ARTIST FOCUS: THEO PARRISH

Trivia known to even the most casual of dance music observers, is that house music was created in Chicago, whilst techno came from Detroit. Two Midwest cities, both victims of socio-economic isolation, on either side of Lake Michigan that gave birth to modern electronic music. Although their sound and stable of figures are unique, their stories and fate are interwoven - and increasingly so. But what about an artist who overlaps the boundaries, occupying space influenced from both sides?

Our next artist focus puts the spotlight on one such anomaly. Theo Parrish is a cross-pollination of Chicago and Detroit. As such, his music is reflective of this upbringing.

Theo’s journey begins in neither of the aforementioned. Born in Washington DC, he later moved to Chicago, where he spent his junior years. Jazz music played a significant role in those early developmental years, no doubts crystalised by the input of his musician uncle, Dexter Sims. At the same time, house music was gaining a footing on a local level. Names such as Frankie Knuckles, Larry Heard, Ron Hardy, Lil’ Louis and Mike Dunn began permeating Theo’s curiosity. It was this exposure to music, coupled with the fertile breeding ground of mid-80s Chicago that saw Theo Parrish reach for the turntables himself - barely a teenager.

Graduating from the city’s College of Arts with distinction, saw an offer of scholarship from Kansas City university. Parrish was on his travels once again. During his time in Kansas, Theo tried to lift the blueprint from Chicago’s underground scene to start a musical and cultural revolution in his study town. Despite the obvious obstacles, he wasn’t entirely unsuccessful. It emphasised his tenacity and DIY attitude. Mirrored again, in his studies. He walked away from university in 1994, the proud recipient of a bachelor degree in Fine Arts. More importantly, he had used his further education to explore the possibilities of looped recordings, field and voice recordings and other techniques which were considered leftfield at the time. Next, his journey would take him to Motor City.

Upon arrival, Theo knew he wanted to play a part in Detroit underground music scene. An internship at Kevin Saunderson’s KMS record studio was an opportunity to get his foot in the door. In exchange for tidying, cleaning and running errard, Parrish was given access to valuable time in the studio and the equipment there. It was the break he had thirsted for.

This timeline of events would convalesce in Theo Parrish becoming one of the most pioneering artists from the group that became known as the Second Wave. His discography is gritty and urban. In attitude alone, it encompasses Detroit. Conversely, he is known to make the deepest house music on the planet - his Chicago upbringing shining through. It might be influenced by jazz, soul or even contain a rap vocal, but it always retains his raw signature. His Sound Signature imprint has over two decades of releases under its belt and is widely considered as seminal. Today, it nurtures the new wave of Detroit talent.

Outspoken and a staunch technophobe, it won’t surprise many to learn that Theo Parrish is a vinyl champion, all the while viewing music software and social media presence through a sceptical lens of disdain. For Theo, there are no shortcuts. Just committed passion and a willingness to test your boundaries. Love of the music should be the sole driving force. Detroit is renowned for being the birthplace of techno, but Theo Parrish joins contemporaries Moodymann, Omar-S and Delano Smith is proving its a city as much about house music too.

Being an artist so obsessed with “sound sculpture”, we’re confident the DJ and producer is relishing a return to E1 and an outing on the venue’s self-styled Funktion One Wall Of Sound. His forthcoming appearance at the intimate warehouse space is only 9 months removed his last visit, which underlines that management, artist and fans alike sought a quick for a reprieve. On Saturday 25th January, Parrish plays all night long in The Warehouse, while the legendary DJ has also hand-picked the support acts looking after the Black Studio.

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