“I want you to party with us deep into the night in a seafood restaurant, and I want you to do it with the best people you can, and to the best music you’ve ever heard.”
Left to right: Andrew Lochhead, Erin Berg and Brad Neil of breakandenter share a smooch at a party, 2009. Photo by Sarah Shaw.
Erin Berg, Andrew Lochhead and Brad Neil aka DJ Martin Fazekas, have been helping shape and redefine the musical landscape of Canada's largest city. They've successfully done this through not only hosting their own parties, but also through a strong dedication to building the scene while working collaboratively with other promoters and bringing their experience to new endeavors, such as Foundry, and hosting local events for established festivals such as Movement and Mutek.
As part of a new series focusing on the people who are helping shape Canada's wide and varied electronic music scene, I had the chance to sit down with Toronto's breakandenter crew to discuss their beginnings, the state of Toronto's electronic music scene, the importance of collaboration, and the magic of raves.
THUMP: So, the origin story. How did you guys get your start and where does the name come from?
Brad: Breakandenter began in December of 2007 with Erin and I trying to think of a name for our new found partnership. Both of us had been producing events: Erin had been throwing events at one of Toronto's favorite underground party spots, Salem's Loft, and I had been working with a couple different local promoters and festivals. We were kind of riffing on our name and initials and, well, B (Brad) and E (Erin), breakandenter. For us it did a great job of evoking that old school rave spirit, plus it turned out to be serendipitous once Andrew joined us a year later—he's the "and!"
Erin: Our first party featured Alex Smoke and was held at La Cervejaria on College. It also featured a transit strike and just about one of the worst snowstorms we had ever seen. So we didn't really expect a lot of people to show up, but they did, and Alex's flight made it, and the vibe was great and we just ran from there.
Your parties have always been known for happening in strange places, places where people might not normally think to party; restaurants, Polish veterans halls, transsexual strip clubs. Tell me a bit about that.
B: I think that is a part of the whole breakandenter ethos.
E: It's about putting great music in unconventional spaces. About creating a space where all genders, classes, sexual orientations, people from a diverse range of backgrounds can come together and take over a space not normally yours, and making it your own, and feeling accepted in that space.
Andrew: It's about not doing events in clubs. Often club culture comes so loaded with preconceptions of a way of being, people have certain ways they are socialized to use that kind of space, and we are not so into that. We want to challenge preconceived notions of partying. I want to do stuff like release radio controlled, inflatable, mechanized sharks at midnight in a Polish veterans hall (like we did for our five year). I want you to party with us deep into the night in a seafood restaurant, and I want you to do it with the best people you can, and to the best music you've ever heard.
And by the best music you mean? Who, What?
E: Well previous guests have included everyone from super stars like Jeff Mills, Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann, Dixon, to fan favourites like Frivolous and Pan/Tone, to our very personal favourites like Prosumer, Dave Aju, John Roberts, Move D, and Minilogue.
B: So house and techno basically!
Minilogue! You had them here performing their very last show. How was that?
B: I think bittersweet is probably the best word.
A: We were super honored for them to choose Toronto as the place to end their collaboration. We had wanted to bring them since we saw them at Mutek about seven years ago. They are the sweetest guys and naturally, the set—all four and some hours of it, was incredible.
We've touched on your use of alternative spaces, that's been a hot topic around Toronto lately especially with things like the relocation of Foundry. What do you think the city can do to help support your events and others like yours?
B: [Laughs] Well, first of all they need to support them, period. To sum it up, there just needs to be an interest from the city to want to support non-mainstream electronic music events and not look at them as bad things and try to shut them down.
