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An interview with DJSoS:
How did you get into dj’ing / producing?
A long time ago, in a galaxy far…far… away Actually Thunder Bay, Ontario, 1989 ; I saw a local DJ at an all ages night. His name was “DJ El Sid” (now known as Ryan7) and a Canadian top 10 DMC finalist. His ability to mix, scratch and perform – all the while playing danceable music – floored me. I have a vivid memory of asking him if he had “Behind the Wheel – by Depeche Mode” (it was 1989 don’t forget), he smiled at me – reached over to one of the ten bins of records he brought – pulled out two copies – and went to work. From that moment I knew what I wanted to do – period. In 1991 I got a job with a local DJ service and started out my career. This experience was invaluable, as it gave me the confidence and skills to stand in front of a room – talk on the microphone – and to be an entertainer as well as a music programmer. In 1994 I moved to Toronto and lived with Ryan7, along with a group of Thunder Bay Dj’s who left the small mill town. The group of us were eventually known as “The Barrie Bunch”, named after the street we lived on. I had gone from listening to old ZZ Top and playing harmonica… to Depeche Mode/New Order/Front 242… to record shopping once a week in Toronto for the newest dance music I could find. At first I relied on Ryan for guidance when it came to music, he was an authority among us as to what was new, and the “Yoda” figure of the group. Eventually we went on to create “The Entertainment Network” or as it was known “E! Network”. For three years we put on events in Toronto and ran an underground club called “ThE! SpacE!”. It’s fun to look back and remember the path that I took to progress from just a local small town rookie to being in demand across North America. As for producing my own music now, I feel that it is the natural progression of any artist to convert the ideas in thier head into a media that can be shared. This is my goal now as a producer; to take the ideas I have accumulated – using the knowledge I have gained over the years and to make them real…and share them.
What was it like trying to get into scene when you first started?
When I first arrived in Toronto, I had the advantage of being close friends with people already in the scene. I spent nearly a year holding back from promoting myself, so as to learn “what was what”. I was aware that being from a small town made me a little ignorant to what a Dj “really” was. I was lucky to come when I did, as the summer of ‘94 was the peak of the rave scene in Toronto. Experiencing the vibe at 5,000-15,000 single arena events in Toronto at that time is something that I cannot put into words. This experience made it possible to become known for who I was before it was known what I did. I made connections in the scene that continue to this day with people that got to know me as a person before they became interested in my talent. Exactly how i got discovered is a great true story: In the summer of 1994, a group of friends and I went to a party called “Aqua: A family affair”. I had played a gig at a club the night before, through a DJ service here in T.O. to make some extra cash. My records, which included a stack I had borrowed from Ryan7, were still in the truck we had driven to the event. In the morning the downstairs room was shut down. Most everyone was uninterested in the music being played by the previous DJ, and he gave up spinning. I approached the promoter and proposed that since the room was closed, but the equipment was rented until the end of the party… why not let me play for free. I could do no harm since no one was dancing, or listening for that matter – and he could kick me off at anytime. The promoter (named Carlos) agreed. I found my friends, went out to the truck and got my milk crate full of records. No one (except my friends) knew that I was a DJ, they only knew me as a dancer (famous for dancing with a 4ft inflatable Snapple bottle) and I started to play. Within the hour I had a dance floor, which grew… and grew… until the downstairs room was rocking. Then, to my surprise – Dr. Trance came downstairs. (***I later found out that the main room he was playing in, was shut down because everyone left. Word had spread that some DJ had started to play downstairs and the room was going crazy – he thought that maybe John E or Mark Oliver had shown up and went downstairs to investigate). As a rookie, I was further motivated to play now that a promoter of large events (Atlantis – at the time) and a DJ/radio icon was watching me. After a few minutes he came up and asked me who I was. "I’m a roommate of Ryan7" , to which he replied “Oh, that explains it – well… make sure I get your number… I want you to play for us.” You can’t imagine how exciting that moment was. Taking a room from nothing – to closing the party with everyone lighting sparklers – cheering – and Dr.Trance right there to see what I was capable of. I will never forget it. Since then Don Berns (Dr.Trance) has helped my career, by hiring me for his events – having me participate in his radio shows and by offering guidance. After that, I put a lot of effort into giving away tapes, shaking a lot of hands – and listening to what other DJ’s were doing. I learned a lot from Ryan, and since then I have worked at developing my own style of spinning.
What do you think are the most important elements involved in being a successful Dj / Producer?
I feel that any successful DJ/producer should also be a “performer”, because that is what (good) DJ’s are: performers. I have always believed that being a performer means providing people with a “package”. In my opinion, one component alone doesn’t make up how good a performer is – but the whole. Being someone who stands on a stage and says “look at me” should do something that people want to look at. Too many DJ’s pull down their Ball cap and stare at the mixer for an hour. I’ve spent plenty of time on the dance floor, as well as on stage – and I know that I expect more from any type of performance – as should anyone who pays to see me play. Now more than ever the crowd is educated (on a general level) as to what is a good set and what is a poor showing. I try and supersede what is expected of a “DJ set” by not only doing my best to give a great performance on stage, but to also provide people with a package that backs it up. I once had a shirt that said “This is Me”, and that is still true. I enjoy the music I play and it shows. But more importantly, I enjoy playing that music for people; and the people themselves. I think this is what sets me apart. A couple years ago I was involved in a serious accident, so I am unable to “go off” on the dance floor like I used to – but I do still try and stay in touch with what the “dance floor” is doing. I meet people, watch dancers and I am a part of what is happening the best way I can. By spending time interacting with the crowd they are able to see that I care about what I do. As a result, I can put emphasis on how we are connected. I say “we” because I feel the DJ and the dance floor are a collective, only possible when the DJ/performer interacts with the audience. People are often overwhelmed by the fact that I put that kind of effort into a show, and I am rewarded ten fold by their response. It is a true gift for anyone to make a living doing what they love. To me, that is one of the few real goals in life. I am able to do what I love, be appreciated for it – and most important of all: be able to make a difference.