Lester’s Wicked grooves 

Vancouver hip-hop producers make sense of a funk-hockey fusion

Who: Lester, featuring Lady Precise and Curtis Santiago

What: Wicked CD Release party

Where: Wildwood Bistro at the Whistler Tennis Club

When: Friday, Oct. 17. Doors at 9:30 p.m.

Tickets : $8

When the sexiest funk grooves slithering through the clubs are the result of a hockey-playing twosome named Lester, it’s not Bizarro-world; it’s Canada.

More specifically, it’s Vancouver, home of Whistler ex-pat supa-producer Scott Arkwell, a.k.a. DJ Vinyl Ritchie, and his production partner in rhyme Brian Carson.

The Lester boys go way back to the insular skateboard scene in the nation’s capital in the mid 1980s, a scene that included a young skater-homey named Tom Green who would go on to host an infamous MTV talk show.

Arkwell took off to Whistler, but reunited with Carson in Vancouver in the mid 1990s, teaming up to record ass-shaking tracks that caught the attention of DJs, filmmakers, the Electronic Arts video game creation house, and Nettwerk records.

Nettwerk pony-ed up a recording contract, the fruits of which were officially released this past June as debut CD Wicked , a 14-track wonder with musical mouthfuls such as Where’s My Honey, Chocolate and Rhubarb Bagel. The album features an equally luscious group of collaborators that includes Swollen Members’ Moka Only, songstress Lily Frost, City Planner MC Ishkan and the raucous Lady Precise (another ex-Whistlerite) of Stink Mitt infamy.

Arkwell says the album was four years in the making, shaping up gradually as more and more of their associates in the Vancouver club scene, specifically Sonar Friday nights and Shine on Saturdays, came by the studio to record. As a result, Wicked retains a house party vibe, which extends to the live Lester experience.

"That’s pretty much the way we rock it," says Arkwell, referring to tonight’s Wicked release party at the Whistler Tennis Club’s Wildwood Bistro featuring Precise and Santiago. "We try and do that old school sound system vibe. You don’t get on the mic unless you can burn the people that I’m with, and it ain’t gonna happen! We rock the party and that’s the money back guarantee," he adds.

The cheesy used-car salesman ending to what started out as sly hip-hop braggadocio is typical of the overall goofiness that weaves in and out of everything Lester. Take the name of the album and the name of the duo; put them together, and you’ve got the original name for the supergroup better known several times around the world as KISS. One doesn’t have to wonder whether or not Gene Simmons would be married to a Playboy Playmate if he had been fronting Wicked Lester all the while.

"We used that name because we never even thought we were going to get signed or anything," says Arkwell. "We just thought it was funny."

Arkwell and Carson dropped the "Wicked" on Nettwerk’s advice, anticipating a lawsuit from the billion-dollar KISS empire. However, the legend lives on. Underneath the funk will always be a reference to iconic heavy metal party clowns. It’s the same goofy vibe that possesses the duo to don mullet wigs and hockey gear for promo shots. They may be the first official hip-hop hosers, putting a very stereotypical Canadian face on the grooves that have been gracing an impressive list of internationally-flavoured compilations in the years leading up to Wicked’s official release.

If Arkwell approaches Lester’s image with humour, he is dead serious when it comes to the music. He’s worked hard to be where he is. And at the drop of a hat he’ll expound passionately on the tough road he travelled as a DJ when he first arrived in Whistler 10 years ago, much like an old man describing the long tough road to and from school each day.

His road included being happy to receive a paltry $50 a night, getting fired/attacked by snowboarders for playing hip-hop and house records, and having to play every club in town, looking for a scene. Kids these days don’t pay their dues, he fumes, as he describes an over-saturation of unworthy DJs armed with "a couple crates of records," all playing the same thing.

"You’ve gotta keep innovating, and you’ve gotta have deep crates, and you’ve gotta have dexterity," he drills.

And if it all gets too heavy, you’ve gotta have a hockey stick and a mullet wig.

Lester plays a CD release party for Wicked tonight at the Wildwood Bistro at the Whistler Tennis Club. Doors at 9:30 p.m. Tickets $8.

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