Who: DJ Champion
When: Saturday, Sept. 29
Where: Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC)
A DJ Champion show rocks out four live guitars, and one bass and vocalist on a single stage, but it’s not a band.
A DJ Champion dance floor bounces to drum beats manned by limitless sonic possibilities, but it’s not a clubhead show.
It’s not a jam band, but improvisation plays into sets.
It’s not a soundtrack, although an Oscar-award-winning composer — Maxime Morin — fronts the Montreal sound.
A DJ Champion and the G Strings experience is all of, and at the same time none of, the above. Morin, the mad scientist behind the Juno-nominated music, calls the sound a direct reflection of himself.
“With DJ Champion I tried to be very personal,” he said. “In the beginning, it was very much that for me. I did this album just to make me feel good and that was it. To feel good about yourself you have to just first be honest with yourself and try to express the many sides of yourself.”
Morin became disenchanted with his role in the music industry more than a decade ago. His minimal techno beats, under the moniker DJ Mad Max, were a regular sound around the Montreal nightclub scene and his composition talents were a regular contribution to television and film soundtracks, including the Oscar-winning soundtrack for The Triplets of Belleville.
“At the time I was working as a composer for movies,” he said. “I always had something to deliver to clientele. It was the same thing on stage. Working as DJ Mad Max, I always had something to deliver. Minimal tech was what drove a typical crowd. I got pretty empty. At that time, only two things made me feel good: to play live electronic music and play the guitar.”
Those two things that made him feel good fell into a natural partnership and DJ Champion and the G Strings was born.
Sonic beats are overlaid with instrumentals and the vocals of Academy-Award-nominee Betty Bonifassi, while Morin drives tracks on drum machines. Morin conducts the largely improvised sound through a series of hand signals, personally orchestrating tailor-made shows for every crowd.
“Eighty per cent of the show is improvised,” he said. “The guitars know what they are going to play, but they don’t know when or how. It’s up to me. The good thing about that is if the crowd is energetic, you shorten things up to have more energy for more efficient music. If the crowd is a more listening one, you can play quietly and take more time to plug the melodies. And if the crowd wants to dance, if it’s a really techno crowd, I focus less on the solos and more on the beats.”
Whatever vibe Morin is shaping the DJ Champion sound around, crowds will recognize the strong melodies and beats from Morin’s albums.
His genre-defying sound was a success right from the start. He won Album of the Year in the electronic-techno music category at the 2005 ADISQ (Association du Disque, de L’Industrie du Spectacle Quebecois) for his first album , Chill’Em . He then followed up with his The Remix Album , leading to a Felix Award for Show of the Year at the 2006 ADISQ. The hit single No Heaven from The Remix Album also led to a 2007 Juno nomination as well as a live performance closing out the show.
“Those kinds of performances are very exciting: It’s two and a half minutes and it’s over,” he said. “It’s a kick in the face. I like that stuff, but it’s not my favourite. It’s only one song. You do it really quick and it is over.”
Morin loves the intimacy of performing to a smaller crowd.
“You can establish contact with people and tell a story and have time to develop that story and chemistry,” he said. “That is the whole concept of DJ Champion; to make contact with people and learn who they are and show who you are. It’s a slow process, but when you’ve got everyone jumping all at the same time on beat, this is what I am looking for. The purpose of going on stage and playing songs, but having a human experience with the whole crowd.”
The DJ Champion and G Strings human experience makes a one-night-only stop in Whistler Saturday, Sept. 29 at the Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC). Advance $20 tickets are now on sale.