TERRENCE PARKER with DINO & TERRY and EVIL P at System Soundbar (117 Peter), Saturday (November 9). $15 before midnight, $20 after. www.systemsoundbar.com
When word started spreading that Detroit house DJ Terrence Parker was retiring from touring, more than a few people were surprised. Retirement is usually forced on DJs when they stop drawing crowds, not something they choose to do while at the top of their game.
"Basically, I'm retiring from the touring aspect of DJing, the getting on airplanes and travelling every weekend," Parker explains from home.
"I've been DJing for over 20 years, travelling overseas since 1993, and since 1995 I've been going almost every weekend to some city in the world. Even bands that tour will take a break after two or three years of touring.
"The main thing is that I've got a family, a wife and two kids. We just had a baby boy four months ago."
As if on cue, the baby starts crying in the background.
"I also wanted to focus more on my faith and my personal relationship with God, which required that I slow down a little bit and pay more attention to what's really important in life."
Not that Parker is giving up music. He intends to focus more on producing and on the business of running his record label, Intangible. You'll still hear him doing sets for Internet radio on www.mocradio.com as well as a new gig on Detroit community radio, but the days of constant touring will soon be behind him.
Too bad. Parker's unique style is exciting to see in the flesh. After starting out as a hiphop DJ in the early 80s, he brought flamboyant showmanship to house mixing, which traditionally relies more on smooth transitions and beat-matching. Parker cuts, scratches and beat-juggles manically throughout his sets, taking the genre to a whole other level.
"No one mixes house music like I do, in terms of using hiphop techniques. The only person who comes close is Bad Boy Bill, but he's much more on the harder edge of house music. I'm mixing soft vocals, deep house, garage, disco classics and funk -- but I'll use doubles and beat-juggle, I'll scratch a cappellas in and use those kinds of tricks. If somebody else is doing that, I'd love to hear it."
Parker also stands out in the DJ booth for his use of a telephone receiver as a headphone, an idea borrowed from an earlier generation of DJs. The telephone is in some ways his mascot, but it serves a practical purpose as well.
"I used to use traditional headphones, but because I get very animated when I spin, I used to go through them too quickly. I don't think I ever had a pair of regular headphones that lasted more than six months. The telephone is so durable -- the one I have now I've had for close to 14 years. I haven't met a DJ yet who's had a pair of headphones as long as I've had my phone. It's also a lot louder than normal headphones. Usually, the DJ before me will have the headphone gain cranked, and when I come on I'll turn it right down. You just have to be careful not to hurt your ears with it."