Dear Like-hearted Ravers,
Here we are again! :D
I have something fresh to share with you all and as you can already guess, I have been looking forward to this!
Aside from all my adventures from different places that I have spoken to you about before, this one hits home. By home, I mean my own city: Winnipeg, Canada. A city in the middle of the Canadian prairies that now has a growing electronic music scene that I am happily seeing progress. Even though it is still lagging behind many other Canadian cities I can easily say that people make a place, and Winnipeg has some of the most welcoming people you would ever meet. Which makes it a great breeding ground for diehard ravers! Haha
Now I want to kick things off by taking the time to share some insight from a fantastic individual who carries Winnipeg on his back and has been an undeniable rep for the electronic music scene in this city. Who can mistake the party-starter with long bright blonde hair tied back in a bun or with a bandana and always has a smile shining from ear to ear behind the decks!? He is the one DJ that has been rocking out at all kinds of parties on a weekly basis for many years here in Winnipeg!
Need I say more?! We’re obviously talking about John Skene (formerly Hollywood Hype).
I would assume that most of you may know him pretty well but some of you haven’t had the chance to speak to him… Well…. Now is your chance to hear more from him as I asked him questions that I felt would give you guys a better picture of John and our local electronic music scene. :)
Me: So John!!! You know how we spoke about doing this months ago but here we finally are! Finally you can share some words with those that go to see you spin! So lets give everyone here some background info about you… How about we start with you telling us a little about yourself and your history with Electronic Dance Music.
John: Suuure!! I started going to raves cause they were a complete disconnect from reality (not that I needed to escape reality, life was pretty good lol) the music sounded like something from the future to me! The decorations and themes made each event so unique. I was always completely floored by how connected everyone was at these events. People from all different cliques, social classes, sexual orientation or race all talking, dancing and chilling together other on the dance floor. ALL able to open up and share some of their deepest thoughts with other people they had just met.
Shortly after this, I started buying records to listen to because prior to Winnipeg I lived in a small town and didn’t have much access to electronic music. At the time I was experimenting with basic production. I wasn’t even thinking of DJing yet. Things changed when I was about 18 and a half with a passion for snowboaring. I had started off buying one turn-table, one cdj and a small Numark mixer. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing at the time but had always wanted to learn what was going on all the way up in the dj booths at shows. It was this simple curiosity that got me DJing as a hobby more and more. Friends of mine would throw house parties after events, and began asking me to dj for them. Next thing you know I threw my first rave, dropped out of university, DJ’d my first club night, eventually scored my first club residency and landed an opportunity to tour with LMFAO and Far East Movement.
Me: No doubt! Sounds like you found what made you happy and haven’t looked back since! I have seen you play at all sorts of events… and you always play tracks that suit the theme of the night… Clearly big-room house is what a lot of people want to hear and you appease to them but I also know you can throw down a wide array of other sounds from tech to trance when you are in the right setting. My next question is a little bit more align with my own curiosity, can tell us if there are any producers or deejays that have been influential to your aspirations? Any events in particular that you may have attended that have been monumental for you in relation to dance music?
John: Locally, I have always looked up to Darian James and Sky Jones (both now retired). Zack (Darian James) ran club nights and played a lot of the major gigs, he ran DJ Nation and brought in headliners, while balancing a full-time day job. I can’t begin to explain in how much of a mentor and friend he has been to me in so many ways. When it came to Sky Jones I’ll never forget how much I enjoyed dancing to his tunes and later when he and I DJ’d together, actually became close friends. He really influenced me as an artist and was a big part in shaping my overall attitude towards the scene's politics, critics, and other sorts of negativity that I had come across. He also single-handedly convinced me to make the switch from real vinyl to CDJ’s and gave me a whole new appreciation to embrace technology advancements in DJ’ing rather than resisting. In the mid 2000’s I used to make the pilgrimage to Shambhala to get my bass fix, which really inspired me to focus on my craft and chase my dreams. I more recently find myself heading to EDC Vegas and similar festivals in search of the same inspiration.
