Although he produced only a handful of tracks of renown and disappeared into obscurity almost as quickly as he had emerged from it, Manny ( Man ) Parrish is nonetheless one of the most important and influential figures in American electronic dance music. Helping to lay the foundation of electro, hip-hop, freestyle, and techno, as well as the dozens of subgenres to splinter off from those, Parrish introduced the aesthetic of European electronic pop to the American club scene by combining the plugged-in disco-funk of Giorgio Moroder and the man-machine music of Kraftwerk with the beefed-up rhythms and cut'n'mix approach of nascent hip-hop. As a result, tracks like "Hip-Hop Be Bop (Don't Stop)" and "Boogie Down Bronx" were period-defining works that provided the basic genetic material for everyone from Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys to Autechre and Andrea Parker -- and they remain undisputed classics of early hip-hop and electro to this day. A native New Yorker, Parrish was a member of the extended family of glam-chasers and freakazoids that converged nightly on Andy Warhol's Studio 54 club. His nickname, Man, first appeared in Warhol's Interview magazine, and his early live shows at Bronx hip-hop clubs were spectacles of lights, glitter, and pyrotechnics that drew as much from the Warhol mystique as from the Cold Crush Brothers.
Influenced by the electronic experiments of his good friend and co - writer Klaus Nomi and Brian Eno as well as by Kraftwerk, Parrish together with "Cool" Raul Rodriguez recorded their best-known work in a tiny studio sometimes shared with Afrika Baambaata, whose own sessions with Arthur Baker and John Robie produced a number of classics equal to Parrish's own, including "Wildstyle, " "Looking for the Perfect Beat, " and the infamous "Planet Rock." What distinguished "Hip-Hop Be Bop, " however, was its lack of vocals and the extremely wide spectrum of popularity it gained in the club scene, from ghetto breakdance halls to uptown clubs like Danceteria and the Funhouse. After he discovered a pirated copy of his music being played by a local DJ at theinfamous "Anvil" club ( NYC ), Parrish found his way to the offices of the Importe label (a subsidiary of popular dance imprint Sugarscoop and Disconet DJ mixing service), which whom he inked his first deal. He released his self-titled LP shortly after, and the album went on to sell over 2 million copies worldwide. He was signed to Electra Records and managed by David Bowie's notorious manager Tony De Fries and the infamous Main Man Ltd management team. Tony De Fries had managed careers of David Bowie, New York Dolls, Mott the Hoople, Mick Ronson and Dana Gillespie to name a few.
Following a period of burn-out that followed, Parrish recorded and remixed tracks for Michael Jackson, Boy George, Gloria Gaynor, and Hi-NRG group Man2Man, among others, and served as manager for the Village People and Crystal Water to name a few. While Parrish's subsequent material has achieved nowhere near the success or creative pitch of his earlier work, he continues to record from his brooklyn studio and is a frequent DJ at New York's eclectic night spots and SM clubs. His Sunday Underground Party "Sperm" at the "Cock Bar" on New Yorks lower east side, is notorious, to say the least ! He is main DJ and co founder for a circut party called "Hustlerball" which has parties in many cities worldwide. He also has several adult websites and online businesses which keep him busy as a webmaster, and "jack of all trades". His second LP, DreamTime, appeared on Strictly Rhythm in 1997.
Sean Cooper, All Music Guide
In the evolutionary history of electronic music, the primordial ooze from which everything sprang was definitely the work of Kraftwerk. But one of the very first living creatures to crawl out and walk on land was Soul Sonic Force's Planet Rock and similar New York futuristic hip-hop creations now referred to as electro (Juan Atkins' Cybotron project from Detroit was also in there early). "Planet Rock" was a twisted fusion of samples from Kraftwerk's Trans Europe Express and syncopated hip-hop beats, produced by Arthur Baker and John Robie. But Baker knew the song required a human presence to give the cold German synths a relevance to American audiences steeped in hip-hop culture, so he enlisted the services of Afrika Bambaataa, an MC with street cred and a George Clinton fashion sense. Techno was a few years off, but raw and dark electronic beats weren't quite ready to stand on their own two legs without support from a vocalist. He was just the guy pushing the buttons - and yet signed his own record deal with elektra and headlined Studio 54.
In October of 1983, a record literally came out of nowhere called Hip-Hop Bee Bop (Don't Stop) that hinted the electronic instrumental might have worth as its own species. There were a few dog barks and a voice chanting the title, but "Hip Hop" shot shivers down the spines of NYC's underground with just a Roland 808 and two simple synthesizers. What began as young Manny Parrish's (dubbed Man in Andy Warhol's Interview magazine) bedroom studio fuck around song went on to sell over two and a half million copies and whet listeners' appetites not only for instrumental electro but for the very idea of the producer as artist. Man Parrish didn't have a group or a vocalist (although he worked with both later), he was just the guy pushing the buttons--and yet signed his own record deal with Elektra and headlined Studio 54 (with Madonna as the opening act).
