FUKHOUSE featuring DJs WOODY McBRIDE, MARCO BAILEY, MoRGAN PAGE (live), IAN GUTHRIE, THE DUKES and METTLE at System Soundbar (117 Peter), Friday (July 26). $20 before 2am. www.fukhouse.ca
Toronto's techno scene is in a curious position. On the one hand, local labels like Dumb-Unit and Killer are starting to get international recognition. The explosion of interest now goes beyond Montreal's community of producers, several of whom, like Jeff Milligan and Mike Shannon, are Toronto expats and veterans of the local scene. On the other, the vultures are circling again, predicting the end of the local scene because of the scarcity of large-scale techno parties, big-ticket events that fail to draw a decent crowd, iDance 2002's cancellation and the ongoing fragmentation of the dance music audience in general.
DJ and promoter Ian Guthrie has been at the centre of the Toronto techno community for almost a decade now, and has seen the scene redefine itself so many times that he knows to take the latest round of grumbling in stride.
"Usually what that vibe signifies is that there's going to be some kind of change, and that's happening," Guthrie explains over pints. "The Toronto scene has fragmented into a lot of different little divisions.
"There's the younger techno crowd, who are represented by the Dukes (see sidebar) and who are into the jackhammer sound. There are the chin-strokers, who would only go to the most austere techno nights, and then there are the other folks, like Jeff Milligan, who get into experimental stuff that's a bit more dance-floor-friendly.
"One of the things we're hoping for with Fukhouse is that it's going to be something that all of these people will be interested in, as well as people who are into house music."
The name Fukhouse should ring a bell for anyone in the local dance music scene. The now-legendary original parties were a series of monthly events at Industry that brought together a wider spectrum of people than the underground had seen partying together before.
Guthrie himself had already built a substantial following as a promoter through his involvement as one of the organizers of the seminal Trancendance parties and magazine.
Trancendance emerged just as the rave scene had grown large enough to support a serious techno party. These events were an antidote to the fun-fur and glowstick giddiness of the mainstream raves -- dark, experimental events that somehow drew thousands to dance in pitch-black warehouses to the music of artists like Autechre and Ritchie Hawtin.
Industry opened just as increased police attention meant it was too difficult to throw traditional warehouse parties. For the years Industry was open, the club was a meeting ground for people from the after-hours house scene, older members of the rave community, curious clubbers and a techno crowd that was increasingly trying to define itself as distinct from raves.
When Industry closed, much of the original techno crowd retreated into smaller underground scenes. While newer promoters have tried to do one-off events in large venues, most don't have the history or network to get the crowds out.
Seeing a void to fill and getting a persuasive offer from System Soundbar has convinced Guthrie to revive Fukhouse at a big all-night dance club.
Some of the techno elite don't look at System Soundbar as their kind of club. Although it is the obvious heir to Industry's crown, many see the more mainstream crowd as representing the cheesier tendencies of late-night clubbing.
"The funny thing is, I had the exact same kind of conversations with people before deciding to do Fukhouse at Industry," Guthrie insists. "People would say, "Are you sure you want to do it there? Your nights are on a different kind of level and are for a different clique.' Now everyone remembers those nights at Industry as legendary parties.
"I went to System a few months ago and I saw a really well-run club, heard an incredible sound system and saw a club that I could do something with in terms of lighting and mood. They were willing to extend complete creative control over DJs, decor and schedule, just like at Industry.
"Smaller, more exclusive events have a certain energy to them and are usually really good in terms of musical integrity, but you don't get to lose your shit on the dance floor, because most of the other people are drinking their imported beer and scratching their chins."
The question remains, though, whether the local scene has outgrown its hedonistic roots. The glory days when no one knew what to expect next are long gone, but years of trying to legitimize techno as serious academic music has intimidated new audiences and alienated those who just want to dance.
While System Soundbar isn't exactly known as a techno club, neither was Industry. And if new people aren't being brought into the music, where will the next generation of producers and DJs come from
Originally, local techno titan and Dumb-unit mainman Jeremy P. Caulfield was slated to play Fukhouse, but regrettably he was double-booked with ongoing gigs in Germany. Some might have expected event organizer Ian Guthrie to replace him with another of Toronto techno's old guard, but he instead chose to give the slot to up-and-comers the Dukes.
Individually known as @m and KF, the Dukes have been playing as a duo for just two years but have already turned a lot of heads. One of the secrets of the duo's success is that @m and KF each represent different aspects of the techno scene.
By bringing these opposing tendencies together within the mix, new possibilities emerge. It's not uncommon for them to go from banging jackhammer beats to spastic experimental rhythms without losing the dance floor's energy.
"In the beginning there was a real difference between the two of us," admits @m. "I come from a hard Swedish and Italian techno type thing."
"At that time," continues KF, "I was way into the minimal shit. I could see it being grating when we first hooked up. The energy level was always going up and then down, up and down. But now we've each moved into the other's end of the spectrum, so everything flows much more smoothly."
In the past few months, the Dukes have begun to demonstrate a genuine symbiosis. It's a rare moment when one of the unit's four fast-moving hands isn't tweaking the mix.
"We've had a really beneficial effect on each other," explains KF. "One of us will kick it up a notch and then the other will go, 'Well, if you're gonna do that, I'm gonna have to do this!'"