Now on an international level for production I have always idolized to sounds of Adam K (Toronto), John Dahlback (Sweden) for the more soothing stuff. For the break beat world Stanton Warriors (UK), Ill Gates DJ Icey, Chemical brothers and Deekline have always been close to my heart, and to me, are Gods of the broken beat. For chill-out vibes: I always look to London Grammer, Goldfrapp, Noah Pred and Tipper, for inspiration and enjoyment. For bridging underground and commercial elements: Afrojack, Skrillex, Sander Van Doorn and Calvin Harris. For turn-tableism: I like A Skillz, A trak, Z Trip but back in the day I used to really like Bad Boy Bill. Lately I have been loving Solidisco and Tujamo and finally my absolute idol: Fedde Le Grande because not only did he create “Put your hands up for Detroit” which sparked the whole electro craze and still then continued to put out quality music afterwards. But above that, his attitude and work ethic is extraordinary and you will never meet a more humble, talented and accomplished man. In all honesty though every DJ/Producer I have had the opportunity to open for or work with has influenced me from Hardwell to Esk83 or even Zedd to LMFAO. They have all helped shape me in some way or another. I’m always trying to learn and develop and what better way than to always keeping your mind open and expanding.
Me: I couldn’t agree more with your philosophy and I’m glad you are paying homage to those that have influenced you in your growth and aspirations. With you being a Winnipegger and a DJ that embraces our local EDM community can you please tell the readers some of the background of Winnipeg's scene, where it stands at the present, and what you can foresee for its future?
John: Since I have been involved in the Winnipeg scene I have experienced it evolve from a predominantly subculture 'after hours' genre with mainstream culture having a negative drug based stigma attached to it. At one time it was only the lounge compatible genres that were getting commercial exposure for just having ambiance to match a setting. For example hearing tech-house playing in the background of a sushi restaurant, the music was there to create an atmosphere but not for people to actually listen to. Then promoters, radio shows, and businesses began exploiting EDM’s cultural boom and we started hearing big-room house at box-stores in the mall and dub-step blasting at burger joints.
Now, I think we are starting to hit more of a happy medium with electronic music because it is finally getting an adequite level of mainstream exposure, and backing from more suitable avenues. We can hear various types of house and more chill G-house playing now more than ever at smaller clubs and venues for their regular bar nights (not only special events). The demand is also growing for larger events such as Summer of Sound and Frosh, which are now getting the biggest acts that continue to allow big room sounds to thrive. I honestly can’t wait to see what the future of electronic music has in store for Winnipeg!
I want to especially add that we have a supportive community right now. Lets begin with Jordan Chester at Underground Revival giving the grassroots bass community a place to cultivate, Dimensional Riff Music festival having an annual outdoor venue for bass music, MEME (Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition) giving mass exposure to the warming minimal and driving sounds of tech house, techno and other complimenting genres. Not to forget Summer of Sound, which is approaching its 3rd, year while progressively continuing to amplify its production and bringing an international headliner list to a level Winnipeg has yet to experience. We have so much amazing local talent that is being embraced and supported, local producers such as Lambo getting head nods from the likes of Diplo and the twerk-trap community, to The Midnight Lights electronic pop album on its way, and let me just say that I can’t wait for you to hear what Fahjah and I have coming down the pipe for your eardrums as well!!
Me: As a supporter of yours, I can say that I am definitely looking forward to it! Can you tell us a little more on what we can all look forward to from you in 2015?
John: I am set to launch my new Youtube channel that will focus on my new monthly podcast starting in March, live set and upcoming interactive sessions. I have a collection of genre spanning tracks including both collaborative and solo projects coming, from chill, warm jazzy sounds featuring artists like Jenna Penner to more aggressive club tracks.
I have also teamed up with my friend Craig at Neon Sky Visuals to develop a visual component to add to many of my club nights and events that have the infrastructure to support it. I will continue my weekly Good Thursdays at Green Room, and Saturday Night Residency at Stereo, but will also be launching a New Friday night called Therapy on March 13th at District Stop in the exchange. I will once again be involved and performing at Summer Of Sound which will coincide with the launch of my Skene Music re-brand, and I can definitely tell you it’s going to be the biggest line up central Canada has seen to date!! I would love for all of you to stay connected with me on my FB page and my IG for show and residency updates … or to just simply get in touch!
Me: You and I are among the many that engage with our local EDM community and I would love to hear what your thoughts are when it comes to what others can do to help our scene grow here at home?
