Nothing comes close to making me feel as old as I do as the holidays. Christmas, with all the trimmings, still has its perks—namely spending serious time with relatives you hardly see otherwise, but over the years it has become increasingly clear that this is the season when the fires of nostalgia take over. Many have pointed to the fact that my birthday falls on New Year’s Day as the source of my strife, but I think it may run a little deeper than that. It took me a while, but when I finally accepted that I had inherited my father’s old gifts (long-johns, underwear, socks and “Avon for Men” products) it became much more entertaining for me to think about the holidays of my youth. Unlike a lot of kids I knew when growing up, I hardly ever received gifts that I actually wanted. Despite a lot of begging, groveling and pandering to my parents, they rarely came through with the goods—they did what they could, but we always wanted more.I remember once thinking that I could somehow convince my mother to buy me a pair of black leather pants—she had, after all, caved in and bought me a slick leather tie (which could even be worn to church). This was an unsuccessful campaign, thanks in part to the pictures of Eddie Murphy I had used to illustrate the pants’ useful practicality. There were a few things that I had somehow managed to wrangle out of my mom over the years—namely a pair of K Swiss Classic sneakers and some Choose Your Own Adventure books—but for the most part, I got used to making do with soap and tangerines. Then one Christmas, without any encouragement, my parents bought me a Casio Concertmate 2000, a little electronic keyboard that allowed a person to sample any sound; including the dog, the phone, my dad, or your own voice. This allowed me to create music using noises from anywhere and everywhere—to the horror and frustration of my poor loving parents. It was easily the most thoughtful gift I had ever received, and I kept it close for a very long time ... until it broke.Years later, after I had discovered the pleasure in treating oneself to a little holiday something, I bought a second-hand Gemini mixer from a friend of mine, who had convinced me that it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I had just started DJ-ing at the time, and truly believed that this little mixer would change my life. The Gemini Scratch Master was pretty-much your standard two-channel DJ mixer, but it also came with an eight-second digital sampler built right in. I was now able to perfect and broaden the array of original music I had created with the Concertmate, and sampled directly from the Dixieland, polka and church-music vinyl I found in the basement. I became obsessed with creating beats, which lead to the purchasing of cheap vinyl of any kind to add to my growing library of sounds, as well as to late-night phone conversations with the one or two friends who were also making basic masterpieces. Playing muffled beats back and forth on the phone at two o’clock in the morning doesn’t sound too romantic, but it’s something I still do today.Last year, I heard about a club night in the UK called CDR, where basement producers are encouraged to showcase their music publicly once a month on a pristine sound system. I immediately recognized this as something that was created for people like me who, for far too long, had been making music that no one would ever hear. This is how Turf Builder was born.Turf Builder is a monthly opportunity for anyone making independent music in Montreal (using software, hardware, or just good old-fashioned musical instruments) to showcase their work. Instead of people calling people at some ungodly hour to play their “next shit,” we’ve invited all the beat-makers and producers to meet with other like-minded individuals and listen. There are no prizes or competition, but it’s not unusual for uproarious applause to follow a particularly good track.The response to the monthly venture so far has been great—people who’ve just begun fiddling with sequencing software can submit tracks and work right alongside experienced, well-known beat-heads like Moonstarr and Ghislain Poirier. The people who participate seem to genuinely enjoy the instant feedback they get by being in the room when their track is played, and you know that phone numbers and contact info are always flying. Montreal is full of people sitting on great music and that’s part of the reason I fell in love with what I affectionately call “The Undiscovered Country.”As a result of its success, we’ve decided to release some of the standout submissions on the upcoming Turf Builder Vol.1 compilation, to be released on Public Transit Recordings in early 2006. And, as word continues to spread, we hope to foster and encourage a whole new wave of independent Montreal music-makers that aren’t afraid to be heard, no matter what stage of development their work might be in. I guess I should really thank my parents when I get home this Christmas, because—soap and tangerines aside—they really did have a hand in opening my mind to the things a person can do with a few tools and a lot of imagination. After all, the idea that you can accomplish a lot with very little is a gift that keeps on giving.
Turf Builder falls on the last Wednesday of every month at Kunta Lounge, 2021 St-Denis. Submit a 5 song CD of original material at the event with your name and e-mail- for more info e-mail [email protected]