When we were looking for our wedding DJ, we spoke to a few different DJs that all seemed solid. However, when we were introduced to Michael, it was extremely clear from our first conversation that we would go with him. Michael is amazing at what he does. He's easy to work with, he cares deeply about his clients, he's organized, and he has a heart of gold -- everything you want from your DJ. With 1000 moving parts for our wedding, we felt completely at ease leaving the music in Michael's very capable hands. He asked us for our favorite and least favorite songs and he took care of literally everything else.
On the wedding day itself, Michael crushed it. I can't tell you how many people raved about Michael during and for weeks after the party. He's great at reading the crowd, mixes songs seamlessly, and will make your event flow perfectly. Most importantly, he kept everyone up and dancing until the very last song. We couldn't recommend Michael more highly. Great DJ and great guy -- book him with confidence that he'll make your event extremely special and memorable.
Thanks for everything!
Danny & Madi
"Michael Coombs is amazing. We had a great experience with him. He is very experienced with the wedding industry and was able to help us with so many things even beyond DJing. He met with us prior to the wedding, and we spoke on the phone numerous times to get to know us, and our wedding vibe. Thank you for making our day so special."
Charlotte and Ryan
Another crazy dance party at one of my favourite venues in Toronto, Graydon Hall Manor. Not only is the space beautiful, but with a truly skilled DJ, it makes for the ideal place to hold a dance. Charlotte and Ryan wanted a dance party, and that's what they got.
“Michael exceeded our expectations since our first interaction. Having been in the midst of wedding seasons for the past few years, we have seen a wide array of bands. We were at first hesitant to choose a DJ over a band, but Michael came highly recommended by our planner.
Michael brought his unique style to our event; introducing us with his unique “love story intro" based on details from our “Bride & Groom homework”. His music selection was unbelievable and his timing was perfect.
He paid close attention to what we wanted throughout the planning period and checked up on us right before the wedding to ensure that he would be executing our vision. We couldn’t recommend a better musical accompaniment to our wedding than Michael! Thank you!”
Jordan and Jordana's wedding was EPIC! From the moment the dance-floor opened it was ON! Produced by Melissa Baum inside the Liberty Grand's Artifacts Room, their international guest list came to party and they partied hard. Check the photos below courtesy of Purple Tree Photography.
I’ve been a Master of Ceremony and DJ for over twenty years and I can literally count on two hands the times I’ve seen phenomenal MC’s at weddings. Now the reason why the number is so low isn’t because the talent isn’t there - it is! It’s just that there hasn’t been an easy, step-by-step guide that covers all the basics to take these MC’s through the process of getting prepared for the big event.
The Art of the MC is your guide on how to be a phenomenal Master of Ceremonies. Whether it’s your first or tenth time in this role, these posts will get you prepared to look like a pro.
Designed to be an easy read and to make preparing for the event as stress free as possible, the first post is to help you prepare for the big day, while the second part is what you need to do on the day-of the wedding to ensure success.
Follow these simple guidelines and you will be amazing!
So let’s get to it…
The role of MC is not a “public speaking” role...
but an entertainment role. You have to realize that the best entertainers are those that are extremely well prepared. You may be an amazing storyteller, have a fantastic sense of humour or have experience speaking in public. Yet, if you don’t do the necessary work ahead of the event, no matter how funny you may be, you're setting yourself up for trouble.
The real key to success when hosting a wedding is doing your “homework”, which consists of writing your opening remarks, any house keeping notes, and writing the introductions and extroduction’s for each speaker.
When you're prepared, your special traits will shine through and you’ll look like you have done this job a hundred times.
A Social Event
A wedding is a social event. It’s not only a time to celebrate the couple, it’s an opportunity for friends and family to spend and enjoy time together. With this in mind, realize that you don’t need to keep the guests constantly entertained or speak right through the whole wedding.
Give your audience some time to eat and socialize as opposed to talking at them through the whole evening. It will make for a much better, fun-filled party.
That’s it. As a MC at a wedding, you should never speak more then 15 minutes throughout the entire evening. You will work more preparing for the event than you will have time on the microphone.
