Another year, another successful trip to Canada’s largest Comics, Sci fi, Horror, Anime and Gaming event FanExpo. We’ve seen a wide array of Darth Vaders, Spidermen & women and some of the craziest cosplay transformers ever. With music provided by a selection Off Centre best alums, event goers were fully entertained and had a blast dancing with us all weekend long. Our friends and local giving organisation 'The Umber Goose Project' donated a cash prize to the DJ who we thought rocked the dance floor the best, we witnessed very good sets by DJ''s Cohontas, Mazzy, Powerdog, Mavros, Shrrt and CH4INS4W but the one who had security losing there minds over the amount of costumed characters going absolutely nuts on the dance floor was DJ Andis. Congratulations to everyone for bringing joy to the event, well done and congrats DJ Andis for almost having us kicked out lol :)
We are very proud to present to you our first instalment of "Off Centre Selections" which is a podcast entirely made up of songs created by graduates of the Full Producer Certificate Program. Genres and influences are of course very wide in range. Expect anything from Trip Hop, to Trance, and EDM, to instrumental film soundtracks.
Congratulations to all the featured artists for their impressive efforts:
DJ Creelo - Eridanus, Nalae - Knew Better, Taubheit - Endless Happiness, Euan Muldoon - fwoot, Roland Truant - Believe
Duhfase - Dance or Die, DJ Fbn - Kiss Prince, Zeek - ID Busines
OCDJ - What’s the story of Discrete? How did you get started in music?
Discrete - I began producing before I started DJing. A friend of mine lent me some sound software I started experimenting with in elementary school and I was using my tape decks to sample jazz and classical music from the radio. I grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop too and I think that's how I got introduced to DJing. DJ Premier, DJ A-Trak, Mix Master Mike and some of the other DMC turntablists inspired me to start scratching, then I was introduced to house music. I listened to a ton of mixtapes while I was studying and painting in high school then I slowly transitioned from producing visual art to producing music. From then on I found myself digging deeper and deeper into house and techno. That was over a decade ago.
OCDJ - Is there a specific place/space/state that you find inspiration in?
Discrete - The present moment. My favorite pieces always spawn from a state of being completely open to ideas and rid of inhibition. This usually means I'm working quicker because I’m saying yes more frequently to creative decisions. Pop art and the sensationalist movement really helped me get into the moment because it had a jarring visceral effect on me. A lot of my inspiration comes from visual art because most of my experience is in art history.
I started meditating prior to my DJ sets to help with performance anxiety. I'm a strong believer in synchronicity and karma so there are definitely spiritual parallels between my practice and my music. Deep house is a spiritual thing and always has been. There's something really powerful about how it unites complete strangers.
OCDJ - What movie would your music be the soundtrack for!?
Discrete - I'm a deeply existential person so I feel like if my music were to be a soundtrack it would be a drama played by myself or some doppelganger. That or a documentary biopic.
OCDJ - Your Savvy Records podcasts are really enjoyable...how much planning goes into DJing for you?
Discrete - My mixtapes are much more meticulously produced then my live DJ sets. A lot of planning goes into my mixtapes whereas my DJ sets are a more stream-of-consciousness approach.
For my mixtapes, I categorize my music according to mood, aesthetic, and vocals and a theme emerges. I break down the timeline into basic plot points and the narrative forms. Introduction, body, climax, denouement, et cetera.
When I'm DJing I try to be as present as possible. You have to be able to read the energy in the room and go with the flow. Sometimes I have songs I'm really excited to play at a gig but when I arrive at the venue it just doesn't seem to suit that environment so it's more about adapting to the space. Toronto’s techno audience is still very niche.
OCDJ - What made you want to start your own Label?
Discrete - Survival. I was signed to a few foreign independent labels when I was younger but I had difficulty managing my finances because a lot of these record companies were overseas. I decided that I had enough experience after several years of DJing and producing to publish my own content. I also established connections with a lot of artists along the way so I had plenty of demos and unsigned material just sitting in my inbox waiting to get things started.
OCDJ - It was great to run into you at the Junos in Calgary this year. What was your experience of being nominated for Electronic Album of the Year like?
