MANPARRISH.COM : INTERVIEW

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New York icon, Man Parrish on sex, music, Madonna, Klaus Nomi, stripping in Go-Go bars and how it feels to be a legend. It's a full confession. He's on his knees and praying for absolution…..

Punk Globe: Give us some background about yourself, a snapshot of your early life and the cultural dynamics that shaped you and made you who you are.

MAN PARRISH: First of all, I'm so old, I feel like a Vampire or a Lycanthrope… did you know I helped to invent water? I was born in Brooklyn New York and adopted, as my birthmother obviously spread her legs and couldn't keep me. Am I bitter? Absolutely not. My adopted mother had severe psychological problems. Back in those days she was just a little "crazy". But now looking back on it, she was clearly schizophrenic. In those days, there wasn't much mental health awareness, so her illness went untreated. Because of that, I left home at an extremely early age. I was 14 years old! I was tall so I look like I was 18 or 19. I was immediately scooped up by some flaming queen who happened to work at the infamous Continental baths in New York City where I would sneak in. Well, at least I got to see the then unfamous Bette Midler perform her now famous "bath house show", with her yet to be famous piano player, Barry Manilow. We all sat around in bathhouse towels while she and Barry performed in towels on stage, totally twisted! So talk about cultural dynamics that shaped my life, that was a pretty early start. There I was, 14 years old and in my first "club". Twisted?… Yes, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Punk Globe: Tell us about the music that made an impression on you in your youth.

MAN PARRISH: I was a pretty funky white boy. While all my friends listened to pop music and rock 'n roll, I was into bands like Sly And The Family Stone and the Motown artists. I definitely love my RnB and Funk. When I got slightly older I was very into the glam scene like David Bowie. At 16 years old I went to work for my longtime friend Cherry Vanilla. She had just finished working for David Bowie. I clearly remember going to the Circus with Angie and Zowie Bowie, and being invited to Electric Lady Studios with Cherry, in New York City, to listen to the yet on released version of Bowie's "Young Americans" straight from the 24 track tape in the studio. I was so out of my mind crazy, that I didn't realize what an historic musical moment that was. I got involved in the New York City "art" scene and hung out at art galleries, performance spaces and hipster downtown clubs. That was at the very beginning of electronic music. Kraftwerk made a huge impression on me musically. Nothing sounded like that at that time, at all. I remember clearly stating if I wanted to do music, I wouldn't want to have a band. I would want to have synthesizers and make my own music. I was so "artsey – fartsey" it was pathetic… Also during this time, since I was broke, I used to work at the Metropolitan Opera House, on-stage as an "extra", that's a non-singing part in an opera. I was basically one of the "crowd" on stage when they had big operatic scenes. We used up all drop acid and, not only go to the opera, but actually be in the opera, so shameful, so wonderful!

Punk Globe: Did you always want to express yourself through making music? Tell us about how you first got into the music business. Were you seeking fame, glamor and sexy boys?

MAN PARRISH: When I was a child, I took piano lessons. By the third lesson, I told my teacher to go fuck herself, and got hit across the knuckles with a ruler, literally. That's when I knew music was for me… Ha ha! A few years after running away from home, and sleeping on several couches later, I wound up staying with a bunch of old hippie artist types. At 16 years old, they turned me onto LSD, marijuana, organic mescaline, and hashish. We used to listen to "trippy electronic music" when we were stoned. I went out and bought a small synthesizer "kit" that you would solder together to make a primitive synthesizer. We would smoke weed and sit around, while I twisted the dials and made "head music" for our drug induced stupors. Later on that small synthesizer grew into a huge collection of expensive machines. Since I was one of the first guys in New York City to have a synthesizer "rig", people would approach me all the time to produce records or do film scores for small movies. At 22 years old, I did several soundtracks for porn movies. It was the only thing that actually paid me back in those days. One of those films called "Heatstroke" which is now apparently a legendary gay porn film, I did the soundtrack for. The DJ called Lance Weiss, back at the infamous Anvil club in New York City's meat packing district, made an acetate recording of my music, off the Betamax porn tape, and played it at the club. That was the song "Heatstroke" on my first album. A friend told me about my song being played at the club so I met the DJ, and he took me up to a record company and got my song signed to a record deal, which grew into a full-length album. So to make a long story short, how did I get into the music business? Well, I have to think the porn industry for that… LOL

Punk Globe: How do you feel about those early tracks?

