New record label brings Toronto’s house music past into the future

Selections, a new vinyl-only label and party from Mark Kufner (aka Toronto Hustle), aims to "translate the old-school way of thinking" with records by Nick Holder, Tobi Danton and more


SELECTIONS and HOUSE OF LORDS present Demuir with Toronto Hustle and Bobby Love at Bambi’s (1265 Dundas West), Friday (January 24), 10 pm. $7-$10 adv, $15 door. eventbrite.ca.


Mark Kufner remembers a time when Toronto’s electronic music scene wasn’t so obsessed with genre. The veteran DJ, who performs as Toronto Hustle, says selectors brought a much wider range of sounds to the clubs of the early 90s, the era in which he got his start.

With his new vinyl-only house music label Selections, Kufner wants to revive that approach – and “translate that old-school way of thinking,” he adds. The fledgling label stems from a regular party of the same name that Kufner has been hosting for the past two years. But the idea for an imprint all his own predates that. “It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for my whole life,” he says.

About six months ago, he went for it. “Timing-wise, it felt right,” says Kufner, who has amassed a few thousand records in his lifetime. “I’ve been around vinyl my whole life.”

Inspired as much by the past as the latest house music, it makes sense the label’s first release, which dropped late last year, is a retrospective of sorts. Nick Holder – Selected Works showcases three tracks that the long-time local deep house DJ and producer originally put out in 1998 and 1999. Despite knowing Holder for years – and even remixing his work – “it took some convincing” to get the artist on board, Kufner recalls.

Laughing, Holder confirms as much: “He was just on me all the time.”

With the talent lined up, Kufner managed to land a manufacturing and distribution deal with UK-based online music retailer Juno Records – an arrangement that lets him focus on the music and branding while Juno does the heavy lifting.

So what makes a Selections release? The only rule is that, in some form, it has to fall under the spectrum of house music. But Kufner still sees lots of room to play around within that self-imposed limitation. “I’ve got some really deep stuff, I’ve got some really techy stuff.” He adds, “It has to be records that I could see myself playing.”

There was never any question that the label would be a vinyl-only endeavour. “Doing something digitally wasn’t something I was interested in,” he says. A purist, he sees digital music as disposable and favours the experience of physically playing records. (For a while, Toronto Hustle did DJ off of USB keys, but that didn’t last long.)

Kufner plans to put out between four to six records a year, sprinkling reissues in among a modest stream of fresh material. “I want to reissue, because I want to re-expose music that younger people may not know,” he says. The inaugural Selections release is a prime example – the songs are older than some people who attend Kufner’s parties.

“I believe that really good music needs time to breathe, and that there’s no expiration date on good music,” he says. The Holder release backs up that sentiment. Limited to 350 copies, it’s almost sold out.

That means it’s time for the next slab of wax, and Kufner plans to put out Tobi Danton’s The Stuttgart To Parkdale EP sometime next month. The German artist’s latest effort includes a remix from fellow countryman Kevin Over. The three tracks remind Kufner of Chicago and New York City in the 90s. 

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Demuir

As another record looms, Kufner is also getting ready to host the next Selections party. Headliner Demuir – a house DJ with music out on Kerri Chandler’s Kaoz Theory imprint, among others – is joining Toronto Hustle and Bobby Love behind the decks.

While Kufner’s coy about the full roster of artists he has lined up for the next year or so of material, he hints that this party won’t be the last time Selections works with Demuir. “In my opinion, I think he’s one of the best producers in the world right now.”

@joshuaxsherman

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