House legend Spencer Parker chats to 909originals
With a style that straddles multiple genres, including house, techno, disco and electro – check out his 2021 BBC Essential Mix for example – it’s fair to say that Spencer Parker likes to keep things interesting.
The London-born, Berlin-based DJ and producer heads up Work Them Records, on which he has just released new single Girl You Wouldn’t Believe What I Heard!, one of a series of forthcoming EPs – March sees the release of Praise B on Sound As Records, April sees him return to Work Them to unveil the single ddbb (backed by an Ian Pooley remix), while May sees the release of a further single, Rhythm Now.
You can download/stream Girl You Wouldn’t Believe What I Heard!here.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi Spencer, thanks for talking to us. It’s a while since you’ve been to Ireland, from what we can tell – any memories from your times playing here?
Hugs from Berlin! Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to play Ireland a little bit and always really loved to go when I get the opportunity. I’ve played Belfast a fair few times, hit up Dublin a little bit – I think for my last gig there, I played alongside the excellent Hybrasil – and also got to Cork a few years back, too.
My abiding memory is just how nice the people were, to be honest, although I might be slightly biased as my grandparents are from Donegal, so I have that connection.
I always grew up hearing amazing stories about the country from some of my 12 – yes, 12! – aunties and uncles, be it stories from my oldest uncle about working on the trawlers or history from my nan about how her and her sister, Nelly grew up. I’ve always had an amazing time in Ireland, and hope I get the opportunity to come back more in the future.
How would you describe your latest release – Girl You Wouldn’t Believe What I Heard?
It’s just a fun house music record that was made for my sets, to be played in clubs. Thats how i approach every record I make, I just make them for myself, for the clubs I play, and I HOPE some other people may dig them too. So far, luckily, that seems to be the case.
You’ve got quite a busy schedule of releases ahead with Work Them Records – tell us about that?
Theres a few things coming in rapid succession soon, thats for sure. The next release is an excellent Ian Pooley remix for my ddbb record, which i’m obviously really excited about releasing. I’m also super happy to finally get Ian on the label, as he’s one of my oldest friends in Berlin.
Obviously, I was aware that he was a phenomenal DJ and producer before I met him – and was a fan – but since then, we’ve been friends now for over 10 years and with him being a native German speaker, he’s also helped me out a million times when I’m faced with an official-looking letter in the post, which my schoolboy German fails me on.
A few months back, he helped me renegotiate my gas bill. I mean, to say the man is an all rounder is an understatement..!
Work Them is now more than a decade old, and you have worked with some impressive artists. How has your approach with the label changed since its foundation?
It hasn’t really changed at all, to be honest – I’ve just signed records and remixes by artists I love and respect. Style-wise it’s always remained that what we release are the type of records I would want to play in my sets, and, since I play across the board of house, disco and techno, that leaves us quite open.
I’ve released records by some of my best friends and also by people I’ve never even physically met – the only remit has always been, ‘do they make good music…?’. There’s no other barrier at all.
Looking back, I’m incredibly proud to say I’ve been able to work with artists like Fit Siegal from Detroit, Sinob Satosi from Tokyo, Radio Slave, P. Leone, Anetha (releasing some of her first records), Rødhåd (releasing one of the few remixes he’s ever done), Ryan Elliott, Sven Von Thulen, Answer Code Request, Kolegos, Akirahawks, Nic Fanciulli, Dana Ruh, DJ Fettburger, Physical Therapy, DJ Deep, Italojohnson, Dan Beaumont, Boola. All killers, no fillers, as you can see. 🙂
You’ve been closely aligned with Rekidsas well over the years – yourself and Matt [Edwards, aka Radio Slave, Rekids label owner] must go way back?
Yeah, I’ve known Matt for a really long time and I’m incredibly proud to count him as a friend. I moved to Berlin a couple years after he did and was resident on his couch for a good few months as I searched for my own flat.
He’s someone I truly respect as a DJ, producer and person, so, I’m always super happy whenever I get the opportunity to play on the same bill as him, or release a record on his f**king amazing label!
You’re now a longstanding resident of Berlin, which has been going through a lot of changes in recent years, such as the gentrification of places like Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. As an ex-pat, how have you noticed the city changing?
I’ve lived here for over 12 years now and it has definitely changed, but I don’t really feel its changed any more than any other major European city in that time. I moved here after a particularly horrible break up with an ex girlfriend, and was kindly invited to stay on the aforementioned couch of Mr Radio Slave, so, I never moved here for the ‘scene’ or to further my career. Had his couch been situated in Glasgow or Amsterdam i’d have happily gone there instead.