MAN PARRISH: I have mixed feelings. Obviously creatively I've grown since then. I can't read or write music, so everything is done by ear. Had I known more about music and music theory, I could've done wonderful things. On the other side, my first album has this wonderful childish "innocence" as I knew nothing about producing or recording music. It was just pure creativity, without any of the bullshit of a structured music education getting involved to screw it up. So on that level I cherish it. Later on I was managed by Main Man, David Bowie's infamous manager Tony DeFries. I remember him clearly telling me that electronic dance music would never get anywhere. That I would have to get a rock 'n roll band, and slide across the stage like David Bowie and lick the guitar of my guitar player. So much for his management views… but, I did get to meet the legendary Mick Ronson. Oh my god, what a sweetheart!

Punk Globe: You've been described as one of the most influential figures on the NY club scene. Give us a blow-by-blow account of your adventures. Give us the dish on Studio 54, Danceteria and those Bronx hip-hop clubs. How many smokin' hot pop stars did you kiss? We want names.

MAN PARRISH: I've come to the conclusion that when people call you a legend, it's just a polite way of saying you're an old fart… Ha ha! You have to remember that back in those days there was no social media or on-line interaction. If you wanted to have friends, or any kind of social interactions with people you went to a club. Bars were for alcoholics, clubs where the party was at. Early on it was Rock 'n Roll clubs like Maxes Kansas City, and CBGB's. I would see legendary then unknown act Aerosmith, driving down from Boston in their van, doing a show, and then hanging out side the club trying to get some "pussy". I saw David Bowie and Brian Eno introduce a new cool band called "Devo" for the first time, eyesore Bruce Springsteen get booed off the stage for doing an acoustic set. I got to see Blondie, Talking heads, Joan Jett and The Runaways, Television, Suicide, Jane County, Paul Zone (who I later did man-2-man with) and his group The Fast, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Ny Dolls… I could go on. And this was not some huge performance space, it was a small narrow club the size of a storefront on two floors with a bunch of tables and we would hang out with the performers afterwards. I remember hanging out upstairs at the Mudd Club with a bunch of people and Brian Eno was complaining about how everybody thought he was gay and it was hard for him to get laid. That kinda ruined my respect for him. Later on when the rock 'n roll scene died, I became more involved in the dance music scene as that became more popular. By that time, I had my record out. So we would perform at places like Danceteria, Hurrah's and The Fun House, where legendary DJ "Jellybean" was the head DJ with his girl friend, the then unknown "Madonna". We used to call her the Skank. She had black hair, hairy armpits, and a T-shirt that said 'I Madonna'. Tragic. I got to go to wonderful clubs like Area Club in New York , where every month they completely reconstructed the inside of the club. Those were the days of amazing clubs! At Area Club, one month you would walk in and they would cut holes in the floor, put glass over it and have a giant fish tank with sharks swimming in it. The next month, the whole place was filled with artificial hedges like an outdoor Versailles garden maze. I spent every Friday, or Saturday at Studio 54. It truly was legendary. Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol, Halston, Diana Freeland, Lee Majors, Farrah Fawcett, Keith Herring (who by the way was a club friend we used to see every weekend), Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Cary Grant, Lauren Hutton, Gloria Vanderbilt, Mark Gastineau, Gina Lollobrigida, and Brooke Shields to name a few. I actually got to perform twice at Studio 5. I descended from the ceiling to a packed house of Hollywood and New York's Royality and stars. Once was for the Fiorucci 10th anniversary party, were Madonna was MY opening act. The second time, was for George Lucas and the after premiere opening party of Return Of The Jedi. They insisted I have this giant laser 'light-saber', and I nearly burnt out the retinas of half the audience. The things we got away with in those days… oh my God! We used to go to Andy Warhol parties and any place where we could get in for free and be "fabulous". I was definitely a club whore and loved every minute of it.

Punk Globe: We've all danced to Male Stripper at some point in our lives. How did that track come about? And how did you feel when it became a global smash?

