by Martyna Turczynowicz
Winnipeg-based John Norman has played everywhere from Toronto to London to Ibiza and major festivals like Detroit Sound. Last year, he signed to KMS records. Kevin Saunderson and Carl Cox have been playing his mixes internationally. Now, the homegrown DJ is back for a stint as artist ambassador for the 2014 MEME festival.
“I was making music before that but started taking it more seriously about five years ago,” the Winnipeg based DJ told Stylus. “I was playing hard house music back then,” he says with a laugh.
Norman started collaborating with local DJs Phosphor, Justrich and Freaky Alien. “They were doing bi-weekly shows and there would be new artists coming in every month there along with at other venues,” he says. One of those artists was DJ Preach who encouraged him to focus on his craft.
“He gave me some advice and said ‘you’ve got something, if you wanna do it you should take it a little more seriously and put more focus into it. So I did.’”
Norman has since played at clubs in Ibiza and, most recently, at the Movement Festival in Detroit in May. Sitting backstage at the Movement Festival was surreal, he recalls. The sheer talent hanging out backstage is what blew him away. “Seth Troxler shows up, Kenny Larkin, Jeff Mills, Kevin Saunderson was there. Kevin’s mom is there, the kids are there, everybody’s there.”
Hanging out backstage felt a lot like walking into a family barbeque, Norman says. “All those DJs know each other very well,” he explains. “They’ve been working together and going through the Detroit scene for many years.” At the same time, he says, it felt a little bit like “walking into someone’s house, invited, and you made it but you’re the new guy in the room.” Meeting those big industry names, he continues, is very humbling, because “it’s a reminder of who you are and where your potential is.”
Another experience that resonated Norman was when DJ Richie Hawtin dropped his track “Stuck In My Mind” at TimeWarp Festival in Manheim, Germany, arguably the biggest techno-only festival in the world.
“Richie Hawtin drops your track and some guy’s got a nice clean recording and I’m sitting there, watching it, going Woah. If I turned around, there’d be another 4000 people all enjoying the same experience. It’s very humbling to know that it’s happening, not a lot of artists get to experience that on that kind of a level.”
International recognition is a big deal for any artist, but it’s especially huge for DJs because other artists are always spinning each other’s tracks.
“For a producer and DJ of electronic dance music your music is probably being played more by other people than it is by yourself,” Norman says. But regardless of the world travels and crazy experiences, Winnipeg will always be home for Norman.
“There’s that saying, you can take the Winnipegger out of Winnipeg but you can’t take Winnipeg out of the Winnipegger.”
Being chosen as MEME Ambassador Norman says, is an honour. “For a local artist, who’s doing so much internationally, it’s a good little tip of the hat. It’s good to be back.” As ambassador for MEME, Norman will be getting other DJs and producers in the know about what’s going on in Winnipeg. “Since I do travel a lot is to bring that message from MEME to artists around the world that I interact and collaborate with. My role as ambassador is to tell them that there’s something going on here in Winnipeg.”
Norman believes that MEME pushes the envelope in a lot of ways for a music festival because of the artists it brings in every year. “There are artists that are quite big elsewhere that aren’t so well known here. I think any good festival needs to take a little bit of risk.” Norman will be playing at MEME this year, along with Kevin Saunderson, and Blond:ish among others.
For Norman, it’s the people that set Underground Revival’s afterhours shows apart from other shows. “I’ve played there a few times and the crowd is always really, really up for it. Back in the day, there was sometimes only one type of crowd that would come. It’s not that there was a need to fit in, you just went and expressed yourself.
Now, he says, when you go to the warehouse the people showing up to this event are so diverse and “they’re all wanting an experience and having that in a little tight space like Underground Revival is awesome.”
He goes on to say that “everybody, who’s anybody who enjoys this is going here. There’s no guess game anymore ‘oh hey what party are you going to?’”
“I’m going to the party.”
MEME festival will be held August 14-17 at venues throughout Winnipeg. For more information visit www.memetic.ca