John: The biggest thing we need to focus on right now as a community whether local, abroad and particularly online is to avoid part taking in all the cliquey, rant based blog articles and the general mud slinging. It is doing nothing but damaging the future of our beloved music. All genres, whether it be the commercialized Big-room and Melbourne bounce (Martin Garrix and Bombs Away) or the Artison down-tempo and bass music (Tipper, ill gates or KOAN Sound) should all be welcomed. You don't have to listen to sounds that aren't your thing but ranking genres over one another and then labeling your personal preference, as "real music” while trashing genres that don’t appeal to you, is what is tearing electronic music apart. We have over some vocal over cynical people yelling PLUR and then in the same breath saying things like "the scene/music isn't what it used to be”... of course it isn't what used to be, but PLUR is supposed to be the acceptance of diversity and the absence of judgment. Change is good, and electronic music has the ability to evolve quicker than people’s tastes can expire.
One of the strongest advantages of electronic music over more organic genres is how quickly it evolves and changes. I feel this is greatly impacted by the fact that someone with no musical knowledge can start playing with sounds and next thing you know there is a new sub-genre emerging. A genre that has been influenced by someone that has not yet been confined to a box created by critics. Imagine a young producer creating a track in his basement with zero mastering or polishing skill, this leaves the track untouched and raw… then the track hits the ears of its market and is also heard by other producers. These producers who may have classical music training or any refined education in music for that matter can take the young producer’s concept and then polish their interpretation of the genre to theoretical perfection by professionally mastering it in the studio. Once this is done, the track has the potential to become the next big song on the top 40’s list. This is an example of the ongoing cycle of underground influencing mainstream music.
Now if you want to influence this evolution then get involved… and no, I don’t mean get on a forum and trash everyone's music you don’t like… but start by supporting the artists who you do like by supporting the direction they are going, go to an event, throw an event, start producing or if you have been playing around with production, share your music! Be the change you want to experience in your scene! Simply get involved and participate. Also it is crucial for DJ’s to share their music. I never fully understood the "DJ cultural norm" of hiding and hoarding music instead of sharing and giving credit where it is due. When I started producing myself it was especially important for people to share music and give producers their rightful credit. DJ’s will play a fresh new innovative jam and not tell anyone who made it; hence they hoard, hide and hurt the evolution of electronic music and its producers. This alone is probably one of the biggest hindrances of the development and exposure of new and innovative music. It seems very innocent on the surface because they may not want the song to get overplayed by others, but the organic sharing of an artist’s music is how these new sounds and styles get exposure. The 'little guys' usually don’t have the budget for marketing campaigns or label support, all they have is their SoundCloud. If you hide it, it will simply impede the natural flow of their music spreading. Eventually that favorite producer of yours will stop making music cause they don’t have the time or can’t afford to produce anymore.
Me: I never knew that was going on! Is there anything else you would like to share with those reading?
John: Lastly, I just want to thank you all for your continued support! I’m going on 10 years as a DJ and I love every second of it. From the all the ups and downs of residencies to playing at major events and touring. I can’t express how thankful I am to be one of our many locals that is embraced as a rep of our electronic dance music community and how much I look forward to sharing all my new journey as a music producer with you guys.
Stay connected with me!!
On FB @SkeneMusic
BEFORE YOU LEAVE Don't Forget to HIT PLAY & Check out this REMIX by Fahjah and SKENE!
Me: Thanks John for taking the time to reach out to our community.
I want to add to all of you that John and I had spoken about doing this little segment last year but I wanted to have this ready for you around this time. The reason for this is at that timing can be everything, its now 2015 and we already know that 'festival season' and other electronic events are on their way. Be mindful of what you are doing in helping our community blossom rather than allow it to whither away. I’m sure all of us can say that our local community could improve, but can also agree that their have been great signs of growth over the years that are still continuing. If you have ideas on helping the community grow further feel free to contact me and maybe I can help :)
On a side note, I will be giving first dibs to the new apparel we are about to release to members of the “Winnipeg Rave Community” FB group before they are placed on our website. If you are not a member, feel free to join this group! Locals can either FB Message or contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to avoid paying for shipping. We are based out of Winnipeg and Toronto and are planning to be vendors at Digital Dreams & Veld this year, and will also be attending EDC Vegas and TomorrowWorld again. We have some pretty sweet stuff we are working on to share with you all soon and if you feel like getting in touch don’t ever hesitate! :)
Peace, Love, Unity, Respect