Smalltown DJs
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Smalltown DJs

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE
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This band has not uploaded any videos




Hai Karate is to uplifting hip hop and funk what Hollertronix is to Bmore and dance edits. This unmixed CD features remixes of all your favorite club staples, made even better with the funk flavor provided by Small Town DJs, DJ Czech, Wicked Lester (love the Skate Or Die reference) and Mat The Alien. Look out for Eric B and Rakim's "I Know You Got Soul" remix called "You Got Soul(1)," the ultra positive remix of Dead Prez's "Rebel Freq" called "Rebel Radio(2)," Sly and The Family Stone's "Everyday People Remix(3)," "Baby Blends(4)," which blends everything from Apache to Adonis, the best Cure mashup I've heard, mixed with Ying Yang's "Badd" and aptly named "Bad To Me(5)," and the club banger "Whisper Soul(6)" - as you might guess, it mashes David Banner's "Whisper Song" with Soul II Soul's "Back To Life." Other artists that get the remix: Ben E King, Sly & The Family Stone, Bad Company, Ray Charles, etc. Essential for fans of the funk, All Good Funk Alliance and Beatconductor. Keep it poppin'. - TURNTABLE LAB

"DJs in the City"

The Smalltown DJs perform at the Hi-Fi Club tonight and open for DJ Z-Trip on May 20 at the Whiskey.
- - -
Mike Grimes, who raced go-karts in his youth, makes it a point to not tell his partner in the Smalltown DJs, Pete Emes, that the pit crew has given him the fastest four-stroke kart on the course. Grimes also makes a point not to tell the crew that he and some friends were once thrown out of this course for being drunk and disorderly, but then why would you?
After trading wide-grinned, boyish taunts on the starting line, Grimes shoots ahead of Emes in a burst of smoke, and over the next few laps, intentionally slows down, just to accelerate ahead of his friend again.
On this sunny spring afternoon, it's evident that The Smalltown DJs are all about having fun.
The DJ duo burns down the house every Thursday night at one of the city's top live music venues, The Hi-Fi Club, which they own with partner Graham Furse. Their mash of funk, hip-hop, breaks and dancehall has taken them to the South By Southwest festival in Austin, TX. and to club tours across the U.S., while their DJ mixes and 12-inch vinyl releases find their way into the hands of tastemaking European DJs through British-based websites.
You could also find some of those mixes at their music store, Giant 45, which they've owned since 2003, a business venture they use to help find exciting new music from across the globe.
"Our goal is just to have a fun night," Grimes says of the DJ nights.
"When I go out, I want to hear a bit of music and dance around, and it could be anything from a Clash song to an old hip-hop song. And when you can make that happen, it's great. That's what the first guys, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, would do. They'd play anything with a good beat, anything that people could bug out to. Those are, ultimately, our biggest influences."
It was this love of Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash that brought these two strangers to the same acid jazz DJ night at the now-defunct The Factory in the early '90s.
"For two white kids growing up in Calgary, there wasn't much exposure to that music here," Grimes says. "So to have that open up your eyes and ears to a whole new world of music. . . that made me think I could be a DJ."
They went their separate ways after high school; Grimes moved to Korea, and Emes moved to London, Ont., for university. Both DJed in their new respective cities and returned with a new set of influences and styles. After being introduced to one another through a mutual friend, they kicked off a residency at the Night Gallery in 1999 called Hai Karate (named after a budget aftershave on the market in the '70s).
"We started out with two turntables, just taking turns," Grimes says. "And it soon turned out one guy would get drunk standing around while the other would work. So we hooked up three turntables so the other guy could get records ready while one guy was spinning. And then it became four turntables."
Because of this unique approach and disregard for DJ conventions, their musical mish-mash quickly became a local hit.
"We were into all sorts of music, we were about throwing everything into the mix, but the cats around us were all into playing one style," Emes says. "About seven, eight years ago, people would say, 'You can't do that!' "
"Yeah," Grimes concurs, "In Toronto, we'd play a breaks song, and have this perfect mix, perfect segue into a house song, and the kids who were dancing would suddenly stop, come up to the booth and go, 'When are you playing breaks again?' And it's like, 'Dude, just enjoy it, enjoy your life!' "
After DJ nights became more and more niche-based, audiences started getting bored with long sets of music they neither recognized nor could sing along to. Suddenly, the Smalltown DJs and their mongrel music, bred from hundreds of fathers, became fashionable.
"It's great that it's turned the corner these days, because who wants to play just one style of music all night?" Emes asks. "That's like going to a buffet and eating 10 plates of green beans."
Thankfully, their music isn't anywhere as bland as a plate of green beans. Some of their mashes have been minor strokes of dance-floor genius; blending The Arcade Fire's Rebellion with Missy Elliott's I'm Really Hot, or The Cure's Close To Me with Ying Yang Twins' Badd. It all makes for infectiously danceable music to bobble your head and blister your feet to.
It's no wonder the Hi-Fi Club has a steady lineup each Thursday, filled with Calgarians just looking to let loose.
"People are starved for good dance music," Emes says. "There's a shortage of good, quality stuff. House music has died such a colossal death because it became so repetitive and creatively defunct. Hip-hop's the same way. I love hip-hop, but I don't like the road it's taken. It isn't real life. There's been an appropriation of it in the party sense, as in white kids from Canada dancing to dirty south records, but it's in an ironic sense. They can't relate to any of the lyrics, in the way the generation before related to rock music."
And just as rock music was the voice of rebellion for the generation before theirs, the Smalltown DJs want to be the voice of rebellion for today's youth and young-at-heart.
"We're about promoting rebellion," Emes says. "We're trying to put together music that's saying what the Clash was trying to say, and what Public Enemy was trying to say. Because, really, what's rebellious anymore? Everything's been done."
© The Calgary Herald 2007 - Canwest Global (Calgary Herald)

