Andrea Parker

"I always knew exactly what I wanted to do."

“The only thing that they used my music for which I haven’t seen is a toilet paper advert in Taiwan. I think my music probably came on just as someone wiped their arse.”

This is quintessential Andrea Parker, global electronic agitator yet relentlessly charming and self-deprecating. Since she was 18 and now for nearly two decades she has been climbing resolutely up the dance music ladder with a single-mindedness which simply screams integrity.

Her music has reached millions through her own Touchin’ Bass label, an album on Mo’ Wax and the classic singles ‘Melodius Thunk’, ‘The Rocking Chair’ and ‘Ball Breaker’. Her music has graced the Hollywood movie ‘Vanilla Sky’ (despite her loathing for Tom Cruise) as well as Patrick Moore’s ‘Sky At Night’, a documentary on NASA and a mugging crime re-enactment on Richard & Judy. The Finnish National Ballet adapted her seething electronics whilst she’s also been the soundtrack to a porn film – but not a particularly enjoyable one, as she laughs: “It’s in French. I have a problem with subtitles.”

“I always knew exactly what I wanted to do and I think a lot of guys found that intimidating.”

Despite her own Touchin’ Bass label hitting over 30 releases in five years, Parker is re-releasing a compilation of older material entitled ‘Here’s One I made Earlier’ (with her face superimposed over the body of her idol, BBC Radiophonic’s Delia Derbyshire), which predates her more well known work of ‘Kiss My Arp’ on Mo’ Wax. Many of the tracks were co-produced with her mentor David Morley who was the quiet yet legendary man of R+S, Belgium’s massive techno imprint, which straddled the entrance to early dance culture at the end of the 80s. Tracks such as ‘Undercurrents’ and ‘Angular Art’ on Infonet, ‘Invasion’ on Quatermass and ‘Unconnected’ on !K7 recall the golden age of electronic music and sound remarkably relevant despite them being forged in a bygone musical era: a testament to her futuristic outlook she’s adopted for so long.

Andrea Parker’s life jumped rails when she was an 18-year-old nurse who had been thrown into the deep end of rave culture: “I had done a bit of session work but it was me singing over hardcore sped-up like I was on helium. That’s when I realised that I’d better go and work out how to make some beats as I couldn’t be doing THAT for rest of my life.” From the bottom of the pile and knowing next to nothing, Andrea Parker has worked her way up through one of the most male dominated industries in western society – to take on the men at their own game, with their own ball.

As a woman in techno, life couldn’t have been easy. She laughs it off now but you can tell there have been intensely frustrating moments – not just the pettiness of getting queue jumped whilst waiting to cut dubplates, but the expectant heckles that she only got bookings because she was an attractive girl.

“Being so avant-garde at that time and being female was hard. There were women DJs but they were part of the house scene. I was never really accepted; everyone thought I was mad as a hatter… I always knew exactly what I wanted to do and I think a lot of the guys found that intimidating. Then you had all the guys’ egos that you that you had to deal with – but then I’d just turn into one of the blokes; start farting and generally join in.”

After 10 years of finding her feet, getting to grips with what she wanted, she signed a record deal with possibly the coolest record label of the time – Mo’ Wax, yet it wasn’t always a smooth passage as she explains: “James Lavelle asked if I would go in and show him my trainers… I mean demo! And then he asked me how many Star Wars figures I had (giggles). Sorry. I don’t think they knew how to handle me. They would be giving its all the wikkedy wikkedy scratching and I was like, ‘hold on I will just get my coat…’”

“I’d turn up to the studio going, ‘check out all my samples!’ Of pencil noises, or I strapped a microphone to the bottom of my car and went through a carwash for better bass. I also sampled my car going over cat’s eyes to try and get a 4/4 pattern whilst opening and closing my sunroof to try and get a flanging effect. It’s lucky I didn’t spin over.”

It’s this relentlessly experimental nature that has seen her embraced by avant-garde artists such as Steve Reich, Phillip Glass and Ryuichi Sakamoto with an improvised set lined up in collaboration with Faust later this year.

Andrea Parker’s life jumped rails when she was an 18-year-old nurse who had been thrown into the deep end of rave culture

So whether she’s spanking her record label advance on a 40-piece orchestra (“I’ll fucking show ’em who’s the boss!”) to warming up for the Metalheadz tour in the 90s (“Once you have survived a drum and bass tour you can survive anything – what with all those Rotweilers and MacDonald eating”) or just being too hard to pigeon hole (“When Polygram broke up I got dropped by four record labels in a week. My mum would be proud!”), Parker is actively and firmly unique in her approach and industry attitude.

Although she’d refute this, from afar it certainly appears that she was born to influence the course of electronic music – yet she’s more likely to resolutely shy away from the spotlight and comically deride herself – but there’s a common thread as she always finds her way back to acclaim or controversy.

And it’s nothing new. When she was just a child she hit the front page of a local Kent newspaper as a grubby and wild-eyed-kid being forced under a fence by her older sister to bust into an acid house party.

The headline read: ‘Are these the young victims of Rave?’ Yet years later it’s now clear that the same mucky young lady has not only outgrown this tragic moniker of being called a ‘victim’ but become one of the true and most enduring heroines of dance culture.

Rave On Miss Darker. We salute you!

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