Keep your speaking points brief and to the point, but adlib where you feel it may work. The key is keeping it short, in order to keep the evening moving along smoothly.
Make it Personal
When preparing to MC a wedding, many people go online to do a search for “Wedding MC”. What they will find is pages and pages of corny jokes, tacky toasts and countless sayings. Please, please, please - avoid these at all costs as they will only make you sound fake and insincere.
Take the time to sit down and think about what you want to say to the couple. Assuming you know the couple well - think about all of the great times and adventures you have shared and put these memories and feelings into words. Write from the heart. It will make your remarks more memorable.
Meet with the Couple
Approximately two months before the wedding arrange a time that you can sit down with the couple face to face, on the phone, or chat online, to go over what the job entails and what their expectations are of you. Ask them how they envision you interacting and engaging with the crowd and how much talking they want you to do. Getting a set of clear expectations from the couple will really help guide you.
At this meeting you will need to find out who you are introducing and what their relationship is to the couple. Any interesting facts or details about the speaker (ex: how long they have known the bride and/or groom, any funny stories, hobbies, if they are known for something, etc.) is ideal when writing the introductions.
There’s a good chance half the room won’t know who they are, so this gives the audience an opportunity to know more about the speaker and what their relationship is to the couple.
The venue or wedding planner will ask for the timing of the evening in advance, or may provide it to you.
As a general guideline each course will take approximately 30 minutes to complete, with the main course taking roughly 45 minutes. Food station and buffet receptions typically take 1.5 hours.
A typical four course meal would look something like this:
7:00 pm - first course
7:30 pm - second course
8:00 pm - main course
8:45 pm - dessert
Who should talk and when?
Depending on the number of speeches, weddings tend to flow more smoothly when you have the speeches in between courses. After the first course, the Best Man and Maid/Matron of honour should speak, as typically their speeches are the shortest of the evening. You may also have one of them speak right after your opening remarks and before the first course is served.
The Parents should speak after the main course. Typically, Parents speeches tend to be longer than anyone else in the Bridal Party, so having them speak after the time sensitive main course will not interrupt the events flow. If you, or the couple, know that the Best Man and Maid of Honour will speak longer then the Parents, schedule them after the main course.
Traditionally, the couple speak last after everyone has been served their last course, which is typically dessert. It’s also an excellent segue into the evenings traditional events like the cake cutting, first dance, parent dances and the party!
Here is an example of a 3 Course meal
After first course served - Best Man and Maid of Honour
After main - both sets of Parents
After dessert - the Newlyweds
Now this will vary depending on how many courses you are serving. If you are serving a four course meal you can do the following:
After First Course Served - Maid of Honour
After Second - Best Man
After Main - Both sets of Parents
After Dessert - the Couple
If there are only one or two speeches, then I would suggest having the first speech before the first course is served with the couples speech taking place after dessert. These speeches will serve as transition points in the evening, allowing guests to know that you’re moving into something new.
For cocktail style or buffet receptions, do two speeches before the food stations open, with the remaining speeches before the dancing begins. The food service typically lasts for an hour and a half.
If the reception is taking place at a restaurant, there may be a great amount of time between the servers taking guest orders and the first course being served. During this time, try to incorporate 3-4 speeches and save the rest until after dessert.
Keep in mind the order suggested can be modified. In some instances, if the parents are hosting the event (paying for it), they may want to speak first, and that’s ok. If one of the speakers is really nervous, let them speak earlier. Plug them into a slot at puts them at ease. You may start off the evening with a short speech or toast before the first course is served and that is fine. Do what fits the event.
In the case that your couple is working with a wedding planner, then the planner will likely provide you with an itinerary to follow, making your job that much easier.
Once you have collected all of the information, go through your notes and start writing your script for the evening. You should be writing:
- A short welcome speech (who you are and how you know the couple)
- Housekeeping information / any game notes if applicable (washroom location, smoking area)
- Introductions of each speaker (Intro)
- What you’re going to say once the speaker has completed their speech (Extro)
The Grand Entrance
The Grand Entrance is one of the most exciting and exhilarating points of the evening and set’s the tone for the rest of the event. I suggest the you have the DJ do the introductions of the Bridal Party and the Couple into the dining area for two reasons:
1) They have the experience doing it. The Grand Entrance always flows well when someone who’s done it numerous times runs the show.
