Interview - Eddie C

COVERCHORD FEATURE

Interview - Eddie C

JAPANESE

Inspired by the sounds of early 80’s hip hop, Southern Ontario native Eddie C first began experimenting with making tape edits before he had even reached his teens. Digging for records and attending warehouse parties followed, broadening his musical influences as he honed his DJ skills and production techniques. After launching his career from the idyllic mountain town of Banff, Alberta with a series of low-slung disco edits, Eddie C quickly became synonymous with the mid-tempo sound that burgeoned in the late 2000’s. Now plying his trade in Berlin, Germany, Eddie C has put out a healthy clutch of 12” singles over the years, and recently released On The Shore, his third full length album on Japanese imprint Endless Flight.
Interview - Eddie C

How did you get started? What was your path into DJing and producing records for a living?

Somewhere around 1986-87 a friend introduced me to RUN DMC. It was the Raising Hell Album and I’d never heard music like that before. I’d never even heard Hip Hop before and it totally blew my mind. Then around ’87 or ‘88 a friend’s older brother introduced us to a radio station broadcast in the middle of the night out of Toronto that was playing Depeche Mode and New Order as well Hip Hop and some of the early UK breakbeat music and acid house. Listening to that I discovered stuff like Pump Up The Volume, Coldcut, Eric B and Rakim, S’Express, Royal House, Todd Terry, Fast Eddie and lots of Hip house. There was this fusion of all kinds for music that was very very exciting. I remember hearing these songs that had loops in them, samples that were repeated, and that concept blew my mind. I had one of these all-in-one consul stereo systems, the cheapest thing you could get at the local department store in town. It had a plastic record player on top and dual tape decks and by pressing the phono and tape buttons together you could play a tape and a record over top, so I would play something on the tape deck and then try to scratching on the turntable, while recording it on the other tape deck. I was listening to what Jam Master Jay was doing and RUN DMC and they seemed to be looping like breakbeats so I thought I’ve got a tape deck, I could try and do that, that makes sense. So I picked the best parts of the RUN DMC tape and a few other tapes I had at the time and taught myself to loop using the two tape decks. Then a few years went by and it was about 1990 and I had two other friends who were interested in DJing and so by about grade 8 we threw our first party in the lunch room at school. We were playing Soul II Soul, Salt-N-Pepper, Public Enemy, that kind of stuff. So from about 1988 to 1992 I was just staying up as late as I could listening to the radio and I heard these ads about records stores and where you could go to buy records. As a 10 or 11 year old I would spend summers with my grandparents in Toronto, and with the info I got from the radio I would take my lawnmowing money and go downtown with my grandmother into these stores with lists of records by Big Daddy Kane and 45 King that I wanted to buy.

Hip Hop was very formative in your younger years. What was the scene you gravitated towards as you grew older?

Toronto had a very good dance music scene. From about ‘91 to ’95 there were a lot of DJs coming over from the UK and the music was changing really fast. Suddenly there was techno and hardcore, which I was really into. At the same time WARP records had started so I was into Sweet Exorcist and Nightmares on Wax and things like that. There were a lot of raves going on and I went to my first party in about ‘92 or ‘93. When I was about 16 one of my friends inherited a bunch of money and he wanted to spend it on a mobile soundsystem so we could start throwing parties. If it wasn’t for him I would never have gotten any type of experience DJing outside of my hometown. Basically we used to “bumrush” other raves in the countryside. We’d hear about some rave and just fill up the car and drive out and set up our own stage. It was a pretty hippy kind of time back then so people were totally fine. We did that for a couple of years. Then in about 94 we got very into Richie Hawtin, because Richie was like a cult figure in Ontario, and we went down to Detroit for a Plastikman party. I thought holy shit, it was like music heaven. The parties were like nothing we’d seen before. It felt like it wasn’t raving, it was something serious and frightening and dark and we were just like what the hell is this? I can’t even attempt to explain how intense and insane those trips were.

When you first started producing were you making techno and music like you were hearing at parties and raves at the time or was it something closer to the sound you are known for now?