MAN PARRISH: Paul Zone was a friend of mine from back in the old club days. At that time it was "high-energy music like the Stock, Aitkin and Waterman tracks. Paul wanted to re-create that sound so we did 'Man2Man, Male Stripper' just to be outrageous. It was done in my bedroom studio on an eight track half-inch tape recorder, Which by the way it is what I used for my first album as well. Nobody could afford a 24 track machine which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. So basically I was at the very beginning of the home-made studio, which is so commonplace right now. I remember Male Stripper cost about $50 to produce, to cover the cost of the tape. We did the whole thing in about six hours. Now you have to remember, back in those days there were no computers, midi, or sequencers. Everything was still analog and driven by control voltages. It was basically a nightmare to synchronize the different rhythmic patterns on various synthesizers and get them to record all in time to tape. I was the king of "stop starting" and punching in on tape, to get small snippets of rhythm to synchronize together. Now of course we have midi, and computers that synchronize everything together. So it was truly manual labor to put those tracks together. I do remember cringing when Paul, Mickey and I were singing "strip for me, I'll strip for you, strip for me cause I want you to…" I thought 'this track is so awful, it will never see the light of day'. But it was quite camp that we did it. I forgot about it. About a year later, somebody called me and told me we had a huge Pop hit climbing the UK pop charts. I said what "hit"? They said Man2Man Meets Man Parrish - Male Stripper. It took me 20 minutes to rack my brain on what song Male Stripper was. I could only imagine the look on my face when I realized it was "that" song.. .OMG I thought i would be drawn and quartered for having my name associated with it.. Not that it had gay overtones or anything like that, but that it was just sooooo bad. It became a huge worldwide hit. It was actually banned from the BBC, after we did 'Top of the Pops', since we had two "male strippers" unbuttoning their shirts and trying to show flesh on national British television. A big Thank You to England's censor bureau for banning us. That shot it right to the top of the charts… scandal! I remember when I went over there, the publicity agent from the small record company told all the press I was screwing Madonna. I wound up for a whole week on the front cover of the Evening Standard, and News of The World as Madonna's new boyfriend. That's a whole separate story that I'll put in my book.

Punk Globe: Which track are you most proud of and why?

MAN PARRISH: I have different tracks which I am proud of. I'm particularly fond of 'Man Made' from my first album, It's a dark "Kraftwork-ish" type of track. I love the special remix I did of a Klaus Nomi track called 'Total Eclipse', for his documentary movie. Giorgio Moroder meets Grand Opera… love it! Lately I've been getting into film scoring which I'll talk about in a bit, but being able to use synthesizer and orchestra together is a total mind fuck for me, so I'm quite proud of some of the new "hybrid" things I've been doing with synth and orchestra.

Punk Globe: How important is sex and sexuality in the creation of amazing club music?

MAN PARRISH: Here's a fact… Warning: Doing the bump and grind on the dance floor may lead to serious penile erections…. I don't know… Did that answer the question?

Punk Globe: You've worked with some of the most famous names in music. Who did you enjoy most working with? Who turned out to be a nightmare? And did any of them get to blow you?

MAN PARRISH: Blow me? How dare you ! I'd like to quote a line from the Pink Flamingos movie and Divine [who I was supposed to produce a record for, before she died]. Said…"they're all going to pay for eating me. I'm nobody's free lunch!"… Blowing me, no eating me out, maybe… let's see let's drop some names here… Boy George, Michael Jackson, Gloria Gaynor, Crystal Waters, Klaus Nomi, The Village People, yes even them… Hmmm… all wonderful, all monsters. Let me be brutally honest with you. In order for somebody to stand up in front of a crowd of thousands of people and want to be admired and loved [a.k.a. a star] you have to have some deep seated and fucked-up needs that are not met. When obviously the love of one person is not enough, and you have to stand in front of an arena full of people to feel loved, let's just say you have some "issues". But… The wonderful part about that is that it drives people to extremes to create wonderful pieces of creativity that we all love and cherish. From emotional damage often comes beautiful music. As my drag queen friends often say "working out bitch". Most people, including myself, are nightmares. But it's what drives us to do such wonderful things. And with regard to The Village People, I got to manage them for six years on the road. I often tell people I felt like Shirley Partridge driving the bus in The Partridge family TV show. It was shameful, tacky, amazing, wacky, and fabulous all of the same time. It was like Animal House meets the Bay City Rollers. I got to travel the world, fly on the Concorde, and even be in Berlin when The Wall was coming down. As a boy from Brooklyn, that was pretty cool…

Punk Globe: Boy George and Marilyn! Tell us like it was!

