There aren’t many DJs left as humble as Steve Parry. As a veteran with over 30 years of experience he is equally as talented as the best of the best in the world. With his 'down to earth' attitude and his choice to refrain from flooding his social media daily with what he ate for breakfast or lunch, Steve clearly prefers to work tirelessly behind the scenes whilst juggling quite a few hats.
Most people in the UK would know about Steve's acclaimed 3 year residency at the infamous Cream in Liverpool which saw him rise through the ranks to be regularly booked worldwide playing at clubs such as MOS and the best club the world has ever seen…. the legendary Space Ibiza (R.I.P.)
Steve spent many years running the world famous 3Beat Records as well as promoting his infamous ‘Alderaan’ nights from 1997-2001 which helped mould the dance scene in Liverpool into what it is today. He also runs his own company, SMP3 Music Management [where he sources music for DJs including John Digweed] as well as managing promo mail lists for 1000's of DJs which regularly feature tracks from the best labels in the world such as Bedrock, Subeat & Sprout to name a few.
Aaaaand if this wasn't enough, Steve is also one half of the formidable duo behind ‘Selador Recordings’ alongside long-time friend and business partner Dave Seaman, which just keeps churning out belters left, right and centre.
So does juggling all that leave him any time to tour the world DJ'ing?
Let’s find out…. ;)
Hi Steve! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me! We finally got there ;)
Where are you today and how are you feeling?
Hey Bean, how are you? Yes I’m good thanks. I’m at home in Liverpool in England. I’ve been chilling with the family and just sorting bits and pieces nothing too exciting just plodding along for the week ahead, tidying up after the kids haha. It's not all rock n roll you know!
Can you tell our audience a little bit about yourself?
Yeah, I am married, a dad of two kids (that keeps me on my toes) and luckily for me, I spend my working days, nights, weekends all fully engrossed in music! I am very fortunate and happy that I am able to make a living doing this every day, and to be honest, it never really feels like I’m at work which is a very nice thing to be able to do.
It wasn't always like this though - I’ve had many jobs in the past and did the music related things after work and on the weekends while learning my craft. I’ve been a DJ since I was 15 (and recently celebrated my 50th birthday) so it has been a long and lovely labour of love and may it continue for many more years to come!
Although I wear many hats within the music industry, I would say that I’m a DJ first. I mean, yes I have a record label, I make some tunes, I have promoted nights and have hosted just about everything else related to and within the music industry but I am foremost a DJ.
I love to DJ and I love the art of DJ'ing. I’m obsessed with DJ history (how they do it, why they do it, when they do it and where they do it) and take it as a huge learning curve to find out as much information about all the DJs that have been before me and to this very day. I love learning about the music they played and the art of programming. I used to go to Cream in Liverpool and spend ages watching the DJs closely and studying their mixing techniques which taught me lots.
What was the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself? How old were you?
The first records I remember buying was The Police - Do Do Do Da Da Da (a gibberish classic!). I was a bit annoyed that Woolworths had sold out and so I had to buy it from WH Smiths. Woolworths was selling it at 99p for a 7 inch whereas WH Smiths charged £1.10. I was outraged hahaha!
The first ‘dance’ related track I remember buying was 'Herbie Hancock - Rockit'. I was obsessed with that track - I still am. It must have been 1984/5. It took me ages to find the name of it! I would have ben 13 or 14.
I also remember buying my first 12 inch single - I must have been 11 years old maybe. I didn't even know what a 12 inch single was when I walked into the record shop (we were on holiday in Rhyl in Wales at the time) and I remember my Dad showing me and explaining it's like a single but twice or three times as long. So my first purchase was 'Starsound - Stars' on 45. It was a medley of Beatles tracks - I thought they were sung by the Beatles and mixed together - and this blew my mind! I didn't know what mixing was - but one song ran into the next one and this was just a phenomenal thing for me!