I grew up in a very musical town. Everyone I knew was in a band or multiple bands, or into records. So in the early 90’s I was just into music, and when we had parties it would be in places like the local Lion’s Club and it would be the most random selection of music you could imagine. It might open with a folk singer, then there might be a punk band and then there might be a Hip Hop crew and then a death metal band then a poetry reading and of course lots of grunge and things which was popular at that time. All the bands made tapes and everybody had each other’s tapes and it was a very healthy environment musically to be growing up in. In high school you could take an electronic music production class. We had Cubase, some Roland stuff, my friend had an Ensoniq EPS sampler, another had a Korg M-1 and we put it all together and learnt how to use it. I have less gear now than was available to me 23 years ago. I probably made 10 albums worth of music and it’s some of my favorite music I’ve ever made. It sounds corny because I was a teenager and its very personal so it won’t ever be released in any form but it was so free and naïve and pure. I was a really inspiring time. I wrote music every day and I’m still looking for that kind of feeling in making music actually.

You spent 10 years in Banff, a small ski resort town in Alberta, and released your first records from there. How did living so far from everywhere affect the early stages of your career?

Banff is about an hour away from Calgary, which was home to Canada’s largest used record shop. It was a huge warehouse and had so much great stuff. At that same time I wasn’t really buying new records anymore as I had become a bit disillusioned with the scene in Toronto which had become very club oriented and people were wearing fancy clothes and drinking martini’s and I wasn’t really into it. So I stopped buying new records and was getting back into Hip Hop. By that time the Internet was a thing and I was using that to research all the sampling sources from my favorite records. Starting off with James Brown, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis and from those people you can extrapolate forever on where all the music came from. So I started doing that before moving onto rarer and weirder records. I was inspired by all the music I’d gathered and I started making Hip Hop again. By about 2005 I had a myspace music page and by chance someone wrote to me and offered to make a record with some of my tracks. Around that tie a good friend Koosh said to me, yeh your Hip Hop is pretty good but why don’t you just put a kick drum in there? I was super into artists like J. Dilla and Madlib and, while I never got the same kind of groove as those guys, that was the kind of music I thought I was making… a kind of 4/4 Hip Hop. I just kind of accidentally made this music that was categorized as something different at that time.

You picked up and moved to Berlin a few years ago. What was the reason for that move and how has it affected your production and DJing?

The move to Berlin came about through just being very comfortable in Banff but ready for a change, and at 35 I was almost at the cut off age of 36 for receiving an artist visa to live and work in Berlin. It was an incredibly inspiring place to be when I first moved there. Obviously a lot of the people who move there and live there are people who make careers out of techno. The whole city is very techno centric. People do move there for a career choice because there is so much going on there to sustain them. Richie Hawtin was one of the first from my part of the world to move there, and now we are up to about the 4th wave of DJs and producers heading over. Someone like me doesn’t really fit in, because it really is techno land, but it’s still an incredibly inspiring place and the record stores alone are a reason to live there.

You just released a new album on Endless Flight and it sounds very much like Eddie C. There are no signs that living in the global capital of techno music has permeated your sound. How do you maintain a distinct sound in spite of your environment?

I’m sure you have heard of the great Canadian musician Bryan Adams, but he has said never set out to make the music he does, he just happens to be good at it. He’s actually more of a fan of speed metal and thrash but he wasn’t any good at it. Some of his friends said, ok let’s try and make some ballads, and it just turned out that he was amazing at it. Maybe it’s some plague or curse on his life, but he is just exceptional at producing corny pop music and ballads. He just said it’s not my fault, that's just what came out of me. I’m kind of like that, for me when I go into the studio I don’t have a plan. It’s just what comes out is what comes out.

You are renowned for making music that is very mid-tempo. What is it about this speed that attracts you?

