It’s no surprise that DJ Torus, known for her unique, energetic mixes of urban and world rhythms (peppered with house, electro and rock), grew up in a cultural blender. Born in India, and of Danish and Seychelloise heritage, Torus lived in Jordan, Kenya and the Republic of Seychelles before moving to Montreal in 1999. No one would guess, though, that Torus has a soft spot for country music. “I grew up to country music,” she says, laughing. “So I love it. That’s a secret.”
DJ Torus won’t be able to keep secrets for much longer. She’s toured across Canada, France, and Switzerland, working alongside Wyclef Jean, and picking up award nominations. With her own night at Parking, aptly named Break-Out Fridays, Torus is poised to explode as one of Canada’s hottest young DJs.
Xtra.ca: How did you start DJing professionally?
Torus: I always used to go to Club Parking, every Thursday night. I fell in love. No dress code, beautiful women, great times. [One day] the security pulled me randomly into the office. “This is the girl I was telling you about!” Then the Thursday night promoter was like, “Hey, do you want to be a dancer?” I don’t dance; I DJ! I refused. They wanted me in short shorts, with my butt showing.
The following Thursday, the DJ didn’t show up. I was there early. I don’t know what it was with the stars. The promoter looked at me, like, “You have some CDs? The DJ’s not showing up!” I DJed for an hour until the guy showed. The following week they said, “Can you play all night?” I was really nervous, and that’s how I started. Once a month I was at Parking, until the owner decided to make me a resident DJ.
Xtra.ca: I know people have encouraged you to move to Toronto. Why do you stay in Montreal?
Torus: I’m a party freak. Toronto has got nothing on Montreal! We are loud, we are proud, we dance, we have fun here. And the women are gorgeous here!
I want to be known as one of Montreal’s best. I want to put a mark on Montreal as one of Montreal’s best female DJs. There’s DJ Mini, who’s amazing. She’s electro. There are very few female hip-hop DJs and I want to make an impact.
Xtra.ca: Is there a difference between male and female DJs?
Torus: To me, there’s no bloody difference at all. The difference is the crowd, other people. When people see that it’s a female DJ, somehow that’s more impressive. My name is DJ Torus, not DJ Miss Torus or Lady T or something like that. It’s simply Torus. That’s it. A lot of female DJs, across the globe… well, sex sells, right? So there’s Miss La-de-dah and she doesn’t know how to mix and her boobs are hanging, but hey, she’s up there doing her thing. That’s my opinion. There’s no difference, really.
Xtra.ca: Is your sexuality ever an issue in the hip-hop and reggae scenes?
Torus: I’ll never forget this. I went to a really underground reggae party. If you know reggae much, a lot of reggae songs are about “Kill the gay man, kill the lesbian” but I love reggae music. Of course, not the ones that say that but I love to dance to it. I pick and choose what I play.
I was at this reggae party and everybody there was very close-minded, very ignorant in a sense. Girls are gonna be girls and show their booty and dance with their man. And men are gonna be men. Jamaican mentality. And I come in, and I’m with my girlfriend and we’re holding hands and they realize “Oh, that’s actually a girl.” No one has ever reacted to me or said anything to my face. I’ve never had a bad experience.
Xtra.ca: Do you go out of your way to promote queer artists?
Torus: I do. There is this artist, Feloni, from the states. She’s got these amazing hip-hop tracks. She’s an out and open lesbian artist. Her tracks are really great. I play it early, because people won’t know it. She’s talking about, “Hey man, I got your girl, now she’s bisexual, what you gonna do?”
Xtra.ca: Who are some of your heroes?
Torus: I fell in love with David Morales in high school. He’s a house DJ. He produces as well, and I love his sound, love his tracks. He was one of the first DJs in New York in the nineties to really push house music and all that. He was my inspiration. The obvious DJ Jazzy Jeff with Fresh Prince. He’s so skillful. A very talented scratch DJ.
Xtra.ca: Do you have any advice for aspiring DJs?
Torus: If people say you’re crazy, screw ’em. Listen to your own intuition. Do it, because you just never know. If it doesn’t work, then you know!
Catch DJ Torus at Break-Out Fridays (Le Parking, 1296 rue Amherst) and on Aug 4 at Lesbomonde (2109 St Laurent, 9:30 p.m., $30). Contact her or find out more at Dj-torus.com.