The concept of a producer as artist that actually got paid however had not yet caught on within the recording industry. Parrish received almost nothing for "Hip Hop," his schoolyard breaker's anthem Boogie Down Bronx, Heatstroke, Man Made or any of the other myriad projects he participated in. He eventually burned out from music production, making ends meet as among other things a male prostitute ("I'm the original freak") and the road manager for The Village People ("it was like being part of the Partridge Family"). The Skinny caught up with this overlooked innovator for a history lesson and revealing look at the music industry and its devastating effects on the careers of naïve artists.
Darren: 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.
Man Parrish: 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?"
Darren: 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.
Man Parrish: 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!"
Darren: Oh, so was "Boogie Down Bronx" an answer back, because the MC says, "You got the perfect beat I heard you say."
Manparrish: 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. 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.
Darren: 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.
Man Parrish: 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.
Darren: Musically, there wasn't much to look back on for influence in those days.
Man Parrish: 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.
Darren: "Planet Rock" had vocals--so was "Hip Hop Bee Bop" one of the first hip-hop-ish, electronic-ish tracks to go without vocals?
Man Parrish: 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?
Darren: Who was listening to "Hip Hop Bee Bop" when it first came out?
Man Parrish: It was played in a really wide spectrum: in black hip-hop clubs, in white underground places like Danceteria, in after-hours clubs. The radio station pumped it like crazy because I did vocoder spots for them and in exchange for payment, they put my stuff into heavy rotation. When you first hear it, you think, "Huh, weird instrumental track." But the more you listen to it, it's like, "This is really interesting." It even happened to me: I used to hate it at first.
"Hip Hop Bee Bop" came out of going to this club called The Funhouse, a hip-hop club where Jellybean (John Benitez) was the DJ and this skanky girl with long black hair and hairy armpits hung out wearing a shirt that said "I'M MADONNA." We'd make a track, get an acetate, and run out to the club that night and test it on the floor. If the crowd liked it, they would bark and if they didn't, they would literally boo. That's where we got the dog barks for "Hip Hop." We wanted to make a song that reflected that scene.
Darren: So how did you get that record out?
Man Parrish: When I first started out I was so broke I made this song called "Heatstroke" as a soundtrack for a porno movie. Some DJ had sampled it off the movie, made an acetate, and somebody told me, "Hey they're playing your music at this club." I ran down to the club and all of a sudden my song came on. I asked the DJ, "Wait a minute, where'd you get that record? It's my music." He told me, "That's your music? Come down to the record company, they'll sign you on the spot."
Darren: That song did really well. Did you do make good money from it?
Man Parrish: I got nothing--it was the classic first record rip-off deal. I would go to the label and literally beg for rent. The guy who owned it bought a plane, a house in Vermont, and a Porsche with a hand-carved dashboard. It was how everyone did it back then.
Darren: But it's been included in a bunch of compilations and mix CDs recently--Tommy Boy's Greatest Beats, Andrea Parker's DJ Kicks--you must be getting something now...
Man Parrish: Nope. Some Canadian company owns it now--all I own are the actual samples. I want to give them to Andrea Parker and have her do something with it. I would love for her to re-do it. "Planet Rock" and "Hip Hop Bee Bop" weren't made by starving kids in the ghetto with a message, they were made by whiteboys who wanted to party and dance a little.
Darren: Did you think what you were doing back then would have created all of this?
Man Parrish: No way in hell. We were doing art music, I never thought it would do anything. Hip-hop was really big at the time, so I figured that would be really big, but I never thought this weird electronic stuff would live on. There was a big divergence between what we were doing and what the hip-hop kids were doing. "Planet Rock" and "Hip Hop Bee Bop" weren't made by starving kids in the ghetto with a message, they were made by whiteboys who wanted to party and dance a little. So the two split and became separate things.
Darren: So you're DJing now... do you have any timeline for producing music again?
Man Parrish: I'm buying lots of equipment right now, but I don't have any definite plans to release music. Let me explain something that I think people would be interested in. When someone has a hit record that does really well, you often wonder what happens to the musician who made it. What happens is you go through this huge change in your life, it's a big rush, people know you, people want to see you, people interview you. Your life is exciting--you may or may not be making money, but you're traveling and things are really good. But it doesn't last very long. The bigger you get and the longer your career lasts, the harder you fall.
