Director of Community Engagement, Deanna Duxbury
Hint: There’s a song recommendation at the end of this interview!
Deanna: Hey Chris! Thanks for meeting with me. I’ve never interviewed a DJ before so I’m excited to learn more about what you work on and your role in the show!
Chris: Thanks! I love fashion- I follow it online but not more than that. I have extensive background in all kinds of events so the P[h]assion Show, for me and my role, is much more about what type of music and style I can bring in for the crowd. I’m really excited to set the mood.
D: So, what is your history with being a DJ? How did you get into it and what is your sound?
Chris: I started about 5-6 years ago. I was 15 at the time and so young. I got into Avicii. His break out song was Levels, and one of my very close friends used to listen to a lot of house- I used to despise house. Like I could not listen to any type of sound that did not have lyrics in it. And then he gave me Avicii and I thought this was kind of cool!
I started listening to deadmous5 and the first time I read the name I pronounced it dee-add-moose-5. I didn’t know anything about them! So I started getting into the culture of EDM around 2012.
All the popular DJ’s we know now were upcoming like Swedish House Mafia etc. I started to think about becoming a DJ through watching YouTube videos and seeing what they do. I was like, “This is insane! It’s just one person at 4 decks, controlling thousand and thousand of people! I want to do this”.
So my cousin got me a little board, like one of those cheap little boards, connected it to my laptop and I started playing around with it. That was also when Sweet 16’s were happening right. So, one of my close friends invited me and I asked her if she wouldn’t mind if I played. It was somewhat of a disaster because my sound system broke down and I didn’t know what was going on back then. From then I evolved and started playing more Sweet 16 gigs.
Actually, honestly, I got my start by playing 50th anniversaries, like wedding anniversaries. Like, my starting crowd was 75 and above. So I have a very unorthodox way of coming into being a DJ. It’s only now that I’m performing for huge crowds and clubs and parties. I still do wedding, baptisms and Sweet 16’s though.
D: Out of curiosity, how did the above 75 crowd take to your music? What was your sound like back then that it would appeal to that kind of crowd?
C: So I actually had to sit down with my mom before those shows. I come from an Armenian and Egyptian background so a lot of the crowd was from that background as well. She just looked at me and said, “Look, Chris, you can’t play what you think you’re going to play”, so I said “Yes mom, I know”. So we sat down and said we need to research old music- like old school Middle Eastern artists and French artists.
D: That’s really cool! It gave you a great base to really get into your cultural roots.
C: Oh definitely. I feel I’m much more flexible when it comes to the crowd than most. I don’t mean that in any kind of offensive way but when you get into playing so many different crowds with culturally different backgrounds and age differences, you get used to being flexible and easy.
For example, tonight I’m going to play for first year counsel (IRC), but like I haven’t prepped for tonight. I’m bringing my laptop and coming in and going to do what I do best. I don’t prep for any gigs other than weddings most of the time.
C: Fair, yeah. I mean I listen to what’s in right now (Spotify is my baby right now). That helps me keep up with the music trends.
D: It’s really interesting that you have that base of diversity and base within your own culture. Do you bring that out when you’re making your own mixes or songs? How much is your sound situated in your cultural background?
C: Yes, I actually realized that when I got into the club scene more.
Just for the record, I don’t have a residency anywhere. I decided not to go through that path. I decided to play private events, I think it’s much more rewarding, in terms of the connection you make with the crowd.
In terms of sound, when I was getting into clubs I thought I could only play EDM but I realized I ended up tending towards playing things with Spanish and middle eastern influence. I mix them in a way where you don’t feel the cultural influence that strongly.
D: Like you’re not culture shocked by the sounds (if you’re used to receiving more of a mainstream house vibe) but you’re enjoying an ethnic experience.
C: Yes! Feeling like the crowd receives it well. They have the initial, “This is different. But I enjoy this”.
I feel like there are two types of DJ’s; the type that really wants to bring out their own sound sand go about it their own way and the DJ that likes to gage the crowd. And, for me, the priority is to get people dancing. So, I always have that consciousness where my duty is to the crowd first and then to me.
