DJs start up new parties for a variety of reasons: to fill a perceived void in a city’s nightlife or for an opportunity to play the music they’re not hearing at other clubs. If you are a pop music aficionado tired of remixes then Phil Villeneuve’s (aka DJ Phil V) Fit party is for you. The 29-year-old calls the pop night, which happens every second Saturday at The Beaver, a reaction to the prevalence of over-produced pop remixes.
“I’m a really big fan of pop music,” he says. “That’s why I don’t think I can go to Fly, because I don’t want to hear a ridiculous nine-minute house version of a Kylie song. I want the Kylie song.”
Villeneuve, who moved to Toronto from Ottawa in 2005 to study journalism, is one of the busiest DJs in the west end. He’s one half of rainbow-gazing indie pop duo The I Love You Toos, holds down Wrongbar as a resident at long-running hip-hop jam Big Primpin, DJs at Fit along with Kris Steeves, and throws a French pop party called Tapette once a month at NACO Gallery.
An unpretentious attitude and seemingly boundless energy has endeared Villeneuve to many promoters and bar owners in the city, but there was a time when he wasn’t as adept behind the decks.
His first DJ gig was alongside the late Vazaleen promoter Will Munro at The Gladstone’s now-defunct weekly piss-up Hump Day Bump.
“I was nervous as fucking shit and I’d brought a very organized pile of music,” he says. “When I walked in, Will was so friendly and he was like ‘Hey how’s it going?’ and we started talking. Then he saw my music and he was like, ‘Oh, is that all you brought?’”
Munro explained that he always arrives over-prepared to DJ gigs just to be safe, causing a sudden wave of insecurity to wash over Villeneuve. “So when Will went on for his set, I took a cab back to my house and I basically grabbed my entire CD collection in a suitcase and brought it to The Gladstone.”
Five years later Villeneuve is a lot more assured in his ability to work a crowd. As regular Chart magazine contributor, the 29-year-old’s taste in pop music is wide-ranging. He’s interviewed most of the today’s taste-making performers, from Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga to Snoop Dogg and MIA. Revelers at his parties can generally expect to hear a the latest in R&B, Euro-pop and US top 40, plus a few familiar dance floor classics.
He recently extended this deep affection for pop into the viral video realm. Bored at home one rainy day last April, he decided to perform a guerilla dance routine in the Eaton’s Centre to the song “Fembot” by Swedish pop star Robyn.
At the time, the improvised routine was roundly ignored by the mall’s shoppers. But it has since racked up a respectable 21,000 views on YouTube and counting. The stunt even elicited a shout-out tweet from Robyn, who proclaimed: “omg there’s a fembot going rakamonie in the mall!”
The “Fembot” clip was Villeneuve’s third public dance routine captured on video. His previous performance was an interpretation of Whitney Houston’s comeback single “Million Dollar Bill” for passersby at the St. Lawrence Market as part of his failed third application for MuchMusic’s open-call VJ hunt two years ago.
“I’ve officially given up now,” he says. “I’m not getting any younger and they are. They really, really are. There’s no room for a receding hairline at MuchMusic.”