Windsor, Ont.'s Techno Music Scene Is Underground But Has Devotees Who Dig The Beat

Windsor, Ont.'s Techno Music Scene Is Underground But Has Devotees Who Dig The Beat

On the surface, Anthony Gomez and Craig Sinclair look like two ordinary dads with regular jobs: Gomez works at the University of Windsor in southwestern Ontario, while Sinclair works in construction.

But when the work week is over and the kids are asleep, the two meet in Sinclair's basement and play techno.

“We came to the DJ downtown to play music. "It was an opportunity for us to learn something new and relate to music in a different way," Gomez said.

The duo forms Mothers Against Drum Machines, a group that has been a part of Windsor techno music for nearly 30 years.

Its roots date back to the early 1990s when disc jockey Richie Howth burst onto the local scene. The LaSalle native is recognized as one of techno's most influential figures, having quickly immersed himself in the overseas scene in techno's birthplace, Detroit.

Hotin co-founded the label Plus 8 with DJ John Akvaviva from London, Ontario and the two DJs eventually achieved worldwide fame.

Her influence developed techno music in Windsor. Downtown clubs like The Underground and Platinum are hugely popular.

“People were there every weekend. There were a lot of people there. "It was probably around 2000, 2001, 2002. I would say that was my finest hour on stage," Sinclair said.

"And then he was silent for a while. We didn't hear about it until the Boom Boom Lounge reopened... I mean from 2005 to 2012.”

The techno music movement is on the rise after the pandemic

According to Gomez and Sinclair, there was a change on stage due to the venue's closure. The COVID-19 pandemic has not helped either. But after the restrictions were lifted, the movement began to grow again.

A few DJs and producers in town, including Hawtin's manager Justin James, spearheaded the process.

"Rich has given me multiple opportunities to write music and work for another Minus label," James said. "One of my first songs turned out really well."

James also has a full-time job teaching physical education at an elementary school. Outside of school he is one of the most famous techno DJs in the Windsor and Detroit scene.

I like the idea that this music is underground and underground. It might not be for everyone. - JustinJames

The scene comes and goes. But in a way it's still alive and well because what's great is the underground.”

James is known for his 'Unknown' series of events, where he finds a location that remains a mystery to attendees until the day of the event. Locations – warehouses and clubs across the city.

For the past three years, he's expanded the series into a new event called Camp Unknown, a three-day music festival held every August at Kiwanis Park in Kingsville.

"You know, the music tries to play all night, whether it's outside or we have an indoor area where you can pick up a bit later and not worry about the noise," James said.

Some events in Windsor aren't all that secret.

Popular venues like Phog Lounge and breweries like Craftheads have teamed up with local DJs and promoters to host techno events.

Madeleine Mazak knows this scene all too well. He is a bartender at the Phog Lounge and a radio host at CJAM, a University of Windsor radio station, where he calls himself Odessa DJ.

“You can find niches around town to find people doing these things. I would say last year I've seen more people promoting these events and doing monthly residencies," Mazak said.

Create a sense of community

Another way this music creates a sense of community is through initiatives like Signal Exchange.

Cameron Doig is one of the organizers of this meeting group, which has been around since 2017 and allows anyone to come to the jam session with a drum machine.

“We just met and talked about the equipment. Sometimes we have big events," Doig explained.

For Doig and others, it's an opportunity to build community and attract new fans to a genre that has evolved over time.

"I've had a feeling over the years that we might have had more talent than people to support this."

James says that while there's a lot going on in the techno scene, he's having a hard time breaking into the mainstream and he's fine with that.

“I agree that this music is underground and underground. It might not be for everyone.”

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