This month we were very pleased to sit down with one of the most humble and busy guys in dance music. He's forged a career which first started behind the decks at 17 and saw him honing his skills in Benitses and then Kavos in Greece. He's been behind the legendary Alderaan nights in Liverpool and firmly nailed his colours to the mast with progressive house. More recently he's partnered Brother In Rhythm Dave Seaman in the phenomenally good Selador label imprint..
Welcome to PHC.. Steve Parry
Thanks so much for agreeing to talk to us Steve. If I can firstly ask you when your love of music in general started, what was the type of thing you were listening to growing up?
Hey PHC, firstly thanks for having me.
I remember getting Beatles ‘Blue’ album for Christmas when I was 10 or 11, my dad said he wanted to introduce me to their music. He'd picked the later tracks as they were cool… he was right! I could pretend I was super trendy at 10 years old but I also loved Adam & The Ants and Shakin Stevens!
We always had the radio on at home - radio city and radio Merseyside - depending on which station was flavour of the month with my mum and dad so, I was introduced to a large selection of music.
We also had a collection of LPs. My mums choices included Earth Wind and Fire, Otis Reading but then also ABBA. My dad liked ELO, The Beatles, War Of The Worlds, but then as obscure as Chas and Dave.
I remember my dad buying ‘Wings - live over America’ it was a double album. He'd lay me down on the floor with my head between the speakers and tell me to close my eyes and imagine I was there.. it majorly stuck with me as a memorable moment… probably why I always dance with my head near speakers when clubbing now…
I then started liking artists like Alexander O’Neal and Luther Vandross. Then at about 13 or 14 DMC mega mixes (I had loads on ‘tape’) and tracks like Herbie Hancock - Rockit, Doug E Fresh - The Show. We had The Breakdance sound track album… dance music was certainly gripping me… I started thinking I wanted to be a DJ… but a radio DJ.
I started popping in to radio city and radio Merseyside as you could see the DJs doing radio shows live and I used to just sit and watch. I loved it.
Later on I managed to blag my way in to sitting in on various radio shows - Kenni James had a show called ‘Keep on Truckin’ playing soul and I sat in on him for a few years! Kenni used to let me have loads of his records he didn’t want that he had been sent - from pop to house to soul and beyond.
There was also Pete Waterman’s ‘The Hitman’ show - he would play dancey / poppy / euro and house on Radio City - I was like a sponge and loved anything that excited me. Pete was great, a ball of energy. I used to go in and answer the phones for him (with a few likeminded friends). It was exciting. I even used to to take tracks in and Pete would play some of them - I’d properly buzz off it when he played tracks I recommended on the radio!
What were your first experiences in discovering house music and what do you think attracted you to the sound and the early scene in general?
Mainly radio - Stu Allen was a huge influence and majorly underestimated in the history of house music I think. He was playing The newest house weekly. It brought so many tracks to my attention. Stu should be knighted for service’s to dance music. He probably was a massive influence for a lot of DJs from the North West. (I previously listened to his hip hop and soul shows too).
David Dunne had his weekly ‘Isometric Dance Class’ on Key 103 too - again a great show.
I’d also listen to John Peel and I’ll be honest I couldn’t stand most of what he played but I knew he would always play some house tracks at some point in his show haha!
Other than that there was very little in the way of other house on the radio, none on the TV and of course no internet.
Did you find yourself attending any of the big raves in that 89/90 period when things really started to take off?
Raves - no. I was a club kid. Also from the age of 17 I was DJing in clubs and bars regularly, so that kept me busy! I remember being 18 I'd just left sixth form and I was DJing 5 nights a week. It was quite insane. I thought this is my life now and I love it.
I’d also just done a summer DJing 7 days a week in Corfu - in Benitses it was John Cecchini’s old residency and he sorted me the gig. I was over for 10 weeks and played 5/6 hours a night in 1990. I was playing all sorts of music then, not just house. I started off as a commercial DJ and I’d previously been a mobile DJ doing weddings and christenings etc. I used to use the money from these kind of gigs to buy the underground stuff I craved and loved. Then 2 years later it started to change, I DJ’ed in Kavos, again for ten weeks, seven days a week - various clubs but main residency was a club called ‘The Hacienda’, I was playing house and early prog.. 92 it must have been.
