The trio explain Toronto's DJ culture.
I’m fascinated by Keys N Krates because when I lived in Toronto, dance music was important, but at the time that meant dance-oriented bands. There were dance clubs, but they were growing in size and significance when I left in the mid-’80s. Since then, the city has become known for its dance and electronic music with Drake, The Weeknd, Crystal Castles, and Thunderheist to name a few. Keys N Krates are exactly what their name implies - Jr. Flo on turntables, David Matisse on synths - along with Adam Tune on drums. Together, they do live remixes of their songs and songs by others. We conducted the following interview by email. I’ve added a few notes where needed.
Why has Toronto become such a fertile place for DJ and electronic music?
Tune: We are now the 4th largest city in North America. We are also one of the most multicultural cities in the world. I guess that lends itself well to different sub-cultures and music scenes flourishing.
[It’s also worth noting that since the ’70s, Toronto has had a strong population from the Caribbean Islands, and Light in the Attic Records released an excellent collection of cratedigger classics before cratedigging existed, Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967-1974. There’s a history of DJ culture in Toronto.]
I read in an interview that you said hip-hop was finally becoming part of the Toronto scene. Admittedly, New Orleans is a hip-hop city, but it seems weird to me to have DJ music without hip-hop. Who were the key reference points for Toronto's DJ music if you didn't have hip-hop?
Flo: I'm not sure which one of us said that, but that sounds a bit out of context or strange. Hip-hop has always had its own scene in Toronto, and we've always had tons of local talent here.
I think what has always lacked was an audience for what's local. That seems to have emerged with guys like Drake and The Weeknd blowing up internationally. Toronto has always been recognized as an international hub for electronic music since the heydays of the ‘90s rave scene. We always had DJs here that were known and respected, but I don't think they were international headliners. I think the Toronto rave crowd being so into it, in the height of the rave scene made for multiple rave parties a weekend, which of course brought in a lot of international talent. With this, brought a perception that Toronto was the place to be for electronic music. Thus, the ravers in Toronto were more responsible for this international recognition than the local talent was here. Not that I'm shitting on the local talent here at all, but that's just what happened.
What were the challenges in getting your sound sorted out? In getting the combination of drums, keys and turntables to work together on stage?
Matisse: Probably figuring out how to translate our produced music into a live setting without using backing tracks, and maintaining a live feel.
How is your music different in performance than it is on recordings?
Flo: It's pretty similar actually. We use all the same sounds as we use to make the records, and we try as best we can when recording to capture a feel that's going to translate live from a feel perspective. That limits us in certain ways, but we are getting comfortable with those limitations.
How does the audience affect your performances?
Tune: We are always trying to create a connection with the audience. When the relationship is there, the vibe is there, and that's when we have our best shows.
Keys N Krates will play the Le Plur Stage Friday at 3:50 p.m. at Voodoo.