Hatiras Weighs in on Toronto's Scene
With so many fresh big bass beats flowing from his decks, it's easy to overlook the fact that Hatiras has been a key figure in Toronto's electronic music scene for over a decade.
As one of the brains behind the Liquid Adrenaline production company, George Hatiras has worked hard to promote some of Toronto's most innovative electronic events. As an artist on Beatport, Hatiras has put out some of the most awesome bass-driven beats the city's ever seen. He's also sold over a half-million records, operates two record labels, has two Junos under his belt AND recently received a 2009 nomination for Get Blahsted with MC Flipside.
So what does this influential electronic artisan have to say about his experiences in Toronto's scene? Here's what he shared about his adventures in the industry, and the current state of Toronto electronic scene.
When did you first start your career as a DJ/producer?
I used to be a party promoter back in the mid 90's. I ran a rave company called Liquid Adrenaline and wanted to create audio shout-outs and intros for my resident DJs to play at my events.
At the time, this was a complicated process (it was before you could just burn a CD and play it out at a show). I had to rent studio time from a friend, record the intros and then pay for one-off vinyl pressings of the audio (called "dubplates"). When I did that, it sparked my interest in music production so I saved up some money and bought an EMU sampler, an Atari computer, a Roland MC-303 Groovebox and a mixing board. After months of dabbling with the equipment (quite religiously), I made a demo CD of my productions. A friend (actually MC Flipside) got the CD into the hands of Bad Boy Bill. Bill loved my sound so much that he offered me an album deal with his Chicago-based record label IHR (International House Records). This was back in 1998 or so.
Ok, but where did the first inspiration to DJ comes from?
As far as DJing goes - I remember messing around with a double tape deck as a child. I used to record mixes from local Toronto radio shows like Dave's Dance Music or Peter, Tyrone and Sham's Fear Edit.
I would edit the music, make mixed tapes and sell them from there. Yes, it was a criminal activity at the time but I was 12 and I did it for the love, and ended up giving away more tapes than I sold ;) I also gave a bunch of tapes to clothing stores at the local mall. It felt good to walk into the shops and hear my mixes blasting. Of course, at the time, finding any electronic or underground music was a total treasure hunt (this was before the days of the internet). Later on, when I was a teenager I would play records at house parties and at friend's homes.
What pushed you over the edge and inspired you to make music?
In the early 90's I was mainly into jungle/dnb and was heavily influenced by the junglist mentality (dubplates of unreleased records, VIP mixes of songs, DJ's rewinding big records, MCs hyping up the crowd, etc.). By the time the mid 90's came around a new genre of tough, choppy, funky yet techy disco-house surfaced. Daft Punk released their album Homework around then and I was blown away. I remember meeting Thomas Bangalter (of Daft Punk) in Toronto at Industry - we didn't say much but he became one of my early influences. I wanted to make my own version of house music, taking elements from the punchy, compressed French house sound with elements of drum & bass.
Nowadays, I get a lot of inspiration from my weekly radio show - I get to hear different DJ mixes every week from producers from all over the world. There are so many good artists out there pushing the envelope and creating new sounds - guys like Laidback Luke, Switch, Herve, Bart B More, Will Bailey, Wolfgang Gartner, Calvertron, Nadastrom, Vandalism, Deadmau5, DJ Dan and even commercial acts like Kanye West are helping to evolve music.
Can you describe your style of music, in terms of method/philosophy and sound?
In terms of production I always strive for excellent sound quality, good production, wild trickery with a dash of sarcasm, fun and tension and release. Oh, and of course, heavy bass and a driving tempo is always one of my signatures. I'm probably not the best at describing my music because I try not to limit myself to one sound or one set of rules when creating it.
Regarding DJing - I like to show up to a venue armed with a variety of music ranging from mainly quirky electro house and techno all the way to minimal, tribal and straight-up house. I really like to mix it up and keep things interesting and crazy on the dancefloor. Of course, I do play a ton of my own music as well and like to test out new productions before I release them.
Coming out of Toronto, how would you describe our 'electronic' music scene?
I feel that Toronto used to have the best scene in the world but lost a lot of the magic, innovation and variety when independent promoters got replaced or swallowed up by just a handful of mega-clubs. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate everything the big clubs are doing in this city, but we need more one-off events, small venues, underground parties, variety in the music, local support, infrastructure and world class festivals if we want to compete on a global scale.
A lot of people might hate on me for saying that but, trust me - a city like Tokyo, cities in Australia and South America generally have more excited crowds, massive parties and variety. There still are lots of great events and a huge interest in electronic music in Toronto - but I feel that we really need a good shake up in this city to get back to where we used to be on the global scale - we need to regain the sense of excitement, fun, community and sharing that should drive and define this scene.
So are raves dead, or did something else happen to the rave scene?
The rave scene isn't dead - it's really struggling in Toronto but it can be revived. Ultimately, '90's culture is having a renewed influence in a lot of new music and forthcoming fashion - you can hear a lot of old rave breaks, stabs and samples in current electro, fidget and techno tunes. In that sense, rave culture is simply being morphed into something new. In terms of one-off events, raves are pretty much dead in Toronto because there aren't enough independent promoters throwing events that cater to the all-ages crowd anymore. It's difficult here because most venues are more concerned about alcohol revenue over ticket sales.
That's not to say that there isn't a massive "rave" scene (if you want to call it that) in other cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, throughout South America, etc. They seem to be thriving out there. I would absolutely love it if we got a resurgence of the original rave spirit in Toronto again and am optimistic that it will happen.
What's your favourite venue in Toronto, and abroad?
Ageha Club in Japan is impressive - it's massive, has amazing sound and a really wild crowd. Although pretty much any venue in Japan is amazing.
Finally, what's one song you'd love to take and mix up or re-engineer that people wouldn't expect to hear from you?
The Macarena, Who Let The Dogs Out, maybe even that Chicken Dance song they play at all the weddings. I'd like to remix one of those and then shoot myself... In all seriousness there are so many old tunes I could rework - anything from Madonna, New Order, Depeche Mode, Stevie Wonder, Giorgio Moroder, Information Society, etc. would be fun.
Hatiras comes through Toronto on the regular, with his next show scheduled in Guelph on April 22nd. In the meantime, I've been checking out the (mostly) free downloads available at his official site - well worth the bandwidth!
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