Shaine Crosbie Just Wants Us All To Get Along.
We caught up with our favourite local DJ CRSB to chat about why it's important to be nice, and to hear about what he's going to be up to in 2017.
Interview and photographs by Grayson James. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Grayson: Can you introduce yourself and what you do?
Shaine: I'm Shaine Crosbie, or CRSB depending on how you read it. I’m a local artist and musician who happens to kind of DJ too, I’m also doing production now. I don’t know how to give it one name (laughs).
G: Can you speak a little bit about what 2016 was like for you/ what you think 2017 will be like?
S: So 2016 was a lot of what I had been working towards coming to fruition. A lot of the big shows I had wanted to do, a lot of the connections I wanted to make. All that started happening, and at a pretty rapid pace too. I’ve been doing this for three years now, and I’ve already done some pretty major appearances.
Without revealing too much about the situation, there was a conflict of business interests (referring to his choice to leave Bevstmode). I had to move on and really take the reins as far as my career goes and not be so passive. Like really take full control - not having someone else speak for me or handle the logistics when I could probably do it better myself. Sometimes you just need to do things yourself if you want it done properly. I almost feel like I was part of a boy band or something. It (Bevstmode) worked for the collective, but not necessarily for CRSB. I did shows, but it was always under the moniker of Bevstmode. It sort of slowed the growth of the CRSB "brand". When you think of Kaytranada you think of Kaytranada, you don’t think of HWW (Kaytranada's management) you don’t think of all the behind the scenes shit, and that’s the way it should be.
G: Yeah, it should be helping you do your job - not be more important than you.
S: Exactly, it’s like having a label swallow you up and also be the main act. It doesn’t make any sense. It makes better sense to do what I’m doing now, where it’s all about me - not to sound narcissistic but it makes more sense. I hope to make like a long career out of this, and it had to be done.
G: What first got you into DJing? What keeps you doing it?
S: Just always loving music. In my spare time I’m always digging digging digging, just trying to find things that inspire me. I look for a certain feeling in music, and I just wanted to be a part of that experience. Rather than being just a passive listener I want to be an active part of what’s going on. I just by chance picked up a controller, and started practicing just for no reason. I didn’t want to be the next “cool DJ thing” I just wanted to do it. You do it for the love of it, not for any personal gain. Living in such a busy city, like Toronto, if you’re involved in the scene and you have any talent it stands out and someones gonna notice, so it snowballed from there really.
Mostly though, I just did it because I loved it. I keep doing cause i still love it, and I’ll stop doing it when I hate it.
G: What do you think makes a good DJ? Do you consider DJing to be the same sort of thing as performing? Or are they totally separate?
S: To answer the first part - attention to detail. If you’re a producer, not just trying to make “a super dope beat” - express yourself! When I hear this beat, I should be able to identify something about it that tells me about you.
And it’s the same with DJing. Attention to detail, paying attention to your crowd, and actually giving a shit about the craft of it, not to sound old or anything. I can’t be a drummer if I don’t actually know my counts. I can’t play the violin if I can’t read music - there’s time signatures, crescendos - all these different things and you should know at least the basics. Take those basics and then use them however that work for you.
Mostly it’s just curation and giving a shit about the craft - because you can sound bad. It doesn’t mean you won’t get gigs - but you can sound like shit.
I hate that people kind of ignore that aspect.
G: Yeah - I feel like DJing went from being this thing that’s “outward facing” and DJ’s tried to make a space where people could express themselves on the dance floor, to "inward" where the DJ became the person you’re paying attention to. Like trying to be a “cool” DJ, and caring about how you’re perceived, and you lose the connection to the crowd.
S: Yeah, they care more about visuals than they do about how they're performing, from a technical standpoint. That’s why you hear all these older DJ’s gripe about controllers and the era of digital music - because guys are getting away with fucking murder up there. I’ve heard some of the worst sets, and it's like “you’re getting paid to do this tonight”? It’s fucking crazy.
As far as performing and DJing - I think they go hand in hand. You are performing - you have an obligation to wow your audience. You’re not here just to run tunes, if that were the case you could just plug in an iPod put it on shuffle and call it a day. If the crowd isn't cheering or dancing, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re just keeping your head down the whole time, and just playing tracks for yourself what are you doing here?
G: Yeah - if you’re gonna do that, just make a soundcloud mix.
S: There’s a lot of people who make a career of that too! There’s a couple of DJ’s who’ve made healthy careers off of just doing mixes, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
G: Can you describe what you think the perfect venue would be like?
S: Shit - as far as Toronto goes. (laughs)
A lot of people hate on the Hoxton, but I like the setup. The acoustics are a little fucked up because they’re still using old glass on the windows and it should be plexi, but as far as the setup and aesthetic it’s good. It’s intimate enough. I’ve played gigs where people have grabbed my foot, so it’s intimate enough where I can still interact, and talk to people but separate enough that I can perform and do my job properly and not have people in my booth bumping my elbows and shit. While it’s not perfect it’s the closest thing to it here.
The perfect setup would be kind of that - the grey area between being super intimate, but separate enough that I can be in my own zone. Fortune Soundclub in Vancouver comes to mind - the sound system is perfect - the setup is perfect, the aesthetics are great.
G: Do you think the people working a gig have a big say on how good a venue is? Is it important to have good people running a thing, or is it fine if they’re kind of annoying?
S: You gotta have a solid team - it’s a fine balance though. They need to know what they’re doing, and they’ve got to be kind of militant about it.
Let’s say i’m running an EDM venue - all the staff should have like a favourite DJ, a radio show they look forward too. They’ve gotta be cultured - you can’t just be a pretty face, or a cool guy with tattoos.
G: I think you and I both agree that Toronto focuses a little too much on “cool” and not enough on community. What do you think could change that? What’s missing right now?
