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Russell Peters: Comedian, DJ, Anti-fist pumper

June 27, 2012

 

The comedy tours rake in millions, his entourage makes gangster rappers squirm and women throw themselves in his general direction with blind zeal. For many, it is a dream life. But for the mighty Russell Peters, it is life.

With a sold-out GM Place oiled up for the following night, Friday remained open for Peters and a host of Vancouver attractions beckoned. The Capilano Bridge, perhaps? No, it would buckle under the weight of such an entourage—and in typical Vancouver style, cost an arm and a leg. What about a stroll through Gastown? It would get too crazy; every Surrey resident would round up their relatives and van down, perhaps hoping to get a turban signed. Ahh, Brandi’s? Every celeb likes a good strip club, but why focus on dancers when your very presence induces normal women to shed their oh-so-precious morals in order to secure their ’15 minutes with fame’?

So, a nightclub it was. And, where better to go than a bumping Club 560 in which he could assume his rightful place: in front of a rabid crowd. 

Peters’ management and Club 560 had worked out a deal that would see the funny man spin a very rare DJ set on their house-focused CIRQUE night. With the fine details all worked out, the Brampton native entered the club via back door, chilled out and spoke to the Wet Coast over cocktails.

Noting that his love with music spawned from his time in Toronto “frequenting hip hop record stores, spending a shit-load on records”, Peters began hearing this “crazy music in the clubs and after hours.” It was house music.

“Back in Toronto, starting around 1985, house and hip hop were sometimes played at the same venue, either in the same set or in different rooms, and I thought, I really like this shit.”   And so, as with so many other fans of the genre, during his youth out and about, doing his thing, he discovered house.

Connecting with some Toronto DJs and scenesters, Peters began “fooling around, scratching, playing on wax,” and, at around the same time his comedy career took off in the 90s, he was actually getting “pretty decent, better than some of the jokers out there, that’s for sure.” 

Describing his ideal sound as classic and Chicago-style house, Peters decries current DJs  saying that he doesn’t know what’s worse, “them fiddling with fucking knobs for a living, or throwing their hands up in the air, playing the same shit as the guy who came last week … I mean, just look at that guy!”  One of the warm up DJs was wildly signaling an unseen search-and-rescue helicopter and fiddling with a knob on his CDJs. Point made, Russell.

For the chat, Peters and the Wet Coast were lined up against a wall in the club, with no velvet ropes or security (hello, entourage) to separate us from the clubbers plying their trade. As soon as the silhouette of Peters was recognizable to the gaggle of dyed blondes and five-inch heel wearers, they were on him, like, well, sluts on celebrity. And as tidal wave of perfume, chest sparkle and cranberry vodkas approached – cameras and pouty faces at the ready – it was time for our interview to end, and for Peters to assume control of 560’s decks. 

That’s where it gets ironic. There was Peters, laying down some classic lower BPM cuts, moving into more banging stuff and, for the first time ever, not really saying anything. His hands weren’t in the air, he wasn’t observing a class- or ethnic-based foible, he was just playing house the way it should be—with class and on wax. That’s right, the dude mixes on vinyl. While he does use Serato, it was great to hear house tracks via vinyl again; that authentic, hard-to-describe character of the sound is hard to beat and increasingly rare.

The 560 crowd loved the set, and as mentioned by Right Hand Barber, one of 560’s resident DJs and managers, “Peters started his set with some deep Chicago house, hit some good Detroit-style rollers, and after feeling the crowd out, he bumped it up … that is legitimate DJing.” 

Spicing up his set with tracks like Eurythmic’s Sweet Dreams and crowd-pleasers like Modjo’s Lady, Peters displayed for all a penchant for the classics, and judging by the conversation he had with the Wet Coast, he cares deeply about the music, it’s history and it’s people—but only the real ones. 

“House has been hijacked. What I like to play, sure it’s what I like to hear, but it’s also reflective of the roots. House has history and that history is lost nowadays … and I blame the fist pumpers, the tourers and all the other fuckers.”

Even as a DJ, Russell Peters tells it like it is.

 

Alex MacLachlan

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