Discrete - It was a very emotional experience for me because I was always alienated for expressing myself differently than others. I became used to the idea that people wouldn't share the same feelings around the type of music I make or listen to so I had difficulty accepting that I was nominated at first. Then I realized being embraced on that level in your home country is actually quite profound and a real honor. It's a rare life changing experience and I'm definitely grateful for that. Bumping into you at the Google Party was just the icing on the cake. It was a night to remember, I wish I had a recording of your set!
OCDJ - In your time at Off Centre, is there any one moment that sticks out for you as a highlight?
Discrete - I remember wanting to go to school for DJing but couldn't find much in the way of postsecondary education. The course in itself was a very positive foundation for me. It was also inspiring to see how you’ve adapted to the industry and made a living to support yourself and your creativity. The mastering section was the most practical because I was just launching Savvy Records at the time.
OCDJ - Love the new album! Can you tell us a little about your creative process. What brought about the title “In My Room”?
Discrete - Thanks Erik, I’m glad you enjoyed it. My projects stem from folders filled with sounds I cut out from other tracks. I organize the sounds by imagery and layer them like a collage. I let the samples speak to me and tell me where they want to go, whether they match or juxtapose each other they develop their own dialogue.
The title track ‘In My Room’ is an homage to the archetypal bedroom producer. I produced the entire album at home and live in a tiny bachelor apartment. I wanted to exaggerate the creative process by minimizing my materials. I don't use any fancy analog synthesizers, microphones or sound systems. Most of the content I use I found for free or salvaged from records at the thrift store. I also like to sample film because there are lots of interesting sound bites to draw from and it creates an interesting meta narrative and allusion. I can't help but notice the differences between image and sound because most of my creative development was spent looking at art. Images are static and silent but music involves time and is invisible. I like the idea that samples are like time capsules and I could transcend time and collaborate amongst any group of artists I want with no social contradiction.
OCDJ - Is there any essential piece of advice would you give to aspiring producers that would help them finish a project?
Discrete - Be more present. Never work when you don't feel like it and always work when you feel inspired. Focus on your most exciting projects and practice letting go of projects that no longer have meaning to you. I find the most challenging part of being an artist is this constant state of grieving. We're always changing and evolving as we're exposed to new inspiration and experiences which means letting go of old stuff in order to make room for the new. In the East the Buddhists call this detachment. They practice this by creating immaculate and elaborate murals called mandalas out of sand which they release into a river. This practice of detachment helps exercise our ability to move fluidly through the creative process. I discovered my spiritual practice out of necessity, it helps my creative blocks.
OCDJ - Shout outs or last final words?
Discrete - Be present, love yourself unconditionally, and try not to take anything too seriously.
Shoutout to DJ Sneak, Mousse T, and Dave Pezzner for discovering and supporting my music these past few years. I also want to dedicate this album to all the introverts and bedroom producers who are trying to make a living as an artist. Being an artist is challenging but if we continue to inspire and support each other it makes it that much easier.
In September, Off Centre DJ School graduates were showcased over four days at Fan Expo Canada 2016 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Their DJ skills were greatly received by the 130,000+ pop culture fans in attendance. The weekend was in a word - awesome! 15 current and former student DJs rocked the decks for 4 days of masked hero and villain intensity by bringing energy, creativity and entertainment to the event. The talent was evident as the students took the stage with confidence in front of the lively crowds.
We partnered with local giving organisation 'The Umber Goose Project' who donated a cash prize for the DJ who rised to the occasion and maintained their composure even in the trickiest of mixes. It was a difficult decision with all the DJs having brought their A-Game, but it came down to two DJs who performed on multiple days, Sanzhar Zhorabayev and Andis Francis!
We would like to thank the Fan Expo organisers and the Toronto Metro Convention Centre for the opportunity and a special thanks to all of the colourful characters who amped up the experience with their impromptu dance moves!
Huge round of applause to the Off Centre crew:
Nalae & Jared, DJ Ki, DJ DC, DJ Panda, Maestro Sanjik, Yegee Lee (Violin), Ava Zhu, DJ Andis
Chainsaw, DJ Kevon, Sirens & Satyrs, Sentry Swank
RECAP VIDEO HERE!
