[PREVIEW] [INTERVIEW] TORONTO'S HOUSEADDICT CELEBRATES WITH ELI & FUR AT CODA
Toronto’s house and techno scene is brimming with energy and HouseAddict has been a dynamic part of its growth for over a decade. The platform will be celebrating their thirteen-year anniversary this Friday, October 21st at CODA with rising London (UK) duo, Eli & Fur. The prolific deep house/tech house producers have been growing steadily since 2012 with well-received releases on Anjunadeep, Defected and Toolroom, including collaborations with Santé, Erick Morrillo and Dantiez Saunderson. Recently, the DJs played the last season of Music is Revolution, Carl Cox’s legendary weekly party at Space Ibiza, including the epic Closing party. The pair are showing no signs of slowing down as they embark upon their North American tour - catch them, supported by Toronto talent Jonathan Rosa, Sam Haze and City Kid Soul, at their first stop for HouseAddict’s 13th Anniversary celebration! Event info here, tickets here.
I also caught up with HouseAddict’s main man, Chris McKean, recently where we talked about the importance of relationships, changes and cycles in Toronto’s scene over the past decade, challenges and growth as a promoter, and much more. In collaboration with other city promoters, the HouseAddict team has played an integral role in bringing revered talent to Toronto, including Jimpster, Chus & Ceballos, Scuba, Carl Craig, Satoshi Tomiie, Sante, Fur Coat, Mark Farina, Dennis Ferrer and many more. Check out what he had to say!
Thanks for taking the time to be here! When you think back over thirteen years, what stands out in your mind as the greatest gift it's brought you?
I think it’s mainly the relationships that we’ve gathered over the years - they’ve been awesome. They really started with the people that we partied with. We were partiers, we were DJs and we wanted to start throwing parties. So we were out on the weekends with everybody. Places like System Sound Bar, and even going back to Roxy Blue and all those other places. We’ve also got some really positive, strong and long-lasting relationships with the venues that we work with, and our promoters too. It’s been really rewarding recently also with the staff at House Addict because we have some really vibrant and energetic people that work with us - really outgoing and amazing. A couple of summers ago we also linked up with Richard Brooks of Captive Audience, and it’s been amazing working with him and the gang down at Sunnyside. So yea, I think probably the most rewarding thing has just been all the people that we’ve met and the strong ties that we’ve created in Toronto’s scene over the past thirteen years. It’s been stressful too, but a lot of fun.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in Toronto’s scene over the past decade?
One is technology. Artists used to just use records, and then it was CDJs and then it was USB sticks and then it was laptops and now they perform live, so it’s been really interesting to see the musical landscape change as technology evolves. You can see some pretty amazing live shows through the use of technology with people like Henrik Schwartz. But nowadays you can also see somebody slay it at a club with all vinyl. Somebody who really knows their music and vinyl. So that’s one of the biggest changes. The advancement of technology has really changed the ability of artists to perform in a way that they can express themselves the best. That’s been really interesting.
Venues have changed a lot. The one thing that has remained relatively consistent is there are never really a lot of venues in Toronto for us to do proper underground events. There was a time where there was only a handful of clubs, and it was really difficult to do pop-ups in the city. So, raw spaces, warehouses, basements, lofts and things like that. That’s been another big change. It’s been cyclical because that’s really how it started in Toronto, and that’s now back. It’s really like, the return of the pop-up. That’s been going for a couple years now. We can do parties in raw warehouses and the appropriate places where we can get permits and get the right licences, artists and people into these new and different venues. It’s changed, but this one’s been really cyclical in terms of the venues.
Also, probably one of the biggest ones too has been how much more popular house and techno is now. It used to be that the market for the underground in Toronto was really, really tight. If there were a couple of big promotion companies that did parties on the same night it could be really detrimental to the success of those parties. But now house and techno is becoming so popular you could have three or four solid events going on in one night, or on a weekend, and they can all do relatively well.
It’s not pop culture yet. It is to a certain extent because we’ve got people who really aren’t in the underground anymore, the big names like Tiesto, and all that kind of stuff. But, it’s becoming really popular now. It’s a good thing for electronic music and underground house and techno in Toronto, for sure.
Awesome. What components come together to make a great party for you?
It’s a combination of a lot of things. It tends to start with the right artists and right performers. You want to be able to hire and book that artist who has that sound that you really love, and that you’re really excited about, and to share that type of excitement when the booking lands. It’s about matching it up with the right venue. Going from being in a crazy well-lit and well-produced club to maybe a raw warehouse space where there’s no drywall and there’s exposed brick and really high ceilings. So, trying to match the artists' sound with those types of venues. And of course, the vibes are all about the people. There’s nothing better than being at a venue where it’s absolutely rammed and people are just losing it. They’re not just dancing casually, but people are losing it on the dance floor. Their hands are up, you can hear the people screaming and it’s just super packed and people are not just having a good time but they’re having an amazing time. Those are the events you get goosebumps at.