What music did you listen to growing up? What music did your parents listen to etc? Do you have a ‘1st memory’ of music from back then and how do you think these sounds have influenced where you are today?
In our house we always had the radio on. In Liverpool we had two radio stations radio - Radio Merseyside and Radio City. City was a cool ‘pop’ station, and Merseyside would play 60’s to current stuff - so I was hearing all sorts of music between those stations, old and new.
Album wise - I was exposed to everything from ABBA to The Beatles to pop music through to sixties rock ‘n’ roll and just about everything in between really. My mum was into things like Earth, Wind & Fire, Otis Redding and The Drifters but she also liked bands like ABBA. We had all of these albums and some 60’s soul compilations of hers while my Dad was a big Beatles and Wings fan. He also liked everyone from 'Chas and Dave' to the 'War Of The Worlds' album and all this music must’ve influenced me as I still like pretty much all of that kind of thing even today!
I do remember one time, my Dad put the headphones on me and played 'Wings - Live Over America' and told me to imagine being at the concert - this memory is still really vivid - especially as the album had photos from the gig on its gatefold sleeve.
The 'War of The Wolds' soundtrack story was even more memorable as my Dad used to sit me and my brothers in the dark and play it really loudly - it was haunting, amazing and also terrifying! Hahaha. One of us used to run out of the room as it was all a bit too much! I still get shivers if I hear a track from that album.
I’ve read you started DJing at 15!! Can you tell us a little about how your career started so early?
I always wanted to be a radio DJ from about the age of 12 or 13. Like I mentioned above, we were always listening to the radio and I remember thinking 'I would like to do that’! It wasn't necessarily from a musical point of view I suppose... I just thought it was a very cool job, and you could talk about anything and also play the music you wanted. This was way before I had discovered how much electronic and dance music there was out there.
So yeah, I wanted to be a radio DJ along with a good friend of mine, Michael Rick Houghton. He literally lived round the corner from me and one year for Christmas he got a massive double deck and speaker system because he wanted to practice being a radio DJ.
We must’ve been 14 or 15 at the time and I said, 'We’ve got this stuff so why don’t we buy some lights and start doing mobile disco’s?'. And so we did! We are both very passionate and knew lots about pop music but we understood that it wasn’t just about new music, it was also about the older stuff and soon after we took on our first monthly residency!
This was at the Saint faiths Church Hall 'under 18s’ youth club disco. We used to go there every month anyways and we went in and offered to do it for £15 a night between us! We used to play everything from the pop music of the day (this must’ve been around 1987) through to well-known tracks from the last few years, some party vibes… even things like 'The Beatles - Twist and Shout' (as that was the Youth Club anthem).
We did carry on doing mobile discos for quite a few years and did quite well with it. I was DJ'ing most weekends from the age of 15 for many many years. Getting lifts from our Dads to venues with all of the equipment! We did everything from eighteenth birthday parties, to christenings, to weddings and I think that really taught me the craft of DJ'ing and realising musical programming is everything. If you can make a tipsy auntie stay dancing on the dance floor all night well that's the real skill of being a DJ right there!
I know everyone would be very interested in hearing about how your residency at Cream began. I mean, there must have been a tonne of other DJs dying to jump at that opportunity. Was it a case of ‘right time, right place’… knowing the right people etc? Or did you have to slog it out to the death? Lol
It was pretty much a combination of everything you’ve just said above! I was going to Cream as a clubber for at least 10 years before I got to play there and I always wanted to play there but for resident DJs and locals, it was quite a closed shop. They already had an established team of resident DJ’s.
Cream was special - you pretty much needed to be a superstar DJ for Cream because at any one time they could’ve had three or four the worlds top 10 DJs at the same time in different rooms - Paul Oakenfold, Paul van Dyk, Nick Warren and Sasha would often be on the same line up on the same night. I just thought that was the norm because it was our local club 5 miles away from my house and I thought all the cities had clubs like that!
I don’t think we realised how lucky we were and used to go there quite a lot if I wasn't DJ'ing elsewhere. There’s was always a superb array of talent from around the globe playing.
