Country City Country. It’s the title of Eddie C’s latest full-length record, and an obvious description of his peripatetic lifestyle. To most, the thought of such a routine is exhausting, but to Eddie it’s more like a blessing. Anyone who pursues an art, no matter the shape or form, knows that leaving home is crucial to your craft’s health. And while the music business tends to thrive in a big city environment, creativity often strikes in the most tranquil of settings, which is what Eddie discovered when he left his hometown of Toronto and loaded his clothes, books, and a couple thousand records underneath a bus and made the five-day trek west to the rocky mountains of Canada.
The Alberta mountains provided the necessary solitude and convenience for Eddie to take up his passion for skiing and exploring, which, in turn, gave him enough time and space to reflect and get back into the flow of making music―something he had taken a break from upon moving. But it was only a matter of time before music became his priority once again, resulting in another spontaneous move to Berlin. I will not spoil the story too soon, as Eddie and I got in touch and discussed his life over the last decade, leading up to Country City Country. It seems that every bit of his journey up until now is translated into music as the song titles represent a different chapter in the story of Country City Country. For instance, “La Palette” is the name of the first residency Eddie had in Berlin, where it would get so wild that the bartenders would pour alcohol off of the balcony into the mouths of guests waiting in line below. And “Surprise Pass” is an ode to a cherished ski touring spot near Lake Louise in Alberta. Clearly, this album isn’t something that was quickly thrown together to ride the meaningless hype of the dance charts, but was finely tuned over the course of seven years to withstand the test of time in any collection as a proud classic.
From beginning with hip-hop beats to exploring the depths of disco, techno, and house, Eddie has formed a recognizable sound for himself as a self-taught musician. While many producers may wonder how a man can evolve so much over the years and still know exactly what it is he wants to represent, Eddie humbly states “once you’ve been around music for long enough you just know what’s right.” You can rest assured he’s got it under control with ease.
Hey Eddie, how have you been? Where are you right now and what have you been up to lately?
Hey, hey! It’s Sunday at about noon at my place in Berlin. I didn’t go to Panorama Bar last night/this morning despite the lineup of Gerd Janson, Metro Area (live), Carl Craig, and Sound Stream. I feel really bad about my decision now, actually. It’s often possible to get desensitized to epic parties like that here. But I got back late last night from Marseille without my record bag. It’s somewhere in Amsterdam at the moment. Being a bit of a stress case; I find that rather stressful and actually it’s the third time it’s happened this month. All my friends are probably just going to sleep now while I wait for a call from KLM that all will be well. They actually just bought me a new bag because, a few months ago, my old bag came around the baggage belt with the top ripped clean off, exposing the precious wax within to the element. First World problems in a nutshell.
So, starting from your beginnings in Canada, what would you say your main interests apart from music were? I noticed that you lived in Alberta for a chunk of your life, so I assume you’re pretty passionate about the outdoors…
Yes! My grandmother lived in the Yukon and, as a teenager, I would spend summers up there. In ’00, Brena and I moved west kind of by accident and stayed for 10 years. It’s nice out there in the open air. I’m heavy into various genres of skiing.
I spent a lot of time in B.C., the Vancouver and Whistler areas to be specific. I find that Canada is a tough place to stay if you want to dedicate yourself entirely to being a musical artist. I’m sure you feel the same. Do you think that the scenes in Canada were better back in the day, or has it always been pretty mellow?
I’ll spare you the glorious nostalgia but it was better, back in the day. To remedy those feelings I also like to think it’s “back in the day” right now! There’s always something interesting going on. Sometimes you just have to dig a bit harder.
The outdoors and the isolation of being in the mountains, whether it’s hiking or skiing everyday, provides a lot of room for thinking and daydreaming. I think it plays a big role in music if you happen to be lucky enough to have that balance. Would you say that it contributed to your musical work?
Absolutely. It was very easy to focus when I lived there. Berlin can be very distracting. Except in the winter. The winter is a pretty good time to be creative here.
Canada does have some cool new faces coming up lately though, it’s refreshing to see. Are there any younger Canadian artists that you suggest we check out?
I don’t know too many younger artists, but definitely check out Koosh (7 Inches of Love), Hristo (Honey Disco), Dane (Common Edit), Cristobal (Fur Trade), and the Noodleman (Long Weekend).
Tell me about your introduction to DJing and the kinds of records you were into when you first started spinning. What kind of musical background do you have, and do you come from a music-savvy family?