DJing so often I learnt a lot and managed to get half decent with my skills, It was great fun. I played alongside a guy called Tony Button, he looked after me and got me the gig.
Any favourite clubs and tracks from the period that followed?
I went to Fallows in Aintree lots and got to know all of the DJs there. Monday with Dave Ralph was great. In 1990ish he started playing house all night, and I ended up being the official warm up. It was great - 50p drinks and 1000 people every Monday! Also some amazing guest DJ appearances from Sasha, Garnier, Stu Allen and Dave Seaman – PA's from Evolution, Sub Sub, PKA and Rozalla too.
I’m forever indebted to Dave for believing in me and giving me my first gigs. He helped me get a few residencies over the years and taught me an awful lot.
Shelleys was the next fave in 1991. First time I’d seen a DJ called Dave Seaman, and one called Sasha… Dave Ralph was resident there too. Not much I need to say about Friday nights at Shelleys. Absolutely epic. Best atmosphere I’d ever seen. Newest music I’d ever heard. Best DJs I’d ever heard. Hottest club I’ve ever been in and the friendliest crowd too. Outstanding. There’s a reason people get starry eyed when they talk about those nights. Then 1992/93/94 I’d go to Hacienda, Back to Basics and Cream of course when I had a night off. I didn't get to go to many other clubs due to me DJing so much.
When did you first discover the progressive house sound and can you give us some idea of the early scene in Liverpool?
I was a regular at a night called Smile at Rios and they had great guest DJs - Rocky & Diesel, Justin Robertson, Fabi Paras, Terry Farley, Gordon Kaye and Pezz all played there (Pezz blew me away the first time I heard him there!), it was all getting played - early prog stuff alongside house, garage and Balearic goodies. I was very taken by progressive house as it sounded futuristic - it was also very British and I loved it.
Back then you were known for promoting, working in 3Beat and DJing. Which of these came first and did the others follow along naturally?
I started DJing at 15 - mobile discos etc. So DJing came first. Bar gigs at 17, and club gigs at 18.
I am a DJ and everything else I do is just to compliment being a DJ. Yes I have done many other things in the industry - but first and foremost it all to goes hand in hand with being a DJ.
The first record shop I worked in was Groover Records, alongside Les Calvert and Mick Singh. They really knew their stuff and were also fantastic DJs. I've always found that working with the best drives you to be at your best, pushing yourself harder. Les is still a close mate (and my sons god father) he’s also a majorly underestimated DJ in Liverpool - he worked in Backtracks, Groover, 3 beat, he was resident at Society, Garlands and on Juice FM and Radio City. He’s a constant and integral force in the club scene.
Promoting came about when I was frustrated not to be playing weekly which happened after a long running residency ended. I just wanted to play the music I love. Groover had closed and I was working for a bank selling loans so I needed my musical escape!
It was around this time I was usually ending up in kitchen parties late at night (until very early the next morning..) DJing with my good friend Yousef. Yousef loved his American house and I was a full on prog boy.
We used to laugh together, playing on a set of decks set up on somebody's kitchen hob saying 'one day we should both be playing for Cream…'
Next - I worked for Unique Distribution and ran their mail order shop called ‘Direct’. Andy Jarrod helped me get me that job. I spoke to Andy loads buying music from him and one day he said he was going to work for a distribution company only and needed somebody to take over.. within a few weeks I was working there. Unique was excellent, a fantastic team of music lovers and lots of DJs. But... I wanted to work at 3 beat.
Ah yes - one of the UKs most well known record shops 3Beat. How did that job opportunity come about?
I spoke to Pezz lots. Les had moved to 3 Beat and I was often in the shop on Saturdays buying tracks and I knew all of the team, so I just pestered my way in really. I’d been at Direct for 3 months and then managed to make a switch to 3 Beat. It was amazing.
We spoke with Pezz a couple of months back one of your colleagues and he explained how the shop was a Liverpool hub for anyone and everyone into club culture. How was your experience there, what would a day behind the counter look like for you?
I loved it - it was my dream job, the job I knew I had to have one day.