It was only when I started working in 3 Beat Records (and because Cream’s office was literally around the corner from us) that we got to know the Cream posse. It all started when Alan Hartley (who worked there) came in and asked me if I wanted to fill-in for a DJ who couldn't make it as they knew I could already do warm up sets from my weekly residency at our Alderaan parties. Of course I said Yes! But it was nerve wracking! I played before Tiesto and Guy Ornadel in the main room. I played first and last that night (musically out of my comfort zone) as Guy slowed it down for the end of his set - to 150bpm!!! Hahaha… I had to play a helicopter noise before I started to change the vibe!
From then on I just started playing for them all the time. I was obviously very honoured to have be asked by such a momentous clubland powerhouse. I probably didn’t realise how important Cream was at the time, however, I feel it has now become even more monumental as it was such a prominent super club looking back at it.
I really love the fact that when I hear you DJ I never know what to expect. Your sound verges more on the ‘Housier’ side of Progressive House. Would you agree? I lost it when you opened with that Francois K remix of 'Moloko's - Forever More' on one of your live streams during lockdown. One of my most cherished records and I just adored that you started a 'Prog set' like that! I feel your unique music style blurs genre boundaries - how would you describe your 'style' of music and how has it evolved over the years?
Well that’s nice to hear, that you never quite know what you're gonna hear from me. I like all sorts of music! I really do! It ranges from Laurent Garnier, Danny Howells, Sasha and Digweed to Cattaneo, Patrice Baumel and beyond. There are so many other DJs I really like such as Pete Gooding and Jose Padilla for chillout, DJ Harvey who plays more of an eclectic set. I also really love disco DJs like Dave Lee and Graeme Park with his funky sounds.
I don’t think you need to go and stick out like a sore thumb musically, you can just adapt your sound to suit and maybe that is something I’ve always picked up on. When I first started DJing, in the late 80s, DJs used to play all night. I would play soul and funk early on in the night and then I might go into a little bit of hip-hop, maybe into some popular stuff that’s going to be big, then some house, some Indie/Manchester (Madchester) vibes and party tracks to end. I think this really helped developed quite an eclectic and wide musical spectrum that let me appreciate the good in many genres.That is something that will never leave me and it’s something that I love. I've never stuck to just one particular styIe. There is so much amazing music out there and there always will be. The more you like, the more it keeps you happy and smiling!
What is your favourite Steve Parry release to date and why?
Hhrrrmm… I am very fussy with the music I release. I make lots of tracks that don’t come out or that later mutate in to something else as I wasn't happy with it. So I’m very pleased with everything that I have released to be honest. It's my musical legacy after all, something I’m very passionate about.
If I have to mention one... I was very pleased with 'Don’t You Ever Stop' which was released on Bedrock. It has an acid line, a cheeky vocal sample, a crazy synth line and lots of laser sounds which are all box tickers for me so I was pretty delighted when this one all came together! It took a while to make as I couldn't get the bass line right for ages. I just kept plugging away at it until it did and suddenly the track lifted and it all made sense.
What’s your favourite Selador release to date and why?
We are approaching our 150th release, so plenty to choose from! One in particular that I love is SHOW-B’s remix of Jaap Ligthart & Alice Rose - I Know Change. Ironically this was the most difficult track we have ever tried to get a remixer for as we were getting knock backs from producers day after day - at one point we almost wondered if we had made a mistake by signing it - I mean at least 25 producers said that they didn’t want to remix it. SHO-W had been on our radar for years and he had previously said no to a few remix offers so we were delighted when he agreed to do it. When the remix landed and I pressed play I was over the moon ! I messaged Dave and said whatever you are doing right now, stop it and listen to this remix hahaha.
Speaking of Selador.... You are bringing out the 'Seladoria' concept to our gorgeous continent in April touring alongside Dave Seaman, Darren Emerson and Just Her. Can you tell our Australian readers what they can expect from the Melbourne and Sydney shows? Is this your first time in Oz? What are you most excited about etc?