2) To do it right, timing with the music is key. It makes sense to have the person in control of the music do the introductions to ensure the timing is perfect.
Once the DJ has completed the entrance, they can now introduce you as the MC and you can take your spot at the podium.
Now some Entertainers won’t do the Grand Entrance, so in this situation you may be responsible to handle it. If this is the case, keep it simple and to the point and coordinate with the entertainer regarding music and timing.
As the MC, you should start the evening off by doing a short welcome speech and toast. Let everyone know who you are and what your relationship is with the couple. If you have any funny stories to tell, use them here.
You may announce any relevant housekeeping details and can explain how the rest of the evening will transpire (when will speeches occur, when will the special events take place, any games that will be played).
You want to keep this short (five minutes) as the guests will be hungry.
In your “intro” you want to let everyone know 1. who the speaker is. 2. what’s their relationship to the couple 3. any other relevant or funny information that you would want to share. Don’t embellish as it can make for awkward moments.
When introducing someone, it’s a good idea to state their title, then their name. For example “The Father of the Bride, Mr. John Doe!!!”. Everyone loves the sound of their own name, so be sure to use their names while introducing them.
When you introduce a speaker, always say their name last. Watch any talkshow, and you’ll notice that the host will always tell you relevant information about the next guest, then say their name, which is the audiences cue to applaud.
These should always be short, but are needed to let the audience know that the speech has concluded and that we are moving on to the next event. You can say something as simple as “The Best Man, John Doe! The next course will now be served shortly”. It gives the guests the cue that this section is now complete and it cues the service staff that they can begin to clear the course.
If a speaker is giving a toast, be sure to remind them to bring their drink up with them (or have an extra glass ready nearby).
Games & Grace
Some people love them and some can’t stand them. If you will be running any games throughout the evening in order to see the couple kiss or to give away the centrepieces, etc. please discuss it in advance with the venue, wedding planner and the DJ to ensure that it won’t interfere with dinner service. If any special music is needed to go along with these games, contact your DJ ahead of time to ensure that it is prepared.
If Grace is being said at the wedding, you want it to be the last thing that is said right before the first course comes out. It will serve as a cue for the wait staff to begin service of the first course.
If your couple has arranged for some special entertainment during dinner, whether it’s a singer, cultural dancers, musical performance, etc. schedule them the same way you would schedule speeches.
Always lean to having the performance after the main course, depending on how many routines the artists may be performing.
You would introduce them the same way you would introduce someone giving a speech. Give some relevant information about the group and say their name last.
The extro would also be the same as a speaker and something along the lines of “Thank you artist name here we’ll be back after the next course.”
The Final Speech and Closing Remarks
For your closing remarks and announcements, thank the newlyweds for asking you to be the MC, let the guests know how the rest of the evening will unfold (will there be a late night or dessert table coming out, etc.), then introduce the couple for the last speech of the night.
Once they’re done, let the DJ take control and go and enjoy your evening!
Service Culture and Speeches
Being a father of three daughters, the Father of the Bride speech is always the speech I look forward to most. I love to hear how the Dad’s talk about their daughters and their journey together. There was one speech in particular that stands out, now I can’t remember it word for word, but I do recall this Dad’s speech bringing tears to my eyes. It was eloquent, compassionate and you could tell that he really loved his daughter.
The unfortunate part was that I was the only one that heard it. At this venue, they serve and clear straight through speeches. So while he was pouring out his heart, all the guests could hear were the clatter of cutlery. His daughter couldn’t even hear the speech.
If you are giving someone the honour of speaking at a wedding, also be respectful of that person. It’s disrespectful to serve and clear while someone is speaking. As soon as someone steps up to the podium, the servers should pull back, stop what they are doing and remain silent. Period.
