Seven years ago, Rich Hartl played his first set at the Pemberton Hotel. He'd been dreaming of that night for years and he felt the love immediately. He was 21 years old and he called himself DJ Rich-A.
Now, seven years later, he's being hailed as one of Canada's breakthrough DJs. Hartl will fly to Toronto for the 2012 Stylus Awards on Monday night, where he's been nominated as the only West Coast artist in the Breakthrough DJ of the Year category alongside five others.
Each year, the Stylus Awards celebrate the best Canadian DJs and hip hop artists...and Hartl had no idea he was even on their radar.
"I had no idea. It was a complete surprise," he says by phone from his home in Vancouver.
He received word through Vancouver MC Son Real, for whom Hartl DJs for and was also nominated this year for Artist Mixtape of the year.
"He actually texted me and told me I was nominated. I guess he saw on the website there. Then I got an email the next day after that, with a congratulations," he says.
All the nominees in this category will have their own 10-minute mix featured on George Strombolopolous's CBC Radio 2 show. Hartl recorded a brief audio biography along with the mix, which will air on Sunday night between 8 and 11 p.m.
All of this is to say that this could be a massive career boost for Hartl.
"This is a pretty big thing in the DJ world," he says."Just for getting booked other places in Canada, definitely people know about these awards."
Tonight (Thursday) he'll play the first anniversary bash for SKaTE NiTe at Garfinkel's, where he holds a weekly residency before flying to Toronto Saturday night.
Born in Pemberton, Hartl had big plans to be a DJ. He was doing electrical work until he finally decided to quit three years ago to focus full time on music.
After his first set at that Pemberton Hotel gig it took him two years to land a Friday night residency at Tommy Africa's, along with regular gigs at the former Village Lounge and Nightclub.
"(Whistler dubstep DJ) Mat the Alien has helped me out quite a bit," he says. "I kind of got started watching Mat play. I watched how he controlled the party. It looked like he was having so much fun and I kind of wanted to do what Mat was doing."
But where Mat the Alien deals almost exclusively in bass music, Hartl relishes in "house party music" — hip hop, rock, house, a little bit of dubstep. Anything that keeps the party moving will do.
Within the past year, he's been focusing his energy on Vancouver and it was through these efforts, and his association with Son Real, that earned him the nomination. These days, he'll play three or four nights out of the week — the one set gig at Garf's and the rest at various locations around Vancouver.
"It's always something different," he says. "I get hit up for a lot of weddings but I'm trying to stay clear of (those)."