"Growing into funky city mice."

Story by: Kate Foote, Leader of the Foot...Heh...Foot...
Story date: Thursday, April 14, 2005

As the weather warms up and classes wind down, students' thoughts turn to excessive drinking and summer love- the overnight kind included. After two gruelling semesters of classes and all the drudgery within, it's finally time to let loose. So here you are on the eve of BSD, outlining your drinking itinerary and contemplating which gaudy Hawaiian-print shorts/skirt/skort to don. Pete Emes and Mike Grimes of the Smalltown DJs, however, are busy deliberating on how to rock your BSD.

Emes and Grimes are quite familiar with the debauchery that is BSD. Last year they were invited to play and ended up rocking the second stage in MacEwan Hall due to bad weather. Since last year, the Smalltown DJs focused on their music, refining their sound and hooking up with Miss Ange from Vibe 98.5, who contributes her vocal talent, as well as emcee abilities. Armed with a stronger sound further involving their love of funk and a new contributor, the Smalltown DJs are definitely ready to break some beats.

"[Last year] was a really big success so they wanted us to play on the main stage this year," says Emes. "It was a huge party- it was one of the best parties we played all last year."

That's saying a lot for BSD, as the Smalltown DJs are certainly no stranger to a good party. Over the past six years, they've been a Thursday night standby, playing their "cracker-ass" funk first at the Night Gallery, and now at the HiFi Club for Hai Karate. Although mainstays on the Calgary scene, the Smalltown DJs are also well traveled.

"We've played every big city in Canada- except Halifax. We've also played in the UK, throughout the States and in the Cayman Islands," says Emes of their journeys.

Travelling all around the globe has given Emes and Grimes a different perspective on various music scenes. While many believe the ideal scene exists in Vancouver, L.A. or New York, Emes holds Calgary, despite its redneck reputation, can still compete.

"I like Calgary's music scene. I think it's pretty well rounded. Most of the indie-rock kids are pretty open-minded. If you go to shows in Vancouver, all the scenes are so segregated that the shows aren't as exciting," explains Emes. "Everybody looks to this utopian thing. People think Vancouver, L.A. or New York have these crazy scenes, but it's the same kids doing the same things as we are in Calgary." - The Gauntlet (University of Calgary)

"Stormy Weather"

Stormy Weather
Diplo-approved hip-hoppers Thunderheist rumble in dance's jungle
By Denise Benson
Photography by Che Kothari & May Truong

THUNDERHEIST with Dishwasher and DJ Rory Them Finest. Sat, Mar 3, 8pm. The Drake Underground, 1150 Queen W. $5.

“What it is, what it do, what it is / You ain't never seen a chick like me / What it is, what it do, bring a crew / No one get down like we...”

