When I look back at all the places I have traveled I’m always reminded that Toronto has one of the best scenes in the world for electronic dance music. The T.O. scene is kept alive because of people who are passionate about the music, including DJs like Isaac S, who is continuing to champion a solid, steady Progressive House sound with this latest In Demand exclusive.
I first heard of Isaac S six years ago when I was attending the University of Waterloo. During that time I worked at a restaurant beside the Revolution nightclub, where Isaac held a five year residency. During my late-night breaks I would sneak out to the venue’s House space, the Purple Room to catch some of Isaac’s high energy sets.
Since that time Isaac has kept himself very busy both as a DJ and in the production side of EDM. DJing, Isaac has spun at many of Toronto’s most well know and beloved clubs such as System Soundbar, Roxy Blu, Element, The Docks and the Guverment. He’s also been booked for some of the city’s most high profiled one-offs including the world renowned Fashion Cares benefit.
On the production side, Isaac has released several tracks and remixes both internationally and domestically and has recently established his own label, “Dirty Deluxe Records” with his new production partner Jeff Hurst aka J-Groove. His production is such high quality he’s had tracks featured on John Digweed’s Kiss 100 UK based radio show.
Isaac started DJing during the early Toronto rave scene when he was 18 and now 13 years later I think it’s safe to say Isaac is a veteran! Within seconds I knew this exclusive In Demand mix was going to be a great one. Right from the intro beat I wanted to clap my hands… you`ll hear what I mean. So turn up the volume because what you’re about to hear is full of chunky build ups and killer vocal tracks; it definitely has a big club feel!
Carrying on with the In Demand tradition I survived a Japanese typhoon to sit on my porch and find a wireless connection so that Isaac and I could have a chat. What came out of it is really very entertaining…
Inside the IM with Isaac S & littlemissbluedress
From the life of a DJ in Canada, to simply life in Canada, this “Inside the IM” covers all aspects of this incredibly talented and dedicated Toronto talent.
Lisa: Hey Isaac
Isaac S: Hey Lisa
Lisa: So are you at work right now?
Isaac S: Yup
Lisa: Cool I just got back from work.
Isaac S: How was that?
Lisa: Pretty good, its pretty much like getting paid to talk English to Japanese people, it can be interesting and it can be boring.
Isaac S: Frustrating ever?
Lisa: Sometimes, the kids can be frustrating, they’re little devils sometimes, but they are cute.
Isaac S: Haha!
Lisa: Is there another language that you would like to learn?
Isaac S: Yup plenty, I have total respect for people with multiple languages.
Lisa: Me too, which would you like to learn the most?
Isaac S: I “should” learn Italian considering that’s my background
Lisa: Ha, like I should learn Maltese. I know a little, but not fluently.
Isaac S: My parent’s speak English at home and even my grandparents, who are from Italy, have come to speaking primarily English in the home over the years.
Lisa: It’s like that at my house too. And everyone in Malta speaks perfect English as well.
Isaac S: There u go…. so there’s no motivation. I look for the easy way out. Haha!
Lisa: So what do you like doing when you aren’t at work or in the studio?
Isaac S: Outside of that? Drink beer! Not much time outside of that to be honest, but I like to hang with the friends for sure.
Lisa: What do you like to do to relax?
Isaac S: Beer and a puff – puff. LOL… vacations are cool obviously. I like the Caribbean a lot. I often go to visit my sister and hang in Montreal too.
Lisa: How much music do you listen to everyday?
Isaac S: All day at work. I check out mixes, tracks at retailers, mates who send tracks during the day. The time difference from Europe is good for that. I would say eight hours a day at least. My car CD player has actually acted up and I feel like I am in hell!!
Lisa: Oh man I remember when that happened to me; it was actually when I was living in Waterloo for a summer. I was dying listening to the radio
Isaac S: So you know the hell…. radio in Canada is terrible!
Lisa: OMG it is the worst!
Isaac S: Nickelback is on every channel.
Lisa: Have your musical tastes changed over the years?