I was the progressive buyer and worked in the mail order department. I worked hard, very hard, you have to be at your best in one of the worlds best shops, my competition was now Massive Records, Plastic Fantastic, Release in Canada and Satellite in NYC - you’re playing at a global level and selling tracks to everyone from bedroom to superstar DJs.
As well as making sure we had everything current I had to work out what was next, how to get it before anybody else and then get it to the DJs we serviced. I’d regularly send packages of new tracks to Paul Van Dyk, Oakenfold, Nick Warren, Steve Lawler, Danny Howells, Dave Seaman, Anthony Pappa, and of course Sasha and Digweed . Can you imagine how exciting that was being a train spotter and a massive fan of these DJs?
I also worked in mail order and was on the phone and internet sorting 100s of customer orders, while also speaking to shop customers. It was great. I loved it.
I also fed my vinyl addiction here, my quest to have so many hot records and tracks that nobody else had was unquenchable. I bought all sorts.. disco, soulful house, techno and all shades in between. I was a full on vinyl addict.
Can you give us a couple of favourite prog tracks from your days at 3Beat, anything that hit the deck and you thought.. wow?
The first track on my first day was a new release by Breeder, it was called 'The Chain' as we know that went on to be possibly one of the biggest prog tracks of all time. For that to be released on the day I started working as the prog buyer it kind of set the standard and helped me land with a bang. I made a lot of very excited train spotters happy that week!
Prog tunes that really blew me away from those days - wow, so many over 10 Years of working there - let me think.. Sander Kleinenberg - My Lexicon Pryda - Aftermath Timo Maas - Ubik Saying that I’d heard them All beforehand on Essential Mixes and in some DJ sets. To be honest many that blew me away on first listen were not prog. Knights of Jaguar - Aztec mystic Smith & Selway - Move Hercules & love affair - Blind - Frankie knuckles remix A few exclusives that 3Beat sold bucket loads of.. Matthew Dekay v Beastie Boys - Intergalactic Cass & Slide - Glad-I-Ate-Her Matthew Dekay v Luther Vandross - Can Heaven Wait And then all of the 3Beat Label Management / 3Beat Label And Glow releases that we had exclusively for a while before any other shop.. James Holden - A Break In The Clouds Above - New Day Dawning (Cass & Silde remix) Paris Red - Get Wit Me (Hong Kong Trash remix)
You've had radio shows now for a number of years and with the whole Corona virus situation we've seen many DJs who were unable to play out start to do this. The one thing some struggle with is making the transition to using a microphone to talk about the records they are playing. You seem very confident in doing this? How do you approach putting together a radio show?
I always wanted to be a radio DJ. Me and a few friends (Rick Houghton and Nick Goodman) did ‘mobile disco’ gigs and even sometimes a ‘pretend radio show’ as we all wanted to be radio DJs (and did all become them) so, from the age of Fifteen microphone talking was quite normal for me.
As for putting a show together. I like a combination of new music and also to utilise my contacts, I often have decent guest DJs. I absolutely love being a radio DJ… I think I’d like to do this full time when I finally grow up although no idea when this will be..!
From a promotion point of view we have to talk about 'Alderaan'. For those that are not aware of the night can you give us some background on what you did, in what was basically a room above the Leisure Lounge in Berry Street, Liverpool?
A small room (90 capacity) above a pub. Sound system and lights weren’t good, and the toilets were like something from a scary movie… however I managed to get like minded musical mates to turn up and dance to music that myself and Mike Owen played. Early guests we had were Andy Ling, Pezz and Andy Jarrod… the buzz just grew. We ended up with Danny Howells, Lee Burridge, Anthony Pappa, Chris Fortier, Parks & Wilson, Quivver, Cass, Breeder and Slacker all playing. It was a sweaty little rave den. So many more DJs played too. We were weekly for 5 years!
Its universally agreed that Alderaan had a massive impact in shaping the prog scene in Liverpool. Do you have a favourite night from that period, one that really stands out as something special?
A lot of the Danny Howell's nights were outrageous- especially my 30th birthday haha… messy! To be honest all the DJs knew the crowd loved to party and had a thirst for new music so they brought their A-game.
Your an incredibly well respected DJ and alongside headlining events your well known for you warm ups. One particular guy you have warmed up for is John Digweed and its been widely praised in forums across social media. It can be a tough job reading a dance floor early on and many talk about good warm up DJs being very rare. How do you undertake selecting music for this particular type of set and do you feel the warm up is a real DJ speciality?
