JON DELERIOUS at Element (553 Queen West), Saturday (April 3). $tba. 416-359-1919. www.elementbar.com Let's face it, the words Calgary and house music aren't generally heard in the same sentence. That may soon change as the world warms up to the sounds of up-and-coming prairie-based producer/DJ Jon Delerious (aka Jon Marchuk). "There's a lot of space here and not much of a local dance music industry, which is good for me because there's not so much networking going on and I can stay focused on making music," Marchuk explains as he watches the sun set on the first warm day of the year.
Although Calgary is somewhat isolated from the rest of the Canadian dance scene, its proximity to the West Coast means that Marchuk has managed to hook himself up with the guys at Nordic Trax, a Vancouver-based label that's been getting some international recognition lately with the overseas success of affiliated artists Tyler Stadius, Jay Tripwire and Morgan Page.
"I've gone to Europe twice now, and you find these cool little pockets here and there of people that are really into that Nordic Trax sound. You go to some little place in Spain where the records are in the stores and people know who we are. Right now I'm really pushing Canada - playing here is important as an indie artist if you want to sell records here."
He recently dropped his first full album, No Warning, after a string of singles and EPs, and seems to have confidently settled into his sound. Parts of it are very reminiscent of laid-back, dubby West Coast flavour, but there's also a strong Chicago influence that jacks it up a notch and keep things pleasantly edgy.
"I didn't want to rush into production. I spent a lot of time building up a bunch of material, learning the techniques, buying gear. There's a sharp learning curve when you're teaching yourself how to make electronic music."
It helps that he started off his musical life banging away on one of his jazz drummer uncle's spare kits before learning bass and guitar and playing in bands. His musician background keeps his material out of that monotonous, endless one-bar loop that so many DJ-turned-producers turn to when they start making their own tracks.
There's a musicality here that's not seen in a lot of tech-house, but he also resists the lite-jazz impulses that deep house producers fall victim to when they get too enamoured with electric pianos and bongos.
So how did house music reach a young man in Calgary in the early 90s?
"When I was younger, I was into hiphop and wanted to be a DJ. My friends took me to the one local DJ record shop, and the guy was playing some house music in the store. It kind of clicked with me, so I bought a couple of records and started trying to find the scene here.
"Now there are lots of 200- or 300-people parties here, but back then it was really small. Also, college radio has been good to the music. In fact, the local station's had my album at number one for a little while now.
"It's really nice to get that kind of support."