The first of many installments wherein we sit down and talk shop with some of the the prairies’ finest beat purvyors, share their latest mix-tapes, and talk a little shop along the way.
“Weirdness uncorrupted” is how filmmaker Ryan McKenna described Rob Vilar in a recent interview, and it’s a suitable description for the adorably awkward arbiter of what’s hip and cultish. For the Portugal-born DJ, dance music is about embracing a particular type of spirit – one that’s fun, relaxed, sincere. “Today, a lot of dance music seems to be taken very seriously, whereas in the ‘80s it was all about having fun,” Vilar laments. “There is this seriousness to it today …the hipster stuff is really austere and minimal.”
For three hours, he has been my tour guide through the most unapologetically cheesy reaches of YouTube – from German Eurobeat to Portuguese pop to Italo-disco, or was it Shitalo? It’s all so over-the-top European. I can’t tell if these people are serious or if it’s all a joke.
But DJ Rob Vilar would know.
ST: Italo-disco is really weird and it might be the cheesiest sub-genre ever invented.
RV: The interesting thing about Italo-disco is that there is a side to it that’s really hip, like “Spacer Woman” by Charlie. In the one sense, you get the Italo-disco that’s really hip – the sort of thing that hipsters in New York would name check – and then there’s the stuff that’s so bad, but at the same time there’s something about it that’s so good. The bad/good stuff is what has been coined Shitalo.
Can you name some of the artists associated with Shitalo?
Modern Talking. Visually, they’re pretty ridiculous. They’ve often been called the Siegfried & Roy of European pop.
Do you think that they’re serious, and not in the ironic sense, like, really serious?
They are dead serious.
If Europe is responsible for the most ridiculous dance music on the planet, what is Canada responsible for?
The weirdest rock… Gowan, Honeymoon Suite, Aldo Nova. There’s this band I saw on public access TV in Winnipeg. They’re called the Chocolate Bunnies from Hell. The lead singer was a substitute teacher in the late ‘80s. He came to my school one day dressed like a rocker. Me and another friend had figured out that he was in a band and we were really intimidated by him because he was a total metal rocker. Anyways, the following day when our teacher came back, there was this poster left at the front of the class and it said “Chocolate Bunnies from Hell,” and it was signed. It was like his calling card. That was awesome.
What’s the most obscure record you own?
Probably this guy, Gary Low. I bought his record two years ago when I was in Portugal… On my last trip, I also made a point of picking up a lot of Portuguese music – a lot of Portuguese rock music…There’s this one band called Da Vinci and this guy António Variações, which translates to Tony Variations. He’s kind of like the Portuguese David Bowie.
Where do you find out about music?
All over the place: the internet, blogs, some of it comes from going to Europe a lot…We used to go to Portugal on family vacations, and while I was there I would just listen to the radio and my sister would go to the discothèque there. I was too young to go, but she would come back and tell me about all of the really cool music that people were listening to.
What was cool?
“Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. She recorded it off the radio and I remember thinking, ‘Wow!’
DJ Rob Vilar will be at the A.N.A.F. “Club 60” in the Village on Friday, December 14. Also, see him in his first feature length, The First Winter, directed by Ryan McKenna at Cinematheque in early 2013.
Now, as promised, enjoy his mixtape:
- Spacer Woman – Charlie
- Manenergy – Patrick Cowley
- Computer Games – Mi-Sex
- Never Say Goodbye – Chip Chip
- Angie’s Heart –Modern Talking
- You’re A Woman –Bad Boys Blue
- I Want You – Gary Low
- Requiem – London Boys
- Fantasy – Aldo Nova
- Cosmetics – Gowan
- Stay In The Light – Honeymoon Suite
- Nova Heart – Spoons
- Without Your Love – Streetheart