In between Banff and Berlin, I spent a couple of years in Vancouver while my wife went to photography school. There I worked in a record store and I was introduced to a lot of disco. I always had disco records but it was more Loft and Garage dance classics. Suddenly I was exposed to more rare and obscure stuff and I became very interested in mid-tempo music. The idea of doing a night playing music of any genre that was between 108-115 BPM’s was very appealing to me. I was reading in Wax Poetics about Daniele Baldelli and cosmic music and then Lindstrom and Prins Thomas and finding out there were new records coming out that sounded like all this old music that I’m just learning about and was super excited about. I suddenly had all these old records that I could now play with new music. Mark E was one of the early people around ’05 or ‘06 whose records I bought and thought oh wow this is the guy who knows what’s up. I was very into his music. I actually sent a couple of things of mine and he passed it onto Jiscomusic and it became one of my first releases.

Where do you go record shopping when here in Tokyo?

A couple of secret spots that I don’t want to give away but I always remember the first shop Kenji Takimi took me too in 2010 and there was a box with “Theo Parrish Plays”, and “DJ Harvey Plays” written on them and I thought oh my god this is next level. Of course the usual spots like Disk Union, Lighthouse, Technique and even HMV are great.

You have your own label, Red Motorbike, which is almost entirely 7” releases. Why did you choose the 7” format?

I was writing a lot of short music. In dance music you tend to write 7-8 minute tracks, but my music was structured more in a Hip Hop format, with an intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus and outro. This kind of structure is typically 3-4 minutes long. So I thought I don’t want to do a 12”, because I’m not doing extended or radio versions or anything like that. Also I’m a huge fan of reggae and dub and very much into this movie The Rockers, which was what inspired the name of the record label actually. It's the story of a guy who was drummer in a band and he saves up all his money to buy a red motorbike and distribute his own records. And this idea, to live in Jamaica in the 1970’s and drive around on a motorbike and sell my own 45’s was such a dream for me. That was actually partially one of the reasons for moving to Berlin because it's a place where you can do that. A place where I can make 7” records and and sell them all myself. There are at least 15 shops in Berlin that I can ride my bike to and sell them my records. I think outside of Berlin, Tokyo is probably the only other city in the world where you could do that.

Canada’s dance music scene seems to be very healthy at the moment with the emergence of the much touted “Vancouver Sound” and a lot of hype around record labels like 1080p and Mood Hut. What’s happening over there right now and why is there so much good music coming out?

I’m not really sure to be honest as I’m pretty far away in Berlin, but I know there are some champion diggers in Vancouver, people who are really into rare and obscure sounds and people into pushing boundaries and trying new things. I know the Mood Hut guys come from a noise background and I guess they tried to make some house music and just turned out to be very good at it. The Bryan Adams affect I guess.

What are your top 3 records of all time?

Impossible. What I will tell you is the albums I’m going to buy while here in Tokyo. The new Vakula album and the new Smith & Mudd album. There is also a great Kenji Takimi remix of Sleazy McQueen that's coming out that is just dynamite too. The new album from Telephones is fantastic too.

What record is always in the bag?

Something acid. You have to have a little bit of acid in your bag. Maybe something from Nick Holder, he’s a Toronto producer whose records I’ve been playing for more than 25 years. Probably something on DNH Records.

What have you got coming up?

A few more remixes. One for Rune Lindbaek and something for Mareh Music in Brazil. These guys throw amazing parties in Sao Paolo and Rio and also a phenomenal two week long party at New Years on the beach with all my favorite people in the world like Eric Duncan, Tim Sweeny, Pete Herbert, Ray Mang and so many more.

Any last words?

I just want to say thank you so much. Japan is one of my favorite if not my favorite place to visit in the world and I’m so flattered that people are into my music here. People are so kind. The last time I was here someone gave me a little carved house with my record label inscribed into it that you could build like a puzzle. Another guys gave me a handmade button, one of a kind, only one in the world with Prince on it. I’ve received about four new records and two CD’s of music by Japanese artists I don’t even know what is on yet. I can’t wait to play it for people in Berlin. Also the friendliness, the people here are infinitely more friendly than where I live. Please don't stop being friendly.