Spotlight 002: Shelley Parker
Starting out on her journey as a DJ in East London’s Shoreditch in the mid 00’s, Shelley Parker quickly became part of the then booming underground club circuit’s framework, becoming resident at Haywire where she regularly shared billing with the likes of Magda and fellow Haywire residents Andrew Weatherall and Radioactive Man with her rave edged techno and electro collection. She didn’t actually come onto null+void’s radar some years later with the launch of her label Structure and a 11 track compilation of of shearing experimental sounds from herself, Cursor Miner, Scan One and Kansas City Prophets, prompting us to pay close attention to the label’s activities.
After being a platform for this curated venture the next two releases homed Parker’s own works releasing her debut album Spurn Point in 2014 where her experimental roots in sound design were melded with her experience as a techno DJ. Parker’s sound is one of power, looking to field recordings to create dynamics instead of quick fix plug ins or effects her productions her sonic fingerprint stands out thanks to a special balance of space and weight brought about by this approach to production, traits that we find wholly unique and compelling.
Being an individual who has been on our radar for sometime we looked to her for our next spotlight mix, looking to the club and flooring us with her atmospheric and cutting selections.
I became more familiar with your production during more recent years, I know you’ve been producing for much longer can you fill us in on how you got started out DJing initially?
In 2001 the gallery artist Seb Patane set up the night Nerd at the Shoreditch Electricity Showrooms and asked me to become one of the resident DJs alongside Marco Shuttle and Nicky Verber who now runs Herald Street gallery. We were pretty much all students doing our Masters at the time – none of us were “professional DJ’s”. I used to play a lot of acid house bangers, dark out electro, 80s stuff and the beginnings of grime/dubstep. Andrew Weatherall came down a fair bit and after playing a couple of their parties I was taken on by the Haywire agency.
You were on the Haywire agency, played their parties and part of a very hedonistic rave based world initially, how were you drawn into the more experimental practice and world you work in now?
The experimental practice came from studying a fine art degree at Central Saint Martins. I experimented with sound a lot and so working with this medium wasn’t really something new after DJing – it was more of a return to what I’d been interested in previously.
That time feels like the scene in east London was thriving, and Shoreditch was more musically active especially with techno and house – what was your experience of it?
There was a kind of scene of art and fashion students and also events like Haywire, City Rockers, Nag Nag Nag, Trash and lots of others I can’t remember the name of! The music then seemed to be focused on the broadening of “electro”. Thinking back there was this small window of time when certain club nights were similar in spirit I suppose to “raves” and 80’s style nights which was then in stark contrast to the mainstream nights happening at the time.
Can you talk us through your production process, I know that you base a lot of your sounds on field recordings but more often than not it really feels like you’re getting a lot of power out of machines…
The MPC 2500 which I play my live sets on puts out a fair amount of power but equally I suppose the aesthetic which I’m drawn to is always going to sound a bit more pumped after my experiences of Djing on big sound systems. I use effects now less frequently. I can’t remember the last time I put reverb on anything – probably about 4 years ago! I spend a lot of time working with samples and continually try to find different ways to create dynamics without having to rely on plug-ins or hardware effects units. A lot of my recordings of found sounds are distorted and have their own sense of “space” anyway and I like that. I’m not interested in clean, polished production.
You started up Structure some years ago now, starting with a compilation of various remixes and original tracks from a variety of artists – how did you go about curating the sound for that first release?
I really enjoy the process of sequencing tracks together especially combinations you’d might not expect. I think it’s this aspect I still enjoy about making DJ mixes and this also inspired the selection for the CD. I’ve always been very impressed by the productions of Scanone, Cursor Miner, Kansas City Prophets – their music had this edge to it that was different to a lot of the “electro house” of the time. It was more experimental and darker and for me I will always be drawn to that type of music. Also in around 2009 I was beginning to work again with sound installations so, for example, one of the tracks “Cast” from the CD was a remix by Julian Doyle (Filter Feeder) of the audio I used for the “Cast” sound commission I produced for the Victoria & Albert Museum.
It was also where you released your first album, do you have any future plans for a second long player or more releases for yourself on Structure?
The label is always a funny one as I constantly change my mind about what I want to do with it! I’d like to do a vinyl release at some point but I also really like the CD format ie roughly an hour of music. It feels much more like a body of work rather than the limitations of 2 or 3 tracks. Also again it’s closer to the duration of a DJ mix so I feel comfortable working within this timeframe.
Can you tell us a bit about this mix, how did you go about the selection and recording it for us?
Some of my recent DJ mixes have been very kind of noisy and industrial but this mix immediately felt like it had a different atmosphere. Also sometimes I feel it’s a bit silly trying to do a “let’s have it” club mix when essentially you’re recording it at home and people will mainly listen to it on headphones. So this mix I guess roughly goes from noise to house to drum and bass. Like all my DJ mixes I recorded it live in one take – no edits, using CDs and vinyl.
What other projects are you currently working on?
I have two remixes coming out in the next month or so and a second album and dance 12” coming out later in the year. Also I’m working on two new music commissions which are completely unrelated to club or dance music in territories I’ve never worked in before. Sorry I can’t say any names or give details yet! Obviously I’ve DJed a lot and performed live in all manner of spaces but not really played live sets in clubs that much yet so that’s also one of my goals for this year.
Chra – A dark country (Unreleased)
Untold – The water carrier (Hemlock)
LCC – Airys (Comfortzone)
Trinkkets – Lace (Don’t Fret)
U – Our place (Phantasy)
Monoloc – Trysome (Hotflush)
Anxiety Support Group – Drug Dealers Lullaby (Opal Tapes)
Ploy – Move yourself (Hessle Audio)
Intrusion – Velocity in A minor (Intrusion)
Spooky – Concussion (Generic)
Ploy – Sala One Five (Hessle Audio)
Dronelock & Ontal – Parallax (Shadow Story)
Elementz of Noize – Law of the Jungle (M Ocean)
Ruffhouse – UVB-76 (Samurai)