INTERVIEW: Man Power & Spencer Parker Head to Head | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Man Power

After the recent pop-up throw-down with Rex The Dog at Star & Shadow Cinema, Man Power returns to Cobalt Studios alongside good friend Spencer Parker for the Easter weekend.

This is the city’s third MeMeMe label showcase, and while it may be a bit soon to call Cobalt his second home, Man Power’s eclectic track selection and dexterous mixing are the perfect fit. The last party in the Ouseburn was one for the record books. So I took a back seat as Spencer Parker and Man Power asked each other the questions that really matter, ahead of the show on Sunday 21st April

Man Power to Spencer Parker:

Do you regard yourself primarily as a DJ or a Producer, and why is that? Is there a different psychology to both disciplines, and how do you reconcile those two mindsets?
Definitely, definitely, definitely a DJ. I have been DJing for a long time and it’s the DJ aspect that influences every other aspect of my career, be it what I sign to my label or what music I make. It is absolutely possible for a DJ to learn music production and start making tracks, it is totally and utterly impossible for a producer to ‘become’ a good DJ without putting any of the necessary work in – in my opinion. What makes a good DJ is the years and years of utterly shit gigs and the crazy situations you find yourself in, and how you manage and navigate them and how you use that knowledge. When you book me – you are booking a DJ – not someone who made a hit and bought some USB’s and a pair of headphones a few months back.

From a music writing point of view, do you come up with an idea in advance, or do you find it through experimentation, and what happens to eventually make you decide that a track is actually finished, rather than refining it forever?
I have the idea and I make the track. That’s it. I continue until I’m happy and then it’s done. I come from a A&R background so, what I may lack in technical knowledge I more than make up for by knowing, extremely specifically, exactly what I want in a record, how it should sound, and when it’s finished. Whether the record is any fucking good or not is another matter entirely 🙂

From a DJing perspective, how do you decide what to play at a gig? Considering that you can only take so many records, and that even playing from a digital library can get too confusing once you bring more than a certain amount of music, how do you decide what you’ll play at each city? Does the city itself help you decide and if so what kind of things do you consider when coming somewhere for the first time?
I play what I want and only that. I never change according to a city. I don’t want to go to a city and think “there is not a such a strong club scene here or a culture of house or disco or techno so – I should play more obvious for them”. To me, that would be to disrespect my audience, which I will never do. I work extremely hard to have music that no one else has, be it through playing my own edits/remixes/production or getting tracks from new or established producers/labels and for me that is a huge part of DJing, to expose people to, and support, new music, so that’s what I try to do at every opportunity, while also making everyone go crazy. It’s basically the most difficult approach there is – to make a dancefloor really move to something they’ve never heard in their life – but it’s a challenge I embrace wholeheartedly, every time I play.

What makes for the best approach. Producer turned DJ, or DJ turned producer, or do you think there’s no distinction?
DJ can turn producer. Producer cannot turn DJ. Don’t @ me 😉

If you could pick any movie from the last century, which has a title that sums up your life, what would it be and why?
Is there a film called “I Have No Idea What The Fuck I’m Doing” …?

 

Image: Spencer Parker by Yonathan Baraki

Spencer Parker to Man Power:

Can you tell me about growing up in Newcastle, the scene there, first experiences of clubbing, how it influenced you…?
I think my experience of growing up in Newcastle with regards to the underground club scene is probably a bit different to a lot of the other people making music there.

I was aware of house music from a really young age as I have a young mother and she was really in to acid house and the nascent rave scene in the late 80s. Personally though, I was more interested in going out to pubs and living the life most teenagers were living in Wallsend in the 90s, which was basically going out and getting drunk, getting high and getting in fights or generally just breaking the law because the place had turned in to a depressed shit hole with the recent shut down of the ship yards.

It was weird that I’d always been in to the music, but I never really found the actual club scene until my early twenties. From my first moment there it was like a light bulb came on, and all of a sudden the aggressively charged atmospheres I was used to had turned in to one of unity and acceptance and the meat heads I used to hang around with (I mean that affectionately btw) had gone from hitting people to hugging people.