At the same time, you must communicate with the floor manager so that you know when the next course is to be served as to not interfere with the plating and serving of the next dish. Food is very time sensitive and during the dinner portion of the evening - it is the priority.
On the day of, get there early and connect
Get to the venue as soon as possible after the ceremony so that you can start your preparation.
When you arrive, introduce yourself to all the vendors that are working the wedding. The wedding planner, photographer, venue coordinator, floor manager, DJ and videographer. This is your team for the evening and to ensure a smooth flowing event, everyone has to be on the same page.
Before you say anything you need to be sure that you are not interfering with the dinner service. Ask the floor manager, venue coordinator or wedding planner if it’s ok to begin and ensure that service has stopped before speaking.
The photographer and videographer need to be given a two minute warning so that they will be ready to capture the special moments during speeches. You will need to cue the DJ so that they will be able to stop the background music so that it won’t interfere with those speaking.
The Warm Up - Get a feel for the room (get comfortable)
When you arrive at the venue and after connecting with the vendors, go to the room where you will be hosting the event. Stand at the podium and look around, take a couple of breaths and relax. Look at all the tables and chairs and read out loud some of your notes. It doesn’t have to be into the microphone, this is just to let you get use to where you will be standing. Get comfortable with your surroundings.
Check, 1, 2
Once you have done your warm-up, grab the microphone and do a simple “mic check 1, 2”. Your voice will sound funny to you the first time you hear it amplified, so give it a couple more “1, 2’s” and then try reading one or two sentences from your notes so that you get used to hearing the sound of your voice over the sound system.
If you are using a cordless mic, walk around the room to ensure that you can hear yourself clearly in each corner. If the microphone is fixed to the podium, either bring someone into the room or ask the staff if they can hear you ok.
The microphone should be 3 to 5 inches from your mouth, maybe further back depending on your voice strength.
Cue and Coach the Speakers
Give each speaker a five minute warning before it’s their turn to step up to the podium. This will allow them enough time to retrieve their speech, re-fill their drink, finish what they are eating or even just get back to their seat. Every speaker will love you for it as opposed to being surprised when called up.
Remind them about microphone technique – speaking 3-5 inches from the microphone for best volume and sound. If you are using a cordless mic, bring it to them and let them hold it to get a feel for it.
Be sure to also let the couple know that speeches are beginning so that they have time to take their seats for the speech.
Once done speaking, lay it down on the podium or give it back to the DJ or AV technician.
Stay close to the podium.
Ask to be seated for dinner near the lectern (you should do this at your meeting with the couple), so you don’t have run across the room each time you need to speak.
While a speech is taking place, stand close to the podium, so that when someone has completed their speech you have the opportunity to get up to the podium quickly, take the mic off their hands and do your extro without having any awkward moments or dead-air.
When the Floor Manager or Wedding Planner cues you to start – do it right away! Again, during dinner, food is the priority and is time sensitive.
At the wedding you may come across a friend or relative who wants to add an impromptu speech or perform a surprise song or dance routine.
As soon as you are approached by this person, let them know that the couple has carefully put together a very tight schedule for the evening and you will need to check with them first if it can be fit in.
Discuss the performance or speech with the couple and let them make the decision as to whether they want this to happen.
If they say yes, schedule the person in after one of the main speeches and inform the venue and photographer / videographer that this will be happening.
“I Don’t Need A Mic!”
You may come across someone giving a speech who will declare that they have a strong voice and don’t need a microphone.
Persuade them nicely that in order for everyone to hear, especially those in the very back, the microphone will assist. If they still refuse, stand by with the mic onhand because I guarantee you that within 30 seconds of them speaking, someone will say “I can’t hear you, speak into the mic”, at which you can graciously hand the microphone to the speaker for them to continue.
On the night of the event, the Most Important Thing You Need To Do Is Have Fun!!!! If you enjoy your time on the mic, everyone else will too!
Excited??? You are now ready to MC a wedding. If you follow the guidelines in these posts, do your prep work and have fun, you’ll do a remarkable job!
