Graeme Park: 15 years on the radio, 25 years on the decks.
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 Select-A-Disc 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 Hacienda 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 Hac, he was the first British DJ to play places like Australia, South America, the USA, Asia and beyond as well as producing and remixing tracks for the dancefloor.
The Hacienda was a club without a purpose until house music filled its cathedral-sized dimensions. It undeniably defined Graeme as a DJ, but in 2009, that can only be seen as one chapter in an on-going tale: 'Yeah it was a very big chapter. I guess the first was when I discovered I could DJ, and discovered house music from the US. The Hacienda was chapter 2; and 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 20 years. And I see no need to stop at the moment. I still love playing fantastic tunes in clubs and people still want me to do it too.'
And where we are now is a very interesting place to be. Aside from all the regular gigs and many productions under various guises, Graeme has been celebrating his 25th Anniversary with a series of special nights all over the UK and overseas playing a selection of classic house tunes as well as new and current tunes too. Although keen not to be bracketed as a 'classics' DJ, he couldn't let the occasion of his 25th anniversary go by without delving 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.
October 2009 sees Graeme return to Manchester for his new monthly residency with fellow DJ & producer Nick Hussey. The pair produced one of the biggest tunes this summer in “Samba Party” and decided to launch their own night called “voyage:” at cool new venue House 9, just off Deansgate Locks on Whitworth Street West. With decades of experience between them, they’ll be playing loads of great tunes from the past, present and future, all within a few yards of where The Hacienda used to stand.
Also celebrating over 15 years on the radio having worked for Kiss, Galaxy, Key 103, Radio City, Juice FM, Forth One and more, Parky understands 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 across without sounding like an idiot.' His weekly Graeme Park Radio Show airs on a number 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.
Whether through his sets, his radio shows or simply by getting to know that audience, Graeme has spent the last 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 Hacienda 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?