Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

The Vinyl Straw.

If you're within easy reach of any kind of low-resolution image of an animal/celebrity/religious figure with a sarcastic 'COOL STORY, BRO' pasted over it, I'd strongly recommend having it at the ready. I was once making my way back from seeing Chicago house legends Virgo Four play at a club in London, but just as I'd settled in to my seat on the upper-deck of the night bus with the vehicle about to pull away, a flutter of taps peppered the window downstairs and we duly came to a premature, jolting stop, the doors hissing as they re-opened to welcome the stragglers on board. The hastily and purposefully arranged scowl of contempt that I shot at the stairwell in readiness as the stragglers were heard to plod upstairs was shattered in an instant, as leading the procession was none other than house and techno pioneer Theo Parrish. He sat himself down a few seats behind me, and throughout the course of the journey could be heard to grumble about anything and everything, from music, to cafes, to architecture, to traffic. This continued until I hopped off at Liverpool Street Station, leaving Theo and the N35 to trundle on through Shoreditch and Hackney, during which time I'd imagine the grumbling intensified ten-fold. Cool story, right bro? Admittedly, this is an anecdote that barely conjures up a condescendingly polite raise of the eyebrows coupled with a stifled yawn when told down the pub, and as such really shouldn't find itself shaping the introduction to an article in a city-wide magazine. However on this occasion, it's (more or less) justified. Theo Parrish is a man who likes to grumble, and one of his favourite gripes concerns the art of DJing, and above all the use of vinyl in said art. 'I'm not comfortable with convenience replacing artistry,' says Parrish in an online video feature for Slices - an interview he presumably pirouetted to, rather than face the ignominy of travelling in ease on public transport. DJs who use Serato, CDJs, or any other equipment that isn't straight up SL-1200s, a mixer and a huge mountain of wax do so because they 'didn't dedicate themselves to finding the records, or they're too lazy'. Theo's not comfortable with that. Wanna know what Theo is comfortable with? Well, lugging four cases of vinyl - as well as his own mixer - to each gig, according to the video's voiceover. All this trouble and effort just so that he can connect with his revelers using the purest musical form possible. Undeniably admirable, right? It would be, if Parrish wasn't such a sneering snob towards anyone who saves themselves time, money and back strain by not carting round industrial amounts of acetate for every gig. Certainly, there is no denying the quality and charm of both the sound and sight of a record spinning on a turntable, but to date a 320kbps MP3 or FLAC digital audio file hasn't reduced me to my knees, desperately clutching at my ears and wailing, "NOOOO, PLEASE LORD MAKE IT STOP!", and I see no reason why a disc jockey on the move shouldn't pack his bag with a laptop full of these instead of a stack of weighty vinyl. Seemingly the only thing that Parrish finds "lazy" about such behaviour is the physical element, as if having arrived at the venue in a sweaty, panting mess will somehow elevate the crowd's delirium to unprecedented levels. There is something to be said for technology detracting from the more skilful side of DJing. 'Art is not supposed to be easy', Parrish states in another recent interview for celebrated photographer Rankin's Hunger magazine. Many CDJ and laptop technologies these days come complete with auto-beatmatching functions, which go some way to making a finely trained ear and a keen technical knowledge almost redundant as mixing two tracks can be visualized in front of your very eyes, instead of woven together as the strands cross within your ears and meet on the peripheries of the subconscious. However, whilst the seamlessness of a set is important in maintaining flow and continuity, any good crowd will always favour top selection over pinpoint accurate blends. Any DJ who turns up and plays a set of well-chosen, considered tracks will always go down infinitely better than one who strings together an hour of easy-to-mix non-starters. As Parrish rightly points out in the Slices feature, 'now the artist is somewhat being forgotten because everyone forgot about the records themselves and is worried about the mixing - and that's more about the ego'. Vinyl is now largely seen as the last bastion of music in its purest, most organic form, and allows an artist a last remaining chance of identity amongst the thousands of MP3s that flood the web each and every day, but it is important to embrace the ways that new technologies can exist alongside the traditional mediums. Not doing so makes for a very tiresome early morning bus journey indeed. )

Next from Sound

The lyrics of Pulp

When Jarvis Cocker formed Pulp in 1978, little did he know his motley crew of outcast alt-pop weirdos would become one of the defining acts…

More Sound

Next article in issue 51

Cool Beans / STI / Peter Hook

4th May. Sheffield Students' Union. Reviewer - Ebony Nembhard. Beginning life as a freeform club night at the Raynor Lounge back in…

More Music

More Music