DJs, by and large, are a nomadic bunch.
Maybe it's because of the DJ's inherent desire to discover — whether it's a long-forgotten record, or that hot new track tearing up the clubs — or maybe it's simply because touring pays the bills. Whatever the case may be, it's rare that you hear about a DJ such as Whistler's Mat the Alien holding down a scene for as long as he has.
That's not to say the 39-year-old northwest England native born Mat Andrew isn't a jetsetter in his own right — he's an EDM festival regular and has played in 15 countries around the world — but his ongoing commitment to Whistler's club scene has been nearly unparalleled since he began packing resort dancefloors with his deft blend of electronica, hip hop, drum and bass, and everything in between over 19 years ago.
Music was ubiquitous in Andrew's life from an early age. His father opened Vibes Records, which eventually became the No. 1 independent record store in the U.K., giving a young Andrew access to a wide range of music. He took up the drums, playing in a band as a teen, sparking a love affair with heavy bass lines that continues to this day. But it was England's nascent underground house scene of the late '80s that would ultimately push Andrew into DJing for good.
"I think it was 1988, and I was 14 or 15 and I ended up at this illegal warehouse party with this acid house music playing," he explains. "I had never even heard a DJ before, mixing and blending songs, and you just started hearing all this music you couldn't hear on the radio and wasn't on TV. It was just blending from one to the other without you even noticing. Right away, I wanted to figure out what the music was and how they did it."
Andrew eventually discovered his older brother was attending many of the same underground parties as him, and the two began to import hard-to-find singles to their dad's shop, selling them to the local DJs in town. Soon enough Andrew wanted to try his hand on the 1s and 2s, so he went to the nearest set of decks he could find.
"My brother got turntables, so when he was out he didn't know it and I'd sneak in there and mess with them to see how it worked," Andrew says. "I got into scratching pretty quick through a guy in Manchester, (Marcus) Intallex and then DJ Hype from London ... I liked the mixing, the digging for music and the scratching, and it endlessly just branched out more and more."
In 1995, Andrew officially moved to Whistler so he could snowboard regularly, and he quickly joined fellow resort stalwarts Vinyl Ritchie and Kilo Cee spinning in local clubs. While he says Whistler has always had a deep appreciation for electronic music, the club scene was understandably quite different back then.
"It's funny how things change, because back then I remember Vinyl Ritchie saying he'd play a track and if there was swearing, the club would be like 'Oh you can't play that rap music stuff,' or 'if you play that stuff again you're going to get fired!' Five years later and rap's Top 40 and in the mainstream, so it's just funny how things come from the underground and end up being accepted," he says.
Andrew welcomes the rise in popularity in EDM across the world in recent years, which, paired with technological advances making it easier than ever for bedroom producers to create and share their own mixes, is changing the way DJs operate.
"Back in the day if somebody made a big track they'd have to press it on a record and get the artwork done, so after they made the track it might take two months to get out there, whereas now people send me tracks they just made this morning," Andrew says. "Right now is one of the more creative times because of the mix of technology, using the turntables but also the computer and playing tracks that were just made last week. It's fun seeing where it's going now."
Wherever the art form of DJing is headed, as a regular on the international EDM circuit, a favourite of popular festivals like Bass Coast and Shambhala, and a pillar of Whistler's burgeoning electronic scene, you can be sure that Mat the Alien will play a part in it.
Catch him and rotating guest DJs at Maxx Fish every week for Really Good Tuesdays. You can also visit www.matthealien.com for more information or to check out Andrew's label, Really Good Records.
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