DJ Highbred Talks Ontario’s Bass Scene and the Challenges being a DJ
Waterloo’s very own DJ Highbred will be performing at Kitchener’s bass festival Ever After Music Festival, taking place on June 7-9th. As one of the most notable artists to play the Ontario Stage, put on by Moog Audio, it’s important to note that this isn’t Highbred’s first rodeo. As a vocal member of the Tri-City Rave Community, we decided to pick this producer’s brain on the current bass scene in the GTA as well as what keeps him coming back to Ever After year after year.
Read the Interview Below!
How did you get your start in the EDM scene and what led you to begin DJing?
I got into the EDM scene in my first year at the University of Waterloo. Coming to a large city from such a small town where I grew up (Port Dover) was a huge change for me, especially when it came to music. Growing up in a primarily country music-based town really limited me. Moving Waterloo changed all of that! Within the first week of attending school, I met someone that introduced me to their event company that threw massive parties with international DJ’s every month. Even though I was only 17 at the time and couldn’t attend any of these parties, I was extremely excited about the following year and being able to get involved.
Then, one day I was sitting in my dorm room watching festival videos on youtube and thought to myself “Hey, I want to be a DJ” so I hopped on my computer and ordered a DJ deck off Kijiji and within 3 hours had my setup and was ready to begin mixing. Its funny actually; when I look back to my childhood I remember always making mixtape CDs of random music, creating my own album artwork and title for each CD for each mood and situation. Realistically, I didn’t expect anything to come of it, I figured I was just doing it for fun, plus I got to choose my own music at parties.
It was actually Mike Milewski of XL Lifestyle that ended up linking me my first gig, opening for Chris Dorman and Botnek at Elements Nightclub in Kitchener for Technocolour Dreams. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing! Looking back, I played some of the most cringeworthy opening tracks and I think its hilarious!
Realistically, it wasn’t until later on that I figured that I wanted to play bass music. I grew up loving metal music personally so bands such as Pantera, Billy Talent, System of a Down and etc, all had a huge influence on the artist I am today.
Who did you have as a mentor when you first started learning how to produce? How have you grown since then?
Two people really influenced me when it comes to DJ’ing and producing. When it comes to DJ’ing, Chris Dorman was one of the first people to ever introduce me to mixing. He would always open for international artists, headline shows, and even play all the house parties in the city. The guy just had a great overall attitude about the music scene and DJ’ing and really pushed me to try it myself and get involved.
When is comes to producing, shout out to Adam Spears! Adam at the time was Beta Nightclub’s resident DJ and a friend of a friend of mine. Finally I was introduced to him at one of his shows and he told me to come by his place and he would show me the ropes of producing. We ended up spending a couple days in the studio and produced a Melbourne style track. Oh how the times have changed haha. I even remember while making the track being like “we should put a couple wubs here and there” which wasn’t typical for Melbourne lol. That little studio session really inspired me to get into more than just DJ’ing.
One Loft recently hosted an Ever After Ontario Stage Showcase on April 27th, which you were a part of. How was the event? Do you think it is a good indication for the turn out for Ever After Festival this year?
There is only one word to describe how that event went: AMAZING!
The event was a huge success, being able to bring so many talented DJ’s and producers to one event was such an awesome experience. Furthermore, the energy in the venue all night from the attendee’s was incredible. I put on a bunch of events throughout Toronto and this event really opened my eyes to how involved the bass fans are. Coming decked out head to toe in bass gear, head banging ALL NIGHT. It’s something much different than any other music scene. I think this is a great indication of how the turnout will be for Ever After!
Ever After was successfully able to bring Toronto’s bass scene to Kitchener by offering people something that was not offered anywhere else close. -DJ Highbred
How would you describe the bass scene in Toronto and how do you think Ever After is able to successfully bring the bass scene over to Kitchener every June?
The bass scene in Toronto is actually pretty amazing. We have always had a small bass scene but it wasn’t until recently that it has exploded. It’s crazy how dedicated bass fans are to the genre and it’s great to see that those people can now all come together in larger clubs. Even mainstream artists such as Marshmello and The Chainsmokers all include dubstep tracks in their sets. If people say “Oh dubstep and bass house are the new big-room…” No. People are just broadening their horizons and finally liking more than what the radio tells them to like.
I think Ever After Music Festival has been one of the biggest influences on the bass music scene in our area. They were the first festival in the area to really take a chance and create a lineup curated for purely bass artists with some of the biggest names in the game. This really allowed for people to take a chance on the genre and experience it live. Ever After was successfully able to bring Toronto’s bass scene to Kitchener by offering people something that was not offered anywhere else close. Veld and Digital Dreams are all focused on various genre’s (mainstream to underground) whereas Ever After does bass.
Where along the EDM spectrum do you align yourself as an artist and do you find it harder to stand out as a producer today?
Standing out in the EDM scene today is very difficult and actually “making it” comes one in a million. Not to say don’t try, but it is tough. I have been in the scene about 7 years now and am nowhere near where I would like to be. Working full time jobs, going to school, having a social life, spending time with the family: this all takes time away from being able to perfect the craft of producing and DJ’ing. In turn, DJ’ing and producing is so easily accessible that anyone can just download a program and jump right in. With the help of a couple youtube tutorials you are on your way!
Moving up the ladder is the hard part. One of the most common things to hear these days is “everyone wants to be a DJ”. It’s true from an attendee’s perspective. But people don’t realize how much work goes into producing a song. Even gaining the skills to accurately read a dance floor live and change music styles according to mood, setting, and attendance. There has been countless hours sitting in front of my computer altering the same sound. And lots of time organizing thousands of songs or downloading new music to keep up with the current trends.
I think it is going to keep getting harder and harder to get to the top these days. Becoming a known artist really depicted on how creative the producers are and their ability to change the scene. For example, Snails blew up due to creating the sub-genera of dubstep called “Vomitstep” which previously was popularized in the form of house music by Botnek. With so many producers, it is hard to find new sounds that no one has created before and start something new.
Luckily, a lot of producers have relied on live music to help fill that void such as Sullivan King, who plays guitar and DJ’s all in one performance. Last year I played on the Main Stage at Ever After and brought out a live drummer named Joey Muha . It was one of the most fun and memorable performances of my career. Get creative, connect with new artists and really push the limits of what is normal. Maybe one day something big will come!
What are some of the current projects you are working? What are you excited for most this festival season?
Currently, I am working on a couple original tracks for Highbred that I may or may not play at Ever After. Who knows! Over the past year, I have taken a new direction and started a second alias that is more Tech-House. So right now I have been working on a couple random projects for that. Hoping to drop some of those productions ASAP!
What I am most excited for this year…there is way to much to be excited for to be honest! The lineup for one is absolutely madness with so many of my idols on the lineup. Kill The Snails, Excision, Chris Lake, Justin Martin…DAMN! The addition of a silent disco will be a highlight of the festival. Furthermore, I am excited for the Ontario Stage! This year we have the stage sponsored by Moog Audio, therefore its going to be dope! Many of the Ontario Stage DJ’s have been looking forward to this festival all year. They will finally get to show us what they got!
If you’d like to catch DJ Highbred before the festival, Club 77 in Hamilton just announced their lineup for the Ontario Stage Showcase featuring artists DJ LAF, Mikey The Kid, DJ Highbred and more. If you’re interested in attending Ever After Music festival, you can buy your tickets online and RSVP to the Facebook event to stay up to date on all the festival information.