Colin and I wanted our wedding celebration to be a fun and memorable experience for all our guests, and so the entertainment for the evening was really important to us. A wedding is a lot of things, but it’s also a great party!
"We knew we wanted a DJ, but were hesitant to book a DJ company because we wanted a more personalized experience. Our wedding planner recommended Michael to us, and we’re so incredibly glad she did.
Michael was professional, personable, extremely helpful, and most importantly he kept the dance floor packed all night long! Michael’s dedication to personalizing our event was exceptional – he met with us before our wedding to get to know us and our wedding party, to review our music preferences, and to discuss what kind of event we wanted.
Not only did Michael keep the dance floor packed, Michael also provided the music for our ceremony and the lighting for our event (at the very last minute!). We also asked Michael to be the MC for the evening, and he kept our guests relaxed and entertained.
Thank you so so much Michael for everything! You made our wedding a memorable and fantastic party that no one will forget!"
Sarah & Colin
We had such a blast at this wedding at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto and the guests did not disappoint and danced hard until the lights went on. Thank you to Bliss Events for bringing me onbaord and a very big shout out to Tamara Lockwood for capturing the exctiement as you'll see below...
“For us, music was going to play a huge role in the wedding. We knew the exact feel and mood we wanted, so we thought it would be difficult to find someone to execute this specific “vision”. This was until we met Michael.
From our first conversation, we knew he would be the perfect fit. What sets him apart from others is the detail and effort he puts into learning about music likes and dislikes of guests, as well as getting to learn about your bridal party, yourselves, family and friends. We are still having friends tell us how amazing the music was from the moment they stepped into the venue up until they left. It wouldn’t have been the same without him.”
Renata and Aundrae
Renata and Aundrae wanted a crazy party and that’s exactly what they got. Their wedding took place inside the Berkeley Church in Toronto and was designed by the talented Melissa Andre of Melissa Andre Events. With a mix of house music, classic rock, top 40, hip hop, r&b, reggae, soca, disco and everything in between I was able to curate an event that got everyone up and dancing hard. The guests all left sweaty and had a fantastic time, as you’ll see in the photos below.
Chapter 8 - FLOW 93.5 part 2
Three days into my dream job, my show was cancelled. My co-host fired and I was offered a production job, which would have eventually led to me getting back on air, which I let my ego get the best of me once again, and I turned it down.
I was crushed. This was one of the lowest points in my life and I had no idea what to do. I was scared to death and extremely depressed. The thing I wanted more then everything, the thing I worked harder then anyone to obtain, my dream job, was lost. All due to my own arrogance, my own ego and my own stupidity. I personally ruined the one thing I wanted more than anything.
And while all this was happening, my girl-friend, now wife, was 8 months pregnant. And one month after I was taken off air, the worst day of my life, I experienced one of the greatest moments ever, the birth of my first daughter, Kiera..
As excited as I was, I was also terrified. I’d literally go through moments of extreme joy, to bouts of deep, dark depression, within minutes of each other. I had no income and I was now a father. I had to snap out of it fast. So, I put my tail between my legs and called my old employer and within a couple of weeks, I was back on the phones at the call centre. Making a living. I quit DJ’ing…forever.
Chapter 7 - FLOW 93.5
One of my old voice teachers once told me that once you reach the top, that is when you need to work your hardest. As that’s when all eyes are on you and there will be people who want to knock you down. Everyone wants to take out the guy on top!
After about 5 years on “Worldwide”, I started to get tired of the night-club and radio scene and decided to get a “real job” inside a call centre for a mobile phone company. About two years into the job, I heard that there was auditions for a new urban radio station in Toronto, Flow 93.5. With my background in radio, having graduated with honours from Seneca college for the radio / television program, and having studied voice and improv, I thought I would take a shot.
Flow received over 500 demo tapes, and out of those 500 I was chosen as one of the top four personalties and was hired to be the primary host for their morning show. I was ecstatic!!!! I landed my dream job!!!!!
When I got the position, I thought “this was it! I’ve finally made it! I’m BIG TIME!” I was living the high life. I was being driven around in limousines, had parties thrown in my honour and made the front page of the entertainment section of the Toronto star.