E: There is all this talk of Toronto wanting to be a "music city" but the infrastructure simply isn't supporting it, from the bureaucracy that seems to enjoy the vilification of electronic music and dance spots, to the lack of available spaces to host our kind of events. We've lost so many great places thanks to the condo boom and overdevelopment of the downtown core. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find the kind of spaces that we like to hold our events in. Our government needs to be supporting endeavors like ours by seeing the cultural value in them and setting aside more spaces where this kind of thing can happen. Or by changing how things are zoned, and the ease with which that can be changed. For example, having zoning laws that would allow temporary zoning, even for one night, so that these events can happen in spaces they normally couldn't, or in spaces that are underutilized, but could benefit from being rented out for a night and used in an artistic way.
A: It's been talked about that a great nightlife is the heart of developing a great city, and we are currently in—especially with respect to electronic music, a huge cultural renaissance in this city especially over the last few years. We are perfectly positioned to blow up on an international scale as an electronic music city. Our city's nightlife has finally recovered from City Hall's rave crackdowns under Lastman and Fantino and yet in the middle of this rebirth and global interest in Toronto, instead of embracing this, we've got city councillors and bureaucrats replaying the rave hysteria of the late '90s. Meanwhile cities like Montreal are extending their last call 'til 5 AM. We have politicians more worried about bars and noise in their wards than they are about what that noise signifies: a vibrant, healthy city! To me if Toronto is serious about becoming the great cultural hub it deserves to be, we have to change these things. We need to be a 24-hour city with 24-hour culture. I'm not running for public office by the way [laughs].
Exactly, but that brings up another point. Many people would say we have lots of places to hold thousand person events: The Phoenix, Mod Club, Molson Amphitheatre…
A: Yeah, but do you want to party at any of those places? Again, these are spaces where a certain kind of relationship is prescribed, a certain way of looking at each other or the artist, all of which I think cause many of the problems that are then ascribed to events like ours. Our events feel totally different. Plus they vary greatly in size depending on how we want the event to play out and so different types and sizes of venues matter. Alternative spaces encourage not only creativity in the part of event producers, but also artists and audiences. The kind of events which allow audiences to play an integral role in their experience of an event are really important and empowering—that's the magic of raves right there.
We briefly touched on Foundry but you guys also have had involvement with a number of other high profile festivals including Movement Detroit and Mutek in Montreal. How did that come about?
B: Like anything, most of it started with a phone call or email…
E: We're really proud of being a part of Foundry and are happy that Mansion, when they first started organizing this, was able to recognize what we can all do together. I think the whole group—from Mansion, to Box of Kittens, to Evening Standard, all of us are able to contribute our own special expertise and bring it to this event series in a way that makes us much greater than the sum of our parts. It has really helped put Toronto on the global map. As for bringing things like the Movement pre-parties, and recently Avant-Mutek, these are things that have developed out of long term connections, through our experiences growing up and our travels to other festivals in North America where we have become friends with some of the people who throw these festivals. It's been an honuor to work with everyone in this respect. We're obsessed with electronic music and excellent electronic music festivals.
A: This really underscores the importance in this scene, or really in any aspect of life, about the power of collaboration. I mean, in any other city you have many promoters kind of working only for themselves. Here in Toronto, over the last five or six years, it seem that all the smaller party promoters have been able to forge really meaningful partnerships. That's what I think has really been responsible for the amount of great events with great artists we've been seeing here and really the rebirth of Toronto as a city for electronic music. We all talk to each other and want to see the scene grow.
Finally, what's next for breakandenter?
B: We usually take the summer off to attend festivals, meet and learn about new artists and get ready for our fall parties, and take some time off. However, before we do that we'll be heading down to Movement Detroit where I've been booked to play at a Monday night festival closing party at The Works.
A: Yeah this is really great, and we're really excited to be involved in a party for the first time outside of Toronto, to partner with some of our favourite American friends such as Pittsburgh's Humanaut and the legendary Bunker in NYC. As well as more recent pals such as the I'itoi Agency and LA's Plastic Love and Dirty Epic… not to mention for Brad to be part of such a fantastic lineup!
E: We have a few other special things cooking up as well but you'll have to wait to hear about those until we are ready to spill it!