The distinctive voice of 21-year-old local rapper Isis flows over the crunchy beats and electronic squelches created by Montreal DJ/producer Grahm. This is Thunderheist's “Anthem,” and they've got every right to boast. After less than six months of full-time collaboration, these self-proclaimed “electric funky stars” are making waves and shaking asses everywhere they go.

Thunderheist are creating the most exciting club music I've heard in years. Loads of producers the world over have been flirting with the booty-Baltimore-electro amalgam, but Thunderheist take it to the next level – where it needs to be, in order not to shrivel up into a parody of itself.

There are reasons why the Montreal Mirror named Thunderheist a 2007 “Noisemaker” early in the year, why DJs are lining up to drop MP3s of the duo's ü ber-catchy “Horny” and “Suenos Dulces” and why mash-up king Diplo asked, in reference to Thunderheist, “Why is Canada running the game?” in a January post on the Mad Decent official blog.

It's simple: Grahm's music is fresh, fun and satisfies every body part while Isis is a gifted and versatile MC with undeniable stage presence. With so many mediocre vocalists fronting electronic music projects, it's about time killer synth hooks were paired with a rapper who can really rhyme.

I get the lowdown on the disparate duo's collaboration over hot tea on a cold Sunday night at Jun Jun Sushi. The two are still buzzing from the reception they received the previous night at the Fuck Faces party, the site of Thunderheist's live debut in T.O.

“Mutual friends told me about Isis and I got in touch with her through MySpace,” Grahm begins. “Then Isis came to Montreal last summer to do a couple of shows during the Jazz Fest, and the first one was terribly promoted so there were only about 15 or 20 people there, but she killed it regardless. I realized she was the ideal person to work with.”

The producer – who'd already been making hip-hop under the name of Metrix (watch for a 12-inch on Public Transit Recordings later this year) – had started messing with dance music as Thunderheist and needed someone to work with.

“I made this Thunderheist alter ego because I didn't want my hip-hop friends to clown me for trying something different,” the man affectionately nicknamed Grahmzilla explains. “It got some radio play and I didn't know what to tell the hosts so I lied and said it was a group. Then I had to find one.”

He and Isis had already traded files to make a couple of hip-hop tracks, but the projects were kept very separate until Grahm mistakenly instant messaged her a Thunderheist remix of a Spank Rock track last September.

“I was actively hiding this music from Isis because I thought she'd think I was weird and didn't know if she would vibe with it,” the soft-spoken former scratch DJ admits. “For the two days I didn't hear from her, I was pretty sure that our collaborations were over.”

“All the while, I'm doing this: 'Oh yeah, oh yeah,'” says the animated MC, busting dance moves in her seat. “That happens with a lot of people who want to work with me, and it's another reason why I don't collaborate that much. Like, don't give me what you think I want to hear. I'm so much more excited when I'm given something completely different.”

Things clicked and they devoted themselves to Thunderheist, recording six songs in a little over a week. Their very different personalities and sibling-like competitiveness – their interactions are frequently punctuated by playful jabs – allowed the pair to stretch beyond the music of their solo entities.

“It's liberating to write from a different perspective and not feel constrained,” says Isis about rapping over dance beats that often come fast and furious.

“Early on, I was still getting used to the beats and Grahm would really push me. It was like boot camp sometimes. 'Isis, you can do better than that.' Six times later, we'd finally have a banger.”

In fact, they've got a lot of them, each sounding different than the next. Thunderheist's upcoming “Bubblegum” single (out on Bigfoot in April and featuring remixes by Ghislain Poirier, Wicked Lester and Wax Romeo) more than gives Missy Elliott a run for her money. “Slowroll” comes on slow and disturbing, “Nothing2Step2” is uniquely vulnerable, and “Jerk It” finds Isis absolutely going off over Grahm's insane synths.

Though major labels are already sniffing around, the Thunderheist two are focused on playing live to build their audience. A string of South by Southwest-related dates in Austin will be followed by a US tour in April.

“I look forward to how our live shows will evolve once we start incorporating things like lights,” Isis exclaims.

“And fire,” adds the G-man.

“And me falling from the sky,” Isis added. “It's going to be mind-blowing!”

In the meantime, Thunderheist will have to rely on Isis' spot-on delivery and magnetic stage persona, and Grahm's decks, keys and occasional song-and-dance routine.