You thought my ego was big before? Ha, not even close! I really thought I made it, that I was the man and that nothing could bring me down. But, forgot about the advice I was gaven, and stopped working. I did all the necessary hard-work to get put into that position - yet, didn’t do the work to stay there - I let my ego take over. Instead of learning how to operate the new sound board, I would just chill out all day. Instead of doing my voice exercises, I would do nothing but think of all the riches and fame coming my way. Instead of doing my pre-show warm-up and prep, I would just show-up and hope for the best. I was a star, and this is what stars do...
Toronto DJ Diaries - Worldwide part 2
Our show was originally Monday mornings from 11:00 am until 12:00 noon and even though we were the Prodigy Sound Crew, our individual DJ names were Majesty (myself) and Downlow (Paul). Paul was starting to play more and more with Canada’s premier soca DJ, Dr. Jay, who started a soca crew of his own called the “Kingdom of Soca” and with that Paul was anointed a new name “Court Jester”. At the same time, all my DJ friends and associates started calling me “Prodigy” and the name stuck.
After a few months, a Thursday morning show (6 to 9 am) opened up and we grabbed it. With the move to the new prime-time spot, the exposure from “Worldwide” opened up a world of opportunities and we began to meet all the record label reps, night club promoters and DJ’s from other shows on the station. The next thing you know I’m playing some of the cities biggest parties and events for the likes of Wycleff Jean of the Fugees, Busta Rhymes, Kardinal Offishall, Shaggy and every Canadian Hip Hop act you can think of. I would open up the CD cases of Rascalz, Kardi, Citizen Kane and Choclair and see my name listed in the thank you sections. Choc’s actually rhymed about us on his first single “21 Years”.
I also got the opportunity to regularly fill-in for two of the DJ’s I grew up listening too, Power and DTS on the Masterplan show with Motion, Jazzy and Jon Bronski. We got to talk music and get industry advice from Toronto DJ legends Paul E. Lopes and Mike Tull of Higher Ground. We got into weekly, hilarious, verbal battles with “Morning Rides” Spex and Shooks (we actually planned these as a way to get listeners to tune into both shows, always wanting to hear who said what next). We made some great friendships with some of our co-hosts and regular on-air guests including Ian Andre Espinet, Marwon and Teashia.
The success of Worldwide opened up a world of opportunities, helping me to land a position at HMV Scarborough town-centre, a role with Virgin Records and lead me to start voicing nationally run TV and Radio commercials for Sony Music, BMG and EMI.
Life was good, very good. Every club or concert I went too, everyone knew my name. And the more I heard it, the more I loved it. My ego was growing quickly and was getting out of control, and with that, I made it a point to showcase my prowess and others short-comings. I wasn’t afraid to tell people how I truly felt in the most condescending and disrespectful ways possible. People who supported me and were once my friends, became easy targets, and not long after, stopped speaking with me. I did and said a lot of things that I’m not proud of, but then, had no clue I was drowning in my own arrogance.
I continued to work hard at perfecting my craft by taking acting, improv and voice lessons. Yet with every new big win, my ego grew. I was the biggest @$& you would have ever met. And with my next huge win, it would take away the thing I wanted and worked harder then anyone to obtain. My dream job as the first morning show host on FLOW 93.5.
Chapter 5 - 89.5 CIUT “Worldwide”
Paul and I got word that the University of Toronto radio station, 89.5 CIUT was desperate for volunteers. So, we threw our hat in the ring and started volunteering at the station on St. George. We started off as receptionists. I would handle Monday’s, Paul would handle Wednesday’s and our job was to answer the phones and do whatever menial jobs the station staff needed. We did that for about 6 months, and through that time we got to meet and connect with the station manager, the sales team and most importantly the program director, Mopa Dean.
One Wednesday afternoon, we got word that someone could’t make their show the following Monday morning. We immediately told Mopa that we could fill in, and he said yes. So the following Monday, we got there early, carrying our turntables and records up three flights of old creaky stairs, and set-up in the studio. I was attending Seneca Collage for Radio and TV Production, so I was already comfortable running the board and speaking on the mic, and I knew what to say and when to say it.