Isaac S: A bit yes. I’ve come to appreciate a lot more now that I’ve been putting more and more time into production. I’ve always been a person who paid more attention to the beats rather than the vocals though. Still am today. But vocals, when done right, can totally compliment a track.
Lisa: I agree, the beat is most important, without it you have nothing, but vocals can be very sexy
Isaac S: I’ve always appreciated different types of House, but I appreciate even some production on pop music, etc. Dare I say?
Lisa: No I agree. I loved Madonna’s last CD. I thought the production was amazing.
Isaac S: It was actually a House producer that worked on that album, Jacques Lu Cont or Stuart Price.
Lisa: Ya I figured, the beats were great for something mainstream.
Isaac S: The scene is very intertwined with pop culture.
Lisa: How so?
Isaac S: Many producers are producing for underground labels as well as major labels
Lisa: I’ve always wondered about that. Even some TV shows have amazing tracks… like CSI.
Isaac S: Yup that is My Digital Enemy; they own their own Progressive House label
Lisa: Wow that’s awesome you know that!
Isaac S: By chance, haha.
Lisa: I have recognized tracks before and was amazed
Isaac S: Mind you shows like CSI are a collective of producers. My Digital Enemy doesn’t do all, a number of episodes feature their work however.
Lisa: What DJs/producers have inspired you over the years?
Isaac S: Way too many! No one in particular, but the people I am working with today really push me forward in learning more… J-Groove (Jeff Hurst), Wesley S and BP Zulauf.
Lisa: How did you meet J-Groove?
Isaac S: To be honest… I don’t remember… haha….but it did stem from the DJ scene in Toronto. I think it was through a mutual friend at the time.
Lisa: How did you start your partnership?
Isaac S: We were working on a casual project…. as many producers do…. eventually we found that we got along really well, enjoyed similar things and saw that we could benefit from working together for various reasons. I’ve learnt a lot from J-Groove technically. He’s got a great history and teaches me a lot.
Lisa: When did you decide to create the label?
Isaac S: After we shopped around a number of tracks, landed a few deals which are good, but everything was 50/50. We said, “forget this” and thought to go forward around this time last year. We wanted to see more benefit and have more control over our own destiny. Digital labels make this possible… but it’s not easy either. Sales still aren’t as good as one would like. The blatant public sharing is disgusting to be honest.
Lisa: So do you rely on sales from websites to make the label profitable?
Isaac S: For the label itself… yes. I guess there is the odd compilation you can get on that may pay, but that is becoming scarce. There are also video games, TV, and movies which would be amazing to get into. We’d like to get there one day soon.
Lisa: With so many labels out there how do you try to differentiate Dirty Deluxe?
Isaac S: Well we do have a fun theme, aligning ourselves with the dirtiness of American fast food. A fusion of dirty American fast food and British style Electro House I guess you can say; the perfect underground cuisine.
Isaac S: Haha!
Lisa: So what would you say is the vision for Dirty Deluxe Records?
Isaac S: To put out quality beats… and feature rising stars from the production world that are in line with the dirty electro house sound…. dirty Funk, etc. Not necessarily Electro, but we are always sticking to our House foundation.
Lisa: I love the track ‘Magic Boobs’ what was the inspiration? LOL!
Isaac S: The true story to that, my friend George pointed out this… err movie…. and said “this vocal is cool.” The girl goes “…and these are my magic boobs.” It was funny to be honest. He sent the audio to me and I just used it…. hence the track title. I made the track for fun. I would have done it differently now to be honest…. but that’s the way it goes.
DJing and the Scene
Lisa: Since you began DJing what has been the biggest challenge?
Isaac S: The transition from vinyl to digital (CD) was hard. Not literally but mentally I guess. Now I think it’s amazing, as music is much easier to obtain. No more fighting at the record shop for one of the few copies of a good track.
Lisa: Do you think that makes it harder for everybody to have unique tracks?
Isaac S: Well there’s so much product out there that you can still stand out. Instead of digging through crates at different record stores, you are scrolling through different pages at different online retailers.
Lisa: Which definitely takes time and patience?
Isaac S: Definitely. But I have a passion for House music and still get thrills seeking it out. Kind of like porn for the average Joe on the Internet.
