Bands hook up to play Artel dance party

Brothers Trevor and Matt Chan team up with Paul Belen to form no luck club.
Brothers Trevor and Matt Chan team up with Paul Belen to form no luck club.
Imaginative electronica outfit iNSiDEaMiND is Steptone and Professor Fingers.
Imaginative electronica outfit iNSiDEaMiND is Steptone and Professor Fingers.

Lucky breaks for Vancouver’s no luck club

The boys of the Vancouver-based instrumental hip-hop outfit no luck club (NLC) have been keeping busy. After releasing two albums, Happiness in 2003 and Prosperity in 2006, the band is focusing their time on playing festivals and gigs across Canada and the U.S., all the while undertaking two ambitious side projects—a musical and the soundtrack for a video game.

While heading out east, the band will drop into The Artel and team up with fellow electronic experimenters iNSiDEaMiND for a dance party.

Originally formed in early 2000 by brothers Trevor and Matt Chan, the band’s eclectic mix of turntable improvisation and quirky samples caught the eye of 75Ark Records. The label responded swiftly to the band’s demo tape, which surprised Trevor.

“Usually when you send stuff out it goes into a black hole and no one ever gets back to you. I guess [75Ark] liked it and we started talking to them. That’s how we got our record deal,” Chan said. Unfortunately, before their debut album Happiness was set to be released in 2001, there was a major shake-up, which led NLC to leave the label.

“The people who signed us left, so there was no one to support the record.” However, NLC was able to secure a deal with Ill Boogie Records, who released a revised version of Happiness in 2003.

More change followed in 2004, but this time it was positive—DJ Paul Belen of Pluskratch fame joined the band.

“Now we’re moving more towards becoming a real band, which is what Matt and I have always wanted,” Chan said. “When we set off, it was very much like a bedroom studio project, but we’ve always wanted to become like an improv jazz band, and the addition of Paul helps fulfill that.” The three collaborated on NLC’s next release, Prosperity, which blends samples from pop culture, like film sound bites, into their songs.

“It’s one big stew. For us, we’ve always been into these mongrel forms of art. ... It creeps up into your artwork, you can’t avoid it,” Chan said.

The album also addresses issues of racism, particularly Chan’s feelings on the debate over head tax reparations for Chinese immigrants, which resurfaced around the 2006 federal election.

“It’s definitely a personal story within our own family,” said Chan, whose grandfather paid the head tax when he came to Canada. The Chans’ heritage also informs the titles and overarching concepts of NLC’s albums. Happiness and Prosperity are designed to be the first two releases in a trilogy representing the three gods of good fortune. But don’t expect the third album in the trilogy—Longevity—anytime soon. The band has been hard at work on their side projects: composing the music for an Xbox break dancing video game and a musical.

While Chan describes the Xbox game, Go Go Break Steady, as a lot of work but a great learning experience, the musical seems to be a labour of love for the band. Based on the Brian Eno and David Byrne album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the musical is being created in collaboration with performers, visual artists and dramatists from the Western Theatre Conspiracy.

“[The creative process] is really loose. We’re kind of making things up as we go along. Basically we just get together in a room and jam on different ideas,” Chan said.

Selected scenes from the production will debut at the Vancouver Art Gallery in February 2008, and the final production is scheduled to open at the PuSH International Performing Arts Festival in January 2009, where Chan hopes it will catch the attention of a director or production house.

“Who knows,” Chan said. “Maybe we’ll do it in Kingston someday.”

Toronto DJs all for turning the musical tables

Making their way across an evolving technological and musical terrain, Toronto DJ team iNSiDEaMiND are quickly establishing themselves as an innovative artistic force. Equipped with vinyl records and imagination, Erik Larr and Cheldon Paterson, also known as Steptone and Professor Fingers, are hell-bent on stretching sonic limits with their instrument of choice—turntables. “We’re turntable enthusiasts. We do look at it as a tool and instrument. This is not playing someone else’s music or instrument. We’ll grab a piece of vinyl and try and get creative with it,” Larr said.

“A lot of our drums … are made up of us dropping the needle onto the turntable and then capturing that sound and turning it into sequence. We’re really trying to expose the turntable’s character.”

After last year’s release of FragMental, the group plans to expand its sound and narrative on their upcoming album, set to come out in spring 2008. The as yet untitled album takes the DJs’ hand-scratched sequences and sets them as the soundtrack for a fictional universe they call Scatterpopia, with the tracks serving as atmospheric stories about the landscape.

“We create imagination music so it’s like we try to imagine scenes of life and create what we would perceive to be the soundtrack for that scene.”

Working within the studio, iNSiDEaMiND scatter beats and trip-hoppy pulses to make chilling sequences that play like journeys into an urban dreamland. However, recording is a different experience from live shows for the band. The DJ partnership tries to stay true to their studio creations in spirit but often improvises live.

“A big part of our show is improvisation. We try and link into the theme of the song from the studio. … We use drum machines, turntables and loop machines. Between all this equipment we’re able to quite accurately produce these songs.”

Due to the nature of the band, with their improvised electronic music and imagination, non-traditional streams of music come out of what is really a collaboration between DJs, something that isn’t all that common in the DJing world.

“With the turntable it’s a unique experience. It is a relatively new instrument—there’s a lot of room to do things that people have never done before as opposed to another instrument that has had a history,” Larr said.

Larr and Paterson got together three years ago; through their collaboration, their music has gone new places as they bounce off of each others’ creative energy. The team works with dancers and other musicians such as Laura Barrett and experimental jazz saxophonist Colin Fischer to expand the scope of their sound and vision. This Friday The Artel will host a dance party featuring the band, and concert-goers can expect something in this collaborative spirit as iNSiDEaMiND team up with fellow experimental electronic band no luck club. Last time the bands were in town they played together and kept in touch. This time around, improvisation and musical expression will be flowing both ways.

“It’s a beautiful thing really. It’s rewarding to be able to lock into someone else’s creative sensibilities,” Larr said. “It brings a lot more out of yourself as well.”

no luck club play with iNSiDEaMiND at The Artel at 9 p.m. tonight as part of a dance party. Tickets are $10.

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