From Igloofest to EDMonton, an ode to the bustling Canadian dance music scene
It’s tough being a Canadian sometimes. While bustling with fresh talent, our producers are frequently mistaken for our neighbours to the south. Of course, we are often too polite to cause a scene but it’s due time that we shine a light on our accomplished artists and let the world know we hamper more musical scope than just the Biebs. Canada has a vast EDM scene comparable, if not better, to metropolitans in the US, and we are mighty proud of it.
As opposed to beach or desert festivals, we have outdoor blizzard raves fit with ice sculptures and snow huts, like Igloofest in Montreal and Brrrrr! Winter Music Festival in Toronto. Frankly, if you’re not putting on neon snowpants and toques to go rave in the snow, you’re doing it wrong. We also enjoy getting lost in dense Canadian forests at Shambhala and celebrating our Nation’s birthday at Escapade. Our clubs like Flames Central in Calgary are named after hockey teams, and we are home to the one and only EDMonton. The Guvernment Toronto is constantly hailed by DJs for having the best crowds, while Celebrities Vancouver is in one of the best cities in the world. We grew up on MuchDance compilation albums and Rick Campanelli interviews. Last but not least, we have developed a fair amount of respected producers, the frontrunners listed below.
Deadmau5 – We are proud to claim one of the biggest names in dance music not only because he is a magnificent producer, but also because he is a badass. We Canadians are known for being a little too polite and innocent so it’s nice to show our neighbours to the south that we too can call the shots. Joel comes from the town nearest to Niagara Falls, where he credits Tim Horton’s double-double’s as the fuel that helped him rise to fame.
Richie Hawtin – Even though he was technically born in England, Hawtin was raised in Canada which allows us to partially claim him. Richie moved to LaSalle, Ontario at age nine, which is a suburb of Windor, Ontario just across the river from Detroit. He took advantage of his location by frequenting trips to the heart of techno and ended up leaving quite the impression on the scene. He can now be found bantering with fellow Canuck deadmau5 on how ‘EDM’ in America could be improved while the Canadian scene is perfect (<- may or may not be true).
Adventure Club – Montreal. Home to smoked meat, poutine and melodic-dubstep. You may not know this, but Leighton holds an accounting degree from the top ranked university in Canada, McGill. We’re happy he pursued synths instead of spreadsheets. When not occupied stumbling around St.Laurent, romancing Krewella in the old town or slamming down bacon, Leighton & Christian make time to create genre-defining dubstep.
A-Trak – Hailed as one of the best technical DJs of our time, all because of his French-Canadian Outremont charm. Alain caught the DJ bug as a young teen, after finding older brother David (member of electronica duo Chromeo) messing around with their dad’s belt-drive turn table. At 15, he was the youngest ever to win the DMC world championship. Alain went on to serve Kanye West during his world tour while simultaneously pursuing classes in biology and physics at McGill University. He’s now a scientist of sound at Fool’s Gold Records and recently changed his twitter name to ‘DJ Canada.’ Represent!
Dzeko & Torres – Starting from humble beginnings at a Toronto club called Cobra, this duo has exploded in popularity over the past year, warranting a spot at Ultra, Coachella and Tomorrowland. During their free time, the longtime friends can be found chilling at Canadian steakhouse The Keg, rooting for everyone’s favourite losing hockey team, the Maple Leafs, or performing live gigs on MuchMusic.
Zeds Dead – Dylan Mamid and Zach Rapp-Rovan started out making old-school hip hop beats in Dylan’s garage under name Mass Productions, while playing a string of underground parties. After becoming frustrated with playing for dirt cheap at less-than-caliber parties, they decided to start a club with The Killabits to offer a free party for fellow bass lovers called Bassmentality. The movement helped popularize dubstep in Toronto, a city spoiled with a bustling multi-genre house scene.
Project 46 – Coming in at #100 on DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs of 2012, Thomas Shaw and Ryan Henderson became known primarily through their superb remixes by way of Hype Machine. Since Tom comes from Vancouver while Ryan from Waterloo, they used Skype and cloud computing to communicate projects. Ryan owns club Beta in Waterloo pushing the advent of dance music as much as he can, while Tom enjoys Vancouver’s vibrant scene and world class sushi restaurants
Paris and Simo – This Montreal duo came to be known by way of Insomniac’s Discovery Project, warranting them a spot at EDC, and leading to a record deal with Hardwell’s Revealed Records. Another impressive feat is winning Tiesto’s “Work Hard, Play Hard” remix competition, while juggling classes at Concordia University and fitting in time to root on their home hockey team, Montreal Canadiens.
Art Department – Underground mainstays Kenny and Jonny are quickly gaining worldwide recognition in the name of tech house. Starting out doing Fridays at Paeez, a Toronto club known for its forward thinking, risqué music, the duo were playing an Ibiza style most Canadians weren’t quite used to yet. The pair flourished when Damaian Lazarus called them to remix Riz MC for prestigious Crosstown Rebels Label, while their mind-bending sets landed them a spot as residents for Hot Natured and Rebel Raves. The pair met while carpooling to a Canada Day event in Toronto.
Tegan & Sara – Hailing from Calgary, a town known mostly for it’s Stampede rodeo, oil industry and yours truly, it’s a miracle the twins do not carry country twang. Remix favourites among producers, the two caught the attention of Neil Young’s manager in 1999 who quickly signed them to his LA-based label, Vapor Records. After monstrous global success, they now call Vancouver and Montreal home. If only the twins would retreat back to the prairies and to teach Tiesto or Morgan Page how to master the Cadillac Ranch.
No Big Deal – Newcomers Maxwell and Benny also met at McGill University in Montreal, before moving to Toronto after graduation to pursue music. Supported by the likes of Zedd, LA Riots & Zeds Dead, the duo have been making a clear impact on the electro scene with spastic remixes and gritty originals. The two never miss spending Sunday Fundays out Toronto’s Queen Street, and it’s rumoured one of the members is related to a Canadian legacy.
Sultan + Ned Shepard – Owners of label Harem Records and residents at XS Las Vegas, the duo has traded in Montreal snow banks for LA’s sunshine. Sultan listed the multiculturalism, freedom, security, nightlife and musical diversity as his favourite things about the Canadian city. He also attended McGill University for engineering, making me a pretty proud alumni at this point.
The Canadian scene has much to be proud of and is continuing to grow at a rapid pace with new advents like Sensation Canada and countless regional festivals across the provinces. There’s no doubt there will be a plethora of new producers popping up, adding to an already rich list of musicians demonstrated above. We are Canadian and we know how it’s done.