Since his early days as a New Brunswick teen, Dan Valin has adored electronic music. His lust for beat juggling and mashing up mixtapes began after he liberated a 12-inch single of Madonna’s “Who’s That Girl” from Zellers.
In recent years, Valin has gone from a bedroom disc jockey to an in-demand performer, making weekly appearances at Centretown Pub (CP) and branching out to production work.
His forthcoming project is a collaboration with vocalist Kapri that he calls “classic dance.”
Valin and Kapri met through a mutual friend; Valin says that when he heard Kapri’s slick vocals, he knew instantly he wanted to work with her.
The focus of the tracks will be Kapri’s voice, Valin says, while his music will provide a timeless beat.
“We try and pull inspiration from club hits over the past 40 years, from disco to house,” he says. “We wanted it to sound fresh but not rely too heavily on the tricks of modern electronic dance music.”
He describes the collection as a collision of 1990s and modern influences. “It’s vocal house,” he says. “Crazy beats layered with jazzy-sounding vocals.”
Kapri and Valin have more than 10 songs in the works; Valin says they will focus on releasing singles and remixes before contemplating a full album.
He says working with a marvel like Kapri has pushed him out of his comfort zone, ensuring the finished product is exciting while the process remains fulfilling.
“She has a clear vision of what kind of sound she’s looking for, and we’re able to communicate those kinds of ideas to each other quite easily,” he says. “Luckily, we speak the same language when it comes to beats.”
Valin first learned the language of guitar as part of the Ottawa rock outfit The Habit. Although he calls their recording sessions “wine-fuelled jam sessions,” he says his years in the band gave him a chance to approach music in an organic and collaborative way.
After seven years with The Habit, he says, he was itching to shift back to the electronic element he loved so much as a youth.
In addition to his regular gig at CP, Valin has turned tables as a headliner at Mr Leather Ottawa, Flamingo and last summer’s Cirque Bizarre. The most difficult part of being a DJ is keeping the crowd interested, he says.
He recalls the early ’90s, when splashy acts like Deee-lite and Black Box topped the charts before being pushed aside by the grunge movement.
“It was a backlash. People got tired of synthesizers and drum machines. With technology, there’s a good chance dance music will live on — whether it’s on top 40 or it goes back underground,” Valin says. “People have access to what they like and can easily follow the scene that they’re into, which can sometimes make it tricky for DJs, especially in a bar setting. It’s becoming more and more difficult to please diverse and savvy crowds.”
The Ottawa crowd can be like a skipping record, he says, calling the nightlife scene in the city “strong but disjointed.”
“Wonderful moments happen in bubbles. Great live music is out there but is often hard to come across unless you’re in the know. The gay scene is always vibrant but can sometimes appear stagnant. I think a lot of people hope to show up to an amazing event forgetting that they’re the ones who make it great.”
Valin encourages Ottawa queers to shrug off the tradition of showing up fashionably late. “It takes energy and balls to show up early and get the party started,” he says.
Valin and Kapri will officially start their party with the first single and video from their collaboration in 2013.
For a preview, visit Kapri’s official site or Valin’s SoundCloud.