LEISURE THIRD ANNIVERSARY featuring STEVE YANKO , MIKE SITCHON , DJ FASE and JASON PALMA at Spin Gallery (1100 Queen West), Saturday (April 17). $8 before midnight, more after. www.leisure.fm Rating: NNNNN
Steve Yanko feels pretty lucky. Most aspiring producers slave away in their basements for years before they can convince anyone to release their stuff, while he gets pushed into putting out his first single on Play Records before he really knows what he's doing. Over time, he hones his talent and begins to develop a certain style - a bit rough around the edges, definitely steeped in dub and disco, but basically house music. He meets a guy and starts throwing successful parties with him under the name Leisure without realizing that his new partner (Mike Sitchon) is one of the big players in Toronto's early-90s house music underground.
"Mikey and I met about three years ago," recalls Yanko over coffee. "We just clicked and instantly started throwing parties together. People would sort of hint about his background, but it took me a while to find out - he's a humble guy and doesn't toot his own horn that much."
More recently, The Voices, his casual collaboration with guitar pop songsmith Chris Field, was picked up for an Xbox game and the Roswell DVD series as well as finding its way into the hands of Plant Records honcho Dominique Keegan, who'll be releasing a 12-inch and including it on the sequel to last year's successful indie/dance compilation Sounds Of Young New York.
As might be expected, it's a meeting of psychedelic British guitar rock and house music, a combination that might have seemed unpalatable a few years ago but is suddenly accessible post-Rapture. They've been turning down shows because Field is currently in the UK, but there's a full live The Voices band waiting, in which Yanko will be playing bass.
The good luck continues, though. He somehow ended up doing remastering work for legendary Chicago house label Trax, taking on their back catalogue for their 20th anniversary. Some of these songs are huge reference points in dance music's history - You Used To Hold Me, Can You Feel It, No Way Back, This Is Acid, Baby Wants To Ride, to name a few of the classic anthems.
"It was surreal doing that. I was a little kid worshipping these records at one point, and here I am years later responsible for cleaning them up. It was trippy."
This anniversary party is at an art gallery, not a club. Leisure parties are generally intimate events, promoted at a fairly low-key level and intentionally held away from the conventional venues.
"We've managed to exist and grow pretty much outside of clubs. We did a monthly for a while, and some gigs at Roxy Blu and Element, but we place a high value on the venue and prefer to move around.
"Finding the space is the hardest part usually. When you go to a club, you're dealing with their staff, their sound system, their decor, their policies. If you come to our parties, we've hand-selected everything and everyone - which is what the difference is, really."