That’s why I separated my online persona from what I do live. That’s why when anyone asks me for my Sound Cloud to listen to my stuff my first response will be, “That is not what I play live”. I use that as an outlet to really move the sound towards what I prefer or what I feel.
D: It’s like your creative space but not your commercial space, where you perform live.
C: Exactly, but I enjoy both equally to be perfectly honest. I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything through either route.
D: You feel as if you’re not selling out. You enjoy your own music and the experience of catering to the crowd.
C: I enjoy it because whenever the crowd is dancing I feel the crowd pushing and I keep pushing and I get to feed off that energy. It just gets lit.
D: Haha, yes lit.
C: I had to bring it in!
D: What would be your favourite event or venue to play? Do you have a favourite experience as a DJ? Or a favourite type of event you like to cater to?
C: I like to play the mainstage. Not to say I don’t love playing events like weddings-
D: But in those situations you’d be creating someone else’s moment.
C: Exactly. When you’re on a main stage it’s a whole different dynamic. There’s that physical hierarchy level where you’re a bit above and get to watch the whole crowd.
That’s really cool.
I experienced that for the first time about 3 years ago. My first large crowd was 1000 people. Then I moved on to 5000 the year before.
D: Would I know some of the places you played?
C: Maybe! I’ve played the Olympia twice, I’ve played a couple clubs here in Montreal. I’ve done Belmont, Jet, La Boom 3 or 4 times, Telus Theatre was my first big one where I went ham.
The Telus Theatre was really cool because it was a CEGEP event. I was repping my CEGEP at the time. It was 5 Anglo CEGEPs that got together and each one sent a DJ. I was sent from Marianopolis College. The headliner was actually an artist I used to follow on Facebook so I was shocked. I was like, “Oh my god! I’m opening for him! Literally an hour before him!”
Another cool event is the Armenian festival here in Montreal. It’s like 5-10 thousand people that show up. This year one of the biggest stars from Armenia, Arman Hovhannisyan, came to perform and I was his opening DJ. I got the opportunity meet him and his band, and that was probably the largest crowd.
D: It’s like a festival feel!
C: Yeah but really, really, really hot. So yeah, he was a really sweet guy! Really, really sweet guy!
D: It’s always great when someone you look up to is really nice. I guess, on that note, do you have fans? Is that a thing that you experience?
C: Haha, no. I have my friends, I mean I consider my friends my fans. They always keep me up and make fun of my name. Yeah, they keep me happy about this.
D: Your DJ name?
C: My actually name is Christopher. So my DJ name is Chris24. So they make fun of me for that. I wouldn’t say I have fans, but my friends are a solid fan base. I’ll go to them and be like, “Guys listen to this please, tell me what you think.”
D: So are you your own manager and self-starter?
C: Yes, I do everything freelance.
D: In that case, for anyone who is trying to start out in that industry, what advice would you give on getting work?
C: Word of mouth. Word of mouth, a lot of the time. A lot of networking. Know the right people. Always be humble.
D: That’s a great piece of advice.
C: Honestly, I’ve seen a lot of DJ’s be cocky and it doesn’t usually go over well. They aren’t liked. I mean, I’m a management major. I’m at Desautels right now and one of the key things I can takeaway is that, more than what you do, if I like you as a person I will believe you and trust you enough to do the work for me.
Honestly, when I started playing for the first year and a half I wouldn’t get paid anything. People would ask me why I wasn’t monetizing this.
D: Of course, now everyone wants to hustle and monetize their every move.
C: Yeah but for me it was more about having fun first and the money coming later. When the opportunity presented itself, it was great but sometimes I still look for the opportunity over the monetization. It’s a lot more rewarding sometimes.
D: Would you bring this into your career? How do you think this plays into any future plans you have?
C: Honestly, I don’t know how it plays in. I’ve really just been seeing how this goes along. A lot of people will ask if I’m a full time DJ and I say no.
D: Sorry if these questions about the future sound like your family at thanksgiving.
C: No, no! I enjoy these questions; I haven’t been asked many of them before.
I always say that if I were able to produce a song that hits millions that would be super rewarding as well as being a kick-starter for a career in DJing. I don’t see myself doing any of that any time soon.
