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
Watch Part 2 of this series here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx8OO55TjQE
Off Centre's Jonathan Kawchuk takes us through some of the ins and outs of bringing musical ideas to life. This is Part 1 of a 2 part series focussed specifically on creating melodic and structural variation. How do you turn a great 4 bar or 8 bar loop into a full song using Ableton Live. Star Wars represent!
Whether you're looking to learn the Art of DJing or develop your studio potential as a producer, at Off Centre you'll learn the skills, technical know how, and creative mind set to become a unique and well-rounded artist. Learn more about our programs here: http://www.offcentredj.com/certificate-programs.html
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!
Is it plugged in? Did you turn it on?....
Might think those are obvious things to do when it comes to hearing sound but believe me some of your favourite dj's have missed those steps :) We've decided to put together a little checklist to help you get started.
Let us know if we missed anything, add it to the comments below.
Check out Part 2 of the series - Playing Live with Ableton Using Controllers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6rwo3kyYLE
In this tutorial we’ll take a look at how you can take your live sets to new heights using mapping.
More info about Ableton and Electronic music production courses at Off Centre: http://www.offcentredj.com/full-producer-program.html
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*)