MOONSTARR performing as part of CANADIAN MUSIC WEEK with LAL, SYMBOLIK MUSIC CREW, COLLIZHUN, DANIEL LUI, DAVID COOPER, FRANKIE GUNNS.
MOONSTARR performing as part of CANADIAN MUSIC WEEK with LAL, SYMBOLIK MUSIC CREW, COLLIZHUN, DANIEL LUI, DAVID COOPER, FRANKIE GUNNS and the Places ‘n’ spaces sound CREW, Friday (March 1) at the Opera House (735 Queen East). $12, $10 with a TTC transfer, free with a CMW wristband. www.ptrmusic.com.
kevin “moonstarr” moon is thekind of guy who always has a dozen things on the go plus five more he’s forgotten to tell you about.When he blows into his sister’s Grapefruit Moon restaurant 20 minutes late, he’s barely folded his frame into a chair before he starts talking excitedly about how the homespun fusion of hiphop, bossa nova breaks and streamlined techno on his Dupont EP has suddenly made it the must-have record of choice for some of the hippest DJs on the planet.
“Guy, it’s crazy,” laughs Toronto’s tallest DJ. “Dupont was number 40 on Gilles Peterson’s top-100-of-the-year list. It’s a mad achievement for a virtual unknown from Toronto. There was some crazy Destiny’s Child remix, and then me.
“We just bum-rushed him when he came to Movement, gave him the single, and he played the shit out of it on his BBC show. Then word got around. It’s not crazy sales of, like, 5,000 records, but it is reaching the right heads, and that’s the most important thing.”
Over the last 12 months, Moon released the long-awaited Dupont double 12-inch, saw his broken beats go global and scrabbled his way into the record crates of tastemakers like Peterson, Rainer Truby and 4Hero.
His Public Transit Recordings imprint is beginning to blow up, people are calling about gigs in Barcelona and Prague, DJ Spinna is leaving him messages about his “hot beats,” and deals with top labels like Compost are being dangled in front of him.
It’s about bloody time. Five years ago, when the first Moonstarr EP — the 10-inch single Hexed — dropped, Moon already had a drawerful of tapes in his bedroom studio on Harbord waiting to be heard. Interest began to swirl around the intriguing producer and his peculiar habit of splicing together DJ Premier-influenced hiphop beats with drum ‘n’ bass production tricks and clattering samba beats.
An album beckoned. Instead, Moon shifted his efforts toward developing his label, the TTC-obsessed Public Transit Recordings imprint. With records by groups like Asian fusion duo LAL given top priority, Moonstarr’s own album eventually got bumped off his own label’s release schedule.
“It’s been a struggle,” he confirms. “It took two or three months to manufacture the record, because I didn’t have enough cash. As soon as I got my tax return I finished it, and then I had to beg the UK distributor to take it. Ultimately, I had to pay to ship the records over there myself, but eventually the reorders started coming in.
“We wanted to do this right, and that meant taking our time. Some people weren’t happy, but it paid off in the end.”
What helped Moon’s cause was that no one put out a record quite like Dupont in the interim. While he’s one of the city’s more respected techno and jungle DJs, Moon seems comfortable working in a handful of different styles.
It’s an aesthetic that’s expanded on the new CD version of Dupont. In addition to the cut-up Brazilian fusion of Peterson faves like Dust and Greed, Moon also finds time on the expanded album to return to his first love — hiphop — chopping up beats behind L.A. MC Voice.
“This record wasn’t tailored to one specific sound,” Moon nods. “We actually manufactured it to sell as two separate 12-inch singles in case people found it too eclectic.
“I grew up listening to the radio, and hiphop and house would be played back to back. Then I got records like Tek-9’s Breaking Sound Barriers, which has some crazy drum ‘n’ bass shit on one side and straight-up hiphop on the other. That shit grabs me — breaking sound barriers, trying not to be categorized.
“My two loves are hiphop and techno. I just love the fact that I can play for hardcore hiphop heads and then rock a party crowd. It’s not going to happen traditionally, but it’s like eating the same kind of food every day,” he laughs. “You’ve got to explore, have some Thai one day, a curry the next, a bit of Mexican later on.”
It’s a very Torontonian idea, the idea of cultures and sounds clashing together in one organic, urban groove. Coming from a guy who sees the crush of humanity on the TTC as the cultural heart and soul of the city, it makes sense.
A lot of inspiration also comes from his friends in London techno fusionists 4Hero, themselves masters at confounding expectations from record to record and track to track.
Their support — 4Hero contribute a remix to the Dupont CD — helped make Moonstarr an unofficial member of the West London broken beat scene that includes IG Culture and Bugz in the Attic.
The broken beat philosophy of mashing up sounds as diverse as Afrobeat and deep house under the loose rubric of techno was a perfect fit.
“4Hero are massive, and I love the fact that you can’t nail them down,” Moon continues. “They have their own language down, and they don’t need to rely on anyone.
“That spreads through the rest of the broken beat guys. Collectively, they set a standard where they can do anything they want. That’s exactly the kind of thing we’re trying to do with Public Transit Recordings. In fact, I think we’ve already done it.
“People know when they come to our shows that it’s going to be heavy. We have guys playing tribal techno, dancehall, rock and funk, house and Asian beats. It’s urban electronic music at its purest, and people are starving for that. It is the next shit.
“It’s like the subway,” he grins. “It’s one specific mode of transportation but there’s all this other stuff going on at the same time. People are moving, you’re bumping into each other and some guy’s playing his music too loud. It’s chaos, and it’s Toronto.”firstname.lastname@example.orgBest of the fest
10 pm — Barzin, Rancho Relaxo. “Sad folk songs.”
11 pm — Wayne Omaha, Healey’s. “Jangly psych pop.”
Midnight — Jellestone, Lee’s Palace. “Slick T.O. hiphop.”
12:30 am — Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle, 360. “Back-from-the-brink art pop.”
9 pm — Bherman, Cameron House. “Belgian art-rock introspection.”
10:10 — Two-Minute Miracles, Horseshoe. “Short, snappy thrill pop.”
11 pm — Christine Fellows, Rancho Relaxo. “Rising Winnipeg singer/songwriter.”
Midnight — Hidden Cameras, Reverb. “Gay church folk music.”
1 am — Moonstarr, Opera House. “Broken beats and bossa jazz.”
8 pm — Royal City, Horseshoe. “Cracked country and biblical verse.”
10 pm — Stars, Horseshoe. “Swinging art pop.”
11:30 pm — Maximum RnB, Kathedral. “Trashy and explosive.”
12:30 am — Buscemi, 360. “Big beats from Brussels.”Canadian Music Week