Honestly, I enjoy DJing more than I enjoy producing and in the current market space (and this is for any up-and-coming DJ) no one playing the mainstages has reached where they are without playing their own music. DJing has become an outlet for producers to actually express their own music and own cataloguing in art.
With the technology now, the volume of producers has increased. Sound Cloud, of course, is a major outlet for any producer. Kygo, that’s the example, he launched his career off of Sound Cloud. I remember him 4-5 years ago and then Firestone came out and he went off of that.
3lau. Best example. He was one year out of business school, sick GPA, almost got a job but left it to go play a year and now he’s making bank and living off of what he loves. He got into it by making mashes in his dorm room.
I mean, I enjoy much more playing in front of the crowd than sitting in a studio for hours.
D: My last question would then be about your own music background. You seem very self-taught, but did you have any formal training to get where you are now? Do you think it’s necessary?
C: I actually used to play the piano before anything else. I did that for 10-15 years. Not professionally but I dabbled and took courses in school. That was back when I started DJing.
Ironically, I don’t like playing the piano in front of other people but I like DJing in front of massive crowds. I feel nervous when I’m playing the piano but when I’m DJing it’s a different environment.
D: I think it’s a different culture as well. There’s a different expectation with the audience you have and the music you play.
C: The performance would be different was well. When you play the piano you’re in your own bubble trying to interpret the music but when you’re DJing you’re actually exchanging energy.
I feed off of the crowd’s energy so I usually like to open for myself rather than having an opener to get the crowd going. I love opening and closing and playing everything in between, even if it’s 5-6 hours. I like getting my crowd pumped up and ready for my own set and then be able to switch gears when it’s time to hit the main stage and hit the main music. I get to see the crowd go from 0% to 100% and to 0%.
D: Did you want to add any last advice about the fashion show, being a DJ, inspiring artists?
C: Yeah, I guess I want to say I’m really excited for the fashion show! It’s the second fashion show I’ve played. It’s a different setting because it’s not a dance setting but I still need to get people vibing with it. It’ll be interesting, I’m going to play a lot of stuff I don’t normally play live. And there’s a lot more room for me to manipulate the music than what I’d do live. I’m ready to take on whatever!
So, for advice: work work work. Have fun! Fun first, monetization later. Stay humble. No one likes someone that’s cocky.
D: Thanks for meeting with me. Lastly, any song recommendations I can add in here?
C: What do you listen to?
D: Classic/Alternative/Indie Rock?
C: I’ll give you one song. It’s an oldie but I still hear it played in DJ sets now. It’s by Pendulum and called The Island. It’s the artist from Knife Party who actually switched gears.
D: Thank you!!
Note: I loved the song.
Ready to get pumped at P[h]assion?
Director of Community Engagement, Deanna Duxbury
Spring and summer seem like decades away right now, but in the fashion community it’s already a piece of yesterday’s news. Valérie Dumaine, a key designer hitting the P[h]assion runway this year, has debuted an elegant, refined line for the upcoming season.
The collection has partnered with Le Nichoir and remains a part of the "Design & Compassion" series. This means the entire collection is 100% Vegan. Growing trends in reusable and renewable fashion practices are coming to the forefront more and more. Emma Watson sets an amazing example- she takes the fashion industry’s waste into consideration when donning any red carpet look and people are loving it. Eco-friendly fashion now gives labels an edge in a sea of smart and sophisticated lines.
“We strive to be environmentally conscious throughout our design, production, and shipping process. We use natural and eco-friendly fabrics when possible. All of our printed fabrics are made in a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified facility and are Azo free. Garments are produced locally in Montreal, Canada” – Valérie Dumaine
Domaine stays very on brand with monochromatic, business attire. Gorgeous frocks, blazers and beautiful cut pants contribute to an effortlessly chic look.
Everything appears to invite comfort, ease and delicate flow. The fabrics fall gracefully, and all the designs reject anything too tight or restrictive.
Of course, there’s always something flirty and full of fire in the mix. The Savannah dress is a perfect combination of simplicity and flair- dressed up or dressed down, it’s the kind of piece that can take you anywhere.