Once the show was done, we were extremely happy with how we performed, but we could have never even imagined what happened next. Mopa Dean stepped through the door and said “that was amazing! One of the best shows I’ve ever heard! We’re in the process of changing the the schedule and want to add some more shows, and your one of them.”
Paul and I were shocked! We were getting our own show! It was like a Made for TV Movie; we couldn’t believe! it About a month later, we where on-air and “Worldwide” was born.
Chapter 4 - The Prodigy Sound Crew
Grade 12 I returned to Agincourt and one of the first people I connected with was Paul Jones. We knew each other from my first stint, yet really bonded my second time around. Like myself, he was a Hip Hop junkie and we shared a love for the music. We were both collecting vinyl and I introduced him to Troy, and together, with another kid, Kenon Carol, we decided we would start a sound crew. We couldn’t agree on a name, so I began to flip through the pages of a dictionary, and the first page it landed on was “P” and as I read down the page I saw it, “Prodigy”. The Prodigy Sound Crew was born.
We weren’t very organized to start. With Troy attending another school and Kenan not always available for practice or what we called “spinfest”, the sound crew went from 4 to 2 rather quickly. It took awhile, but I was able to collect enough birthday / christmas / chore money to finally be able to purchase a pair of Technique 1200’s. The more we practiced, the better we got and we started playing small house-parties, talent shows and school dances through-out Scarborough and Markham with regularity.
Thursday’s where new record days at Traxx Records on Yonge St. in downtown Toronto, when the new music shipments would come in. We didn’t have a lot of cash, yet every Thursday we would travel by subway downtown to see what we could get our hands on. Thursday’s at Traxx were not just about the records, but about the community. I met many DJ’s who would become friends and people I really respected. Soundquest, Starting From Scratch, Roc Brigade, JLJ, Peter and Tyrone, Skimpy Boy, etc.
During this time, Paul’s uncle ran a small wedding DJ company called “Jay-Dee Productions” and because we could mix and we needed somewhere to play, he brought us on board to cater to his younger clientele. So for two summers, every Saturday we would be playing weddings. The money was good for a high-school kid ($200 a night) yet the last place either of us wanted to be on a hot summer night was at a wedding. We wanted something more…
Chapter 3 - TKO and the Hip Hop Junkie
For grade 10, I decided to go to another school and ended up at David and Mary Thomson on Lawrence Avenue.
Coming from Agincourt, the sound systems were loud, but never over powering. Yet at Thompson I experienced something completely different when it came to music and DJing. I experienced the TKO sound crew.
Their sound system consisted of 4 Cerwin-Vega sub-woofers, two tops and they were running at least two crown amplifiers to power the speakers, and when you walked into the cafeteria, the bass would pound your chest and vibrate your stomach so hard that it would make you feel ill. I loved it!
Agincourt was mainly a House music school, yet Thomson was all hip hop, reggae, r&b with a touch of soca. Not only that, but TKO played differently from Matt C. Equally as talented for rocking parities, they used more of a “drop” style. Where as Matt C. would mix the songs for a minimum of 8 bars, TKO was “dropping” the records. Meaning that you wouldn’t always hear the mix, yet the next song would come in as soon as the previous song ended, on beat and on time, and just “drop”. This added an element of surprise to the party, where as you would have no idea what was coming until it “dropped” and hit the crowd. The audiences response was the same…hands in the air.
I just couldn’t get enough of this sound, and became a TKO school dance junkie and started travelling to other schools in Scarborough that TKO was playing at including Cedarbrae, Vanier and Pope. If we couldn’t get tickets, we would sneak in through fire-exits and back-doors. Wanting to hear more, my friends and I heard of the all-ages parties at Spectrum night-club on Danforth at Main. Since none of us drove, we had to subway it in and we would often arrive before the DJs would show up. With the sub-way closing at 1:00 am, we would have to leave at 12:30 to ensure we caught the last train. I was hooked.