I do love warming up a night, and yes I think it’s quite an art. It’s the way to wake up a dance floor. You often start playing to an empty room and watch it slowly fill up, your enticing them to dance.. but with a slow building vibe… always slightly grabbing people’s attention but still leaving the main DJ a lot of room to do their thing. The difficult thing is to keep a lid on it. It’s easy to bang it out. Especially when the crowd would instantly start going crazy for you… but people come to see the headliner, so your job is to let the night flow and develop, you're there to create a vibe.
Are you aware that in some circles Steve Parry is known as 'Pocket Digweed'?
Haha, yes I am. I think it was our mates Ruth and Andrew who came up with it. Makes me laugh when I hear it. I’m a massive Digweed fan so I’m obviously honoured and its also like a cartoon character name and suggests (correctly) that I may be a vertically challenged. I’m sure I’ve been called a lot worse by people!
You've held a number of residencies over the years and one of note was at the legendary Cream which you held for three years. What do you think are the benefits of holding a residency and how did you find your time there?
My Cream Residency was in its later years and so Cream was 6 times a year. It kept me on my toes musically as I played before Sasha, Shapeshifters, Steve Lawler, Sander Kleinenberg and Tiesto.. I had to learn to adapt yet keep my musical vibe flowing but still sound like me.
Residencies are great. You get to know the crowd and you become the backbone musically of the club and that’s a real privilege. Sadly residencies, especially weekly, are a lost thing nowadays. You don’t get the chance to build tracks over the weeks or see the crowd starting to live and react to a tune. There's no creating an anthem with a uniqueness to that club.
Your also involved in production. Your first release is the Alderaan inspired 'Jawa' in 2002 on Barry Jamieson / Jon Suttons Fluid label. You've since had numerous releases and a very busy year with Selador. What were your views on releasing music during lockdown as it appeared some labels were a little reluctant?
I’m always thankful to John and Barry for making Jawa with me - I was stalking them for years before hand! We would end up at loads of the same gigs together and I’d always chat to them. They’ve always been very friendly and cool. With regards to lockdown, imagine if nobody released any new music during lockdown? It would have been awful.. literally no new music. I don't think we'd have seen as many live streams and I think half of the music fans would have fizzled away. Of course waiting until clubs reopened to release music would have been more beneficial as an artist and a label, Dave and I run Selador mainly as a way to showcase our sound and release our own music which in turn generates gigs but people’s sanity was far more important than that, It was also key to us that we needed to help keep the music scene going at such a critical time.
Alongside the Djing you run a very successful promotional company SMP3 Music Management. The company operates an interesting business model. Would it be right to say that alongside a promotional mailout service you actually 'source' tracks for a range of pretty high profile DJs?
I wear several hats at work. DJ, Radio DJ and Selador. SMP3 music promo is where I work with labels helping them get their music releases to the right DJs. Amongst about another thirty I regularly work with Sudbeat, Hope, Replug for the ‘prog’ vibes and ‘Frau Blau, Jeahmon, Grad3000’ for more indie dance vibes and of course Selador.
I use the hand picked approach of manually selecting DJs for each campaign rather than just the ‘prog’ or ‘techno’ lists. I suppose it’s a skill I learnt from working behind a record shop counter, that personal touch, finding the individual DJs personal little quirky bits that they like…
My other role is working with some (very) big DJs and sourcing music for their sets each week. I don’t choose what they play, I just filter through the new releases, demos and promos and make them a folder suited to them. Again using that record shop assistant skill and method. It’s basically me handing them a load of tracks that I think they’ll like - just like I did in 3 Beat.
Another project your involved in is Selador, a very successful label collaboration with fellow DJ and former Brother In Rhythm Dave Seaman. How did this particular project come about?
I’ve known Dave since 1991, we played a few gigs together.. I’d go and watch him play through the nineties. I was selling him records when I was at 3Beat and then he started using my SMP3 service.. so we've known each other’s musical style for years.
