An Interview with the Team Canada DJs
by Johnny K
Aaron Waisglass (aka Grandtheft) and D.R. One (aka Raph Kerwin), collectively known as Team Canada DJs, have been on one hell of a journey since combining forces back in 2004. Their quick cuts and genre-blending mash-ups have taken them to Asia, Europe and even to Paris Hilton’s birthday party, and this sounds like just be the beginning. Booked solid for the majority of the 2010 Winter Olympics on the medal stage in Whistler, Aaron recently took a little time out of his hectic schedule to talk about what the two have been up to lately.
UQ: So, first up, how did you guys come up with the name “Team Canada DJs”?
GT: Well, we came up with it 6 or 7 years ago. We’re big hockey fans and, also, we’re English Montrealers and nationalists. You know, we’re real pro-Canada dudes… it has had to do with the hockey and we kinda dreamed at the time when we were local DJs to have a whole plan to blow up in Canada and then be TEAM CANADA. When we went to the States and no DJs of our time were really doing that, it kinda worked.
UQ: How did the two of you cross paths?
GT: How did we start off? Well I started off as a musician as a kid and I started DJing when I was about 17. Raph started off as a scratch DJ when he was really young and then became a battle DJ. We both kinda met in the middle by DJing at clubs and met in Montreal through the hip-hop scene. We both had a similar style of club DJing that was energetic, quick mixing – kinda NY hip-hop style but we’d be playing all kinds of music.
UQ: Going back even further, what kind of music did you grow up listening to?
GT: Everything – both of us listened to everything but DR1’s like a hip-hop encyclopedia. I listened to hip-hop for sure but I listened to dance music and rock. I played in punk bands when I was younger as well and I was still making rap beats. I’ve always been into every kind of music and both of us appreciate every kind of music so what we do hinges on that.
UQ: I can totally relate. I think a lot of people these days are getting into a whole bunch of different genres as opposed to before where everyone’s kind of stuck on one thing.
GT: Yeah, I think that’s kinda the par for the course now but when we started doing it around 2003, 2004, it was really an unpopular thing to do. You’d go to the club and you’d hear either house music or rap or RnB or you’d go to a rock bar but there was no way of hearing everything at a club, you know? It was either like Sean Paul and Beyonce or house music or techno. There’s a huge division there and we were going into mainstream RnB hiphop clubs and playing Nirvana and house music with rap. That was really a crazy thing to do then but now it’s a very standard thing to do. It’s a mainstream thing almost in a way.
UQ: Big time. It’s great that you guys were there at the beginning for that. Why do you think diversity and genre-blending is so appealing to people these days in general?
GT: I think that while we were doing it here, DJ AM and Hollertronix were doing it in the states as well and this whole style blew up. As I said, it was really some original shit back 6 years ago but it’s a natural thing and people liked it right away. We started playing really big mainstream clubs and people were taking a real chance on us because we were known as these crazy guys who played all kinds of music, so you really didn’t know what we were going to do. But we always played songs people knew and there’s an accessibility there – the whole style hinges on doing stuff that people recognize.
UQ: Got it. Was music something you always thought you’d be doing for a living?
GT: I always wanted to do music, and both of us have university degrees and both of us came out giving this a full shot and were struggling for years to make it. I think it’s worked out really way better than either of us ever expected. So is this something we’ve always wanted? Yeah but I mean to be out here playing the Olympics and doing some of the things we’ve done and seeing the places in the world we’ve seen… Man I always say, even to my folks, if it ended tomorrow I wouldn’t have a single regret. I would not say I wouldn’t be bummed but I really wouldn’t even be bummed. We’re so blessed, man, and the places this has taken us, we’re well aware as well as appreciate a lot of it. So I hope to be doing it for a long time. We own a club now, we have a management company and a crew called the A-Team and I started a little record label as well so we got our feet in a whole bunch of stuff but it’s tough to say, man. This is a very tough industry so will we always be doing it I don’t know but we’re definitely happy to be doing it right now.
UQ: Okay, last question: any final words of wisdom for other DJs and artists who are trying to get ahead in this business?
GT: Well, I always say the same thing: you gotta work hard and be smart in the business but I also think that the key, key, key thing that always helped us was just being original. Don’t try to look at us or anyone else and do what they’re doing and use that as a model for success because you got to do your own thing and you got to do something different. Do something really creative when you’re making music or doing your shows because, otherwise, who cares if you’re doing the same thing as someone else?