The Gazette from Montreal, Quebec, Canada on March 4, 1990 · 40
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The Gazette from Montreal, Quebec, Canada · 40

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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 4, 1990
Page:
40
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tn y - On thin ice CFCF may axe radio broadcasts of Canadiens games, Mike Boone says. Page F5 -mr y,. ... ,... ..... . Reel rights & ' . Blacks finally get . chance to make 'U&fan movies in Hollywood. If -Vi,'2 ssVjl ' P253F2 Lovely Bouquet France's Carole Bouquet ' steals the show in charming philosophical comedy. Page F6 SECTION F i nJ inn n W a n l stass SMiltawii Nafcijij!' wbkss MONTREAL, SUNDAY, MARCH 4, 1990 Dance club DJs are more than just human jukeboxes these days - they're celebrities mm&. Wm 3 IF Dv ALASTAIR SUTHERLAND SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE " They said disco was dead, but boy, were they wrong. Dance music in all its mutated forms is back with a vengeance. And so, for that matter, is the club DJ. In Europe, celebrity DJs arrive at conceits in limousines and boast that they sign more autographs than soccer stars do. In England, three-day, DJ-Ied parties can draw up to 10,000 delirious, dance -crazed fans. In the U.S., former street DJs like John "Jellybean" Benitez and Shep Pettibone have gone on to produce records for some of the hottest performers in popular music, such as Madonna and Whitney Houston. Even Toronto, rumored to close down before any sane individual would be ready to "get busy" and "bust a move" on the dance floor, has a burgeoning scene, where club DJs like Chris "The Shep" Shepperd and Jason Steele can command more than $ 1 ,000 for a night's work. Young and in tune In those places, the top club DJs arc no longer human jukeboxes. They're personalities, the makers and breakers of records in the fields of rap, soul, funk, R & B as well as more arcane subgenres such as hi nrg, new beat and house music. Armed with machines 'n' screens turntables and computers the new breed of DJ is young, musically aware and technically in tune. He has to be. His job involves much more than simply putting the needle on the record. Using two turntables and a mixer which allows DJs to alternate between two records a flamboyant DJ can create a wide variety of sounds, both natural and extremely unnatural. Records are slowed down, speeded up, spun backwards and scratched: pieces of songs are mixed with pieces of other songs to create entirely new songs; shrieks, whoops and yells are played right alongside opera arias and cantatas, and all without missing a beat. The best of the club DJs have sounds so individualistic that they're considered artists on par with the people who make the music itself. So why isn't Montreal, a town where ordinary citizens walking down the street have been known to spontaneously burst into dance, at the hub of this DJ boom? Where are the celebrity DJs? Where, for crying out loud, are the delirious three-day parties? Just under the surface, it seems. X I J w X. V0 V Those who remember legendary discotheques like 1234, the Limelight and Oz need not hang their heads in shame. Montreal is still a city that loves to dance. Take, for instance, the club Business at 3510 St. Laurent Blvd. After four years and eight changes of decor, Business continues to pull in the fashionable droves. And every Wednesday and Friday night Chris Farley, the man in the DJ booth, is master of all he surveys, which in this case is a mass of sweating bodies pulsating under fit-inducing flashing lights. Farley, 25, says only 15 to 20 per cent of the music he plays can be heard on the radio. The Business specialty is house music, the repetitive, beat-heavy music that began in Chicago in the mid-'80s but now has aficionados all over the globe "jacking" as in "jack-jack-jack your body" from the hit song Jack's House. Criticized by many critics as being boring beyond belief, house music has nevertheless spawned many sub-genres, from acid house house with psychedelic undertones to hip house, house with rap, to italo house house made by Italians. Farley also claims to have showcased certain songs the slow funk of Soul II Soul, the aggressive rap of Public Enemy and NWA long before they became popular elsewhere. Sporting a blue bandana and a glass-eye-on-a-necklace chain, Farley doesn't look like someone who studied trombone at the Montreal Conservatory of Music for five years, but he did. He says the key to being a good DJ is to remain unpredictable the superior mixmaster must always be willing to take chances. "You have to play a domination game with your audience," he theorizes. "You have to provoke or coax them into accepting new music. But if you can make them understand you know your stuff, you can control them." Robert Gauthicr, at Le Lizard on St. Denis St., is another DJ whose approach and clientele are uncon-' ventional, . ' Cold reception In T.O. Gauthicr, 25, leaps around