One day I was chatting to him over messenger and mentioned I wanted to start a label.. within seconds my phone rang and it was Dave saying we should start a label together.. and so it began. I was always very vocal saying that I didn’t want it to be Dave's label and me working for it, so it’s a very 50/50 label, we share work and make all decisions together. It also makes the A&Ring a cool process as we both have to like the tracks and want to play them, that’s our criteria for signing music.
We've just come through what is potentially the most damaging 18 months in clubland. How do you see the recovery for the industry panning out? Would it be fair to say that with restrictions being lifted and many people wanting to get out that it looks positive?
I’m hoping that some kind of normality resumes, I know DJs are itching for clubbing again and clubbers are desperate to get back to it. At the time of writing this, I know a few events have started again.. but I still think it will be a bit slow to fully get back to it. My gigs are a bit slow, an occasional one here and there (but good gigs none the less). It’s September for me that it picks up again.. it’s still very up In the air with rising cases, variants, the government saying you need to be double vaccinated, travel restrictions, there are so many things that could still alter everything. It’s so complicated, so frustrating and such a divisive conversation when people start talking about it. Unfortunately nobody actually knows for sure what will happen. I’m hoping the world begins to get back on its feet and clubbing returns stronger than ever.
One of the plus points of the last 18 months for many has been the live streaming and interaction with DJs online. Is this something that you think will stay with us or do you think it will phase out as DJs start to play out again?
I think there’s something with live streams that will continue, especially towards the end of the year when the initial buzz from clubbing has peaked. For example paid events, £10 to be able to watch a live set of Digweed play in Stereo or Solomun live at the Exit festival, something along those lines maybe.
Streaming has been tremendous. I enjoyed doing live streams. I love to play and to have people from around the world chatting to me over Facebook while playing was great.
One of your first live streams during lockdown featured a set of classic tracks. A lot of DJs never really seem to keen on playing retro sets or even dropping classic tracks despite there being an ever growing market of clubbers who do like to hear them. Why do you think so many seem uncomfortable with the idea?
Live streaming was new, so no rules. You can do what you want and rightly so. Sometimes I played older tracks, a good tune is a good tune to me.
I don’t really ever play a set of anthems, I’d play older cool tracks, especially if more of a secret weapon. I play lots of older secret gems when playing out, especially in warm up sets. Mixing old music and new music works well for me. There’s been thirty plus years of house music so why only play new music?
If you look back at David Mancuso, Larry Levan, Nicky Siano back in the 70’s they were playing old and new music together. In fact most genres of music play old and new, especially house – it just seems to be the more progressive scenes where its more 'new music only'. Danny Howells is a great example of a DJ who can mix old and new.
So finally, what does the next few months look like for yourself and the label?
For me, my first gig back was 14th August with Danny Howells and Quivver. It was great to play alongside DJ mates - both of whom played Alderaan for me and are also both bloomin brilliant! We’ve played together around the World.. Mexico, Amsterdam, Berlin..
Strangely we were all nervous - I think it had been such along time since we were all in a dirty and dark little rave den! The crowd was certainly lapping it all up! Its good to be back! great to see so many friendly and familiar faces on the dance floor and lots of hugs!
For the label - we have a Robert Babicz EP - 3 superb tracks from the talented German and next up is a remix EP of mine - 3 new remixes of previously released tracks.
September is going to see the launch of Seladoria at E1 in London. We’ve had visuals made for our clubbing extravaganza bringing an additional element and I’m playing alongside Dave Seaman, Danny Howells and Just Her. Very excited for this one!
Also gigs with James Zabiela for 909 and John Digweed for Hush Hush .
And.. hopefully a Selador party at ADE if it all goes ahead too!
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us Steve. All the best with the future projects and we look forward to the new releases and finally getting to see you behind the decks once again.
Been great to chat.. thanks Jay
The Essential Links
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/DJSteveParry
Selador - http://seladorrecordings.com
Soundcloud - https://soundcloud.com/steveparrydj
Beatport: Selador - https://www.beatport.com/label/selador/3057
Beatport: Steve Parry - https://www.beatport.com/artist/steve-parry/381323
Bandcamp - https://selador-recordings.bandcamp.com
Seladoria @ E1- Friday 24th September
Ticket Link - https://ra.co/events/1442066
Jay Dobie / Wasim Azfal / Marcus Harriman