Trying to pin Spencer Parker down, either as a producer or as a DJ, is a tricky prospect. The London-born, Berlin-based artist masterfully straddles a heady mix of house, techno and disco that has seen him become a regular at legendary spots like Panorama Bar/Berghain and Concrete while his productions sits in the boxes of a diverse group of DJs ranging from Ryan Elliott to The Black Madonna to DVS1 and Gerd Janson. On his recent Australian tour we got some time with the highly personable producer for a chat which traversed a wide range of topics…
We read that you have a background working in a record store. At the turn of the millennium, I resided in London for three years myself where I experienced a very vibrant vinyl digging culture. Every Friday afternoon I had a set routine of vinyl shops I visited which conservatively included about 5-6 stores (especially around Soho). It really was an addiction ha! To be honest, I kinda lament for the new generation seduced by the online MP3 culture who will never experience the thrill of digging for vinyl. I was wondering if you had a weekly vinyl digging routine which you indulged in regularly? Did you have a set route you followed each week? Do you still have a habit like this? Also, which store did your work in?
I used to work at Uptown Records in London and I think I had a similar route to you – doing the Soho Sprint round all the stores on a Friday to get all the jams for the weekend. I don’t really lament that someone growing up now doesn’t do the same thing, it’s just a different process, they still search for new music, they’re just doing it online instead of in person. You could argue that there is something of the culture being missed by not hearing the records on a system or not getting the chance to interact with fellow DJs and fans of this music but, I’m sure people are doing this now via social media or, before that, chat rooms.
Things change – and I’m firmly in the camp of enjoying the now as opposed to wishing it was how it was 5/10/20 years ago. One thing I think it’s important to note is that there is no such thing as DJs that are “diggers” or “selectors” this is total and utter bullshit – how the fuck is someone a “selector” – every DJ selects! That’s how they decide what record to play next!! Also, every DJ “digs”, it’s called “record shopping”. I really hate this snobbery that is creeping in because someone plays a rare record, I don’t give a fuck if it’s rare or what it costs on discogs- is it any fucking GOOD !!..?
Your imprint Work Them Records has been going strong for over 5 years now and flirts with deep house on one end to thudding techno on the other. Today, even though your bread and butter is techno, you occasionally indulge in housier fare. We are curious as to which artists inspired your musical journey? It must have been quite varied.
I would label myself as a house dj. For me – a house dj is someone that can do it all, by this I mean, they can turn left and play the music that pre-empted house, so disco mainly, I guess. They can also turn right and play techno. A normal set for me would include house, disco and techno all mixed together – that’s what I enjoy doing and I think that’s what people come to see me do. It’s incredibly tricky to pull off – which is why many people don’t do it, but I like that challenge. I’ve also played techno only sets in Berghain or been on the same bill as Jeff Mills or James Ruskin, just as I’ve played disco only sets in various places, so, whilst I really enjoy playing techno, I wouldn’t really say I’m a techno dj at all.
As for the label, I just release what I like – and I like a lot of stuff… whether that be deeper stuff by Valya Kan or Dana ruh, something offbeat by DJ Fettburger, techno by Rodhad or Answer Code Request or Radio Slave or something a little housier by Italojohnson or FIT Siegel. I’m inspired by all these artists and I’m really proud of all the names associated with the label. I love that we can have Akirahawks on one 12’ and then the next be some crazy techno by someone like Anetha.
One of the tracks that made us sit up and notice your productions was your excellent 2007 cut ‘A Beautiful Noise’ on Rekids. We still dust that one off every now and again. When was the last time you went through your discography? Do you still play them, or listen back to them fondly through the lens of sentimentality? Or do you view them as a production relic, a product of its time you would rather not revisit?
Hmmm, it’s tricky – I think music can very much be like fashion… there’s certain things that stay in your wardrobe forever, classic staples, and there are others that are very much of the time – were great at the time, but not necessarily something you’d reach for now…
Recently you told a very frustrating, but humorous, story to DJ Mag about one of your first experiences as an international DJ traveling to Russia which just turned to shambles. Over the years how have you acclimatised to the rigorous demands presented by the international DJ lifestyle?
Yes, I acclimatised very quickly and I’m super used to it now, because I’ve been lucky enough to be doing it for such a long time. It can be testing but, so can any job, I’d rather leave a gig have no sleep and take 3 flights the same day than jock a register in Marks And Spencers or the phone lines at Direct Line Insurance – and I know that because I’ve done those jobs.
You are regular booking at Berghain/Panorama Bar. We’ve peeled away many hours from our lives partying in there ha. When you play there do you stick around to enjoy the vibe and music? If so, which acts have you witnessed there of late that really enjoyed? Or are you wary of being sucked into that vortex and ghost bomb it out of there once you’ve finished playing?
Haha I’m not sure about these ghost bombs and vortexes you speak of, but, yeah, if I play there I may stick around for 20 hours or so after and enjoy a cocktail or 5. As for people I’ve loved hearing and dancing to… P Leone was great when I saw him play there last, Ryan Elliott and Radio Slave are two of the most consistent people I see absolutely destroy that room like no one else and I have to give props to Paramida who was amazing when I saw her there last.
There has been a rapid rise for new techno DJs of late, do you tend to check out new talent and if so, who has caught your eye recently?
First and foremost I’m a fan of house and techno and disco so, for me, I’m always interested and excited to discover new artists. On the techno side of things, I’m not sure if they are especially new names but I’m very happy to see someone like Hector Oaks get the props he is due. I’m very happy to see Anetha do so well and very proud to have released a lot of her first records, same for Setaoc Mass, I’m a big fan of Amotik and have been playing his records right from the beginning. P Leone is a real beast be it producing or DJ-ing so it’s nice to see him and his dope label ( E missions) blow up so hard, I love the false witness stuff he is putting out too. Fadi Mohem is getting some well deserved praise and, I’m very into the crazy super fast Schwacke records I’m hearing. As I said – maybe not all especially brand new names, but people I’m very happy to see getting more and more deserved attention.
And if you could only play us one of your tracks which one would it be and why?
“Faster Forward” because it’s my favourite record and a great end of the night record.