Rewind, Selecta: Discovering The Soundtrack To Your Life. (Personal Essay, Music History)

I got an email yesterday from somebody asking for a recommended soundtrack that encompasses the music on my blog.

When I first started DG, I had just finished shooting a film in Kenya. I had spent my savings, packed up my things, moved out of my studio apartment in Toronto’s increasingly gentrified Queen St. East neighborhood, slowly filling up with  overpriced artisanal cheese and gluten free dessert shops.  (Btw – does anyone know what artisanal cheese, or bread for that matter, actually is? Isn’t it just cheese, or bread?)  Now that I was back, I was thrilled from the experience of having shot my own documentary. But reality had begun to seep in soon after the effects of jet lag dissipated. I was broke. I was unemployed. And, perhaps, worse than either of those things, I was back living at my mother’s house, in my original bedroom, at the (not so) tender age of 36.

My first experience with regular blogging was still fresh in my head. I began one for Matatu Express. I almost immediately fell in love with the concept of sharing experiences and directly connecting with an audience all around the world. When you travel to faraway places, while the exotic can oftentimes prove intoxicating, you also yearn for the familiar.

Once back in my old bedroom, faced with my new circumstances that quickly grew into grim, daunting, nightmarish reality; I knew I needed some kind of relief in the form of a creative outlet, and quick.  Those bedroom walls, still coated with many of the adventure books that led me to my current predicament, had seemingly begun to close in, like the garbage compactor in Star Wars.

I registered a blog on wordpress. Perhaps as a way to warm myself in the comforting blanket of nostalgia, my first post was a collection of my favourite comedy shows of all time. That first post would eventually go viral and DG soon became an important part of my life.

While it certainly was a creative outlet, DG also became a place to bookmark the things that I enjoyed as a reminder of who I was.

Finding what the soundtrack is for Digitized Graffiti, is really like finding the soundtrack to my own life. A difficult thing to do, when music has always been so important to me, ever since I got my first small, white, handheld FM radio I took to the community pool I spent my summers at, on a small island outside of Montreal. The dual benefits of having an older brother and diverse group of bilingual friends, allowed me to discover auditory treasures I might not have otherwise.  As thrilling as Michael Jackson was, there was an entire world of music out there from AC/DC to Ziggy Stardust that blew my pre-teen brain away, one song after another.

When one moves through life, one tends to cherry pick the things they hold dear, thanks to a blend of friendships, opportunity and circumstance. I’ve often marvelled at the people who only listen to punk rock from 1976-81, or classic rock from the 65-72 period. There are people out there who only listen to bluegrass, reggae, jazz, or classical. My opinion? They’re missing out. I mean, I love Chinese food. But I don’t eat spring rolls every day.


Fast forward to high school, when I was introduced to Rap music thanks to MuchMusic’s RapCity, and the Ron Nelson Fantastic Voyage show on Toronto’s college radio, which would later become the Powermove Show courtesy of DJ X .  On weekends, I was also discovering late seventies staples like Zeppelin and Floyd. A friend of ours had a mom whose boyfriend had a stunning collection of vinyl. He also had a boat on the harbour which we benefitted from. While his mom and boyfriend went away each weekend sailing, we were on his couch at home, travelling back in time with the likes of Steve Miller, The Who, Queen, The Stones and Stevie Wonder.  At that time, music was not only a way to share and connect with friends. It was a way to alleviate my clinical depression, better than any other medication dispensed by doctors in pill form.


Fast forward to my final year of high school. 1993. I had abandoned my former, rather strict, Catholic scholastic digs for a taste of public education freedom in the city’s uptown neighborhood of Yonge and Eglinton. As fate would have it, some of my newfound friends were deep into Toronto’s early, burgeoning rave scene. I got taken to my first rave, a Sykosis event held at the Latvian hall on College St. West. If I recall correctly, it was a “battle of the DJs” style event and billed as “Clash of the Techno”.  I was hooked almost immediately. It was more than just the pounding music and the lighting setups that made you feel as though you had travelled to another planet. Every generation has it’s own culture they could call their own. I soon realized this one was mine. It was a brand new scene, comprised of likeminded misfits and at the time, well outside of the mainstream vernacular.


There was the largely, suburban inspired, techno paced rave scene.  But there was also still a dwindling warehouse scene, mainly black and gay with music we now refer to as classic house, which sampled heavily from disco and gospel.  Although there were divisions between both scenes, I count myself as lucky enough to have experienced both. Music to me never had boundaries. And that’s what dance culture taught me. People were people. There is no race, religion, economic or class hierarchy on the dance floor.

The early, frenetic rave scene, the smokey warehouse parties and the years of club nights that followed wasn’t just aimless partying for me. I counted myself as a member of a very special community that valued the same ideals I embraced. When you are a young person trying to discover who you are and where you fit into this world, these were sacred spaces of self-discovery.  With the lack of physical real estate to throw parties and our current addiction to technology that seems often to encourage a solitary, sedentary lifestyle; sometimes I worry future generations won’t get the same chances at connecting with peers over a rich bassline that I did.  

This era would prove to serve as my formative years in making the kind of person I am today. The values and friendships I picked up then I still possess.

So this is the time period I have chosen to highlight as the soundtrack of my life.

Here is BBC’s Ibiza prom, performed live courtesy of Pete Tong, Jules Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra. This one’s for you, Liam. Tracklisting below.

1:30 – FatBoy Slim – Right Here Right Now

5:38 Eric Prydz – Pjanoo

8:40 – Shapeshifters – Lola’s Theme

11:30 – Robert Miles – Children

13:24 – ATB – 9PM (Till I Come)

16:00 – MOBY – Go

20:25 – Frankie Knuckles – Your Love

25:55 – Inner City – Good Life Feat. Ella Eyre

30:58 – Orbital – Belfast

34:00 – Sabres Of Paradise – Smoke Belch II

35:35 – Daft Punk – One More Time

39:21 – Alison Limierick – Where Love Lives (Come On In)

44:00 – Vangelis – Rachel’s Song

46:20 – MOBY – Porcelain

49:30 – Faithless – Insomnia

58:35 – Rudimental – Waiting All Night Feat. Ella Eyre

01:02:33 – STARDUST – Music Sounds Better With You

01:05:25 – Derrick May – Strings Of Life

01:07:11 – Aztec Mystic – Nights Of The Jaguar

01:08:10 – Brainbug – Nightmare

01:09:47 – Energy 52 – Cafe Del Mar

01:15:33 – Rudimental – Feel The Love Feat. John Newman

01:22:55 – Candi Staton & The Source – You Got The Love Feat. John Newman 01:27:25 —— SHOW ENDED ——

01:29:55 – (Encore) You Got The Love Feat. John Newman(Ending)


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