MITCH WINTHROP appearing as part of Hard And Soul, Sunday (December 9) at the Living Room (330 Adelaide West). $5-$12. 416-979-3168.Toronto-based house DJ and producer Mitch Winthrop has a place in Canadian history as the first to host a radio show devoted to house, called the Rhythm Method, back in 1987 on CHRY.
But don't label him a retro DJ. He may have started his disco and funk DJ career in 1979, following and promoting this music before it had a name, but he's way on top of what's going on now.
"There's just too much new music that I like," he says over dinner with his girlfriend, DJ and vocalist Adryin. "I don't want to keep playing all the old stuff. I keep getting offers to do classics nights because I'm this old DJ, but I don't want to keep reliving the experiences that I've already had."
Although he still does a weekly Internet radio show on 1groove.com, he has been absent from Toronto clubs for a while, concentrating on production.
"When you're 20 years old, you're dying to DJ and you'll put up with anything. You'll put up with playing in places where the equipment doesn't work properly, the sound system's not very good and you have to chase the promoter down for your money at the end of the night.
"When you turn 30, you're not dying to DJ any more. I'll still take gigs, and I get gigs outside of Toronto every now and then that I'm ready to jump on, but most of the clubs on Richmond and Adelaide aren't going to offer me a new experience. Most of the new clubs have the same owners that I've already worked for. And most of them still owe me money."
Although he's not easily drawn into complaining about how things used to be, he does rise to the occasion when the subject of the divisions between the gay and straight house scenes are brought up.
"Every club that I've ever been to since Studio 54 that has ever mattered has been predominantly gay or mixed. Predominantly straight crowds worry about having enough to drink, and they worry way too much about getting laid and picking up chicks. If it's a given that you're going to get laid at some point, then you don't think about it. You just party and have fun.
"There's this whole generation of younger kids who don't know that, and when they go to a club and see gay people, they're put off by it. It's a shame, because when I think of what drew me to the music in the first place, it had nothing to do with gay or straight, it just had to do with, 'Wow, this is a place where everybody comes together and doesn't worry about such unnecessary things as race and sexuality.'"
Although he wasn't initially excited by Internet radio, working for 1groove.com has changed his opinion. The borderless quality of the Web lets him reach fresh audiences all over the world, possibly jump-starting scenes in the same way his college radio shows did in Toronto.
"I got an e-mail about a month ago from a guy in the middle of a small town in Florida. He said there's nothing but country music out there, nothing but rednecks, but somewhere along the way he learned to love house music. He takes business trips to New York, Montreal and England and goes to all the clubs and parties. When he gets back home, there's no house music except for 1groove.com."