My first real experiences of clubbing to house music were at the legendary Shindig at an amazing club called Foundation, and going there became a weekly ritual almost immediately until I discovered another club called Nice, which used to take place in what was basically an untouched 60s RevueBar style club called the stage door (now rebuilt as the famous Cosmic Ballroom). I developed most of the deeper friendships I have today at Nice. It had a smaller and more intimate community feel, and the music policy was a lot more broad which suited me more. I eventually found myself on the other side of the decks their as a resident. Initially playing stuff like Lena Lovich, Spanky Wilson and Stevie Wonder in their infamous ‘anything-goes’ back room, and then graduating to house and techno sounds in the main room. I really credit the atmosphere at Nice for me feeling a bit more free to do what I want when I’m playing, and looking back the clubs mixture of both music and people. it feels like something that was very specific to Newcastle.

I know you’ve also spent a lot of time in Mexico; as someone that’s never been, can you tell me about the scene there, clubs there – how is it different or similar to Europe?
Mexico is just amazing. The scene is far from new there, but I think its musical origins are possibly a lot different to the ones for most European cities, and perhaps a bit more recent for the most part. Things like Global Underground played a big role in bringing electronic music to the masses, but by and large a lot of other more esoteric sounds like EBM and leftfield Electronic acts have a more mainstream standing in the country, as well as things like New Wave  and left field music in general, which has led to a less purist nature in what makes people dance, and a great deal more freedom in what you play out there, which is perfect for someone like me.

I feel that the dancefloor adopts less of a sense of agency when I play there, not because they’re not informed but more because they’re more interested in dancing than they are in paying attention to what genre they’re dancing too. That makes it an amazingly rewarding place to play if you’re in to pushing your luck with what music you can pair together in a mix etc.

What made you want to do something as daft as start your own record label (asking for a friend), do you have any advice for anyone thinking to do the same?

I have a nasty habit of doing the opposite of what people tell me. Not because I’m a visionary, or because I’m trusting some inner voice, but more because I’m a belligerent and stubborn arsehole.

It seemed at the time that sharing music that you loved that nobody had heard before as a label, was just an obvious extension of doing the same as a DJ, and I also had a bunch of tracks of my own that nobody else was interested in releasing. My former manager and my former press agent told me that starting a label was potentially the stupidest move I could make, which obviously just made me want to do it more.

The first release on there was by me. As I said nobody else wanted it. It turned out to be the most successful record I’ve ever made by quite a big margin.

The label has been fairly universally loved, and its allowed me to work with loads of friends, as well as providing a spring board for new artists and allowing me to do some amazing thing to help causes like the charity Help Refugees. That’s more thanks to the wonderful people who decided to take a risk by allowing us to release their music, but it still makes me feel good to see it go from strength to strength.

I’m sure there’s a lesson here in following your heart, but I think the truth is that I’m just awkward sometimes.

What has been your favourite gig of the last year or so and why?
I have two I think. First one is the cliched answer of Panorama Bar in December. It’s such an obvious thing to say, but the set-up of that place is so unique, and each gig there has such a different energy than the last, that it requires a kind of hyper focus which makes you feel super satisfied if you manage it well. I also got seven shutter opens. If you know what this means then you’ll know what a compliment that is.

The other was at a place in Tijuana, Mexico called Wherehouse. It doesn’t even open until 3am, and I played till around 2pm the next day. The club only stopped as I had to leave. An eleven hour set is just wildly rewarding, and it’s a massive compliment from a crowd if they decide to stick with you so long. I’ve just been asked to do a very special 12 hour set at one of my favourite places on earth in a few months too, so this recent gig helps me feel up to the task too.

What’s next for you, releases or remixes by yourself, the label, touring destinations?
Releases wise, I have some of the biggest things I’ve ever done lined up between now and summer, including a whole new alias, and a collaborative project with my friend Juan Maclean from DFA records, I’d say more about the other records, but past experience has taught me the amount of trouble I can get in giving the game away on things before I’ve been given permission, so as much as I hate the phrase “watch this space”… watch this space.

Gigs wise, I have to say I’ve never had a period like this before, I seem to be having an amazing run of people wanting to have me play for them. I’m not gonna even try and suggest why as I’m scared that if I think about it too long it’ll all evaporate in front of me, but I have a whole bunch of gigs across Europe, Asia and Japan, the US and Central America all planned to take me up to summer, where I’ll be playing some of the usual festivals I love like Love International, as well as a bunch of new spots that I’m excited to visit.

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