Graeme Park: over 25 years on the decks, more than 15 years on the radio.
The story of DJ Graeme Park really mirrors the story of the evolution of dance music and club culture itself. Graeme found himself working in a Nottingham record shop called Selectadisc in the early 1980s, when the very first house records began to filter through from Chicago, Detroit and New York. When the shop’s owner also opened a nightclub, it was only natural he should turn to Graeme to select the discs. Determined to showcase this new style of music, his reputation as a house pioneer soon brought him to the attention of Mike Pickering at the Haçienda in Manchester, who asked him to cover for him whilst he went on holiday in 1988. Simply put, there was no-one else in the country who could do the job. The Summer of Love followed, and Parky quickly became one of the biggest names on the emerging dance scene. Aside from his eight-year residency at The Haç, he was one of the first British DJs to play places like Australia, South America, the USA, Asia and beyond as well as producing and remixing tracks for the dancefloor.
The Haçienda was a club without a purpose until house music filled its cathedral-sized dimensions. It undeniably defined Graeme as a DJ, but in 2012, that can only be seen as one chapter in an on-going tale: ‘Yeah it was a very big chapter,’ says Graeme. ‘I guess the first was when I discovered I could DJ and discovered house music from the US. The Haçienda was chapter 2, then chapter 3 was when it re-opened after closing for a couple of months in 1992. Chapter 4 was when it closed not long after I left and I played all around the world. I suppose Chapter 5 is where we are now.’
As far as Graeme’s concerned, things are as fab as ever. But where is dance music and club culture headed? Well, who better to ask directions than the man who wrote the disco A-Z? ‘I started doing it purely by accident,’ he details. ‘And then realised I was actually pretty good at it. But I never thought I’d end up doing it for over 25 years. And I see no need to stop at the moment. I still love playing fantastic tunes in a variety of different clubs all over the place and people still want me to do it too.’
And where we are now is a very interesting place to be with regular gigs around the UK, Europe and beyond playing a selection of classic house cuts as well as new and current tunes too. There’s also a variety of productions under various guises including the single ‘Shady’ by Gooden & Park with legendary Ten City vocalist Byron Stingily on vocals and his ongoing Yellow & Black project which includes original tracks, remixes and collaborations. Although keen not to be bracketed as purely a ‘classics’ DJ, Graeme regularly delves into the thousands upon thousands of tunes he has collected on vinyl over the years: “House music has made people channel their tastes, so I went back to my roots and pulled out some forgotten classics,” he grins, still in love with process of mining those rich seams of vinyl. “I love seeing a crowd go wild to a tune they haven’t heard for years or playing something really obscure from 20 years ago that people think is new.”
And with 2012 being The Haçienda‘s 30th anniversary, Graeme has found himself playing a lot of classic tunes on the ongoing 30th anniversary tour which began on The Haçienda‘s birthday the 21st May in the car park underneath The Haçienda apartments, continued all over the UK, Europe and beyond and ends with Graeme DJing for 7 hours at the annual Haçienda Christmas Party at Sankeys in Manchester on 27th December.
Celebrating over 15 years on the radio with shows on Kiss, Galaxy, Key 103, Radio City, Juice FM, Forth One and more, Graeme’s years of experience help him understand the specialist skills required by a radio DJ: ‘A lot of radio shows or DJs just play the same big tunes. You can’t simply pretend you’re in a club, you have to talk to the audience and put your personality and knowledge across without sounding like an idiot.’ His weekly Graeme Park Radio Show airs on scores of radio stations both in the UK and overseas and brings in a big audience with his mix of new and older tunes mixed together like only he knows how. You can listen to the show anytime you like at http://thisisgraemepark.com/music-archive or subscribe to it as a Podcast via iTunes.
Keeping ahead of the game, Graeme has also his own official app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and you can download it from the iTunes Store for free. It keeps you up to date with what he’s playing and where while you’re on the move, you can listen to his weekly radio show too and not surprisingly it’s proving extremely popular since it’s launch in March 2010.
Whether through his sets, his radio shows or simply by getting to know that audience, Graeme has spent over 25 years getting his jocular personality across. He was there before it all started, he was at the forefront of the dance scene when it was at its zenith and he’s still there, still rocking it, years later – longer than some of the people on the dancefloor have been on the planet! And the best thing is he still loves it, still loves the music and still loves to play it for people to dance to.
‘Yeah, for my entire career I’ve been finding good tunes that I want other people to hear. The reason I keep doing it is simple: it’s my mission in life to let people hear good music.’
The Haçienda is now an apartment building (the developers asked Parky to DJ at the launch; he politely declined). At the back of the building there is a time-line, carved into steel, detailing the history of the club from Madonna‘s early performance to its closure. And there’s Graeme’s name not once, but twice, carved into the metal for time immemorial. What other DJs (what other venues?) have had that significance in clubland?
Get the weekly Graeme Park Radio Show iTunes Podcast: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/this-is-graeme-park/id387197962
Get the official Graeme Park app: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/graeme-park-official-app/id363996193?mt=8
Get Graeme Park presents The Yellow & Black Project remixes and productions: http://dj.beatport.com/graemepark
Get ‘Shady‘ by Gooden & Park feat. Byron Stingily: http://www.traxsource.com/index.php?act=search&ss=gooden+%26+park&sc=artists