The Shadow Dress cuts a perfect shape, hinting at vintage themes (a little bit of the 90’s a little bit of Audrey Hepburn) but maintaining a kind of timelessness that only a LBD can.
“Valérie Dumaine likes to dig into the past; she creates refined and bold garments that are characterized by clean and elegant lines. Casual or sophisticated? Valerie Dumaine's carefully designed collections offer both options in a style that is assertive and unique”-Valérie Dumaine
Want to see these designs come to life? Check out the latest styles on the P[h]assion 2017 runway!
“So go out, have sex, be fun. Just be smart and be safe”: An Interview Talking Openly About Living with HIV/AIDS
Director of Community Engagement, Deanna Duxbury
I was approached with the opportunity to hear someone’s story and learn from his experience. It is my hope that in sharing and gaining perspective, we can all continue to learn a little bit more about what it means to live with HIV/AIDS.
Meeting up over reading week made things a bit tricky, so a phone interview was best.
Deanna: Hi Ricky! Thank you so much for being willing to talk to me and share your story! My phone is sometimes a bit spotty but hopefully it will clear up- this is what student pay covers.
Do you mind if I jump into the questions?
Ricky: Hi! No problem, go ahead.
D: Can you describe the moment when you found out you had contracted HIV/AIDS?
R: Yeah, okay, I was celebrating my 21st birthday and it was right after Easter weekend. I knew something was up. I knew that I might be infected with HIV. I was displaying the classic symptoms, I had flu like symptoms for two weeks and it wasn’t going away. I just kind of had a feeling.
For me, I went to the local Gay and Lesbian center and did the test. Back then you had to wait two weeks for the results so I went back.
I remember the nurse- I walked in and I looked at the nurse and she had the file and she looks at it and she looks at me and just says, “Okay. You’re positive.” And that was it. That’s all she said.
In that split second, for me, time stopped. I had suspected it and I figured that would be the result but to hear someone say out loud that, “You’re positive”- for me it was just a moment of “Oh shit. What do I do now?”
D: Of course, that’s life changing.
R: Exactly, it was. So for me in that moment time stopped. For a moment I didn’t think anything. I just remember being like, “Oh crap. I don’t know what to do. I’m not ready for this.”
It was numbing. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t mad. I just had no idea what I was going to do.
D: I can only imagine, so much of your life would change. How did you come to find out about ACCM then and become involved with them? What about their community has been most helpful?
R: I came to find out about ACCM through- well actually because I’m not from Montreal. I’m from the states. I was moving from an anglophone community to a francophone community and I was trying to make sure that they would have resources for the HIV community for healthcare and support here. I found ACCM because they were the only anglophone group that catered to the HIV community in Montreal.
When I moved here I reached out and I contacted them. Immediately, I met with a caseworker. Well, not exactly a caseworker but more like a one-on-one person. Essentially a caseworker, they answer you questions and help you get settled, but they call it the one-on-one service. They helped me figure out the health care system here because obviously it’s a lot different than in the states.
D: Do you find the healthcare help very different between Canada and the US? Is it more helpful?
R: No, actually I find it more difficult. It’s kind of different because I came from a job with exceptional healthcare. I barely paid anything and I had the care I needed without any wait. I had incredible care. Adjusting was a bit of a challenge. I don’t think it’s inferior. It’s very similar but there’s a bit more of a waiting period. I don’t want to say hoops, it’s not jumping through hoops, it’s just a little more time.
Luckily for me, I’m very healthy, I have a good social network- I don’t really use ACCM programs too much but when I was first infected I used services like ACCM, back in the states. These services were very important to me when I became infected so I wanted to volunteer my time with an organization like ACCM to help other people like I was helped.
D: That’s great!
R: Yeah, so I volunteer there a lot. They have a lot of programs like dinner and discussion, which is great for people to interact. They have the buyers food club. They have amazing programs!
D: It seems like a very tight-knit community!
R: Oh yeah! ACCM is a great place to volunteer for and it’s a great community I’m happy that they’re able to provide services for others.
D: That’s very giving, that you went back to help more people! In your experience, What are some myths or common assumptions people make when they find out that you have HIV/AIDS?
R: It depends on the people I talk to. Luckily the people I’ve been romantically involved with have been neutral. I find it’s more talked about, people are more educated and aware. In that sense, it’s okay.
