Toboggan slides into Piknic this Sunday

The local DJ told us about his label, the Villa, his feelings about “EDM” and what he’s got planned for his debut set at Piknic Électronik.

Toboggan. Photo by Sasha Loncarevic
Corey Martin doesn’t do quirk. The 29-year-old Montreal producer, known on the scene for his low-key shuffle and bop as Toboggan, caught up with me by email earlier this week, ahead of his slot opening the main stage at this Sunday’s Piknic Électronik. While he wouldn’t compare his style to a three-flavour slushie for me, he shared wedding DJ stories, influences and the tale behind his label, the Villa, where you can go hear him and his friends make cool-ass music.

Darcy MacDonald: Hey Toboggan what’s good? Please tell us about your background, and where you’re from musically.
Toboggan: I’m from Montreal and grew up in the suburbs, on the South Shore. I took piano lessons from age 7 to 13 or so, somehow I won a certain amount of free piano lessons in a draw at school. I enjoyed it so I kept at it.

DM: Did you DJ first or produce first?
T: I started learning to DJ at 15. My friend Chris was a DJ, his father owned a company that did speaker and lighting rentals and DJs-for-hire for weddings, school dances, that kind of thing. Chris gave me a bunch of lessons and I started playing at dances and birthday parties with him, and I’ve been DJing ever since. Around 18-19, I found out about FruityLoops, which I still use. I hadn’t considered making my own music until then.

DM: What was your first favoured genre?
T: I was really into classic rock and rap, a lot of new wave. The whole ’90s and early 2000s Warp Records catalogue is above all what made me excited about making electronic music, acts like Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Prefuse 73, Chris Clark. Ninja Tune’s whole roster also really inspired me as well.

DM: And when you started to spin, was it like, wedding shit?
T: Yeah I did many weddings, they were really difficult and not fun. It’s a tough juggling act, trying to please such a diverse crowd. More often I’d do school dances and birthday parties, which I enjoyed more.

DM: How soon after did you start spinning stuff you were into?
T: I decided pretty abruptly around 2005 or so that I was only going to play at shows and events that I wanted to. It also meant accepting that DJing wouldn’t be my main source of income, but also that I would continue to love doing it. About four years ago, I started playing at Bily Kun and Plan B, where I still play regularly. I love those spots.

DM: Gotta ask — why “Toboggan” as a name? Why not Crazy Carpet or GT Snowracer or something?
T: Haha! I don’t know, I’m fond of it. I wanted to avoid a tech-y name, and to have something childish and playful. I also like winter.

DM: Are you an avid Piknickeur? If so, what was or were the best set(s) you ever heard there?
T: I love Piknic, and this will be my first time playing, so I’m really looking forward to it. Best sets that come to mind are Daedelus, Machinedrum also. There’s been a lot of great ones.

DM: How were you approached to play the main stage this Sunday? Did you apply, did they reach out?
T: They sent me an email! I’m as surprised as you are.

DM: How does the music you produce compare, to, say, music you might select to spin in a set? Will Sunday’s set be your music, other people’s, a mix?
T: It’ll be an Ableton set, I’ll play a few of my tracks live and mostly other people’s.

DM: “EDM” is the buzzword du jour. How do you feel about that? Should people just get over it and enjoy or is there a valid argument to be made about what it is and what it isn’t?
T: I’m not bothered by it, I don’t really mind what people call things. I also don’t think it’s useful to set boundaries of what is or isn’t this or that. It’s nice that there’s a lot of support for electronic acts here.

DM: Please tell me about your label, the Villa — did you found it? Who are some of your artists? What’s your mandate? What projects are on the go right now and what can we look forward in the future?
T: Mike Din, Ryan Hemsworth and I started the Villa in 2011 as an art collective and a shared venue for self-releasing our music. Other artists include Jim Valmont, $1 Bin, Munno, fragile feet, Cyrus. We just put out a couple of EPs by the latter two. We’re working on reviving our DJ mix series with some new contributors and will likely have some new music out soon, though there’s nothing planned right now. ■
Toboggan plays Piknic Électronik with DJs Bobomo, Matthias Zimmermann, Hushlamb, Zeina, Ana + One & a secret guest at Parc Jean Drapeau on Sunday, June 8, 2 p.m., $10 before 3 p.m./$14