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Ridin’ with Memetic from Rideau2Richmond

By Chrissy Steinbock on May 22, 2015

You might know DJ Memetic from Timekode, possibly the best, and definitely the sweatiest, dance party in Ottawa. The not-so-hidden gem has been rocking eager crowds every month for ten years now. Now Memetic is releasing his ambitious debut album, Rideau2Richmond, a 28-track double LP concept album based on the OC Transpo #2 route.

Using records dug from record stores along the #2 route and field recordings documenting the sounds of the trip for source material, Memetic went to work sampling, looping, chopping, re-playing and altogether creating a new body of music.  The result is an eclectic journey through various centres of the city, surprising intersections of musical styles and Memetic’s infectious beats.

The album drops on Friday May 22 and to celebrate DJs Memetic, Zattar and Trevor Walker are joining forces for a special edition of Timekode at Maker Space North. “We’re celebrating the release by doing an all vinyl night so no computers, no tricks no digital anything. Everything’s just going to be straight analog off the vinyl” Memetic says.  There will also be a video screening by Colin White (9-10pm), visuals by HardScience, installations by Jackpine, silk screening by Spins & Needles and eats by Detroit Soul Food on offer.

Rideau2Richmond started when Artengine, an electronic arts organization commissioned local musicians to craft soundtracks for a bunch of Ottawa bus routes. Memetic was one of those musicians and the bus route he chose was the #2. It’s a route he knows through and through. Besides connecting him to his studio and almost all of Ottawa’s record stores, it also passes by the old Eri Café where Timekode was held for almost ten years. Memetic says “I spent at least one great night every month for many years along the number two route. It’s what brought people to the party and connected people to me through that party so it’s a special route for me.”

As much as he enjoyed working on it he says, “I hadn’t considered really the full scope of it. I just thought I’ll get this commission done, hand it in and that’ll be the end of it.” That all changed when he sent it to his collaborator Colin White. “We were listening back to it and saying ‘man, this is really dope, what should we do with this?’ When he said ‘let’s shoot some videos
for it’ I started thinking ‘oh yeah, we could even put this back out on wax.’ The whole thing was made from samples I took off of records so I thought it would be cool to return it back to its original format.”  Colin White ended up making a short film to accompany the album and if you go early on Friday, you’ll have the chance to see the premiere screening.

I got in touch with Memetic to hear more about the inspiration behind the project, the process of making it and the unique character of the #2 route.

Rideau2RichmondHere is an edited excerpt from our Q&A.

Apt613: On Rideau2Richmond you tell us about the route through sound and music. If you had to put in words what the #2 route is like, how would you describe its character?

If I were to describe its character I would say it’s eclectic and tough and rough around the edges and I like that about it.

Before I started this project my original approach was going to be interviewing people and have people tell me stories about the number 2 and I would animate their stories to music but some of the stories I ended up getting were sort of “ too hot for TV” kind of thing. The number two, people always describe as the colourful or “sketchy” route because you find all sorts of characters on it.
The coolest thing about the number two route now and what I was interested in documenting is it runs through various centres of town so you realize there’s not one centre in town, there’s many and the number 2 runs through three or four. These different centres are really localized so there’s people who just shop at their local grocery store or whatever it is and taking the number two you get to go through all these localized zones. It’s not a Transitway route where it’s just speed and landscape. This is a lot more granular. You get deep into people’s neighbourhoods and the daily routes that they take from places. Also it runs by all the record shops so that’s something I’m very familiar with. The other thing is it has that Chinatown connection, a whole other world in the city in terms of going through the gate and that whole vibe.

Sometimes it’s funny with bus routes how you see the same folks if you ride a route enough, the commuter’s equivalent of residential neighbours. Does the #2 have a cast of characters?

Super real and cool people is how I would characterize the characters of the number two.

One thing I picked up on in my multiple rides on the route is there are definite times where there are flocks of the older Asian community who ride the bus and I’ m not exactly sure where they’re going but they seem to be meeting up with each other on the bus. There doesn’t seem to be any big destination where everybody’s going. I get this sense that everybody’s just riding and talking. I caught a little bit of that in some of my field recordings.

Your liner notes quote Dr. Laura Vaughan in The Spatial Syntax of Urban Segregation. I’m curious to hear about the influence of your academic work on your music.

I studied a lot of architecture and geography in school and did a major research project about the active role that architecture, geography and spatial configuration played in the emergence of hip hop culture in the 1970s so when I was developing those ideas Dr. Vaughan was really helpful. I looked up some papers about it and started reading about it more as I was doing my research and reached out to Dr. Vaughan. Her name was on several of the papers that I was reading. Since then we’ve had a relationship where we  email each other and continue to talk about these ideas. When I put this (Rideau2Richmond) together I knew that so much of it was about traveling through networks of space and the sort of coincidence or not coincidence of all this particular type of retail (record stores) being situated on this particular route. It all came together for me and I thought I’m going to quote her in this, just shout her out.

What was the creative process like in making Rideau2Richmond?

I had been buying records for this project for about a year. When I got into the actual sampling, chopping, recording new music, I brought in some instrumentalists who were playing on it – that whole process of finishing all of that, the hardcore work part, I was doing that for maybe two or three months. The field recordings were done in multiple passes. I did it two or three times then went back into the studio and pieced together the full route out of the best parts. I was abbreviating things as well. The way this works is that I edited it (the field recordings) such that it’s a very fast run of the number 2. It’s almost as if the number two doesn’t hit any streetlights and it’s just rolling.

After the field recordings were edited down and I had that as my base I would go in and take all these pieces I had sampled or some I’d made and start fitting them onto to different parts of the route.  Quite a few of the beats were made very spontaneously as I was putting the whole thing together, songs like “Tripple J” and “Don’t Resist.”  That was the process. It was sort of a dialogue between the field recording process, the beat making process and the process of putting it all together some new pieces of music also emerged.

Roughly how many source records were used in the project?

I bought a lot of records. I would say I probably used 50 LPs, maybe 15 or so 45s, something like that. Then obviously I was playing instruments on it, my synthesizers, drum machines, guitars, other stuff like that.

Come out to celebrate the Rideau2Richmond double-LP release & video screening, part of the special edition all-vinyl Timekode dance party, Friday May 22 9pm -2:30am, at Maker Space North (Bay 216, 250 City Centre Ave., next to Gabba Hey).  Admission $10 at the door, and the event is 19+.