Lisa: It’s a better addiction I think. What has been your biggest challenge recently?
Isaac S: My biggest challenge production wise is getting the finished product I want. Label wise – getting the name out there. DJ wise – finding venues and promoters that I’d like to work with and would want to bring me in. I’m bored of the same old.
Lisa: If you had a choice of venue where would it be?
Isaac S: If I had a choice… definitely a beach club or something of the sort; something uplifting. Canada is a bit short on those
Lisa: Sure is, how about in Canada?
Isaac S: In Canada, I don’t know. Pretty much been there – done that. But I tend to like the smaller club, lounge venues you can find in many Canadian cities… just not in abundance.
Lisa: Over the seven years I have been in this scene I have seen many changes happen, especially in Toronto. What do you think have been some positive or negative changes?
Isaac S: Positively I see a desire for the music. The desire is genuine too, perhaps not like the rave days when some were not genuinely there for the music if you know what I am saying. Negatively, the venues and attitudes of club owners and promoters aren’t changing. I hear from many people, including myself, how they are bored with the scene locally; same venues, same DJs, etc., etc.
Lisa: I hear the same things, hopefully that is going to change.
Isaac S: Not too put in a shameless plug but I think bringthebeats are working on some things that should add a bit more excitement to Toronto’s scene.
Lisa: Ha, we love the plugs but I couldn’t say it myself.
Isaac S: To put a positive spin on everything…. there’s cycles. Eventually we will be bombarded with new venues, etc. Hopefully I am not retired by that time though, LOL. Another problem is the cost of land/rent downtown; it’s one of the highest in Canada, if not the highest. For the average clubber…. you spend $100 just to get to the club, parking, gas, etc.
Lisa: Ya for sure, it does make for an expensive night, that’s why I don’t buy drinks.
Isaac S: Ha, I don’t blame ya.
Lisa: If you had an unlimited amount of money for one day what would you do with it?
Isaac S: Now that would be dirty. But honestly unlimited… one thing I would do is try to correct a lot of issues in the world. I think the imbalance of wealth is a huge issue.
Lisa: It really is, there are too few people controlling way too much in this world.
Isaac S: Exactly. I’ve come to realize… and this is actually from DJing. Making people happy is actually very satisfying.
Lisa: So would you say that is the most satisfying thing about DJing?
Isaac S: Definitely it is. Out of the blue, you feel you are playing another regular club, but then someone comes up to you and says, “You made my day. I was feeling like crap but now I feel good!” Its great when you are playing music you believe in and others appreciate it to that degree.
Lisa: That’s why I always make a point of telling the DJ how much I enjoyed their set or mix.
Isaac S: That’s great… because it is appreciated.
Lisa: Like your In Demand mix of course, every time the intro track comes on I feel like clapping my hands
Isaac S: Perfect!
Lisa: I’ve been listening to it a lot. I love the vocal tracks you’ve got in there
Isaac S: Glad to hear that. I’m picky with the vocal tracks (usually) so I hope it gets that reaction!
Lisa: If you were to come back in another life what would you come back as?
Isaac S: A girls’ bike seat…
Isaac S: But seriously… as the sun I guess.
Lisa: That’s interesting, why?
Isaac S: It makes people happy (usually).
Lisa: That’s a nice answer… okay, one last question…what do you think is the best and worst thing about being Canadian?
Isaac S: Best thing…. the country is so large, there is great diversity, both socially and geographically. Worst thing… to me… is the influence the US has on us. America is a great nation but their ideologies tend to be quite rigid and clash with ours many times. Their proximity and influence has been and continues to impact our society and sometimes negatively.
Lisa: I agree. I also hate the lack of beaches and the cold.
Isaac S: Here, here.
Lisa: I have to get going Isaac, my butt is starting to hurt on this pavement; it was great chatting with you!
Isaac S: Okay… good talking to you Lisa! Thanks and enjoy Japan!
Lisa: My pleasure, talk to you soon.
Isaac S: Cool, have a good night.
Lisa: Have a good day 😉