Czechoslovakia-born, DJ Double D, fell in love with techno’s unique vibe during a life-changing trip to the United States. She returned to Canada only to discover that electronic music was nonexistent in Calgary. Since then, she has worked to change that, playing shows for over 25 years despite the Extended Dance Event Bylaw that came into effect in the year 2000, introducing extensive regulations, making it harder and more expensive to hold large events.
DJ Double D and her family moved to Canada when she was 15 years old.
“When I came to Canada I was looking for some kind of a music that would grab me and was very different from everything that was being played at the time,” says DJ Double D, who learned to play piano from her grandfather without any prior experience in music.
This all changed after a friend brought her to a warehouse rave during a trip to San Francisco where she was introduced to electronic music.
“I just couldn’t believe the size of it, the people, the DJs. Just the general atmosphere and vibe of the environment was phenomenal.”
DJ Double D immediately knew she wanted to listen to electronic music back home. Without anywhere to get it in Calgary, she quickly figured out an alternative.
“I found a DJ in San Francisco who took me to one of the first techno record stores and introduced me to the owner. We made a deal that he would mail me the stuff because I wouldn’t be able to fly there all the time.”
But wanting to hear techno live in Calgary was the main reason DJ Double D decided to pursue her career path. Having no equipment and no experience, she found herself a mentor in Calgary-based DJ Ward with whom she was in charge of lighting for at the time.
“Because I didn’t have equipment at home, I would work, run off from my job at my lunch break, go into the club when the cleaners were there and I’d try to do my stuff.”
From here, DJ Double D began learning to play the music that she describes as being “universal”. Although she now specializes in hardcore techno, her first gig was at a gay bar during one of the bar’s country-theme nights.
“As long as there [are] 50 people who want to hear this music, I’ll play it.” -DJ Double D
“I didn’t know how to mix country music and after about 20 minutes somebody comes in really angry and says ‘you’ve been playing the same track over and over, you can’t do this honey, you’ve got to go somewhere else.’”
This setback didn’t define her career. DJ Double D soon had a regular gig at a different gay bar, 318, which featured a dance-theme night. Before long, she was playing techno music there regularly.
“I started playing whatever techno I could find and whatever industrial music I could find. There wasn’t enough techno to do a whole night. I think that was pretty much my first gig.”
A techno DJ in the early ‘90s, DJ Double D attracted a new crowd into 318. Because this kind of music hadn’t been exposed to mainstream music at the time, she says the warm reception came as a bit of a surprise.
“This bar was so open to letting me do whatever I wanted and people were outstanding. No straight bar would touch it.”
From there, DJ Double D went on to do shows for all ages around Calgary, as well as shows across Western Canada and the United States. One show in particular that stands out in her eyes took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with thousands of people in attendance.
“It was so over the top. Each style of music had its own stage – it was like this little city of people. It was overwhelming of course – shows that huge have the budget for lights and visuals.”
In the early ‘90s she became a member of one of Calgary’s first established rave production groups, House of Unity Productions, which would go on to hold some of the first techno events in Calgary throughout the decade.
“We used to do warehouse parties. We would rent a truck shop or a warehouse and do shows there,” she says.
Although DJ Double D says those shows were about celebrating love and the energy of life, their reputation for drugs, violence and loud music gave them a bad name in Calgary. As a result of this negative reputation, the Extended Dance Event Bylaw was introduced in 2000, otherwise known as the Anti-Rave Bylaw. This bylaw requires that events with 299 people or more have an Extended Dance Event license obtained at least 45 days before the show, consent to have medical staff on hand as well as security personnel at each exit and a designated quiet area. These are just a few of the costly regulations that have made it nearly impossible for many promoters to hold events.
“It did damage the scene. A lot of people didn’t have the money to put on events with so many extra expenses,” says DJ Double D.
Because of this bylaw, most electronic music events now take place in the clubs. The irony in this is that the rave movement started out as being strictly “anti-club,” somewhere where people could dance and dress however they wanted without fear of judgement.
“That’s just what happens with any scene, it will go mainstream and I think the mainstream will always gobble up the alternative. As soon as that happens it will take it, expand it, commercialize it, monetize it and then exploit it and move on to the next big thing.”
Nevertheless, DJ Double D – with her current production group, The Sublink – hopes to host some smaller events such as techno barbeques in the park and continue with her radio show DNA on 90.9 FM every Friday at midnight.
“As long as there [are] 50 people who want to hear this music, I’ll play it.”
The editor responsible for this article is Karina Yaceyko and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org