S: To sum it up - unity. People need to understand that we’re not going anywhere unless we band together. Without sounding all kumbaya and shit we need to help each other out. We’ve gotta stop with the “oh you’re part of this camp so I can’t work with you” shit. Yeah you can, we’re from the same city. Have you made it? Do you have a platinum record? Then shut the fuck up. Let’s all just learn to smile at each other more, and hangout with each other.
If you find that your personalities don’t necessarily match that’s not a problem! Put your ego aside - like I don’t need to be your best friend, but at least when I see you I can dap you up. If I have some work that I think would be up your alley - I made a beat, or I have a party or a show concept or something, then I’ll hit you up. Why burn that bridge?
G: Yeah, it’s like people are so focused on “I gotta hustle, I gotta grind” that they’ve forgotten to work together on shit.
S: Think about it man - how many people have access to a studio? How many are super talented? How many people know CEO’s of certain companies, or are networked in a way where they can finesse certain situations? If we were all to work together it would be amazing. If I have a thing that I can’t use myself, why would I act like a dickhead and be like "this is my contact so fuck you" even though I’m never gonna use it? That’s wack.
You never know what that sharing would lead to. Prime example - Jazz Cartier and I grew up in the same scene. I’ve known him since Palace days. We’ve never had a super tight friendship, but we respect each other - to the point now here I have a gig with him. I’m not like “part of his camp” but he recognizes me. He hits me up randomly - "do you wanna play my afterparty?" - and that’s what I’m talking about - keeping that lane open. Just because we’re not buddy buddy doesn’t mean we can’t help each other. He’s doing me a solid - I’m doing him one by providing a set that he knows is gonna be great, and he’s doing me one because I’m doing a fucking Jazz Cartier afterparty! That’s a prime example - one hand washing the other. If more people would do that, things would be so much better out here. We’d be the next big cultural hub.
G: The difference is just like being nice, instead of being cool and like cold
S: Seriously! People mistake maintaining a certain amount of distance for being cool.
There’s some cases where you know right away you gotta keep a distance from some people - but it doesn’t mean you need to be a dick! It’s fine to have that distance, it doesn’t mean we’re beefing. It’s fine if we don’t really rock like we’re the best homies. Just put your ego away and chill out. People need to get over themselves.
G: What do you think draws people to your sets?
S: I think diversity is what stands out about my sets. I listen to all kind of shit, like weird ass indie folk shit. Obviously I can’t DJ that, but I like it. Shit like The Dodo’s. And I also listen to like heavy, dirty ass drill music from Chicago. And I listen to soft ass R&B. Thanks to Nilton (Local DJ NDMA) I’ve also recently been listening to a lot of Brazilian Baile Funk. My sets can go anywhere, depending on who’s in the room. I think that ability to connect with everyone on some level is what get’s people to come out.
G: Yeah, I’ve noticed that about your sets - they’re like always tailored to the audience. If people aren’t vibing with one thing you can always switch it up.
S: I like a little bit of everything - I know when I go to a club, I’m not trying to hear 60 minutes of trap. You know I love trap, but I’m not trying to hear a full hour of that - you’ll lose your mind! Why can’t you slip in a little bit of house? You know? Why is that not cool? The issue is that some venus find that a problem. If I don’t play a certain amount of some genres, they get pissed off. Like chill - this is why people come and see me! DJ's should be thought of as educators - you want people to leave the gig having heard something new.
G: in a more general sense - why is DJing important?
S: I think what it does is help establish a culture that’s maybe not solid yet, and also helps re-establish contemporary culture. It’s a driving force - DJ’s kind of tell you what’s up. It goes back to my point earlier about DJ’s being educators. That, I think, gives them more power than any rapper. You could have the hottest beat out, but if a DJ isn’t playing your shit, it’s not gonna fly. Rotation is everything. If it’s not on rotation it’s not getting out.
G: I think too DJ’ing gives you a sort of space to be totally free when it’s done right
S: Yeah, the dance floor can bring everyone together, definitely. Especially when it’s diverse sets, it brings everyone onto the dance floor. It means people have these interactions people thought they never would, which is awesome. That in itself is super powerful, creating relationships. Even as a DJ creating relationships between me and the crowd. You have someone in the audience come up and thank you. It lasts maybe 60 seconds, but it’s a connection.
G: Yeah, that shit is so important now. Any chance for people to have moments of solidarity is amazing.
S: Yeah dude, serious lack of empathy going around.
(Both of us took a minute here. 2016 is a bummer.)
G: If you could do a B2B set with one person, who is it?
S: (pauses) Teo Nio! (laughs)
I guess outside of my circle…
It’s hard to say. If you were to ask me this question back in 2013 - Kaytranada. He’s part of the reason I started doing this shit. My dad is a funk house DJ, so when Kay was making those remixes I was like “oh damn! This shit is still cool!”. That shit hits me in such a nostalgic way. So hearing that shit be cool again really blew me away. It’s part of the reason I started spinning. I would mix his music with the shit that it came from, from my dad's records.
As for right now, I’m lucky because I’ve kind of checked the list off (laughs). I’d want to go back to back with Joe K man. His taste is so diverse, I think I could stand to learn a lot from him. It wouldn’t even be a battle, it would be a teacher and student moment.
G: Any shout outs you want to give?
S: Shout out to all my guys! Hero, Teo Nio, Castro and Fiji - I wish nothing but good fortune for all of them. Especially with the way we’re moving now. We’re all super hungry and determined - I think more so than when we first met. We’re just getting hungrier by the minute.
Hero’s always been good fam. He’s just an important dude to me. On a human level, on an artistic level, that’s my guy,
Shout out my city as well - we’re all feuding on some stupid ass shit, but eventually we’ll get it.