HEADMAN with MSTRKRFT and Dee Jay Nav at Spin Gallery (1100 Queen West), Friday (May 19). $15, advance $10. www.spingallery.ca. Rating: NNNNN
Headman (aka Robi Insinna) has emerged over the past seven years as one of the more buzzed-about producers in the post-punk-disco-electro-new-wave-house scene, exposing clubs the world over to the Swiss sound via his DJ sets.
But, as Insinna explains, he's also been able to transcend the limitations of geography and culture.
"When I started out, I had friends in London and America, but there wasn't much going on in Zurich. I think of myself more as international. I'm not interested in doing music that's about being from a particular place."
He's since relocated to Berlin, but most of his gigs tend to be in London and Belgium, and he isn't terribly involved with the local German dance scene that these days prefers minimal techno.
Unlike many dance producers, he didn't start out DJing in the club scene.
"It wasn't really about DJing - I never wanted to produce just for the dance floor. I was just a normal guy, painting and listening to a lot of music. I was into old stuff but was getting bored with it, so I tried to make something influenced by those records."
His timing was impeccable, since all over the world others were rediscovering weirdo disco, rock, new wave and classic house.
His first Manhead single, It Rough, released in 2003, was a breath of fresh air for listeners hungry for something edgier and rougher than the house sounds still dominating the record shops and clubs.
Remix requests started coming in from everyone from Annie and Franz Ferdinand to Roxy Music. He's continued to put out music on hot German indie label Gomma and more recently with London's Output records.
In his spare time, he runs his own label, Relish, on which he records music as Manhead and will soon be releasing another compilation, as well as new music from seminal punk funk band A Certain Ratio.
"As Manhead, I wanted something of mine to release on my label, something different from what Headman was known for. It's more influenced by cosmic disco, Balearic, Chicago house - more electronic and laid back."
Recently he released another full album as Headman, On (Gomma), a quirky collection of edgy, rock-influenced synth-disco. A few friends drop vocals, including members of the Rapture, Radio 4 and Soulwax. Think crunchy 80s disco drums, picked electric bass lines, catchy analog synth riffs and new-wave-influenced vocals.