Yes! I’ve never been to Oz! I’m beyond excited! I have lots of friends who live over there (Australians and friends that moved over to you guys) so I’m excited to see many friends, see your magnificent country and of course, play some gigs too!
As already mentioned, you have played at some of the very best night clubs in the world and supported everyone under the sun including John Digweed, Sasha etc... Obviously the art of being the trusted 'warm up' DJ for that calibre of artist is the greatest of compliments as you are responsible for setting the tone of the night. I personally believe [read: KNOW] that the warm up set is perhaps one of the most difficult of the night! You can't can just come in and smash it out like the headliner does... you need to perform a set that requires restraint and a willingness to draw from less obvious tracks, whilst also connecting with the crowd. It's no easy task! Can you tell us what you feel it takes to be considered one of the best at this art form? Any tips for all those aspiring DJs wanting to take the plunge? The do's and dont's?
Thank you for your kind words there. It is a craft and it is difficult to do. As you say, you’re not just banging it out and I think of it as the start of the story for the evening. It's like a movie... they never have the best bit at the start do they? You need to let the story develop.
A bad warm up DJ playing the wrong music can ruin the whole night - its a marathon, not a sprint!
1. Don’t play any music of the DJ who is coming on after you - It may feel like you are paying them a compliment in your head but often DJs and producers love to play their own tracks in their sets so this is a good one to avoid.
2. If you are warming up a gig, then warm it up – you don’t need to (and shouldn't!) play tracks that are big when the club has just opened, it confuses people. Clubbers generally like to get to a venue and buy a drink and chat with friends while the vibe is getting them in the mood – they don’t need a banger blasting at them when they haven’t even got a drink yet. Also, if you play an anthem early, it probably won’t get played again when the club is full – so you’re actually making clubbers miss out hearing that track at its correct time slot. Much in the same way, the lighting engineer won’t have strobes, lasers and smoke filling the club as soon as it opens – they will patiently wait for the right time, in harmony with the DJ’s choices.
Obviously every gig and musical styled event is different, but have patience – take it slow – it’s the counterpoint to what I mentioned in the previous point; you are slowly setting the vibe, so think about the order that you are playing your tracks. If you want to slowly build, think about which tracks would sound better later in your warmup set, compared to your first few tracks when nobody is really in the venue yet. Prepare your tracks this way – think ‘I’ll play this really early on… but this one I’ll play later on in my set’
Warm up sets don't mean you should play boring music. Yes, you are on first but you are also there to do a job – to have the dance floor ready for the rest of the night. Wake the club up... but don't wake them up too much! Haha! Think about the structure of the night and how the end of your set will affect the flow of the night.
Name one track that makes you ‘emotional’?
Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy. It really pulls at my heart strings every single time.
When I saw them do that track live at Glastonbury, I cried my eyes out. It was amazing!
I also have an unreleased Brothers in Rhythm beat-less version that I love to play at special moments. A proper secret weapon. It makes people melt when you play it. I think only two other people have it! Sorry, I couldn't resist showing off there hehe!
You also run a HUGELY successful DJ promo list empire called ‘SMP Music Management’ where you source music for all the superstar DJs. How was this idea born? It can’t be the worst job in the world listening to music all day! You don’t need an extra pair of ears do ya?… Seriously though, I have always wondered how the ‘allocation’ of the promos actually work? I'm assuming it's along the lines of 'AAA DJs' then down the line or do you sometimes listen to something and think 'This is perfect for .... ' and send it anyways? I know it's a VERY strict no-no for DJs to send out their promos to say 'lesser known' DJ mates so I'm assuming there are rules within the system. Care to give us [mainly me...] some insight into how this all works. I find it fascinating!!