My parents aren’t particularly musical, but my mom had a reasonable pop/disco record collection that was on heavy rotation when I was a kid. We had one of those turntables that you could stack the records on, like, seven at a time. I took piano and guitar lessons for a number of years, but radio really changed my life. I was an avid listener of late-night Toronto radio in the late 80s and early 90s. I started buying records at the same time, primarily acid house and hip-hop.
Before moving to the Rockies you were living just outside Toronto. While you were probably too young to go out that often, I have a feeling you still managed to make it to some underground parties in the city and go record shopping. Tell me a bit about the raves you’d attend and the record stores you’d usually dig at.
Actually the 20th anniversary of the first party I ever went to just passed. It was at the Ontario Science Centre of all places. I had known about all the early parties, though, and my room was plastered with flyers from as far back as ’89. I didn’t get to go until I got my drivers license―without my parents knowing, of course. Although the parties were still amazing until about ’96, I remember thinking that I’d missed the best years. I was digging at shops in Toronto back then―primarily Starsound, Record Peddler, and Play de Record, which is still in business!
Were you able to experience much nightlife, or was the music community around you at the time too small to get a taste for clubs? Do you remember any stand out DJ sets that really inspired you back then?
We threw our own parties that were pretty good! My friend actually had a mobile DJ system and we set up parties all over in ’94 and ’95. We were also going as much as possible to parties in Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener, and Detroit. In ’95, I moved to Kitchener-Waterloo for school and met with a totally different scene out there that was very influenced by what was going on in Detroit at the time. Toronto had primarily a London (England) influence when it came to nightlife.
Radio in the 80’s was also a big thing for you, what sort of role did it play in forming your tastes as an artist and overall music fan? Do you think that radio today can still provide the same experience it gave you back then? Were there any shows or stations in particular that you can mention as stand outs?
Radio was instrumental in introducing me to music. From about ’87 to ’90 I was listening to CFNY on Friday and Saturday nights, which featured shows by Chris Sheppard and Deadly Hedley Jones. Don’t knock Chris Sheppard until you’ve heard his early radio days… amazing. Around ’91 I discovered University radio. 89.5 had a great hip-hop show, The Masterplan Show with John Bronski, MC Motion and DJ Power. Then there was Footnotes with Ron Levoi, which, in early ’92, was taken over by regular guest James St. Bass, who started Hard Drive, which focused on all styles of underground rave music and hardcore at the time. I was also a big fan of New Powers with Chris Twomey, who played all kinds of experimental, ambient, dub, and techno. All these programs were huge to me. I recorded every week until about ’94 and still have hundreds of tapes back in Canada.
And were you making music from day one? Or did that come later? Were you ever in any bands before becoming a solo producer and DJ, or did you just pick it up afterward?
Yes, I always recorded my own stuff. I used to make pause-tape edits from my radio recordings and record collection, and I always wrote music with my shitty Radio Shack keyboards. I learned to DJ on one of those all-in-one Panasonic units that had the turntable on top. You could press the tape and phono buttons at the same time and mix! And record! I grew up in a very musical town. Almost everyone I knew was in a band. I used to play keys in a few different bands and used to DJ in a rap group. We had very random shows in the early 90s. All kinds of music! I really miss those days. I had used an SK-1 sampler before and then the Realistic one with the yellow pads, but, in ’92, a friend of mine got the Ensoniq EPS. Shit blew my mind!
Do you feel that, growing up, being primarily into hip-hop gave you a unique ear and approach to producing? Did the sample use of hip hop result in a greater understanding of dance music? I imagine it also caused you to dig harder…
I’ve always been into all kinds of music. Hip-hop-style production is definitely a big inspiration. I never used to write music like this. I used to use Cubase with various synths and drum machines and just hit record and play. I would like to do that again―perhaps with different gear. I think my production methods are slightly unorthodox. For instance, when I watch my good buddy, Hrdvsion, making music, I have no idea what he’s doing―and vice-versa.
How would you describe the point in your life where you decided you needed to get out of Canada and go somewhere more stimulating musically? Was it a tough decision to make, or were you ready?
I’m not a big fan of change and would probably still be in Ontario if it weren’t for my wife. She thrives off change. Of course, now I see that everywhere we’ve been leads to where we are today. It’s crazy how everything is connected, actually.
And now you’re currently based out of Berlin, right? I know most people rave about that place, but I’d like to hear your personal reasons for choosing to stay there for now.
It’s nice to be somewhere where music is taken very seriously and where life is generally relaxed. Of course, this city has a fascinating history, not the least of which is music related. I’m most happy about the sheer concentration of record stores. It’s like the early 90s at Play de Record. So great!
