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Andrea Parker - Parker? Yus, M'lady

Moody Andrea Parker is a walking disaster area. Good thing her insane, trainer sampling tunes are the biz then, isn't it?
Writer: Rob Fearn
Photographer: Alexis Maryon

ANDREA Parker sits in James Lavelle's MoWax offices, some time near the end of last year. She's spent a whole week of her life trailing from record company to record company. All the corporate suits are queuing up for the signature of the person they're calling "the underground Björk". But at every meeting she discovers there's a catch.
Those big labels want to set the ground rules, to change her sound by imposing a big name producer: someone like Nellee Hooper or Trevor Horn. Now Andrea is on her ninth appointment, at the A&M-backed Mo' Wax (Unofficial), home of all things dusted and blunted, DJ Shadow, DJ Krush, Attica Blues.
Andrea looks round at the graffiti paintings, the yellowed records, the vintage Star Wars models, and she's already convinced that Lavelle is going to hate her track. Well, MoWax is a trip hop label, isn't it? So she puts on her DAT tape, fearing the worst. But after two seconds, the bass kicks in. And all Lavelle's CDs come tumbling off the speaker.
"He just went, 'Yeah, it's cool. Let's go to A&M'," Andrea says with a throaty giggle.

BACK in the same MoWax building, and it's obvious things aren't going quite so smoothly today.
First off, this morning Andrea's earring fell down the loo. Then she dropped a spliff out of the window of her flat; it landed on a car and she had to throw a glass of water after it. To make matter worse, she's spent the whole afternoon waiting to do the photo shoot. Then when Mixmag snapper asked her to prop her cello against a wall it fell over and broke. It isn't too surprising, then, that Andrea is a bit tense when she finally starts talking about her much-delayed new single, 'Rocking Chair'.
"It's been cut nine times," she says slowly, through gritted teeth. "Then it then went to a lab in France to be tested. It's been the ultimate nightmare. Now I'm cutting it again tomorrow."
And the problem? Basically, Andrea's love of earth-shaking bass.
'Rocking Chair' sounds like no dance tune you've ever heard. Andrea's haunting, ethereal vocals float above the eerie sounds of a 40-piece orchestra (arranged by Rob D. of 'Clubbed to Death' fame), while the bassline hits like a cargo-door slamming on the emptiness of space. Okay, the Attica Blues mix is more club-oriented, with a chunkier, old skool electro feel. But both sides come over like the most extreme pieces of dance music you've heard in a long while. And they're also a bugger to put onto vinyl.
"i just love bass," says Andrea. "808 kicks, analog kicks and Arp synths. You can't beat a good bassline. For the bass in 'Rocking Chair' the microphone was on the floor of a car that was going through a car-wash. There's a lot more bass outside than people think. When you go round with a DAT player you're picking it up all the time, but you can't really hear it."
Andrea doesn't stop at car-washes either.
"There's been a load of weird sounds, " she says. "A lot of them are for bass tones, but I've taken a 4:4 kick from cat's eyes being run over. I sampled trainers on squeaky rhythmic. I'll make anything into a tune."
It's clear that Andrea Parker is hardly your average techno bore. She's even sponsored by Addidas and top woman's fashion company Ghost - and regularly swans about in the free clobber they send her. And while she's quick to point out that she's a cheerful person most of the time, there's no avoiding the fact that her music is intensely sad and moody.

TWENTY-four year old Andrea started out listening to the darkest fringes of electronic music - the Art Of Noise, David Sylvian and This Mortal Coil - moving through electro to the Detroit techno of Underground Resistance and Drexciya. Andrea grew up in Kent and used to travel up to London with her sister to go to weird industrial clubs. She worked as a store detective, a nurse in a mental institute ("I used to sit them round the piano and play them mad songs"), and at Soho's Fish hairdressers.
But her entry into music came with a job at Fat Cat records. She went on to record a string of singles, under the name of Inky Blacknuss with Fat Cat's Alex Knight and Ian Tregoning, and as Angular Art and Two Sandwiches Short Of A Lunchbox with R&S producer David Morley. Then, at the beginning of 1995, came 'Melodius Thunk', her first solo release for MoWax. The A side was a bass-heavy, bloopy slice of techno, the flip 'Atacama Giant',a lumbering instrumental, backed by a sorrowful cello line.
"I always write the best stuff when I'm really pissed off and moody," she says. "And I'm having another period in my life that's exactly like that at the moment. So the album should get going quite soon. I'll be on a roll."
Andrea actually comes across as quite intense, and when she breaks into one of her giggles, it seems like a release of tension. You can see how she sometimes feels the urge to bash her head to the sound of raucous, fucked-up, distorted techno.
"I just sit by a speaker where it's severely loud," she says. "You'll always find me at Lost [where Parker is a resident DJ] by the speaker when Jeff Mills is playing."
But why this need to explore strange sounds and head-fuck bass? Let's face it, many of Andrea's male counterparts probably only started DJing and making tunes to get the girls. So what drives her to make the music she does, other than her self-confessed love of "boy's stuff" - the cult of record-buying and trainer wearing?
"I'm a real thinker," she says. "I'll go off for the day and sit on a hill and think. I'm quite deep about life. Whether you're an artist or writing music, you've got to come up with something from inside yourself. To get inspired I can't just walk down the Holloway Road. It's just not deep enough. So rather than going to Ibiza or something, I went to Mexico and sat on loads of pyramids and wrote some songs. It's just part of being artistic. Some artists will do a still life. But others will just think of something - a vision in their head - and stick it onto paper. That's what my music's like. I get a vision and stick it onto vinyl instead of putting it on paper.
All this talk of "visions" and "artists" sounds a bit strange coming from a DJ, an earnestness that's a far cry from the throw-away nature of much of the scene. And, although Andrea has plenty of friends who make drum n' bass and house tunes, she's quick to dismiss the cheesier end of the dance spectrum ("It really does make me feel quite ill, actually. All that progressive nastiness that goes on these days", she shudders).
"I just feel like I'm in the scene on my own" she says at another point. "It's quite weird."
Andrea doesn't have much time for the fads and fashions of the music business. She's baffled by the all-too-easy Björk comparison ("We both like techno, and we're both woman - but that's as far as it goes", she insists). She also swears that, despite joining the MoWax stable, she'll never usa a breakbeat on one of her tunes.
"I'm not dissing other people," she explains. "But I personally can't do anything more with a breakbeat than what's done already. Everything seems to be merging into one huge breakbeat at the moment."

IT'S almost ten o'clock, and we're about to wind things up when two amiable Japanese guys, looking like a pair of 70s rockers with their long hair and faded denim flares, come ambling in from the downstairs studio. Toshi and Kudo from Major Force West have come to ask Andrea a favour. They've spotted her cello-case downstairs and they want her to play on a track they're doing for Japanese TV. But there's only one problem. Her cello's broken.
"I'm just one of those people," she says, after they've gone. "I'm really accident prone. I've written off loads of cars and stuff. It's a long standing joke at MoWax - they just call me Andrea the Walking Desaster. The other day I was doing another interview and I put my hand on the banister and the whole thing ripped off the wall."
So what else has she wrecked?
"We actually got three letters about 'Melodious Think' blowing up people's systems at home," she chuckles. "Someone wrote in saying 'Oh, cheers for the tune. I now have no bassbins left in my speakers'."
Walking disaster, lover of weird-and-wonderful sounds, not to mention addict to thunderous bass-lines. Her long-awaited album could be the most exhilaratingly original and out-there noise we've heard in years. We might be hearing a lot more from her.
Just watch out for your speakers.

Originally appeared in Mixmag