“Last night, I actually came out from behind the turntables and was up in front with Isis,” he gushes. “I'm trying to not be that DJ in the shadows. I got on the mic, too!”

“But we don't want you getting too carried away with this,” cracks back the vocalist. “You've got the DJ booth, I've got the crowd. I'm the front lady, you're the guy who makes the beats. I know it's in the contract, buddy.”

Grahm: “We'll see.”

Was Diplo overstating the case with his blog comment about Canada running the booty-bass game? “It seems like Canada has its own cool kids who aren't trying to do what the American counterparts are doing,” says Thunderheist's Grahm. “We have our own flavour, and it's almost like we're creating a bit of a collective.”

Here are just a few of the players leading bass-heavy club business for Team Canada:

Former Ottawa residents Alanna Stuart (vocals) and Ian Swain (a.k.a. DJ/producer Pho) are Bonjay. Their sound is steeped in soul, reggae and broken beat more than much of their club-music bredren and, thus far, Bonjay has built their rep on covers of people like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and a remix of Brazil's Bonde do Role for Diplo's Mad Decent label. Now based in T.O., Bonjay have just released Bangarang Business, a CD mixtape of covers, originals and mash-ups, and will drop their debut single later this year.

Ghislain's booming bass and big, dirty beats are a major part of what's put this country on the map where this genre is concerned. The Montrealer's sick Breakupdown album, remixes for the likes of Lady Sovereign and original ragga and abstract hip-hop collaborations with MCs such as TTC, Omnikrom and Collage have helped earn him his title as King of the Bounce. He'll release an album on Ninja Tune this fall, has a pile of projects in the pan and recently remixed Thunderheist's “Bubblegum.” Poirier plays at the Drake Underground on March 8, and will tour Europe beginning in May.

Calgary's Smalltown DJs (Mike Grimes and Pete Emes) are club destroyers and mash-up maniacs. Inspired by block parties, punk rock, early rave and hockey, they've been hosting Hai Karate, a weekly open-format club night, since 1999. They've released a pile of 12-inches and mix CDs, and have given a leg up to other Canucks through their Bigfoot label, home to upcoming releases by Calgary's Dragon Fli Empire and Thunderheist. The dudes tour extensively, and will criss-cross the US in March. D - Eye Weekly (Toronto)

"My week in the Clubs"

Sat, Aug 18
Smalltown Boys

Calgary isn't really the kind of place you associate with hotshot DJs, but somehow the Smalltown DJs have overcome that image to build a reputation across Canada and the States for their eclectic, genre-bending sets.

The duo were in town rocking out in the Drake Underground after Stinkmitt's set, and quickly got down to business, showing the room what they're capable of. Each had his own DJ booth set up onstage, which allowed them to mix in and out of each other at breakneck speed. One minute it was a classic rock anthem; then, a few seconds later, a big clubby beat was slammed in behind it; then, all of a sudden, things went off in some other direction.

It was perfect for this kind of event. Smalltown DJs play enough recognizable mainstream music to keep the Drake's weekend warriors from rushing the DJ booth with Timberlake requests, but they throw in enough underground to keep the hipsters there, and mix it with enough skill to keep everybody dancing.

Benjamin Boles - Now Toronto 07/08/23



Good People w Stuck Here (feat Grandtheft) (T&A Records)


Wicked (feat Willy Joy) (No Brainer Records)

Blow (Sol Selectas)

Loving the Vibe (T&A Records)

Love Decoy (Top Billin)



Riding the first wave of DJs that emerged from Diplo's Hollerboard site in the mid 2000s, Smalltown Djs have played shows across the globe from Fabric in London to Paris & Helsinki, from U-Hall in DC, to Brooklyn to LA. With highlights that include a one-year stint in Las Vegas, and Sean White's gold medal party at the Olympics in Vancouver. After some production success with Smalltown Romeo (their collaboration with Shad "Boom Ha" was featured in the HBO show "Girls" and in the Jonah Hill movie "The Sitter"), the boys have branched out in 2012 with 5 releases on various labels including Sabo's Sol Selectas & No Brainer of Berlin. These tunes have been played by djs around the planet namely A-Trak, Diplo, Toddla T, Sinden, Annie Mac, and more. With a bunch more releases planned including a full length in the New Year, this Calgary production duo is really set to break through...