Just the other day, we had the pleasure of joining Sasha Radisic live on his radio show at University of Guelph’s CFRU radio station. He is at the helm of the infamous Underground Show under the alias of DJ Vulgar, alongside his longtime friend Oddie O’Phyle. Both masterful techno-heads, they spin esoteric and minimalist beats late into the night every week.
Vulgar and Oddie come from an impressive legacy in the underground scene. They’ve shared tales of putting on wild parties and wicked performances over the years, pushing the boundaries of what you’d expect from a night out (or several in a row). The parties would last three days, he said. You get in, secure a parking and sleeping spot, then just party.
The music would vary and fluctuate to fit the moods. Techno would be pounding late into the night….by dawn you would be having a strung out breakfast next to your peers to the soothing din of ambient electronica.
Before you knew it, however, jungle beats would take you away back to the dancefloor. It was insane, and they took place anywhere from beaches, to fields out in the middle of nowhere, sometimes even in his house.
Most importantly to note, however, was the sound. For lack of a better term, it was underground. The music selection was eclectic and the material was little known to anyone who wasn’t an avid audiophile or a lucky partier in the right place at the right time. The sounds dared to test the typical limits of musical experience…it was done with great skill….and it was done so from the heart.
After many a sleepless, bass-heavy weekend, this dynamic duo have decided to put their passion and fine beats into the electromagnetic airwaves at the radio station in Guelph, Ontario. They spin late into the night, broadcasting for the listening pleasure of electro nerds and music lovers all around. They alternate between showcasing their own mixes and bringing in DJs from the region to play.
The stuff is always “different”…the idea is that it’s great electronic music that goes beyond what you see in most clubs. It’s more thoughtful and has more feeling. It’s all live performance too. Sasha doesn’t let people just bring in their pre-made mix, it has to be executed and performed live on the air.
In terms of gear, DJ Vulgar has a pretty unique setup. He spins vinyl which is a time-honoured tradition in the field, but instead of the typical two-turntable setup, he rocks three turntables.
The first one plays out an album in its entirety. The second one, he uses to introduce just snippets and sequences of songs into the mix. The final one, also plays out in its entirety, but going backwards, making eerie semi-percussive sounds as it chugs along. All in all, this is tied together with a Roland 808 drum machine…a classic tool of the trade which gives the mix the punch it needs. It’s all about attention and control, as he put it.
Mixing, especially with minimalist techno, requires finesse and patience to get the textures and the dynamics balanced out just right. At the same time, it takes a lot of creativity as well. You have all this material to work with, and you have to see how far you can push the tracks you have, all while seamlessly weaving it into an hour to two hour mix.
DJ Vulgar prides himself with a long history as a musician, and certainly not a lightweight with the instruments he pursued. He started off learning accordion at a very young age, and then moved on to drums in his teens. His career as a musician acquainted him with the many genres that formed his musical style and identity. After spending some time as part of gospel and reggae bands, he was drawn to the side of electronic music.
First, he played as a live drummer for drum and bass djs, filling in the fast-paced breakdowns in the ever-familiar cadence of the genre. Later on, he was drawn to mixing his own beats, all the while experimenting with various outlets and setups. He described it as an enriching process, but not without it’s growing pains. He lamented it’s difficulty and the patience it demanded. Coming from someone who mastered two of the most hard to learn instruments out there, this is saying something. He recalls flinging vinyls across the room, as his determination was tested….even at some point giving up for a brief period of time. He came back, however, and eventually was able to conquer the skill. So why techno, then? I asked. He said because it’s so liberating.
Out of all the electronic genres to play out there, techno takes you the furthest. There are different styles of mixing and different types of music to work with, but they can only go so far. Techno, on the other hand is stunningly versatile. Not only does it allow you to push your material more than most, it is also easy to blend with other genres, resulting in ever more exotic creations. Indeed, techno is something that transcends the boundaries of genre and it’s a beast which, if tamed with enough discipline, will never cease to enchant. It’s so much more than a musical style, it’s a philosophy of composition and a state of mind.