15 years after she started her career, South London electro fiend Andrea Parker remains a leading light of Britains electro-techno underground scene as a producer, DJ, label chief and remixer for the likes of Depeche Mode, Steve Reich and The Orb. Starting her musical career as a teenage playing cello, going onto work at legendary London record shop Fat Cat in the 90s, before signing a solo album artist deal with James Lavelles Mo Wax Records some years later.
In recent years, shes collaborated with the likes of ghetto-tech chief DJ Assault, (releasing his tunes on her label Touchin Bass) toured with Radiohead and also developed a new passion for exercise, which sees her attempting to scale Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya, this October, At 5,000 metres plus, scaling the snow capped peak will require serious strength and fitness, reflecting a major turnaround for Andrea prompted by health issues three years ago.
My lung collapsed then I gave up smoking and it all started from there when I decided that every year Id do something crazy for charity, which usually involves mountains, she explains,
I love being in the mountains, and last year did the 3 Peaks climb, going up Ben Nevis , Scafell Pike and Snowdon,, which was really hardcore, So then I thought this year why not go for the biggest mountain that was practicable so thats why Im doing Kilimanjaro. And hopefully next year Im going to do Everest but I need to have altitude training for that which is also an issue for Kilimanjaro. I believe only 50% of the people who try Kilimanjaro, make it to the top.
Though climbing Kilimanjaro is considerably tougher than the UKs highest hills, Andreas confident she wont have to navigate any sheer rock faces, though shes expecting Kenyas sub tropical climate and the mountains topography will pose more threats.
Its pretty much a hard slog up to the top and the hardest thing is altitude because Kilimanjaro is seriously high, she says, :You start at the bottom, trekking through the jungle at a really slow pace so you get used to the altitude gradually. It takes about 10 days. Ive also read in the papers recently that the glaciers are melting at the top because of global warming though its still -10ºC at the top and very hot at the bottom so you need to carry a lot of equipment. I do a lot of running events for different charities and every year I like to choose a charity that isnt so popular but marathons bore me senseless.
Being in the music industry Im constantly working in dark studios running a label, remixing and DJing in clubs every weekend and travelling so much so its really nice to do these kind of things with completely different people who have no connection with the music industry at all, she laughs
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): How did your lung collapse?
Andrea Parker: From everything Ive read subsequently, its just one of those things that happens, it happens to a lot of non smokers too but Im sure smoking doesnt help. I was actually driving up the motorway with my best friend Mira Calix, whos another musician, on the way to do a Meat Beat Manifesto remix. I was on the motorway and felt this almighty pain suddenly and had to pull over. But Mira couldnt drive a car, so I drove on to the studio and carried on, ignoring the pain. When we got to the studio it was snowing heavily then two days later I went outside and turned blue and couldnt breathe. An ambulance came and they said almost immediately youve got a collapsed lung. That was three years ago. I got into training after that to get my lungs back to full health again, started running and got a personal trainer and I turned into one of those people that I used to really hate.
Skrufff: So its now all about hardcore clean living?
Andrea Parker: Not quite clean living but Im up at 7am every day and out running in parks and cycling.
Skrufff: Were you exercising much before your lung problems?
Andrea Parker: Ive always been active I think its just that I spent 15 years in clubs and the studio and really need that balance now. Im getting old (chuckling). I still drink now, I do like my red wine. Its really difficult because I still hate standing up in front of loads of people, I find it really nerve racking. Though stopping smoking was the best thing. Balance is so important. Exercising stops me from going out during the week because I need to be up for 7am. And doing the mountain climbs its great to meet people who arent in the music industry because most of them are so egotistical, I especially feel that being a female, surrounded by guys egos constantly.
Skrufff: Youve been in the music business for 15 years now, how do you view it today?
Andrea Parker: Ive got really mixed feelings about it, in 15 years its changed so much. On the one hand the technological innovation side has been great for allowing more kids into it, but I love production and the whole idea of making music in studios and for me, technology has made everything too easy, people have got lazy. Because theyre making stuff on laptops and sending it off as mp3s but nothing has been mastered and nothing produced. I can hear it on a lot of demos Im sent. Its great for them because they dont need record companies or distribution companies but unfortunately its reached the point where everyones writing music. Its over saturated for me.
Even from a DJ point of view, its changed everything, in the past youd go crate digging for tracks that no-one else had whereas now, the thing that really fucks me off is that you can get any fucking download you like. My sets are always about rare records but now even kids of 20 that have got no history can download anything they like, whether its Underground Resistance or whoever. That has absolutely killed it for me. Also, I dont want to look at someone DJing with a laptop. I do all my DJing for radio on Ablelton but I hate the whole MP3 thing- the fact theres no artwork, I hate the fact its bad quality. It definitely has its good points but technology is killing it for me a bit.
Theres a generation thing going on too, Im signing up a lot of 20 year olds now and Im 35 and Ive been doing every aspect of it for 15 years. Im more specialist, for example, I only use analogue gear in a studio, Im not really a software person. Some people like chicken, others fish, its like that isnt it, its taste. I love all the old radio BBC workshop stuff, thats my passion, and writing a track on a laptop just isnt fun for me. If Im honest Im just so far behind too, I find learning software programmes and keeping up with new ones, just ruins my creativity. It takes so much of my time downloading software, upgrading it and uploading it, Id rather get back into the studio and play with my machines.
Skrufff: How easy is it for you to find time to do these annual charity projects?
Andrea Parker: Its very difficult. For example, I wont be going on holiday this year at all. But Im also a firm believer that you have to make time for certain things. I look at it as 10 days out of a year. I work for myself and run my label from my home, so I need some kind of discipline and focus and aim to structure my life, So I pick something every year and go for it. Doing these charity things gets me out of seven in the morning to train and keeps me on the straight and narrow (together). It is really difficult fitting all this stuff in. But people who say I havent got time to exercise are wrong, they have if they really want to do it.
Skrufff: I read a quote in DJ magazine last year in which you said about Fischerspooner: I just wanted to punch his fucking eyes out! Hes the one that started the bullshit off. When I first heard that fucking track they put out I thought, This is it, man, this is really gonna fuck up.
Andrea Parker: I didnt actually say Id punch his fucking eyes out, I said Id rather stick needles in my eyes than listen to that song Emerge. I absolutely hate electroclash with a passion, I cant stand it. I used to be a proper B girl back in the day with all the breaking crews so I hate this thing of electroclash, where its almost taken over. People book me for electro parties and get confused with electroclash. Fischerspooner got signed for all that money when their music was the biggest load of rubbish Id ever heard in my life. I never understood it.
Skrufff: What do you make of the club scene today, now that electroclash has been slated beneath the radar?
Andrea Parker: I in more of a purist electro scene, I dont like all the poppy electro. Electro has always been so underground and thats been one of the main things Ive always liked about it, theres not that many people into it, just small pockets around the world. In Miami theres a big scene but there are also these little pockets such as Budapest and Vienna, Portland in America.
http://www.justgiving.com/andreaparker (Get Kids Going! helps disabled children take part in sport by providing specialist sports wheelchairs, sports grants and year round support. They can then compete in marathons, triathlons, tennis, athletics, skiing, rugby, basketball etc. With your help, many could become Paralympic champions and world record holder . . )
http://www.andreaparker.info (Andrea Parker; semi-official site)