Do you have a favourite party in your last decade-plus of parties? Is there one or two that stand out?
There are! One was our ten year anniversary. We did that with MANIK, he’s out of San Diego. I’d been booking him for awhile and at the time he had a similar sound to Crosstown Rebels and Ovum Recordings. We did it at the Red Door Loft, which was owned by a dude named Andry. Amazing guy. So basically the Red Door Loft was attached to his home. Super underground. It holds, I don’t know 150 people or something like that. It was like the stars aligned for that party. The place was packed so early and I think we went 'til 5 or 6 in the morning. It was absolutely bonkers! So, that was an awesome one ‘cause it was one of those ones where it wasn’t huge, huge, huge. It was one of those venues where everything connected - right DJ for the right event at the right venue, and the people who came just had an amazing time. That was fantastic. That one goes down in the books for me.
The next one was the HouseAddict debut at Sunnyside Pavillion. Our debut was the summer of 2015 and we were fortunate that Rich let us host the season opener. We’d been working with Jimpster off the Freerange label for nine or ten years. It was the worst storm of the summer. Like, 100 km/hour winds, pitch black skies, rain that wasn’t coming down like normal rain. It was like buckets. Digital Dreams was down the street and I remember it got cancelled that day because the wind and weather was so bad. But, Sunnyside Pavillion is a really interesting venue. It’s got a lot of nooks and crannies where you can actually shoehorn a party into if it’s the worst of weathers. It ended up working out. I don’t know how we did it. We did like 600-700 people in the back of the cafe. We built tent city and used ten tents that we bought from Walmart on the sides and created a dance floor that held a good 400-500 people, and everybody just showed. I couldn’t believe it!
I remember seeing videos about that party..
Yea, it was awesome! I’ve got videos from when I was in the booth and Jamie was having a good time. So that one and the ten-year anniversary - those are in the top two, that’s for sure.
Nice! With an eye to the future, what’s your vision with where you’re going?
People can expect to see some of the same. We’ll still be popping up in some of the venues that people are used to seeing us at, like our regular club nights. But we’re just in discussions with the gang down at Sunnyside Pavillion. We’re going to help that grow a little. Maybe get some different performers in, and some different team members in, with Rich at the helm as he always has been. We’ve only been at Sunnyside two seasons and in the two summers we’ve been there you can see there’s opportunity for growth. There are so many spaces, it’s not even funny. This summer was pretty aggressive. We did six shows, so it was really busy, but there’s an opportunity to do something a little different down there in the next few years. I think that’s primarily where you’re going to start to see us doing some different things.
What’s it like being a promoter in terms of challenges? There must be stuff that you’ve had to learn how to navigate through, and that have made you grow personally?
Yea. Any good promoter that’s been around for awhile will agree when I say that it really is an emotional roller coaster. We do get thicker skin as the years go by, but for certain parts of the business. For other parts of the business it’s still such an emotional roller coaster. Like, thirteen years later, I’m a little calmer now in terms of the things that I do. Some of the hardest things were always trying to get a hold of the performer that you wanted, getting to book them, and trying to book them at the right club. And you’d do everything you could to make it happen, and if it didn’t happen you’d be so stressed out and so upset. I realize now that if it doesn’t happen this time, just keep plugging away and it eventually will come. Especially if you’re professional about it with the agents, and your partners and the venues that you work with. That special party will come. But yea, it’s still an emotional roller coaster with regards to some things. It’s hard to explain. One week you have this amazing party where you’ve got goosebumps and you’re having an amazing time and then two weeks later, the club’s not even half full and you’re scratching your head going, What the heck happened here? So there’s no silver bullet, there really isn’t, to say this is how the business goes and it’s always going to work successfully that way. You’re constantly having to learn, you’re constantly having to evolve, having to think about new things, diversify your taste in music as well. So yea, it’s a really challenging role.
What advice would you give yourself from today, back to thirteen years ago, if any?
It’s about the journey. And make it a long one. Don’t try to get it done super fast and quick and be a bright shining star within a year. It’s a lot of work. Relationships take time to build, and they can take a long time to build. Some happen quickly, some take a long time. So don’t worry with those first few jams that you’re struggling with, in many cases the first few years you’re struggling with. It’s a long journey, just chart a path. Have a vision. What do you see at the end of that journey? And then work towards that.
Many thanks to Chris for taking the time to chat, and Amanda and Nadia, more of the HouseAddict team!