Milton Clark, DJ Sarcastic, Légaré. Photo by Dave Dialect

Acid dance party repeat

We spoke to DJs Milton Clark, Sarcastic and Légaré about the revival of a specific ’90s beat.

Rave babies, be advised that the roots of your debauched late adolescence and your subsequently confused, disenfranchised and unrelentingly medicated 20s shall be saluted and re-executed this weekend at Newspeak. 

Old school party people Milton Clark, DJ Sarcastic (whom, full disclosure, was once accused alongside the author of being a “hypocrite” by our Grade 1 bus driver, Léonard, and we learned a new word) and DJ Légaré, drop ACID together, just like we all did back in ’94, the year of honour for Saturday’s celebration.

“The sounds of acid will always be a welcoming sound to deviants and sinners alike, the children of the night!” says Clark.

Older, wiser and ever as freaky, the trio offered a biblical proportion of email answers about the genesis of their dancefloor compulsions and what things were like for electronic music fans when it was all so simple as hopping on a shuttle bus and ending up in a condemned warehouse of undisclosed whereabouts to tune in, turn on and trip out to the crash, burn and squelch of the acid-era sound.

Here’s what the litmus test returned.

Darcy MacDonald: How did you all meet? 

Clark: I met Sarcastic many moons ago while attending and organizing raves and club gigs. 

Légaré, I’ve known about for some time, but we’re only just getting to know each other.

Sarcastic: I don’t trust my own memories but I believe that the first time I met Nik (Milton Clark) was in a hack circle at Dawson. I was going to CEGEP up the hill but in the afternoons I’d go down to Dawson where the better hackers were and try to do some stalls and jesters, and smoke weed. Yes, hacky sack. 

Légaré has been a mainstay on the Montreal DJ scene and we’ve always clicked as DJs. We both play lots of different styles from techno to hip hop, rock and whatever, but our tastes always seem to find common ground.

Légaré: I met Sarcastic at Blue Dog around 2004 because I was wearing a Gravediggaz shirt and we struck up a conversation. 

He later booked me at Saphir for his Mix Thursdays night around 2004 or 2005 and we’ve been friends ever since. I met Milton through Steve around 2015 when we booked him for a techno night called TAR at Brasserie Beaubien

DM: What were you each doing in 1994?

Clark: I was attending high school. The most memorable thing I did in 1994 was go to my first rave ever — a life-altering experience.

Sarcastic: 1994 was the year that I bought turntables and first started buying records. I was 17 years old. 

It seems that for many people, the music that we listened to in our teenage years always has a powerful emotional tug for us. The records that I bought back then are still really important for me. 

Most of those early purchases were acid records: house, acid trance, or goa, as it was called. I only started playing out at clubs and parties a few years later, and by then I was really into techno, so basically never played these acid records in public.

Légaré: I’m the youngest of the gang, born in 1983, so I was 11. 

DM: When the scene became more commercial, did you back out, get deeper into the underground side, join the fray, a mix? And what were your initial impressions seeing 514 Productions, especially, grow as a brand?

Clark: I have always found myself leaning more towards the underground side of electronic music culture, though I fully admit some proper venues and clubs have created amazing experiences for Montreal partygoers over the years.

I was biased towards a lot of the big name/ big budget productions. So a mix of both I guess. I disliked commercial stuff mostly because it came off too much like a cash-grab and opportunistic culture vulture. Love them or hate ‘em, 514 Productions did produce some decent events which marked this city and helped solidify its reputation in the world of electronic music. At the end of the day, if dope acts were brought to Montreal and people had fun, that’s what really matters.

DM: What is the significance of ACID and why have you elected to throw this event now?

Sarcastic:  As far as the inspiration to do this particular night, it definitely started with a prophecy. Milton Clark was visited. Yes, it was him that was originally visited. The message was presented to him in fire. You’d really have to ask him if you need more details, but the message was presented in fire, and had some numerals in it like a 13 and stuff, but I think it was like a glowing green type of fire, like that juice that’s in a glowstick, but burning, and making numerical shapes. He’s always been subject to numerical type visions. Then he called me at like 4 in the morning — Monday morning, not on the weekend — and he told me all about it and told me that I needed to join him on this quest. That’s definitely how it started. From there it just sort of snowballed. You’d need to ask him for the specifics.

Clark: The “squelching” sounds of the Roland TB-303 electronic synthesizer-sequencer have been a cross-genre staple since the dawn of electronic music. The significance would be its ability to bridge gaps between scenes and provide the backbone for epic times.

DM: Whom do you expect (your event) ACID will appeal to and why do you think old timers and newcomers alike should attend?

Sarcastic: Acid is a really particular sound, the squelch that was produced by the old Roland synthesizers, and it actually appeals to a wide range of listeners because over the years it found a home — albeit a temporary one — across styles. We had acid house, acid trance and acid breaks in the rave scene when I started with it. 

Acid techno came a bit later, with the Liberators, DAVE the Drummer, and Geezer and the whole U.K. acid techno scene peaking in the late ’90s. That sound is still around, and both new and veteran producers are always making tracks with it, sometimes it’s just in the background somewhere, subtly used, but sometimes it’s the featured element. Dune and Zodiak Commune are a couple of labels that immediately come to my mind, putting out new amazing hard, deep acid tunes.

Légaré: Acid music has always been in my crosshairs in some form or another, but for the past few years I feel like there’s really been an acid revival in the underground electronic music community. Prominent revivalists include Posthuman, Roy of the Ravers, or Toronto label Aquaregia. 

A ton of records are coming out with that very nostalgic sound that evokes the late ’80s/early ’90s acid aesthetic, only slightly tweaked to sound less cheesy. I run into a lot of these basic, almost skeletal tracks that use classic hardware sounds, which I love. I’m very happy with where acid is at in 2019, so the timing is definitely right. I’ve also been buying vinyl records regularly again for the past two years. I’m lugging around a backpack full of records to Newspeak and my set will be 100 per cent vinyl, as will Sarcastic’s.

Old timers might get wistful flashbacks, because I’m bringing classics to mix in with the new stuff. When’s the last time you heard a banger like Joey Beltram’s “Energy Flash” in a club context? (If so, tell me where so I can go!) And newcomers should come to discover what acid is, how important and omnipresent it is in today’s dance music culture, and how its pulsating Roland 303 synth sounds can hypnotize you into a joyful trance.

DM: What has electronic music managed to retain in its integrity since 1994?

Légaré: Look, fads come and go in every genre, but if you know where to look, you can always find quality. To make a rock analogy, for every Nickelback, there’s a Mac DeMarco.

Clark: There is a vital sense of lust for life that can easily be seen from underground 50-person parties to the likes of Piknic Electronik: a celebration of the living, the need to move, drums, rhythms, tribalism, a thirst for happy abandon. People who seek this come from all walks of life, all regions, speaking all languages. This unification is as old as time, a bond some would even call community. PLUR! ■

DJs Sarcastic, Légaré, Milton Clark and Sean Kosa and VJ Dave Dialect present ACID at Newspeak (1403 Ste-Élisabeth) on Saturday, July 13, 10 p.m., $5