Well I have SMP3 promo - thats where I work with labels like Sudbeat, Re-Plug, 3000Grad, Atmopshere, Frau Blau (theres loads actually) and I get the music to DJ’s... all hand picked for each release - so Sudbeat goes to a proggier crowd for example and Frau Blau would go to a cooler indie dance/melodic crowd.. I suppose I learnt my skills working in record stores - you get to learn the subtle differences of who likes what. That personal touch!
Labels want the music to go to the right DJ’s. People who will play the music in clubs, live streams or radio shows /podcasts that other DJs and fans will take note of and hopefully then buy the tracks. So yes! There is a tier system, especially with the more established labels - they like to create a buzz and keep peoples excitement so they can hopefully stream/buy the track when released.
I also have SMP3 Music management - that is where a few elite DJ’s have me source music for them and I make them a weekly folder. I’m not choosing the music they play - I just present them with a streamlined selection of tracks each week from promos, Beatport, exclusives I chase - much like I did when I was at 3 Beat Records - I chose the vinyl to pass to a DJ to listen to and they choose what they like.
As you say - these are AMAZING jobs to have! I am very lucky. I have worked hard for donkeys years to get myself in a position to do this though! It's coming on 35 years in the music industry now... That makes me feel and sound so old writing that down! Hahaha
What is it like working with your best friend Dave Seaman at Selador Records? Who gets final say on what gets released? Do you find you have differing tastes at times? What are you most looking forward to with the label in 2022?
You know what? Tunes are only signed if we both love them and we actually have similar taste in music so it's a rather easy and smooth way of working for us.
Work wise - We share everything and there is always stuff to do! This year we are really pushing Seladoria and getting the concept out there on tour. Musically, we are trying to keep pushing forward and always tweaking and developing this. Plus we are working on lots behind the scenes, be they our newsletters, our playlists, weekly radio shows, streaming, social media pushes, the website, bandcamp, merchandise, publishing, and a shed loads more. It's a never ending job but that's what keeps us on our toes!
So in closing, what does the future hold for all things Steve Parry?
Ok so Dave and I are launching our new alias Nunchi Coup! We wanted to showcase a slightly different sound to our productions... All still very much what we play but perhaps a little more 'warehouse' edged.
"We wanted to try to capture our 30+ year journey through the Acid House Culture with some new work that reflected our history but still had its finger firmly on the pulse of the here and now” explains Dave “Steve and I are both Acid House Lifers but continue to be just as excited by new music as we were back in those early halcyon days. Running the label together has only served to reinforce that".
The vibe is a little more raw than what we’d usually do. We are aiming for Nunchi Coup to have a more classic House and Techno sound. A nod to our heritage but still in a contemporary setting. After three decades in the business we are even more aware of the circular nature of things.
The two tracks on offer, whilst quite different in style, definitely have a unifying bond in that they both sound like they could have been made any time in the last 30 years. The astutely named, sample-laced ’Slaves To The Algo-Rhythm’ draws on the classic combination of soaring, emotional, orchestral strings set atop slamming House beats. Goosebumps-a-go-go! Whilst it’s bed partner, the visceral jackhammer that is ‘Coping Mechanism’, packs a punch like Tyson Fury with it’s Rave stabs and strong Warehouse party DNA. In Yer Face.
And the name, Nunchi Coup? What’s that all about then?
Nunchi is the Korean word for the ability to gauge how people are thinking and feeling in order to create connection, trust and harmony. Like a sixth sense, a kind of emotional intelligence and awareness of your surroundings.
The concept spoke to us as DJs, that subtle art of reading the room and taking appropriate action has been the mainstay of our musical philosophy since forever. The Koreans believe Nunchi is the secret to happiness and we can't argue with that!
Thanks so much for taking the time to have a chin wag with me today Steve!
My pleasure Bean!
Links to all things STEVE PARRY below:
Selador Bandcamp: https://selador-recordings.bandcamp.com/
For more info on Global Dance Music Collective please follow:
Our next artist interview will be published on Friday the 4th of March at 7:30pm (AEST)