.
Ahead of his London appearance at STYX this September, we caught up with the International DJ Extraordinaire to ask a few questions about life as one of the genre’s biggest staples, touching on the current state of Detroit, what it means to be a DJ, and keeping faith!
You started DJing way back in early ‘80s Detroit, did you experiment with other genres, and when was that first ‘moment’ that you knew house music was the way forward for you?
Yes I started as a hip hop DJ because I was a huge fan of Grand Master Flash and his style of DJing. I enjoy all kinds of music so although hip hop was my focus, I also played everything from electro, freestyle, disco, funk, r&b, and pop music.
In 1984 a friend brought back a cassette tape of “house music” recorded of the radio (I think WGCI – Chicago). It was actually a mix of the early house productions from artists like Jesse Saunders, Farley Jack Master Funk, mixed with a lot of Italo Disco (Italian Disco). I loved the new sounds! That’s when I got hooked.
You’ve always maintained a style of mixing that reflects your early Detroit roots. How have people’s attitudes to DJing changed over the years, and what’s stayed the same?
In general, most people have traditionally viewed DJs in a social manner. They do not see DJs as “working” in the club whereas you can see the bouncers, bar backs, bartenders, and others working. As turtablism became more popular it helped to change people’s idea of what a DJ actually is and the skill level it takes to DJ.
Now technology has birthed the push and play DJ. While mixing is one aspect of DJing, I do think it is important to represent actual mixing to the audience. The sync button is a marketing tool implemented by the manufacturer in order to sell more product and make anyone feel they can become a DJ. It diminishes the true skill and the hard working years many DJs put into practicing to perfect their craft.
You’ve just released an album on Carl Craig’s Planet E Records, called ‘God Loves Detroit’ – your first LP in a few years, what drove you to put this one out as a full-length album, and why now?
It’s been years in the making. I am always releasing music. This album is a special collection of songs which is meant to be fun but also encouragingly uplifting.
You’ve often said you’re a religious man, what kind of relationship does your faith have with your passion for house music?
Music is a form of expression that transcends language barriers. One can convey any idea in music. I try to convey positive uplifting messages that share GOD’s love of people with all people. I personally connect with GOD in many ways. One of the ways is through music. There is a great story in the Bible (1 Samuel chapter 16) where King Saul was feeling depressed. He sends for David who comes and plays the harp for him. Soon after the negative feelings left Saul and he was refreshed. When I play music for people, I want the bad feelings to leave from the hearts and minds of the people to be replaced with feelings of joy.
You’ve had one of the longest-spanning careers in the game. What would you say has been the biggest thing keeping you producing, touring and DJing through all those years?
This September you’re playing at an all-day party in London’s STYX venue, where’s your favourite spot around the world to play?
I would not say I have a favourite spot because there are so many places where I enjoy DJing. I’ve been blessed to visit some amazing places and meet some extraordinary people. It’s all been a wonderful journey.
Do you have any personal rituals when touring and performing to keep yourself sane?
I do a lot of praying to GOD, try to eat healthy, and drink a lot of water.
How has Detroit changed as a scene, and where is it headed in the future?
There are a lot of international artists playing more in Detroit. It’s cool because the younger fans and aspiring artists & DJs get exposed to see top quality talent from all over the world here in their own backyard. Detroit has always been an international shipping port, and now it is evolving into an international destination city with lots of tourism. People from all over the world want to know what is so special about Detroit. We have a beautifully rich culture here but the only way to get the true experience is by visiting Detroit.
What is your standout favourite release from another Detroit artist?
Burdens Down by Scan 7 on Elypsia Records
If you had one thing to tell young aspiring producers to avoid doing at all costs, what would that be?
Avoid compromising yourself. Always be true to yourself and your beliefs. You do not have to compromise yourself to make it in this business.
Words: Alex Davidson
Terrence Parker plays The Day Session alongside Seb Wildblood, Laolu & more at Styx on September 2. More info and tickets available here.