I had only been living in Calgary for a few months and I knew virtually no one. But I wanted to play, and the best way to do that was to start a new night. The Bulldog was a piece-of-shit hole that had turntables, a busted mixer and a shitty sound system. Mondays were available because who the fuck wants to play on a Monday? I enlisted three DJs I met on the internet to be residents with me — Justin Noda, Rhett D and Jared K. Jared gave it up after a couple months (who can blame him, we averaged six paid covers per week) and a guy I met playing Arkanoid named DJ Guy Smiley was brought in to replace him.
As I’ve noted, the night was anything but a success. But as a group we bonded over house music and learned a lot about running a weekly. We also had some pretty sick flyers. Though, as the designer, I’m probably remembering them as being better than they were. Funktion Junction ran for six months when we were offered an upgrade.
The reasons for making the jump to Thursday nights at Manhattans were simple — Manhattans had a crowd and Thursday nights were vastly preferable to Monday nights. We started calling our group the SpinCity DJs and our night Society.
Society Thursdays became quasi-infamous for two things: Free pizza and $3.00 doubles. I like to think we started a cheap-booze and dancing price war, but again, this is probably a self-serving revisionist’s history. After a couple months we changed the promotion's name from SpinCity to Vinylslut, because, well, it was way more kick-ass.
This is also when we started to jibe as DJs, frequently running tag sets on two, four and sometimes five turntables. We threw cheesy theme nights, including Discoween, Retroween and the appropriately named Let Them Eat Cheese and Let Them Eat Cheese Too. We had a penchant for mash-ups and pop remixes, and a generally fun attitude toward music. This was during the years when everyone was a DJ and started taking themselves way too seriously, something we never did. To this day, I believe being a DJ is more about taste than technique and that reading DJ biographies is the by far the most entertaining activity in the world, especially when they say “a unique blend of [insert ridiculous adjective and sub-sub-genre name here].” We didn’t play a unique blend of anything because we were too busy playing everything, whether it went together or not. When I say "everything," I mean "everything good." We had exceptional taste in music. I’m just sayin'.
Eventually Rhett left (he was, and is, painfully talented — better than the rest of us — but he was, and is, also a bit of a smartypants and eventually went on to design guided missiles for NASA or something equally brainy). We didn't bother replacing him. Smiley, Noda and myself started calling ourselves the Vinylslut Electrobooty Orchestra and took our four turntables, a sampler and the home-built DIGITAL DRUMKIT OF DOOM (always written in all-caps) on the road to the dancing masses in big cities like Lethbridge and Regina.
I have often called these the best years of my life, which may seem sad, but once you remove all noteworthy personal events involving my wife and/or son, it’s completely true.
Society Thursdays ran for just over two years, at which point our tastes in music started to diverge and we had other things we each wanted to do. Smiley started playing breaks, despite the years we spent trying to get Noda to stop playing breaks. Noda did a run with A-Plus under the name Mixed-Up Delinquents (more breaks! Fuck!). And I started playing Friday nights at the Warehouse Nightclub, where I actively avoided playing breaks.
But every once in awhile we got together for a show in some combination or other. Noda and Smiley played together at Bump & Hustle. Noda and I played a set with the DIGITAL DRUMKIT OF DOOM at Battle Of the DJs. Smiley and I played a set at Connected v8. And so on. Eventually we managed to get the Vinylslut Electrobooty Orchestra together for a Halloween show in Saskatchewan, which would ultimately be the last time the three of us played together with all that extremely-difficult-to-transport-and-set-up gear.
Toward the end of our run at Society, we decided to turn Vinylslut into a sort-of-but-not-really booking agency. We expanded the roster with some local friends — Rodi Style, Anx, Molly Fi — and eventually added some guys from other cities. As a concept, it was interesting. As a thing that actually did anything useful for people at all, it was a total failure. But we did manage to co-promote a big-ass party — Wonderland, featuring Josh the Funky 1 and Aquasky — which was kind of awesome, even if it did lose money.
Once Society was over and we weren’t promoting anything with the name, we broke up Vinylslut and I reintroduced it as an online radio station. Noda and Smiley contributed mixes, but were both DJing a lot less. (Noda even got married.) The new Vinylslut.fm rounded out its roster of residents with friends of mine, most notably Dom G, Dylan Leroy, Joshua vN and Sean Keating. The radio site collected over 100 exclusive mixes over nearly three years and cost me a fortune in hosting and bandwidth. We also managed to sneak ourselves into the iTunes Radio directory. That part rocked.
In 2008, Guy Smiley passed away. Sean was a great friend to so many people, and there’s absolutely no way I can overstate the impact his life and death had on our lives. One of the reasons this latest version of Vinylslut exists is to share his favorite music with loved ones and strangers alike. Of everyone involved with the various incarnations of Vinylslut over the years, he was, without question, the biggest fan of music. He understood it in a way I never will, and for this and so many other reasons the world without Guy Smiley will never be quite as good as the world with Guy Smiley.
When I decided to end the radio station, I knew I’d do something else with the name. But when the Warehouse closed in January 2010, I decided it was time to step away from the whole DJ scene. (At least mostly.) So I came up with this, a tribute to the best years of my DJ “career,” which has existed in some form or other for nearly two decades. This site archives all the mixes from the founding four Vinylslut members and Noda, Rhett and I will be adding the occasional new mix when nostalgia strikes.
Thanks to everyone who supported the radio site over the last few years. It was fun, but ultimately I need something a little lower impact. Also, a big thanks to the many people who helped Vinylslut and/or me since I came to Calgary ten years ago. I'd especially like to thank Sean, Justin and Rhett, as well as Dom G, Chris Hewitt, Adam Henry, Rodi Style, Anx, J-Byrd, A-Plus, Dylan Leroy, Molly Fi and Max Schmiemann, who all made being a Calgary DJ so great.