Of course Berlin is recognized for techno these days, but I’m positive that there is so much more to discover there besides that. Describe some of the parties you play and attend in the city and the music community you’ve immersed yourself in.
If I did that it wouldn’t be underground anymore!!
I’m sure being based in Europe has also allowed you to conveniently explore some other great places and discover some amazing lesser-known DJs and producers. Name some of your favorite discoveries over the last couple years of travelling around overseas. I’ve been on a big Polish disco binge ever since you turned me onto those Ptaki records.
Yeah, I’ve done wonders for Zambon’s DJ career! Hah! I’ve found great music almost everywhere I’ve travelled. Plenty of stuff from all over. It would be hard to name just a few. Japan is definitely up there.
Now that you’ve basically seen the world a few times and connected with tons of heads in various cities, what sort of positive observations have you made regarding the state of music and party culture today? I feel that there are a lot of obvious negatives that people would bring up, but I’m interested in hearing the bright side of things.
I can’t believe that the small pressings that people do these days are as far reaching as they are. It’s still a relatively small community of vinyl enthusiasts in the world, but I’m meeting new people all the time in places I wouldn’t expect.
Another reason why I got so into your records was because my first DJ gigs were opening slots at this residency I had. I’m a strong believer in building up the vibe and starting off at a slower tempo, and a lot of your stuff chugs within the 100 – 115 BPM range. And I think that’s often what I enjoy playing the most. I’d like to hear you explain your passion for mid-tempo dance music and how you came to pushing that sound. Was it due to you merging your hip-hop style of production with a dance kick, creating a slow-mo dance track?
Hah! Precisely! It also stems from a night I was DJing in Victoria, where I was focusing on mid-tempo music without being genre-specific. 100 – 115 BPM felt like an ignored tempo at the time. It was actually really exciting, digging for records with a certain groove over style. About the same time—around ’05 or ’06—there were new records coming out that were in that tempo range. I was still focusing heavily on hip-hop production at the time, but, yeah, almost by accident, I saw the light. Boom, boom, boom. Same old shit. Unreal how well it works.
Of course, though, I don’t mean for this interview to seem like you only like downtempo and slow-mo music. Clearly you love all sorts of music and last time I saw you here in Los Angeles you played an amazing upbeat set. What are some of your favorite dance labels and artists of today that you can’t help but include in your sets on a regular basis?
Yes, I buy all kinds of records. I like to think I write all kinds of music as well. There are plenty of great labels around right now. Lots from Canada, too! Off the top of my head, I really like ESP Institute, Crue-L, L.I.E.S, International Feel, Balearic Gabba… the usual suspects, really. I’m a big fan of lots of U.S. stuff. Still digging for older records all the time.
Tell me about the Red Motorbike label you run. I know the name comes from the movie Rockers, which I haven’t seen yet unfortunately. What’s the story behind that?
You should see it! Horsemouth Wallace buys a motorbike to personally distribute 45s to record stores around Kingston in ’77. Hardest salesman around town.
Was your latest LP a collection of tracks you had in the works for a while laying around, or did you make them all with the intention of doing a full album? Is the process that comes with creating your EPs any different?
A bit of this and that. It’s a collection of original live music, edits, beats, house and straight-up electronic Music. I wrote a blog post explaining the process. Read on if you wish!
And as far as production goes, what do you have coming up that can you tell us about? What labels will you be putting stuff out on soon?
The new Red Motorbike has two new tracks by me on there and hopefully should be available worldwide this month. It’s exclusively in Berlin until then. My motorbike only goes so far!
The second set of remixes from my album is out now on Endless Flight, featuring reworkings by KZA, Young Marco and Rune Lindbæk.
I did an EP for Crue-L, which features a killer remix by DJ Kent (the Backwoods). Also did a remix myself for Tomoki Kanda on Crue-L. Both are coming later this summer.
I’m sharing the first release on Toronto’s Long Weekend Records with the Noodleman. A hand-painted techno affair. And also sharing the next Common Edit with good buddy Dane from Edmonton. I did a few edits/beats for my friends at The Very Polish Cutouts, which should come out later this summer. I also have plans for a 12” label, which I will also start this summer. I’m sure there are a few more things, but I can’t remember at the moment.
Before we wrap this up, how about some words of wisdom for the next generation’s crate diggers, DJs, and aspiring producers?
Any final shout outs?
Big shout going out to my wife!