In grade 11, a new kid came to the school, Troy Phillips. Like me, he was a school dance / party junkie and we started hanging out. This kid had the biggest hip hop collection I’ve ever seen and he was the one who really introduced me to artists like De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B and Rakim and Tribe Called Quest. I was always aware of these groups, but through Troy, I learned to appreciate them and eventually, that’s all I would listen too. Troy got me hooked on concerts, and I went to see the likes of Tribe Called Quest with Naughty By Nature at Spectrum, KRS-1 at the Opera House, Leaders of the New School and Fu-Schnickens at the Concert Hall, Naughty By Nature at HMV Scarborough Town Centre (I actually got in) and so on. I became a true Hip Hop Junkie.
Chapter 2 - DJ Matt C
The first time I ever heard a DJ mix was at my Grade 8 graduation party. The legendary Toronto house music DJ, Matt C (RPM, Industry Night Club) was a former student and played the event for us. It was so amazing to hear one song blend into the other with such precision and ease, and to watch how the dance-floor continuously move, almost like the waves of an ocean. It was surreal. The energy level was epic and I came out of that party soaked with sweat. I had never heard or seen anything like it. Yet, this isn’t what got me hooked.
In grade 9 I attended Agincourt C.I. on Midland Ave. in Scarborough (a suburb of Toronto). Matt C was a student in his graduating year and during one of the schools spirit assembly’s, he got on stage, with two technique 1200’s and tore up Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam.” I still remember how he broke it down. He went back to back on the two turntables starting with the chorus:
Pump up the Jam
Pump up the Jam
Pump up the
Pump up the
Pump up the Jam
Pump up the Jam
Pump up the Jam
The place went NUTS! Hands were in the air, kids were jumping out of their seats, girls screaming, it was pandaemonium! I had never witnessed such excitement! I said to myself, “I want to be that guy!”
Unknown to me, there was another kid in the auditorium that day, who would end up being not only a great friend, but a partner. Together we would build something very special. His name was Paul Jones.
Side note*** Many years later, I did have the honour of playing alongside Matt C at the RPM Reunion Party held at Government, put on by Brighter Days Entertainment.
Toronto DJ diaries - Chapter 1 - In the beginnig...
I grew up in Agincourt (in Toronto) and as a kid, I used to spend hours in my basement playing records on my Mom’s old stereo. She had such a amazing collection of music from the 50’s and 60’s, from rock & roll to Motown, mostly on 45’s. I really feel in love with the music from that era, especially anything with a hard beat. It had such a “rawness” to it. The way the vinyl crackled, and the sound the needle would make as it kept jumping once the song had finished and it hit the label in the middle. One by one I would play a song. Manually removing each record and placing the next on the turntable. Hours and hours I would listen, and loved every minute of it.
In grade 7, I would get my Mom to take me to the Scarborough Town Centre so that I could go to the record store. Music World is where I would spend a good chuck of my allowance, buying albums and 45’s. My musical taste had no boundaries and my collection included everything, Prince, Bon Jovi, Roxette, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Def Leopard, I think you get the hint. While many of my friends were making the move to cassettes, I stuck with vinyl.
In my grade 8 year, my music teacher at my Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Mr. Gene, thought it would be a great idea if instead of hiring a DJ to play the school dances, that the students should have the opportunity to DJ them, and they would hold “DJ auditions” to determine who would perform. So, the morning of the audition I packed my backpack with all my favourite tracks and set off for school.
As a kid, I was extremely shy to the point that I couldn’t even look you in the eye when speaking. I vividly remember walking into the cafeteria that afternoon and seeing the other kids on the stage getting ready for the audition and I froze. I was mortified. As fast as I walked in, was as fast as I turned around and walked right back out and straight home. This was my first foray into the DJ business.
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Honoured to be the offical DJ for the first ever WedLuxe Fashion Show taking place inside the WedLuxe Show on January 14, 2018 at the Carlu in Toronto. Blessed to be working with the producers of World Mastercard Fashion Week, Monarch Events. This is going to be one event you don't want to miss!
For more information and tickets click here.