NOT TOO LONG AGO, my good friends Dysqo and Rhyno called me, all hyped on a certain DJ they wanted to bring out. He uses a telephone as his headset (the old school kind) and scratches House Music better than any DMC DJ I’ve ever seen.
Enter Mr. Terrence Parker from Detroit. With over 100 productions under his belt and top 20 hits such as “Love’s Got Me High”, “The Question” and albums such as Detroit After Dark, he gives us hope that being a successful producer does not mean compromising to the hip and trendy.
He has a fairly young label called Parker Music Works that has churned out 28 releases in just two years. He is one of the true pioneers of Gospel House, and listening to his mixes brought me back to the earlier years of House with big churchy vocals, uplifting piano chords and deep deep basslines. In this day and age when every producer/DJ is screaming “tech”, “electro” or “minimal”, Terrence’s music is timeless.
But more than that, Terrence Parker is an inspiration. After just ten minutes on the phone with him it felt like talking to an old friend. Strongly rooted in his faith, he emanates an energy that was palpable as we talked about losing faith in the music industry, being saved and why even bigtime DJs still need to get a job…
You took a one year sabbatical from the music industry, can you tell me more about that?
Oh sure. Actually it was needed for a number of reasons. I knew that it was possible for me to have a career on the Hip-hop side but as I got into House Music, I didn’t see it so much as a career until I started getting closer to people here in Detroit like Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, Blake Baxter, Eddie Fowlkes… And looking and watching them really gave me the idea that, hey, I could really make a career out of this!
As I started to get more successful over the years, the business side of it became more and more stressful, to the point where I wasn’t enjoying it. The love never died, but I just wasn’t getting the same type of satisfaction. The passion was overshadowed by all the politics and business drama that goes along with the music industry. I was really beginning to lose faith in people.
Even beyond that I was going through this whole spiritual thing. I mean I always loved God, I grew up in church and that whole thing, but I hadn’t truly made the commitment or the sacrifice of myself. I said I’m going to turn my life over to God because I really wanted a change. So I went through that whole thing of reconnecting with God, being baptized, being saved… the whole nine yards.
Was there something in your life such as a tragedy that triggered it?
Well let’s just say that God has a way of getting one’s attention! In 2001 when we had the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it was shortly after that that my bookings started to decline. I went from making quite a bit of money to basically nothing. Like no bookings coming in, nothing happening at all. Everything dried up. Things started going down. When you go from making quite a bit of money to not making anything at all… you wake up quick!
So did you stop doing music knowing you were eventually going to come back, or did you think that was it?
Well God spoke to my heart and just let me know that it’s not that He wants me to stop DJing, because actually I tried! I said “Okay, that’s it. I’m done.” Then the bookings started coming! Not as frequent as they were, but for instance the first time I went to Japan was after I got saved.
I remember I went there and then they brought me back four or five months later for another event. One of the guys had a copy of my mix CD and said, “Terrence man, I don’t have a Bible and I’ve never read the Bible, but this right here – this is my Bible!” And that was just one of many moments that made me feel like I had a purpose.
I mean there are also some people that are totally turned off that I even play Gospel House. I’ve had some friends of mine publicly come out and say “Terrence is crazy, he’s lost his mind, his career is over.” And all I said was I love the Lord!
So what is it exactly that draws people to Terrence Parker? The scratching or the Gospel House?
For some people it’s the tricks and the beat juggling and the scratching… Like, “Okay, it’s that House DJ that brings this whole Hip-hop element to what he does.” For some people it’s just the music that I play. For some it’s “Man, I just love the way he blends records together. I love the way he takes the piano from one track, and blends it with the bassline of another track… and it sounds like it was made like that!”
I definitely feel that I’m unique. Now I say that in the most humble way. Musically I always try to stay away from stuff that degrades women. Music is powerful: it sends messages and it plants seeds.
Do you plan out ahead of time what you’re going to blend?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I can remember being in the club spinning, and the idea just popped into my head: “Play this tune and right on this break drop this!” And the tune could be playing like “Strings of Life”, and all of a sudden it would just hit me to grab Adonis’ “No Way Back” and drop the bassline right on that break! I mean I have less than 30 seconds, and because God has blessed me with this skill to be able to do what we call a “quick drop” – when you just take the record, drop it in and the blend is tight – I literally would just grab the record off the bag, queue it up and boom, it’s tight!
You’ve had quite the travel itinerary recently. I guess the economy hasn’t really hit you then.
The economy has definitely hit a brother over here too, no question about that! In fact I’m glad I can say this in this interview because I think it’s going to help some people. Yes I travel, but I have a regular 9 to 5 job! I work at Comcast! As a matter of fact I just got promoted!
Congratulations! That’s great that you have a job given these times.
What I’m saying is that there are people out there, especially up and coming DJs, and they get frustrated because they think that it’s not hitting us. They’re like “Well man, how come I see so-and-so DJing over here and over there… everything must be good for them!” And it’s really giving a false impression of what’s happening! Because I know some very well-known DJs that have lost houses and had their cars repossessed. It’s just really crazy.
So the thing I tell up and coming DJs is not to be discouraged because it’s not blowing up for them at this moment. They also think, “I should be able to do it and not have a job.” And I’m telling them: “I’m doing it and I do have a job!”
Where have you played here before?
I’ve played at Crobar…
Crobar? Are you serious? You seem so not a Crobar DJ!
It was a looong time ago! It was actually for the Billboard Music Conference. Where else did I play? Actually my last party in Chicago was at Betty’s Blue Star Lounge.
So what can people expect when they see you?
They can expect to experience something fun, powerful, spiritual and encouraging. My whole thing is that when I finish my set, you should feel better than you did when I started my set. Whatever your situation is, whatever is going on in your life… Because people often go to the club as a way of escaping. And I feel like if there’s nothing else, what I would like to do is bring a smile to your face and warm your soul. And maybe you don’t even understand it at the time but you just feel better! And not to have it come through like, “I just had to take some drugs or get completely wasted drunk and listen to the music.”
You know you are different and you do have a light about you. I think people are really going to gravitate towards you.
People need something positive nowadays. Something encouraging, something that will give you at least some type of hope. I’m very open and engaging with people. I’m not one of these DJs where I come into the club and nobody can talk to me. I like to talk to people, shake their hand, give people a hug. Maybe you may hate my entire set, but if there’s one song that I play that makes you say “Man… that song did something to me. That song uplifted me. That song gave me some hope” – then I did my job!
Let’s just have a good time! Chicago and Detroit have always had a good relationship. Don’t come with any preconceived notions like “TP is coming in with the Bible!” Naw, we’re just going to come in and I really appreciate the opportunity. Just really looking forward to seeing all my peeps in Chi-town!