TREVOR WALKER at Red Square (47 Duncan), Thursday (January 23). $5 before 11:30 pm, $10 after. www.goldclubseries.ca
Reading up on Ottawa-based DJ and producer Trevor Walker, you can't help but notice how many up-and-coming DJs from across Canada and the U.S. cite him as a main influence, often alongside much better-known international names.
There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, Walker definitely has the skills. He started playing clubs almost 15 years ago and has hosted a radio show for 10. His DJ sets are cleanly and creatively mixed, and his selections include lots of undiscovered gems that help give him his own sound.
What's won him the respect of such a variety of mixers is the exceptional breadth of styles that he taps. Mellow, downtempo DJs love him for the jazzy, world-beat-influenced side of his sound, while bumping club house DJs are knocked out by his ability to rock a big system in a way that pleases both the trainspotters and the dancers.
Having such a varied record collection has its drawbacks, though. He's often forced to guess what people are hoping to hear from him when he plays out of town.
"I've got a lot of different music, so I want whoever is booking me to let me know what they expect. I play anything from drum 'n' bass to disco to rare groove to Latin to house, so it can be a bit tricky," Walker explains from his Ottawa home.
"Here in town I generally have a really good time, because I've been in Ottawa for so long. Playing out of town is a little harder because I'm not really into what's popular in other places. I'm sort of in my own bubble here, so I don't know what the big hits and anthems are elsewhere."
Anyone who's heard Walker play, though, can testify that the absence of obvious anthems is no drawback. Too often, out-of-town guest DJs play it conservative and stick to the current biggest hits and a smattering of anthems from past years instead of expressing their own take on the music. Partiers may be wising up to this unfortunate reality; the demand for touring DJs has declined drastically in the past year.
"Since September 11, out-of-town bookings have really slowed down. I think people stopped going out as much after that, and the stock market crash probably had an effect as well. Promoters have been booking more locals, and other DJs say they've been seeing a downturn as well."
Walker has high hopes for the coming year. He has a bunch of his own music coming out soon, including collaborations with Miguel Graca and two albums on Rise Ashen's Fossilfuel Recordings.
One of the two is the sequel to the critically acclaimed and startlingly unique album Common Ground, a collaboration between Ashen and Walker. This time around the pair continue their love affair with acoustic dance music but have beefed up the sound to make it more club-friendly.
"It's still very organic, but it's tough organic. The kick drums are as upfront as the horns this time -- it's more dance-floor-oriented than the last album."
The second album on the way also features Rise Ashen, as well as the talents of Blissom. Concentrating on the meeting ground between live and programmed music, traditional and futuristic, the sound coming out of these Ottawa boys twists the conventions of European electro-jazz movements like broken beat and nu-jazz into something very particular to them.
It's music for the head or for the body, depending on how loud you turn it up.