Music evolves naturally over time. Its patterns form styles, whose consistencies and discrepancies forge schemas for full-fledged genres. Creating something wholly unique then becomes a challenging task. Sampling serves as an element of production that helps the music industry remember its history. By recycling specific components of a style that definitively communicates a specific time in music history, the genre as a whole is able to transcend time and appeal to a new generation or audience.
Samples often reflect themselves in soundscapes. Sometimes they are intentionally used to contribute to a nostalgic atmosphere if the artist is aiming to pay homage to a specific point in time. However, in cities where the musical scene is not quite defined, such as in Toronto, emerging artists scramble to throw together innovative collages of sound. The intention is to both startle and impress the audience to the point that an artist develops a following based on their unique sound. Notable figures who have embraced this strategy are Last Gang Records artists Ryan Hemsworth and Harrison, who fuse 8-bit flourishes with house-y funk, and sleepy, hip-hop ridden electronica, respectively.
More recently though, a 19-year-old DJ has begun creeping out from the shadow-like atmospherics of the west end. Chris De Minico is emerging as an artist in his own right, performing at coveted venues like The Hoxton, CODA, and the Danforth Music Hall. De Minico’s sets flawlessly incorporate a self-proclaimed “random range of selections” that fuse together everything from old school hip-hop to deep house to contemporary trap.
Locally recognized as Hrmxny, the variety in his creations has become De Minico’s defining trait. His versatility has proven key, and local entertainment powerhouses like Embrace have caught wind of that, landing him his first set opening for Gaslamp Killer in May of last year. Approaching the one-year mark in his pursuit of music as a career, De Minico is beginning to interest the eyes of the industry with his debut EP In Time and his distinct sound.
TV: [In the course of] establishing yourself as a DJ, what moved you into production?
CDM: I DJ’d first, and my manager now, Biz Davis, told me that you have to make music as well, or there’s no longevity in your career. There’s a lot of DJs in Toronto who just DJ, and there’s very few who produce and DJ.
TV: When you were designing your EP, who did you borrow most from?
CDM: It was a wide variety music. I hated electronic music until I was 17, so about two years ago. I grew up in Scarborough, so my mom listened to Bruce Springsteen, and my grandpa’s Italian so he was all Andrea Bocelli. I wanted to be like, a gangster, listening to 50 Cent and stuff. It was a wide variety. I heard… “Trials of the Past” by SBTRKT, though, and that changed my outlook on music as a whole. I played with SBTRKT on Halloween actually, so that was the best moment of my life. I got to talk to him for a bit, and it was literally like meeting Jesus, a reincarnation. I listen to a lot of SoundCloud music too… SoundCloud is really its own genre.
TV: You never aimed to cater it to any specific audience?
CDM: Nah, it’s just stuff I like. I literally just sit there and make it in my room. I don’t really make it for other people. I know a lot of people say that, but I can’t. I won’t make a song for a specific crowd. If I like it, then okay, whatever — other people will like it. Not everyone will, but there are going to be people that do. So I don’t care if there are some people who don’t, you know? If it doesn’t work, I scrap it. I’m very quick with that. I brand myself with my aesthetic. I only wear black, always, but everything I put out, I keep it colourful.
TV: You’re pushing something that’s different. Where do you think our scene is at post-Drake era?
CDM: Very moody, very emotional. You hear any rap music out of Toronto, there’s one specific sound. Dark, ambient, hard-hitting stuff. Even with the producers, it’s more or less the same. Me, I can’t make trap. I could if I tried, and I’d do it just to play at parties but it’s not, like… my music. Everything is like a story to me. From the intro to the outro, everything meshes together. A lot of my music is done in two hours. It’s just me expressing myself; if you like it, you like it. If you know me as a person, it’s separate from me. I’m really hype when I DJ, I wear a bandana on my head and shit — it’s stupid. I jump in the crowd. But when I’m making music at home, it’s calm and mellow. You need to be emotionally there. I can’t make [a] song just to make it. That’s why I can’t do the four-song- a-day thing like some producers. I wait for the inspiration.
TV: What made house the genre you wanted to give a shot?
CDM: No one does it — it’s such a niche market. When I lived in Durham, there’s really nothing to do, besides make hip-hop and try to rap. Hip-hop is the most prominent. There’s a lot of house people in Toronto that are low-key. You have to go through the elders to kind of step foot in this scene. I feel like I had a good backing from the older people first and they were like “here’s this kid, give him a shot.”
TV: How did you get your stuff to stop sounding weird, [with you] fusing together such a variety of sounds?
CDM: My first set, I predetermined it, because it was like a make-or-break moment. It wasn’t a small bar or anything, it was the Hoxton and I was opening for Gaslamp Killer. I had an opening slot from 10–11, and I played straight deep house. I’d never played before then either, so I had to guess what the crowd might expect. With the EP what I noticed about the blog reviews was that it was more how they felt while listening to it, not the technical aspects. Technical music sounds good, but it’s fake. It does bother me a little, like, I got one dislike on this YouTube video and I was like, I’m gonna find you. I got premiered on Thump too, and I was on Thump that whole day, and when I saw that one dislike, I was like, what? But I know what I like. I think I have good taste in music, so I make what I would like. If I like it, most people will like it. I’m ignorant when it comes to that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.