MAN PARRISH: If I told you like it was, I would have a lawsuit on my hands. But I will tell you this, in my book I am not holding back. All I can say is my best friend, Michael Rudetsky is dead. That didn't happen before he met George. Marilyn, I think is fabulous. He's gotten his shit together and is writing his own book. He keeps at it and is still doing music. When Boy George at the height of his career came to my house in Brooklyn, my sister told everybody in school that he was coming. The front of my house were about 300 people jamming the street. It look like the opening to Studio 54. Thank God George was 6 1/2 hours late as most of the people got tired of waiting and went home. We spent a week with George and Marilyn recording, and then performing on stage at the famous Palladium mega club in New York City. After that we went to Area Club in New York. George had a huge asthma attack. I remember carrying him out into the side alleyway and calling for his limo to take them away. I got into a huge fight with the photographer who was trying to take picture of George struggling to breathe. George profusely thanked me for "saving his life". I told him just go back home to the hotel, and feel better and that I'd check in with him the next day. The next day when I called the hotel Marylin answered the phone. I said 'Hey it's Man Parrish, how's George feeling?'. They slammed the phone down on me. I called back again, and Marilyn said' Who's this?", I said 'Man Parrish'. He said 'We don't know no Man Parrish, don't ever call here again', and slammed the phone down on me. Confused, I called my friend Michael Rudetsky who had worked all week with me and George on Marilyn's track. He called them, and called me back. He said they felt uncomfortable being around me because I didn't take drugs. I have a lot more dish but I'm going to put that in my book not reveal it here.

Punk Globe: Give us a snapshot of Klaus Nomi.

MAN PARRISH: Klaus was one of the kindest, sweetest people I've ever met. He was also a pastry chef and would cook wonderful cakes and cookies for us to eat at his apartment in the East Village. I met Klaus Nomi at something called the New Wave Vaudeville Show in NYC. It was basically a talent show for all the local starlets and freaks. I was working with Lance Loud [who had the original Reality TV series in the 70's called American Family, where cameras documented their life in suburbia]. Lance asked me if I wanted to go in with him and do a spot in New Wave Vaudeville Show. I said 'sure'. At that time disco was dead and the sex pistols were all the rage. Being the scandalous shit stirrers that we were, we decided to do a disco version of Anarchy in the UK. Scandal ! Lance used to live at the famous Chelsea Hotel in New York City and so did Sid and Nancy. Sid actually helped us with the chord changes on the track. That was amazing! I did a Giorgio Moroder meets Donna Summers meets The Sex Pistols track which we performed. Hideous! Afterwards we were sitting in the dressing room. All of a sudden the blaring continuous sound from the stage had stopped. This loud orchestra crash started and we heard an angelic operatic voice singing. People came running into the dressing room saying "You have to see this guy on stage it's fucking amazing".. there on stage was Klaus, done up in space make-up with pointy hair, a clear plastic raincoat, a smoke machine, doing robot moves and singing with his own voice in falsetto women's range, high operatic style, under a strobe light. What a mind fuck! Afterwords back in the dressing room everybody crowded around him. I waited for everybody to subside, went up to him and told him that he was amazing. He told me he loved my synthesizer track and maybe we could work together. That was the start of a wonderful friendship. I worked on his albums, and helped do his live shows. Klaus was one of the first people in New York City to get HIV-AIDS. Back then they didn't have a name for it and called it "GRID" [Gay Related Immune Deficiency] and gave you penicillin to treat it. I remember visiting him in the hospital room. We had to put on face masks downs and Berber gloves because they thought it was transmittable by touching him. Another New York City legend John Sex also got sick shortly afterwards too. It was like this bomb that went off in New York, and people were dropping like flies. Thank God they have come along way at treating people with HIV. It's no longer a death sentence.

Punk Globe: You're currently working on your auto-biogaphy. Will this be a full confession?

MAN PARRISH: Does a bear shit in the woods? Does the Queen Mother squat to pee? Of course it will be a full confession! Dirty, dishy, fabulous, amazing, and loaded with stories that'll make your nipples perk right up! I'm trying to do it in small snippets that will make it easily digestible. Three or four pages on each tidbit, then you could put it down, pick it up later and read another few pages on the bus on the way to work. I'm not holding back

Punk Globe: Give us the dish on working with the fabulous Donna Destri and The Holy Trinity!