We finally had a chance to catch up with busy OCDJ alumni DJ Slam who's been steadily taking his skills to awesome new heights.
OCDJ - You've got a busy schedule. What's it like producing, djing and hosting a radio show? Is it hard managing all of those things?
Slam - First off, thanks guys for reaching out! I have been busy lately, but that’s a good thing. It’s taken years for me to get to this point in my music career. Also, I’ll never forget what OCDJ has done for me in realizing my true passion for Turntablism and the DJ culture.
Getting back to the question, I would say the hardest part of juggling Production/Engineering, Djing and the Radio show is just that, time management. Djing and beat making have always been something that I would do in my spare time, relaxing and hanging out with my friends. When it comes to radio though, it takes a little more attention to detail. On top of looking regularly for new music, my radio show “Bring Ya Eh Game,” requires that all of the content must be “clean” or radio friendly, and strictly Canadian. So this means, regularly checking my e-mail, listening to submissions (because no one can be trusted), and reaching out to musicians, and waiting… because rappers move at a snails pace.
OCDJ - Does being a DJ help your music production in any way? or the other way around?
Slam - Absolutely! After you play enough shows, no matter the venue, the city, the crowd, or time of night, you start to learn what kind of music grabs the audience’s attention. When you hear music on such a massive scale, you quickly learn the importance of Compression and EQing.
Also, the biggest thing I’ve learned. Unless you are a DJ or appreciate scratching, most people have a very short attention span, and can quickly loose interest. So I tend to use it sparingly in my production.
OCDJ - You've also been collaborating with MC Ultra Magnus for a lil while now. How did that connection happen? Are there challenges working with another artist or is it all fun and games?
Slam - Ultra Magnus and I have known each other for a hot minute. We first met on the East Coast through mutual friends almost a decade ago. Only recently did we started working on tracks just for fun and set up a show here and there. We quickly got a lot of attention and all of the sudden we had an album (“The Raw”), which was quickly scooped up by Hand’Solo Records, and the rest is history.
Are there challenges? Yes. Definitely. But what makes it easy is the fact that we started as friends before the music happened. One of the biggest problems with working with anyone else is trying to co-ordinate schedules, recording time, etc. Because we live on the opposite sides of the city (South-East Vs. North-West), when quick decisions need to be made or fixes are needed in recording, it can never happen immediately.
OCDJ - What's your favourite place to hang out or get inspired in the City?
Slam - I think I am most inspired when riding the TTC. Like I said before, I live in the east-end, and most of friends, events, etc… are in the west, so I spend a lot of time in transit. Since it’s weird to gawk at people and start conversations with strangers, I spend most of the time listening to new music and exploring my brain.
OCDJ - When you're not busy taking over the world with your musical endeavors, what do you enjoy doing?
Slam - To be honest, because I’m out so often and regularly thrown into alien social situations, I like to spend a lot of my free time solo. I’m a huge video gamer, and love to cruise around the youtubes. However, when I feel like seeing sunlight, I’m ready to hang out on a patio with some friends or escape to a cabin in the woods. I’m still looking for an excuse to check out these escape rooms that are popping up around the city.
OCDJ - What's up next for Slam?
Slam - New album with Ultra Magnus called “Magnus Opus,” out this summer, on Hand’Solo Records. We’re currently storyboarding a few videos.
Couple other projects being worked out… *cough* … “Fresh Kils” ... *cough* … “D-Sisive” …
I’m also going to be releasing a project in the fall, which will include all of the singles I have/have not released yet, with a little re-mastering so they can have a home.
OCDJ - Any last words or shout outs?
Slam - Shout out to you guys!!! Thanks for being so awesome to me, and teaching me the art of being a Jedi… I mean DJ… I promise I will be by soon!
People can check me out live every Monday at 10PM on CIUT 89.5FM’s “Bring Ya Eh Game.” We exclusively play Canadian hip-hop, RnB, Soul, Turntablism, etc… I do live scratching, mash-ups, and we also interview a local musician every week.
