We speak to Hunter – acclaimed DJ, producer, and founder of No Neon events – ahead of the release of his new EP, ‘I Might Forgive I Don’t Forget’.
How was your festive period? What did you get up to?
Really great actually, I am a bit of a workaholic so it was tough to be off even for as little as a week but I got to spend a lot of time with my girlfriend which was a nice switch and I got a new synth under the tree so who could complain? 10/10
Briefly tell us how you first got into electronic music, what turned you on, why did you start producing?
I’ll try to condense it a bit as this could be a bit of a long read in full as my path to it is a bit of a progression. When I was very very young I always looked up to my cousin Dmitri, in the early 90’s he was an electronic musician and DJ in NYC and he would send me these cassette tapes of music he made, which as a child I maybe didn’t quite understand, but loved because they were his songs. This is what I credit as my entry point. A short time later I can vividly recall seeing the video premiere of Prodigy “Breathe” on our local music channel, the interest grew but I didn’t really understand that it was “electronic” I just saw it as “music”. Flash forward to first year of high school, a girl I like invites me to a club that is “all ages” on the weekend, in reality its an after-hours and the early beginnings of the Toronto Rave scene. At this club I hear drum and bass for the first time and I am forever changed, I’m in love with this new world I’ve found and I decide I want to be a DJ. As thats progresses a bit and I’m learning what all these songs are I hear a track by Dillinja called “Nasty Ways” for the first time and its all over for me, I’m now on a mission to figure out how to make this unbelievable music I’ve heard. That was the beginning of the spark of the need to create.
Tell us about No Neon events – whats the vibe, whats the crowd like?
No Neon has always been very focused as a music first brand, trying to bring something different and help showcase producers (both local and international) who maybe don’t fit into the regular events around us. We focus on bringing in the kinds of acts that maybe get left off line ups or are unheard of mostly and over all providing something new to people. We’ve been the first play for a LOT of artists in Toronto over the years, some of whom have become absolutely massive.
I’m obviously biased but I’d say we have the best crowd you could possibly want to play for, everyone comes with an open mind ready to hear good music and dance regardless of genre specifics, people are really just there to enjoy themselves and hear something NEW. The vibe has always been very unified and you can see from some of the videos we post on IG how connected the whole room seems to be with the music and each other, its a true community, it seems obvious but I can def attest that its not like that everywhere you play.
Was it hard to establish or was there an appetite for that sort of party?
This is the most cliche answer I’ll probably ever give in an interview but if you build it they will come def applies. It was harder to convince the club to give me a night to book DJ’s they had never heard of and to get them to buy into the concept than it was to get people to come. Our first event was 2 days after new years in a monumental blizzard and the club was full with a line up of completely local up and coming producers.
How has it evolved over the years?
In the beginning it was really about being the opposite of all the rest of the programming that club had, it was the only night to hear underground music and still very much sticks to that concept in its idea that we just want to be different and when I’m deciding who to book. As the party and the music became more popular the club began booking that music on other nights we started to really move towards trying to book artists that other people hadn’t been onto yet or that generally are overlooked for whatever reason. Half way through the party’s lifespan the club we were at closed and we bounced around for a bit before landing at our current home and my fav club in the city CODA. While we’ve slowly sort of become more in line with whats been traditionally booked at the club in a musical sense we are continuing to push musically diverse lineups and break artists in the city.
What have been the best moments, craziest stories, musical highlights for you?
When I was younger I used to be a bit of a partier so the craziest stories could go on and on and that probably an entire interview on its own. I luckily get to enjoy the best moment you can have as a musician pretty regularly and that is playing something you made to a room full of people and seeing them all connect with it and each other, its really an experience you can only understand after you’ve felt it.
Do you play different there at your own party vs when you headline on tour?
I try my best to be a “true DJ” and play the room no matter where I am, not to say I pander but more so I try to match the energy and mood of the club or festival, if I come up and the guy before me is slamming it I’m not going to play the same opening track as if he’s playing deep and bringing the energy down. My fav DJ’s always play to their setting and I think a lot of young DJ’s maybe don’t have great examples of that concept because their idols are quite strictly programming their sets. That being said at No Neon I’ll def try out more of my demos and feel freedom to experiment a bit more than I would on a diff night where I don’t ness know the crowd, I know that No Neon will be down to go on a journey.
Why turn it into a label? What is the musical outlook?
I think turning it into a label is the best possible path to expanding the party beyond being a great night in Toronto and doing occasional tours and pop up events elsewhere. It gives a voice to the brand on a world level and showcases to everyone who we are.
You’r unveiling your ‘I Might Forgive, I Don’t Forget’ EP, how pumped are you to share the release?
Oh man, feels like I could go on about this forever! I’m beyond excited and really feel like all of this new music I have put together is the best reflection and most emotive artistic statement I’ve ever made. Its art for art sake, to the point that if no one ever heard it I’d be just as happy as I made it for myself and that is a truly freeing feeling as a creative. I’ve never made music so naturally and had it come together so fluidly in my whole life and as cliché as this may sound it feels like I’ve found my calling with all this new music I’m making. The studio sessions are pretty intense, I’m up and dancing, singing the lyrics out loud (if there are any), and really feeling it the whole time so pumped is def an understatement.
What else have you got coming up?
We’re following up my EP with a single from my buddy Craig Williams, a collab he’s done with an Australian producer named Pantheon. I’ve got another single scheduled and am working on mixing a follow up EP as we speak. I’m sitting on at least an albums worth of material you can expect to see make its way out by years end. No Neon is expanding to some new cities and potentially a couple larger ventures we have in the works.
Hunter’s upcoming EP ‘I Might Forgive I Don’t Forget’ on No Neon is available January 24th at: https://smarturl.it/nnr001