Minimal enough to be blended with something else, but not so minimal that it is spiritless by itself. This is how Mike Parker describes what he aims for with his music. He has stuck to this principle rather persistently over the last 20+ years and has garnered a solid fan base on the way. From his first releases in the late 1990s he has steadily refined his addictive signature sound up until today. On the occasion of his return to Donato Dozzy’s and Neel’s label Spazio Disponibile with the EP “The Devil’s Curators Vol. 1”, the first out of three upcoming volumes, we had the chance to catch up with the Buffalo based artist.
We are happy to premiere “The Demon’s Platform” through MNMT as a first taste of the upcoming release. Can you tell us about the story behind this track? How did you approach it, and how did it come together?
Originally, the concept for this project was suggested by Donato Dozzy. He said to me, “Mike, I’m going to play some DJ selector sets where I explore different tempos and genres. Can you make some tracks that sound like Mike Parker, but with tempos that can be mixed with trip hop, drum & bass, or other genres and tempos?” I agreed and thought it was a great idea. So, I began to feed him these tracks, which I created over a period of about 2 years. In fact, you may have already heard a few of them played in some of his DJ sets. For me, it was a challenge but also very enjoyable to step out of my “zone”. There will be a few techno tracks within this group, by the way. “The Demon’s Platform” is clearly intended to be mixed with d&b. And yet, I don’t necessarily want to pin a label on any of these tunes – it remains to be seen how other DJs will react to them.
Can you talk us through the EP’s track names, how they came up and what they mean to you?
I believe we are living in a demonic age, metaphorically speaking of course. “The Demon’s Platform” reflects that. I also drew inspiration from my life-long fascination of horror films, science fiction stories and comic books. In fact, “Living Colossus” was inspired by a fictional character published by Marvel Comics called “It! The Living Colossus”. Sometimes my titles are derived from historical artworks, such as “The Melting Mask” which was inspired by a pre-Columbian gold mask I observed in El Museo del Oro (Bogotá, Colombia).
You have been drawing as long as you can remember. If I understood it right, before a drawing session you normally warm up with a few quick sketches, which sometimes find their way on record sleeves of your own or other’s labels. Do you have an analogous warm-up technique when beginning a session in your studio?
Well, in all seriousness, some of my more vintage synthesizers need to warm up in temperature before they can stay in tune – so, there’s that. Otherwise, I am searching for sounds before beats.
How do you think your visual art and your music stand in relation to each other?
If I become frustrated with one discipline, then the other presents itself as an alternative form of expression. I have managed to keep them side by side, all these years.
You started to dj on college radio in the 80s and released your first productions in the late 90s. How do you feel that you have evolved as an artist through the years up until today?
I think my search has been to create as much as possible with just a few elements. This is not a new idea, nor did I invent it. It is a form of minimalism, in my case applied to a certain type of electronic music. If you listen to my tracks over the years, I think you may see them evolving into a more puristic realization.
When and how did you find your musical taste(s)? Why do you think it resonated with you?
Well, in the 80s college radio changed my life and consequently, my perceptions of music. In those days, the college radio format was completely free-form and you could play anything. My musical taste was informed by many different genres, especially if they had weird electronic sounds in them. I remember being fascinated by the Ralph Records label from San Francisco – in the 80’s, the artists they represented were so original and different. When I first heard these things, they were like transmissions from space. During that era, I attended concerts by Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and of course new wave bands like New Order and Gary Numan. Later, of course I was influenced by artists like Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin, labels such as Tresor and R&S – I could go on… But also I think certain films in the science fiction genre had a big impact on me. Jerry Goldsmith’s score for “Logan’s Run”, for example incorporated electronic sounds in it. The sound design in “Star Wars” is great, especially in the voices of the robots and other details heard in the movie.
You have been working as an art teacher for many years. Did you ever consider committing yourself to music full time?
Thank you for asking this question. My commitment is full time, because when I am not DJing I am in the studio. I am a full time artist. But there is a broader question here: How does an artist survive in the modern era? There are certain considerations, for example in the United States; how does a full time artist procure health care? Should an electronic music producer feel obligated to perform almost every weekend, based on financial needs? Every artist needs to find some kind of a balance.
In an earlier interview you have been quoted: “People need to purge themselves from the stresses of modern life. And so they go out and they go to places like Berghain, and they have a release, and they have a purging. And all types of music can do that. I think mine can serve that purpose as well.” Do you want to share a memorable moment where you experienced the cleansing or purifying effect music can have?
The Labyrinth festival in Japan exemplifies this. I made a track called “Forward (The 5am Mix)”, based on my first experience there…
What have been recent inspirations of yours?
I liked Jordan Peele’s film “Get Out”. Also, I’m waiting for the weather to warm up so I can ride my bike again…