It’s mostly just, “Oh okay. You’re HIV positive.” I know that’s not everyone’s situation but I’ve been fortunate.
You know, I think some of the funnier ones- I say funny because there is still much education needed- was my best friend and he’s like, “Oh my god. Are you scared about dying?” And I’m like, “Well, yeah! When I’m 80!”
In terms of the people I hang out with, they all seem to know about the disease and enough about HIV to have a very neutral response. They care and they know it’s a liveable condition so I think I’m fortunate for that. I have had experiences in the past, which have been a little negative.
D: My follow-up question leads into that, I don’t mean to wrench out heartbreaking details so I’m sorry if this is very personal. Who was the hardest person to come out about this to? What was their response and how did you handle it? I know you have a great support system, but when you initially found out was there any exceptionally difficult moment in telling people?
R: Kind out. It was a weird moment. I was in a relationship with someone and I told him I was HIV positive and he’s like, “Well I don’t know much about it but that doesn’t scare me away from you.”
D: That’s so sweet!
R: I know, right? I thought that this was awesome so we talked about it and I thought he was coming around. After a few weeks, there was one situation where he got a little inebriated and we got into an argument. I don’t even remember what the argument was about but he just looked me straight in the eye and said, “OH MY GOD YOU AIDS FUCKER”.
D: OH MY GOD.
R: He just lashed out. He was saying things like, “You got AIDS because you deserved it! Because you’re a little whore! Only sluts get HIV!” It was just really awful, really rancid things to say. That took me a while to figure out. I got rid of him very very quickly.
R: It was weird because I thought this person was accommodating and we were having sex, we were intimate with each other at that moment. And I saw his true colours and thought, “Wow, there’s a lot of stigma from people”. That was my worst situation because it started off positive and then I found out it wasn’t.
D: I guess sometimes you really don’t know when people are trying to show they’re educated and modern but don’t actually have that understanding on a deeper level. I am SO SORRY that happened. That was completely undeserved.
R: Yeah, I mean it hurt me at the time but now I look back on it and just think, “Wow that was weird”.
D: Oh yeah. Totally, very weird.
R: That was also like 12 years ago so a while ago. The HIV community would have been different then.
D: What are some day-to-day challenges that you face with HIV/AIDS? Or do you have many challenges that you face with it?
R: I don’t. I do and I don’t.
I’ve learned to deal with things that come with it. The day-to-day challenges really aren’t that bad. I mean, one of my medicines gives me horrible gas sometimes? You know, it’s kind of awkward but it’s a thing I deal with. I mean, it kind of gives me gas and it kinds of sucks.
You learn to manage and mitigate. There are small things like that- I mean, I’m out about my status but I’m not so openly out that everyone knows. Like I’m not incredibly open but I don’t shy away from it. But for things like taking my pills, I take one in the morning and one at night, so if I’m at a party with people it’s hard to discreetly just take them. It’s kind of weird to be vey nonchalant and just take out a pill.
D: They’ll be like, “Oh what are you having?”
I mean these challenges are really not so bad but at the same time I’ve been hospitalized 3 times. For certain illnesses, like once I had a staph infection and the staph infection itself wasn’t bad but because of my HIV they chose to hospitalize me because of how my system would react to that infection.
I mean I live a pretty normal life people wouldn’t really know there was anything different about me but then if you go in for a simple medical condition it might be a little bit more severe because of the HIV status.
D: Okay, so a matter of being more careful and moving your life around for medication. It’s great that you don’t have a lot of serious things day to day.
R: I consider myself very lucky in comparison to some of my friends whose illness has taken a different path.
D: I guess it really does depend. It ranges and like some of my friends when I talk about the fashion show that’s going on they’re like, “WOW you’re helping people on the brink of death!” and I have to tell them, “No, it’s really not just like that”.
R: I think there’s definitely a lot more education that can happen in the community. Sometimes you’re even learning about something and you’re like, “Oh! I didn’t know that before!”
D: Exactly! I was interviewing Roberto before and even when ACCM came and gave us a workshop it was really eye opening!
