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Man Parrish
 
What's fascinating about the current electro revival is that to a lot of kids it sounds new, yet it actually predates every other style of electronic music they've been listening to.

Sure. 1982-83... somewhere in there, that's where everything--as far as I recollect--started. It came out of rap, stuff like Sugar Hill, "Rapper's Delight." Kraftwerk was the beginning of it as far as I'm concerned. People were listening to electronic stuff, but nothing really had a groove or a beat before Kraftwerk started. When Autobahn came out, it was totally mind-blowing. I remember sitting in a taxi-cab smoking a joint with the window open, I passed it to the driver, and when we got in front of my apartment--and I'm talking like 70-something--Kraftwerk came on. He turned the meter off and we just sat there and said, "Whoa, what's that?"

The way the history books have it, hip-hop wasn't using drum machines until "Planet Rock" came along, they were the first to use the 808, and from there everything changed.

Basically there were two teams of guys doing this music: Arthur Baker and John Robie, and myself and Raul Rodriguez. We were kind of side-by-side teams--often in the same studio--punching out a bunch of records. In fact, it got a little bit competitive--their record "Looking for a Perfect Beat" was kind of a dis on us, because if you notice, there's all these dog barks (similar to the ones on "Hip Hop Bee Bop"). They were saying, "They're looking for a perfect beat (meaning us), but you're not gonna find it because we have it!"

Oh, so was "Boogie Down Bronx" an answer back, because the MC says, "You got the perfect beat I heard you say."

It wasn't directly an answer track, but John (the MC) was aware of what was going on. There was a little bit of rivalry because Arthur and John Robie were studio musicians and I was a performer musician. I was out there with dry ice machines, the stage filled with smoke, glitter costumes, and make-up! It was glam hip-hop, which was non-existent. Everything else was break dancing and backward baseball caps. I would come out on stage in a flowing hood and a bunch of freaks on either side of me. Stuffed up the back of the cape was a dry ice machine and smoke would come pouring out of the face part. Then this scarecrow monster would run over and take the hood and six either kids or midgets would walk into the crowd with lanterns. It'd be at some black hip-hop club in the Bronx (laughes). I would get 2000 dollars for a 20 minute show and I would spend 2200 dollars putting the show together. So I got more attention as a performer than they did.

 

It sounds like you were doing rave stuff before it was anything. I mean, there was disco, but the 808 with all the glitter, that was something else.

Well, I hung around with the Andy Warhol crowd. We grew up in the glitter, freakazoid 70's free love and drugs and that kind of stuff. So my manifestation of it in the 80's was just an extension of what I already knew. It was performance and theatre art and music combined into one.

Musically, there wasn't much to look back on for influence in those days.

Yeah, it was pretty new. It was weird because I had a Lindrum machine, which had a real drum sound, but I kind of experimented with the 808 and people were really excited about it. To me, it was nothing big: you press some buttons, the lights flash, and you get some patterns. But it became the de facto standard for techno, acid, and trance--that and later the 909.

"Planet Rock" had vocals--so was "Hip Hop Bee Bop" one of the first hip-hop-ish, electronic-ish tracks to go without vocals?

Absolutely. I was doing ambient experimental music before--I was into Brian Eno. There was a place called the Mud Club where he'd hold court and we'd go and listen to him speak in awe. So music had to be art. That's how I approached it--I was more interested in doing art music than pop music. When "Hip Hop" came out, people wanted me to perform it, but I hated it, it wasn't a real song. There was no structure to it. It wasn't real music, it was a piece of audio art. How could people be interested in that?

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