Also!! I have been nominated for “DJ of The Year” by the Cut Hip-Hop Awards. If you want to vote for me, you can do it everyday at www.cuthiphopawards.com/voting (Note: They spelt my name wrong, I am now known as “DJ Slim” *sigh*)
We recently met up with former student Will Bokan aka Ninja Bokan for a quick chat about his recent success, signing, release, experience at Off Centre and all around Ninja lifestyle!
OC1. So, what's it like being a ninja!?
NB1. Being a full time Ninja is the best thing I could ever imagine in my life. Ever since I was as young as I could remember I just wanted to be the Green Power Ranger when I grew up. Backflip kicks and other insane martial arts stunts were life necessities to me in late highschool and on into university.
OC2. Does your active lifestyle have an influence on your style of music or vice versa?
NB2. For me it is everything. Electronic music alone inspires all of my movement. I started gaining interest in learning how to make my own music for my martial arts. The interesting thing about this was once I started learning and becoming involved in production, it very quickly became all about the music. I’m way too obsessed with learning more about production and even just having great new music to listen to while I do Ninja activities or any activities in my life really.
OC3. What kind of music do you listen to (when you're not fighting Luigi!)? Mario's Street Challenge Are there any specific music influences that you can site?
NB3. Haha, this is a tricky one. I love all genres of music (except country). If it is good music I do like it. Typically I listen to the music suitable for the mood.When I am doing office work or monotonous tasks on the computer I like to listen to chill out music like Pretty Lights and Griz. I’m really falling in love with Shaun Frank’s new Deep House also. Deadmau5 is the best for so many things. Every now and then I love listening to Headhunterz and hardstyle. But once it is something that requires movement, high energy, or I’m feeling upbeat, I’m all over the Electro House. Dylan Francis, Nom De Strip, stuff like that.Actually right now at the very moment Nom De Strip makes me have a mental meltdown, definitely my favourite artist for today.
OC4. Congrats on your recently released a track "The Crew from 602" on BugEyed Records. Tell us a little about how all that went down. How did you find them or them find you? Any future plans with that label?
NB4. Well, The Crew from 602 was actually kind of an accident experiment track. Design wise it was inspired a little from hardstyle and at the time I was listening to some of Headhunterz new Big Room/hardstyle experimental tracks. So I figured “meh” I’ll fool around with that in mind, and then a track popped out. The overall inspiration for the track came from my stunt crew that hung out at after practices at this terrible junky house numbered 602. Everyone had the best time. I’m glad the house sucked, because it made it an amazing place to hang out with the right people for the right reasons.
I sent my demo over to BugEyed, they said they’d love to sign it after listening. It was that simple really. I’d love to provide them with more tracks.
I have some beauties in the hopper right now that I am super excited about. My current track is coming along a little slower than I'd like, but the quality is just epic for my expectations. I'v very happy with the results so far, I cannot wait to finish this gem, and I can't wait to send your way to have a listen when it comes out.
Maybe this track could also possibly end up on another label or maybe it stays with BugEyed? I can’t predict these things. I like to be a leaf in the wind; whatever works out best for everyone makes me really happy.
OC5. Is there anything in particular that sticks out in your experiences at Off Centre that has helped with your music (or just in general)?
NB5. Well, everything haha. I’m sure it is different for everyone, but for me specifically Off Centre was the turn key enabler that opened the opportunity for me to start and understand how to make electronic music. Before I started at off centre I knew I wanted to start making music but I had no idea how. Taking a look at ableton on my own wasn’t all that intuitive.
I took the offcentre course, everything started making sense and I learned how to make a track from beginning to end with confidence. I learned all the necessary tools and more to get a producer going on their own. Not only that, the environment and the positivity from the instructors was so inspiring and unreal. I really felt like they believed in me and enjoyed teaching me because they wanted to.
A whole new world opened for me. The way I heard songs and the audio pallet that opened up for me was insane. Probably one of the coolest milestones in my life; truly discovering what music really was.
Thank you so much Off Centre.
OC6. In a short time your beats have really developed and evolved nicely into some high quality production. Is there any advice you could give to producers and beat makers that are in the early stages?
