DEKO-ZE with PARANOID JACK and NICK "FIERCE" FIORUCCI at Footwork (425 Adelaide West), Friday (August 11). $10-$20. 416-913-3488. Rating: NNNNN
During the first of our two conversations, Michael Babb, the Toronto-based DJ known to many as Deko-ze, responds to my questions with a sedate, introspective quality, likely because he's gazing out the window of his Montreal-bound train. He's set to spin in a few hours as part of Montreal's annual gay pride Divers/Cité festival but doesn't sound terribly hyped for the gig.
When we later reconvene to finish the abruptly terminated phone call, Babb is coming offstage and sounds like an altogether different guy. He's jacked, full of energy and talking faster than the tech-trance he just dropped to a throbbing mass. The show went off, he says, and he's buzzing.
"It was fantastic," brims Babb about his three-hour slot. "Great turnout, great vibe; the park is just full of people. Divers/Cité is such fantastic event every year. It's really great to see such a good mix of people from all over."
His only complaint seems to be the length of time allotted to him. For someone who often describes himself as the "hardest-working DJ in Canada," a three-hour set is barely enough time get a dance floor warmed, he says. Given the choice, he prefers a seven- to eight-hour workday.
"These short sets drive me crazy," says Babb. "I prefer doing long sets, because that gives me the opportunity to explore a wide variety of sounds. I know people always use the term 'taking music on a journey,' but I'm mixing everything from hard-pounding techno to uplifting house, deep progressive and dark tribal, so a long set for me is essential."
That attitude is what some might call the prairie work ethic. Born in England, Babb grew up in Saskatoon, where the gay dance scene basically consisted of one club, Numbers (later renamed Divas). Babb went from frequent customer there to the club's marquee DJ. And although he now shies away from taking too much credit for propagating the small scene, his role was instrumental in its development.
"We had to make our own scene because there wasn't much going on," recalls Babb of his formative years.
"I was aware of all this incredible music going on, and this huge movement in dance culture around the world developing. So a few partners and I started a production company (Plastic Puppet Motive), opened up a club, threw some parties and launched weekly club nights and radio shows. We started to develop a culture because we needed somewhere to be ourselves and express who we are."
Feeling as though he'd hit the ceiling in Toontown, Babb relocated to Toronto in the late 90s to take on the then-booming rave scene. He was frequently billed by big party promoters Destiny and Lifeforce and made a name for himself in and out of the gay club ghetto.
Today he holds court in some of Toronto's biggest rooms (Guvernment), jets across Canada for monthly residencies and is set to drop a freshly rolled joint of his own: Delicious.
"I wanted them to hear me in the music," says Babb about his first officially licensed mix CD, which includes mixes of Danny Tenaglia and Nick Fiorucci.
"Regardless of whether it's one of my original studio productions or a remix, I wanted it to properly represent me as an artist, DJ, remixer and producer.
"It was difficult, because there are so many tracks I wanted to work with, but it had to make sense. The most important thing was for it to sound like Deko-ze."