MAN PARRISH: Donna Destri is an old friend of mine. When I was a Main Man artist (Bowie's Manager) Donna, who I knew, was also there too. I produced the Bowie track Rebel-Rebel for her. Looking back, it's really funny to listen to now...

We've kept in touch all these years. Fast forward and Donna sends me this wonderful track, done by her and Steven Jones. She wanted to know if I liked it. I immediately said I wanted to re-mix it, without her asking. It came out great! The artist name Steven thought up was "The Holy Trinity" for Donna, Steven and myself.. Loved it!! Steven has a really wonderful and soulful "dark, moody" voice that touches your soul. Donna's vocals are like buttah! The contrast between the two is what I call "intelligent, listenable dance music" and creates these wonderfully moody tracks. I think they are an amazing duo that once the world discovers, everyone will totally be in love with! Deep, rich textures, thoughtful and smooth.. Good stuff!

Punk Globe: How do you see your musical future? Do you still wanna make people dance?

MAN PARRISH: Music has drastically changed since I started. It used to be that you had to get a record deal and some wannabe asshole with a desk job to listen and understand your music. Record companies have been ripping off artist for years. Most of the public doesn't know that a new artist only gets 10% average of record scales, and record companies keep the other 90%. Today with digital distribution like iTunes and wonderful companies like Cdbaby, you can keep all the profits for yourself, and get distributed to millions of people worldwide, without a record company deciding whether they like you or not. So, I see my musical future is wonderful. I get to put out what I want, when I want, and it either sinks, swims, becomes a hit or fails. And I don't have to worry about my record company dropping me for not being able to put out my next record. Even the greatest artists in the world have put out shit. But that doesn't mean that their next piece won't be a masterpiece. It's a wonderful time to be an artist. And if you're in Older Artist caught in the transition, you better understand that it's a new day and a new playing field and get your stuff out online. As far as still wanting to make people dance, I love doing dance music and remixes, and constantly keep myself fresh by still DJ-ing every week in clubs in New York City. Instead of being some 'Elite' DJ Artist, I am in the trenches every week and actually get to see what people respond to. It keeps me fresh, on my toes, and thinking. I wouldn't give it up for the world.

Punk Globe: Rumur has it that you wanna get into scoring movies. Tell us everything.

MAN PARRISH: It's not a rumor, it's the truth. As I get older, like an old cheese, I get more refined and better. Just like any human being my musical tastes change. I happen to be a huge movie buff. I literally go to the movies once or twice a week. I love when a good film score is raging and you're on the edge of your seat watching a good film. Films like Blade Runner, Batman, Schindler's List, and others where the music is a huge driving force in how you feel emotionally got me interested in film scoring. It's not so different from producing records. You get in the mindset that you want to take people on a "trip" with your music. Film scoring for me is the next logical progression. I recently went to university to study film scoring. I had a wonderful teacher and each week we got to score a different style of movie. Horror, comedy, adventure, love stories (etc). I had never used an orchestra before, because I thought it was big and scary and couldn't understand it. They broke it down to the simple basics and now I have this new additional pallet of sound, via orchestra, at my fingertips. I'm a big fan of Vangelis. Two years ago I spent two weeks in Greece with him and my dear friend Cherry Vanilla who works for him. I didn't understand why Vangelis had dropped synthesizers and went into orchestral music. After studying film scoring I understand why he is now using orchestra. The only difference with me is that I haven't given up on my synthesizers, I now use orchestra as an additional sound palette. And being an old bitter drama queen, it makes for wonderful dramatic music.

Punk Globe: How does it feel to be an NY music legend?

MAN PARRISH: New York legend?, Please bitch! That would be worldwide legend, thank you… LOL! Like I have often mentioned before, the word "legend, is just a polite way of saying you're an old fart and been in this business way too long… ha ha ha! I ain't going nowhere, and still kicking ass, baby ! Now where the fuck is my lifetime achievement award?!?

Man Parrish can be seen, heard, and yelled that at the following:
www.ManParrish.com
www.FaceBook.com/ManParrishArtist
www.SoundCloud.com/ManParrish-1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv7j8nq5zvw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7swlR_G9ZVQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGF_ZP1YKPI


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