the DJ booth, using the turntables to mix songs and sounds into a thick sonic stew. Gesturing proudly at the crowd, he says, "We get all types here. Gays, straights, mixed, the young, the old, rockers, punks anyone who likes to dance." Gauthicr says while he will happily segue from old Janis Joplin records to the latest in African polyrhythms, this week, at least, he is in a "new-agc-house-music type of mood" which means lots of music by bands like State 808 and KLF, groups who play what Gauthicr calls "trance music with chirpy electronics." Another DJ on the outside of the acoustic envelope is Sylvain Houdc of Foufounes Electriques, a punk fan-tasyland on St. Catherine St. E. Unlike Farley and Gauthicr, Houdc docs not rely on DJ technique rapidly alternating between two records, for instance but he does claim to play alternative music that is seldom heard on this side of the ocean. arley (left) with e lizard DJ obert Gauthier. GAZETTE, JOHN MAHONEY At 'N.-V; v J I 1 f r y t- - Chris Farley In the high-tech DJ booth he mans at Business. Or in Toronto, apparently. , In December, Houde was invited there to play for a party of DJs, where he received a chilly reception. Although people were dancing to his music, a group of Toronto DJs known as the Boys harassed him until he decided to hang up his needle for the night "Who needs it?" he says. The incident points up the rivalry between the two cities in the realm of dance music. Although the scene has a higher profile in Toronto, the idea of that city as the maestro of Canadian dance music and Montreal as second fiddle may be illusory. Michael Mannix, a former Mont-rcalcr who now runs Streetsound, a national dance-musicDJ magazine based in Toronto, admits as much. "In Toronto club DJs are more prominent as celebrities," he says. "The club owners advertise them by name. But that doesn't mean the jocks are better, just that dance-club managers and owners have figured out what pe pie going to clubs already knew DJs can be as much of an attraction as live bands." Jason Steele, formerly the DJ at Montreal's legendary 1234 and until last week the DJ at Toronto's popular Diamond Club, agrees. "In Toronto the DJ is like a retailer trying to put the most suitable product on the rack. In Montreal the best DJs are artists, creating a different canvas each evening." Steele says when he was in Montreal recently he heard Robert Gauthier behind the Lezard turntables and began to weep. "It was like studying classical piano all your life and then going out and hearing the young Mozart, he says. ' . Dancers put their best feet forward at variety of clubs If keeping up with the newest sounds in loud, weird clubs populated with sweating dance fiends is a daunting prospect, fear not. - Montreal offers many music-oriented nightspots. In fact, according to an exhaustive survey recently published in the Montreal Mirror, there arc more than 70 clubs vying for your dancing dollar. Which means there should be something for almost everyone. For instance, there's the huge Metropolis at 59 St Catherine St. E., which plays a careful blend of pop, house and disco. The hard-to-find Mars, which is located in an underground parking garage behind Sam the Record Man on St. Catherine St., features a DJ with an inexplicable fondness for early '80s new wave. Then there are the many bars in the Crescent-Bishop St. area that spin the Top 40 hits. At the other end of the spectrum is the Bar St. Laurent, 3874 St. Laurent Blvd., where owner Adriano La Cor-ta selects song after song from his 6,000-track cassette collection. This means Portuguese salsa followed by Angolan drums followed by Led Zeppelin, a mix that may confuse the patrons but usually has them dancing, sometimes on the tablctops. Quasimodo, just down the street from the Bar St Laurent at 3599 St. Laurent, plays lots of rap and is very dark. KOX at 1182 Montcalm St. plays lots of house and is very gay. Salsatheque at 1220 Peel St. specializes in salsa. Le Kilimandjaro at 3699B St. Laurent plays a mixture of reggae and African music. They're just some of the choices there's almost everything else in between. - And if you ever want to stage your own raving weekender, there is always Sheldon Kagan. Kagan has been a mobile DJ for 26 years, and for $500 to $1,200, heU bring an evening's worth of music to your home or workplace. After more than a quarter century, Kagan says his business is still going strong; in fact, it's "phenomenal!" His operation consists of eight DJs in tuxedos, 18,000 titles, turntables, cassettes and compact discs, and a computerized catalogue of music. -: That catalogue includes everything from the Ukrainian Wedding March and New York, New York to Pump up the Jam, which makes Kagan truly a DJ for all occasions. "We just did a party for Kraft Foods," he says. "You should have seen it 2.000 Kraft employees dancing to the Jive Bunny!" Not exactly three days of London-style dance-inspired ecstasy but close enough.

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