Overall, do you wish you’d done anything differently? What’s some advice you’d give to the students and young professionals participating in this show and all the people this interview will reach?
R: I mean if I could do things differently I would not want to be infected with HIV. I mean, it’s a tough question to answer because when I got my diagnosis I treated it like the end of the world. I did stupid stuff because I thought my life was over. And then, when I realized it wasn’t over, I gained a newfound love for myself.
For me, I was able to appreciate my life in a new way and not treat it with such carelessness and I had done when I found out I was positive. When I figured out this wasn’t a death sentence, I feel like I gained a lot personally in my life. But for me, having HIV put me down a good path of holistic health after I got out of that stage of feeling like I’d die tomorrow.
I mean I don’t want HIV, I wish I’d never have gotten it, but at the same time who knows where my life path would have gone? I’m happy with where I’m at in my life.
D: I only ask because, when Roberto mentioned you were open to speaking with me, it seemed like you had reached a good place where you had accepted the things that happened and you wanted to share and to give. I just wanted to see how you developed and your journey, coming to a place where you would be comfortable to speak about it.
R: Oh yeah- that was a very long journey. That was not a short journey. When I was diagnosed it took me a good solid like- I don’t know- several years from the day I was diagnosed until I figured out I’m not dying tomorrow. It became gradual after that but man, when I got to that point it opened me up to being more centered and conscious of myself. I was open to making smarter decisions.
D: That’s very life-focused, that’s great.
R: Yeah, live your life! Do things that matter. I started riding my bike, I started doing the things that mattered to me. I started volunteering more and being more compassionate to others. I started wanted to hear other people’s stories because I’d just had a huge life changing moment in my life story. So, I wanted to hear other people’s stories!
If I hadn’t been diagnosed with HIV, I don’t know if that would have happened. It’s a double-edged sword. I still wish I didn’t have it.
D: I know it is like a complicated question because I assumed that you wouldn’t have wanted to contract it. I can understand that you went through a wild phase; I mean it’s an intense piece of news. I don’t know if I would do anything differently.
R: Well, if you think you’re going to die tomorrow you might as well live in the moment because you have nothing to loose.
D: Well it’s great to hear that you’ve grown as a person in that way. Long-term (my last question), have any life plans changed due to being affected by HIV/AIDS? I know you moved up to Montreal and have made changes before but how do you see this affecting your future?
R: Currently, in this moment today, none. No, that’s not true. I lied, I take that back. A while ago it did, I chose to live my life fully. I’m in a wonderful relationship and we’re figuring out how to maybe, eventually, have kids.
D: That’s great!!
R: Yeah, so I’m thinking long-term relationship things. 2.5 kids. White picket fence house. I’m kind of boring in that sense but I still do have to think about it long-term.
I live in a country with access to medical care but what if I chose to move to a country that doesn’t? It’s very normal but I still do take it into consideration because wherever I move I need access to my healthcare, my medicines, my support network,
D: Do you have any other questions for me, or comments to make about your experience?
R: What’s the age range of the people reading this blog?
D: It’s definitely university students. We’re thinking 18-23.
R: The only thing I would share is if someone is reading this and they got to THE END of the interview: GO OUT HAVE FUN HAVE SEX.
D: Haha, I think that may be the title of this interview.
R: No, totally! Do it! But take it from someone who is living with HIV.
One of the hardest things to hear from younger people is “It’s not a big deal! There are medicines and drugs and everything to help live with it.” Like, yeah, but those drugs give your really bad gas-which is very unsexy. And it sucks taking pills all the time. And it sucks if you have a simple health condition you need to go to urgent care and be in the hospital for a week. However, It’s very manageable.
You’re probably not going to die tomorrow living with it but it’s still very hard to live with. So go out, have sex, be fun. Just be smart and be safe.
That would be the only thing I’d add.
D: It’s really encouraging to hear, its really good advice. There are those two spectrums that are like the people who don’t know anything about it and are afraid of it and the people who just brush it off because they think it’s all going to be okay.
It’s good to keep in this mindfulness but at the same time not let it stop you from living your life.
D: Thank you, this has been so great! If you like you should definitely come to our fashion show!
R: Send me the info and I might swing by!