In terms of the city changing, it’s just different. It has always been super hard to find a flat here, now its even worse – it’s still a cheap European city, but its more expensive than it was. For example, the cash and carry booze shop opposite my house is now a trendy coffee shop. I live in the heart of Kreuzberg.
Some clubs have shut, but others have opened, you know? It’s a totally unique city and one that I’m very fortunate to call home.
Your 2021 Essential Mix showcased the wide variety of sounds you have become known for, from upfront house music to electro to hard-edged techno. In a world where so many DJs and producers are associated with a particular ‘sound’, I guess it’s fair to say you like to keep things interesting?
I’ve always said that I’m a house DJ, and for me, that definition means you are also capable of going left and right of ‘house’. I feel the best house DJs are capable of going ‘left’ and playing some great disco records, or ‘right’, and playing some wicked techno records, and they have the talent to make that sound coherent within the same set.
People like Boris, Radio Slave, Ryan Elliott, P. Leone, Harvey, Steffi, LaLa etc – some of my favourite DJs – ARE capable of doing that, but make no mistake, it is the path less traveled. And the reason it’s the path less traveled is that it’s absolutely the most difficult thing to do.
Obviously there are house DJs that only want to play house, and techno DJs that only want to play techno – each to their own, and thats totally valid. But I, personally, really love this approach, so, it’s one that I’ve followed with all my heart. I mean, if I wanted an easy life, I’d just play really really fast and really really hard techno and combine it with posting a lot of pics on my Instagram of me in my underwear or swimwear.
But let’s face it… no-one wants to see that ! 😉
We have to ask about that infamous ‘broken headphones’ incident on Boiler Room – has that happened to you before or since?
Ha ha ha – never since, or before ! I’ve never really told the story of that publicly to be honest, lol, so strap in!
Before I start, I need to say that it was filmed about three floors underground in the literal basement/boiler room of an old club in Berlin called Stattbad, so, the temperature in the actual room, combined with the heat from the crowd, lights, recording equipment was crazy – as you could see from my sweaty bald head shining bright like a diamond for the entire set.
So, I’m playing my set and because I had come from outside, where it was freezing, into the heat, the plastic on the ‘knuckle’ of the headphone, the part that connects the cups, expanded in the heat and snapped. So, now I’m in the middle of a set thats being recorded live AND being livestreamed, i’m playing across three CDJs and a loop machine, just to complicate things, and the record playing has about 1min 30 left to play – and I have no headphones.
So, because one side of the headphones was still connected, and working, I snapped off the part that wasn’t working – the dangling/useless headband and one of the cups – so i could still use it and quickly mix in the next track. If you actually watch the video you can see my face kinda smile and go ‘are you f***ing kidding me ?!’ before I actually snap off the part I can still use.
At the time I was just happy I managed to make it happen and deal with it all without f***ing up the set, so, it’s been really kinda funny to see how this loony situation has grown to have a life of its own.
The thing that made me laugh the most were the comments saying I was out of my mind on drugs and super high! I was actually just super nervous, and had one shot before I started and one at at the end – that was it!
If there is one situation where you do NOT want to be out of your mind on any substance, legal or illegal, I would say it’s definitely when you’re being recorded live for a video that will live on the internet FOREVER! So now you know… 😉
What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
Pretty much more of the same really. More releases on Work Them Records, a release called Praise B which I’m really excited about, coming on La La’s Sound As Records, and more live shows anywhere on the planet where people will have me!
To be honest, I feel super lucky to be able to do what I do for a living and support myself with it, so, I’m just extremely grateful to have the opportunity to pursue this career. I’m not the biggest name in the world – not exactly playing every single festival going – but, I play only the music I truly love, I get to travel all over the world and I get to pay my rent by playing my favourite records to people in some of the best underground clubs on the planet.
And, hopefully, they hear something they dig and discover a new record that they then love too. I used to work on a till in Marks & Spencer’s, so I’m happy, extremely grateful and, hopefully coming to a discotheque near you soon! Especially in Ireland, as I’m addicted to Guinness, and thats a pretty tricky addiction to feed in a place like Berlin. 🙂
Finally – one thing that struck us about your latest track is that you never actually learn ‘girl, you wouldn’t believe what i heard !’So, what is it? 🙂
Guuuuuuuuurl, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you! 😉
You can download/stream Spencer Parker‘s Girl You Wouldn’t Believe What I Heard!here.