Graeme Park, a Pioneer of British House Music
24 Jun 2019
Graeme Park’s real love affair with music began the mid ‘80s while working at a sleepy record store in Nottingham called Selectadisc. One afternoon some US imports arrived, and he ripped the shrink wrap off a 12” called “Music is the Key” from an unknown Chicago DJ named JM Silk. “What I assumed was going to be either a soul or funk groove blew my mind,” Park said in an interview with Shiiine On. He’d just consumed one of the first true hits of the incoming house music explosion. His colleagues at the record store hated it, but Park knew this was innovation.
Who knows where the legendary house DJ Mike Pickering went on holiday in the summer of 1988. Our best guess is Ibiza. What’s important is what happened as a result. Before setting off, Pickering contacted the young Park and asked him to cover his slot at The Haçienda. Park had been making a name for himself for forward-thinking DJ sets at smaller nightclubs around the North. Now he set to perform at the most influential club in the UK.
That year house music was just beginning to take over the consciousness of British youth culture, and Park’s debut set at The Haçienda was filled with pioneering records coming out of Chicago, Detroit and New York. Now boomed out to 2,500 clubbers instead of his usual small club crowd, the reception was explosive. Park’s avant-garde style fitted The Haçienda like a glove - when Pickering returned he made him an official resident DJ. Park would remain at the club for eight years.
If you had to decide on the four nightclubs that instigated the 1989 ‘Summer of Love’ in the UK, then it would be Shoom (Danny Rampling), Future (Paul Oakenfold), Trip (Nicky Holloway), and The Haçienda (run by Pickering and Park). These were the cradles in which the squelching sound of acid house was given its British birth, and Park was at the forefront of it all, pushing the musical hedonism into new realms.
Flash forward to the here and now and Park is regarded as a legend, both for his role in the rise of rave culture in the UK and his tendency to keep innovating. In 2016, he helped launch Hacienda Classical where the original residents perform alongside Manchester Camerata to recreate classic club records with a full orchestra and guests. The much acclaimed show has opened Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage and has headlined Isle Of Wight Festival twice as well as selling out many hometown Manchester and Royal Albert Hall events.
At a time when it feels like so much contemporary music culture is a repetition of what has gone before, Park’s enduring presence in dance music is a reminder of a period when British nightclubs were bold, inventive and radical spaces. That’s not to say those days won’t come again, even sooner than we might expect. Park now guest lectures at Glyndwr University in Wrexham, bestowing his wisdom on the record label owners and club promoters of tomorrow. And, of course, he’s still DJing; now in his 30th year behind the decks. “For my entire career I’ve been finding good tunes that I want other people to hear,” he says. “The reason I keep doing it is simple: it’s my mission in life to let people hear good music.”
Pretty Green are giving you the chance to win a pair of tickets to an exclusive live performance and interview with legendary DJ Graeme Park at the Pretty Green Manchester store, hosted by Clint Boon. Enter here