NB6. Oh man so much advice. I could write a massive report at this point, and still have limited knowledge as I am just “starting” my journey. The most important to me is to keep learning new things. I know it sounds really obvious but really focus on growth and new production tactics that lead to a “cleaner” track. Every time I finish a track I am already disappointed with it due to new things I have learned to make the next track better. It’s okay to have high standards and put pressure on yourself as long as you are having fun.
The 4 actual production points I found the most important right away after I finished Off Centre are the following:
1) Sidechain Compression.
I now use Nicky Romero’s Kickstart. Highly recommend. Sidechain Compression is the most important part to getting that rock solid clean kick and overall mix out there. Make sure you never miss getting this right.
Layer your snares, layer your synths, layer everything that needs to be layered. You get way more control over your sounds. You pick the parts you like form them, remove the parts you don’t and then glue them together. Really separate your bass and your mids and highs.
3) Pick a professional track to compare yours to.
Listen back and forth. See where yours is missing pieces and sounds that the other track has locked down. Are your samples just too weak? Is your mixing levels off? It could be many things, a reference track similar to yours is great.
4) Take breaks.
For me, I found once I started going too long that my ears would start becoming too used to the track and unable to be effective in focusing on making the right changes. If they are getting tired, just take a break for half an hour and then come back. You’ll be surprised at how “fresh” the track and canvas sounds to work with again.
To find out more about will and his evolving body of work, checkout:
Former Level 1 Intro to DJing student and very talented young beat maker Talal Al-Saymaree aka CHi4NS4W never stops amazing us with his moody hypnotic musical stylings. We picked his extra terrestrial brain for a bit to find out what inspires his sound.
OC - When did you start making beats?
CS - I started making music when I was around 14-15, I fell in love with music since I was a kid my mom got me this wonky Casio keyboard and it used to be my favourite. The country I grew up in (Kuwait) mostly played Arabic music and the English radio stations only played tops 40s for example there was a lot of Michael Jackson at the time. Then when I was like 13 the song "One More Time" by Daft Punk played on TV and I was mesmerized. Then my cousin introduced me to the world of music online and also how to use a dial up connection. From then on I wanted to learn how to develop these type of sounds that had captured my heart and ears.
OC - Who or what are some of your early influences?
CS - Some of the early influences were Daft Punk, Mix Master Mike, and The Chemical Brothers, I know you would view them as nothing but mainstream music but you have got to understand, where I grew up it was kinda hard to find that sort of music.
OC - Where is your favourite place to get inspired in the city?
CS - My favourite place to get inspired would have to be my balcony, the view from the balcony of my apartment is incredible and always helps me make the best of my music.
OC - Do you like producing by day or by night and why?
CS - I prefer to produce at night because no one interrupts my creativity. I can continuously work on my music until I feel it is done.
OC - Where would you like to see your music placed in the future?
CS - I would love to see my music used in video games. That way it would combine two of my favourite things, and I feel it adds another dimension to the gaming experience. But mostly I would like it to get out there so that everyone would be able to appreciate it. It's not a matter of getting everyone to like it, just appreciate the music for what it is.
OC - Any shout outs?
CS - Shout out to kalibrplus(K+), Emojicult, Skywayz, Ghostship of Suburbia, SlowPitch, baddaynamik, my mom, Heather Louisa and Syro. I would like to thank Off Centre DJ for making this happen. It's a wonderful place, run by wonderful artists that helps anyone explore sound in depth and aspire to be better artists. Thank you for keeping me in mind and giving me this wonderful opportunity.
It's always nice to find a finished project from a former student waiting in our mailbox. The Shadow Conspiracy Mixtape Vol. 1 by Camp Casual roots itself in a classic hip hop demeanour and never neglects the art of digging and sampling. Thanks for the drop off Dave (aka Dolo Cruz)! We see you've been putting your Maschine to good use.
If you are a former or current student at Off Centre and wish to share your project(s), feel free to drop it off in our mailbox/inbox anytime or come to one of our Student Nights, say hello, and give it to us in person! We love watching all our students grow and succeed as great artists, and we'll definitely be there to support you along the way. Make sure to leave us a link where people can find your music online, be sure to tell us about what's been happening with you, and we'll help spread the word.
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