DJ Graeme Park - Interview
"I haven't had a weekend to myself in 15 years", laments DJ Graeme Park. "I'd love to have a real Sunday sometime. The closest thing that I get to it is lying in bed on a Monday afternoon reading the papers".
You'd want a Sunday too, if you were as busy as Graeme Park. He's risen through the ranks, from humble second hand record buyer to "shit dual-concentric belt-drive turntable-operator", to resident at the legendary Hacienda, and on to national radio stardom.
"In the 1960s, I used to listen to my mother singing Motown and Traffic records in the kitchen", he recollects. "She had a beautiful voice, and I would slyly record her singing "Moon River" on a little tape recorder I had, then play it back later".
Maturing from his covert recording stints, Park got a job at his local record store, Selecta Disc in Nottingham. He rapidly rose through the ranks, quickly becoming chief buyer in the second hand section. Unfortunately for the shop, he kept the best bits for himself, thereby building up an eclectic and diverse vinyl stash.
DJ Graeme Park was splitting his time between the occasional DJ slot, working in the record shop and performing on sax and vocals in a local band. "Gigs were hard work," he says, "because you had to lug loads of kit around and then split the money with the band later. With DJing, all you needed was a record bag and a wallet for the cash at the end of the night". Sensibly, he dropped the job, quit the band and embarked on his DJing career.
Securing a slot at Nottingham's Garage Club was pivotal in Park's rise to fame. He began to play regular sets in the club, using turntables which, quite frankly, were more suited to home use than a serious venue. Park was using the aforementioned decks to try and emulate the likes of Grandmaster Flash & Marle Marl. Unaware that mix albums were cut together in a studio rather than produced live, he furiously tried to reproduce the same effects - but with limited success.
It was during one of these frantic scratching and cutting sessions that Northern promoter-guru Jonathan Woodliffe spotted Park's talent, and remarked that he might find it easier to play if he get a pair of Technics 1200s. Park improved. It was only after a return visit from Woodliffe that Park also realised the fairly crucial need for slipmats. Park improved further.
The Garage Club wasn't a particularly lavish venue - in fact, during the first few months he would double up as a barman. "The DJ booth was kind of perched on the end of the bar. One night they were short of staff so I had to muck in. The club was packed and I had to keep dashing around serving drinks, taking money and mixing records". His 1987 - 1997 stint at Manchester's infamous Hacienda soon became the stuff of legend after three successful weeks under his control. Resident Mike Pickering had gone away, and Park was trusted with the club in his absence. "The Hacienda had such a pure, hedonistic attitude, with so much energy in the atmosphere, that clubbers always forgot that I was trying to work!" notes Park. "They were always trying to get in the booth with me. Luckily, I had a big stable-type door, so I could easily keep the more salubrious characters out".
Park's expertise as a DJ partly stems from an integral understanding of how (and more importantly when) to use a track. Graeme's love of new and original tunes is paramount to his style, and he's regarded as something of a icon. He says: "It's very nice being regarded as a tastemaker, but I just play records I like. Obviously, vocals thread through most of my stuff, but I don't go out to set trends. I'm not interested in what's big in the dance buzz charts - if I like it I'll play it. My box is always changing and there's nothing that gathers dust in there".
Whatever the secret is behind it, Park has a way of generating an atmosphere of utter indulgence, which is intimate but also thoroughly accessible not just at club, but also on radio.
In 1995 he began a Sunday afternoon radio show for Manchester's Kiss 102. This led to various guest shows on London's Kiss 100, and when Kiss 105 Yorkshire started broadcasting, his Sunday Show was heard nationally over the Kiss Network. In September 1996, Graeme went into daytime radio, presenting a daily show between 2pm and 4pm on Kiss 102. After 12 months "doing travel, weather and playing superb tunes", Kiss became Galaxy and Park chose to move back to the weekends. Later he would also present Friday nights on Liverpool & Brighton's Juice FM, and continue to present on Galaxy on Saturday evenings.
"You can't compare radio DJing with club DJing", he says. "In a club you can judge the response - or lack of response - instantly. In radio, you have no idea if anyone's even listening!".
It is this even-tempered yet passionate attitude that sums up the Park ethos. He's out doing his stuff, indifferent to the in-thing and constantly evolving for the future. You'll find Graeme Park every Friday at Ascension in Manchester where he's returned to playing sax whilst DJing with his Graeme Park Experience live band (vocalist, percussionists, keyboard players etc.). Catch him also at Renaissance, Nice, Lovezoo, Ibiza? in fact all over the place. Just about anywhere else that plays quality house (and some that don't). There's no excuse to miss him. I've been producing, remixing and compiling since the mid 1980's. However, there doesn't seem to be a complete list of everything I've done. How annoying is that?
People are always reminding me of stuff I've done, so please bear with me while I attempt to provide you with an up to date discography... soon!
Links to Fantazia
Graeme Park appeared on the Fantazia album:
Fantazia House Collection 1
A copy of which can be bought here
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