It's really hard because all of a sudden your life changes again. "Wow, my life's exciting, I have so many things to do today. My week is booked, my month is booked." Then all of a sudden you wake up and there's nothing to do. "Ah man, I wish I could go to Florida and see my friends or go to Paris," and not because you're a jet-set snob, but because you did it and it's exciting. A lot of people go through a hard crash and get really mentally fucked up. People don't talk about this but I've seen it happen. It happened to me on a smaller scale. You get really depressed, your life sucks, and you're a used-up has been. It damages you emotionally. You don't want to do another record and have it fail; you don't want to do another record and have it succeed because you don't want to crash on the other side again. I mean, I'm dying to have another record come out, but do I want to go through all that again? It's like doing coke: you're going to have a rush, but you have to pay for it.
Man Parrish is currently DJing weekly in at a party called Sperm in New York and earning his living selling male porn on the Web. You can reach him at or through the Man Parrish Website.
March 2004, Interview by Darren Keast
Each entry listed indicates a unique and individual recording released to the public. This is a master list of all recordings released to date, in various formats (CD-LP-12").
Heatstroke, 12" (Polydor LTD. (U.K.))
Hip Hop Be Bop, 12" (Unidisc)
Hip Hop Be Bop / Heatstroke, 12" (Sugarscoop Records)
Hip Hop Be Bop (Don't Stop), 12" (Importe/12 Records)
Man Made, 12" (Importe/12 Records)
Man Parrish, LP (Importe/12 Records)
Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don't Stop), 12" (Polydor LTD. (U.K.))
Heatstroke / Man Made, 7" (Polydor LTD. (U.K.))
Heatstroke / Hip Hop Be Bop (Don't Stop), 12" (Rams Horn Records)
Heatstroke, 12" (WEA)
Man Parrish, LP (Rams Horn Records)
Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don't Stop), 7" (Rams Horn Records)
Six Simple Synthesizers, 12" (Rams Horn Records)
Boogie Down, 12" (Polydor LTD. (U.K.))
Boogie Down Bronx, 12" (Boiling Point)
Boogie Down, 12" (Sugarscoop Records)
Boogie Down, LP (Rams Horn Records)
Boogie Down (Bronx), 12" (Rams Horn Records)
Hey There, Homeboys, 12" (Rams Horn Records)
Boogie Down, 12" (Rams Horn Records)
Hip Hop Be Bop (Don't Stop) / Boogie Down (Bronx), 12" (Old Gold Records Ltd.)
The Best Of Man Parrish, CD (Rams Horn Records)
Hip Hop Bee Bop, CD (Unidisc)
Hip Hop Be Bop (Don't Stop), 12" (Hot Associated Label)
Hip Hop Be Bop, 12" (Breakin' Records)
Male Stripper, 12" (Bolts Records)
Male Stripper, 7" (Bolts Records)
Male Stripper, 12" Remix (Bolts Records)
Male Stripper / All Men Are Beasts, 12" (Recca Records)
Male Stripper, 12" (High Fashion Music)
I Need A Man, 12" (ZYX)
Male Stripper, 12" (ZYX)
Male Stripper, 12" (Mega Records)
DreamTime, CD (Hot Records)
Best Of Man Parrish, CD (Hot Records)
Man Parrish 2nd Album, CD (Man Made Records / Hot Associated)
If You Think You’re Nasty, CD (Man Made Records / Hot Associated)
Hey There Home Boys 12" (Sugarscoop Records)
Brown Sugar 12" (Select Records)
Just Want To Be 12" (Sugarscoop Records)
In The Bottle 12" (Emergency Records)
Who Me 12" (Select Records)
One Look Was Enough 12" (Dice Records)
Motor Bike 12" (Throb Records)
Smooth 12" with Freddy Fresh (Obsessive)
Hip Hop ReBop 12" Ed Dmx Mix (DMX Records)
REMIXES / PRODUCTIONS
Paul Parker "One Look" (Man Parrish Mix), 12" (Dice Records)
Michael Jackson "Speed Demon" (Remix) Sony/Epic
Village People "YMCA" (Man Parrish Live Show Remix)
Village People "Macho Man" (Man Parrish Live Show Remix)
Village People "In The Navy" (Man Parrish Live Show Remix)
Village People "San Francisco" (Man Parrish Live Show Remix)
Village People "Trash Disko" (Man Parrish Live Show Remix)
Two Sisters "High Noon" (Sugarscoop Records)
John Sex "Rock Your Body" (Dream Records)
Boy George & Marilyn "Spirit In The Sky" (Man Parrish Live Show Remix)
Company B "Fascinated" Remix (Hot Productions)
Gloria Gaynor " I Am What I Am" Original Version (S. Blue Records)
Donna Destri "Rebel Rebel" (Main Man Records)