Photography by Thomas Van Der Zaag
About two years ago, Stephane Deschenes was set to go to OCAD University for graphic design. But on what would have been his first day, he called the school and told them to cancel everything. He wasn’t going.
Although art was a passion of his, he had spent that summer making music and realized that’s what he really needed to be doing. Two weeks after calling it quits with OCAD, he enrolled in an audio school in Vancouver and hasn’t looked back. Now, he’s back in Toronto and goes by the name Damn Kids. At only 20 years old, he’s one of the up-and-coming names in Toronto’s booming electronic music community.
Stephane Deschenes: When I was younger I listened to a lot of hip hop and rock—I never really gave much time to electronic music. But around 2007 was when a lot of guys like Justice and MSTRKRFT and Boys Noize started getting big with that really aggressive hard sounding stuff, so it was a really easy way to translate the music that I was listening to then into electronic music. That’s what really bridged it.
Then I switched from PC to Mac and it had GarageBand, so I started playing around with that. I realized that it was so much more accessible than trying to assemble a band. I always tried doing that when I was young and it never worked. We could never find a drummer or a singer or find literally anybody else to be in a band. So electronic music was something that I could do by myself and still accomplish finishing a whole song. It was just really rewarding to finally be able to finish a piece of music.
AC: What were your first songs like?
SD: They were pretty much really bare-bone rock/electronic tracks. Actually, the first things I did was program drum beats and then played bass over them. And I’m not good at playing bass at all so they were awful. But yeah, that’s where it originally stemmed from .Then I started programming my own synths and then it just built on from there. Then I started discovering other genres and it’s just kind of progressed and progressed and the more I learned the more diverse my music became.
AC: OK, so I want you to boast a little bit. Obviously there’s been a lot of buzz around you and your music recently. Is there something that anyone has said about you or done that really stands out and means a lot to you?
SD: The thing that always stands out to me is seeing big DJs that I’ve looked up to forever—guys like Zeds Dead and Craze and AC Slater and Drop the Lime—guys like that, they’re supporting my stuff now. That’s the craziest thing. And the thing that I’ve always wanted to work towards was seeing guys that I’ve always looked up to playing my music. That’s never going to get old. Seeing that they dropped my song in their mix or in a live set. It’s pretty crazy. It’s like a dream come true, as lame and cliché as it is to say.
AC: You have some new releases coming up—do you have a goal for them stylistically?
SD: Yeah, the one for Trouble and Bass has a lot more deep house and techno influence. It’s pretty melodic. I’ve been making stuff like it for a while, but it’s not really like anything that I’ve released before which is really good because I really like it and a lot of people are getting behind it.
Because I’ve been releasing a lot of trap stuff lately, I think it’s really good to display that it’s not all I’m about. And it’s good to finally be able to release the other things that I’m doing instead of just pushing one specific sound.
AC: Is that how you would describe how this release differs from passed ones?
SD: Yeah, this one I think is just displaying other sounds that I’m interested in and the other things that I’m doing— I’m making lots of different kinds of music but I don’t release it all, right? I only release, like, 20 per cent of all of the stuff that I make, so it’s nice to be able to release something that’s a little bit different.
AC: And how do you make the ultimate decision about which songs you’re going to release?
Well, for a while we were just kind of pushing all of the stuff to go, but now I’ve kind of wanted to dial it back. I had such a quick turnaround time with music. I would just make something in a day and be like, “Oh, this is awesome.” But now, especially with this new Provoke EP, I’m really going back and [my manager Darren Arcane] knows how many revisions I’ve sent him of all these tracks. Every one has probably 20 different versions. I’m finally really, really spending a lot of time working on this new stuff. A lot of work. I’ve been in the dungeon.
I’m doing the release on Trouble and Bass that’s coming out later this month, then I’m doing another big EP for Provoke which is the label out of Toronto that I work with. And that I’m putting a lot of work into and it’s going to be pretty big. I can’t really divulge too much about it, but it’s a lot of really diverse material— a lot of really big club records and a bit deeper stuff. It’s a pretty eclectic mix of different kinds of my music. This and the Trouble and Bass release are some of the most work I’ve ever put into music before and the most time I’ve spent on stuff and it’s really, really exciting for me to finally be able to get a lot of this music out.
AC: And just because it’s festival season: If you could curate your dream festival, the headliners would be you and . . . ?
SD: Ahhh, that’s such a hard decision. Probably me, Kanye West, Daft Punk and . . . I don’t know. I think that’s good! Me, Kanye West, Daft Punk and . . . Darren Arcane!