It's -30 degrees outside, but the atmosphere inside Montreal's Inbeat Records is anything but frigid. Dedicated young shoppers listen to their picks at shiny new listening stations surrounded by clean white walls stacked with a selection of DJ vinyl. Featured Depeche Mode classics stand out alongside new underground releases while a well-stocked CD department occupies the wall closest to the bright storefront window.
A taxi screeches to a halt and in bursts Fred Everything, making time between gigs for a quick record hunt at the shop where he once worked. He grabs the pile of records put aside for him by Inbeat owner Christian Pronovost and quickly scans the walls. The down-to-earth French Canadian may be a world-renowned DJ and producer with more than 60 releases to his credit — most recently, his Soldiers of Twilight and Chris Lum remixes and sassy Missy Elliot bootleg — but at home in Montreal, he's another familiar face.
Born and raised in Hull, Quebec, 28-year-old Frédéric Blais became a local fixture during the early '90s when he moved to Montreal and played in pivotal afterhours clubs, later landing residencies in trendy bars. Still, his studio work first got him international attention when Tony Humphries and Mark Farina played his first single, 1996's “C'est la Vie.” Since then, Fred has produced for such prestigious labels as DIY, Vinyl Peace, Tag, Fair Park, Earth, Tronicsole and 20:20 Vision, which released Fred's acclaimed debut full-length, Under the Sun (2000).
Fred is also a noted remixer, having reworked Charles Shillings, Derrick Carter, Soulstice, AtJazz, Roy Davis and Bran Van 3000. He is working on his second album for 20:20 Vision, one that explores dub, reggae and flamenco influences. With an anticipated summer 2003 release, the first single, “Light of Day,” is already an underground hit. Fred also has new material coming out on Dessous, Silver Network, Shaboom, Brique Rouge and Got Soul, and he is collaborating with Magik Johnson and DJ Heather.
Behind the decks, Fred's funky brand of bumping, sophisticated, danceable house has earned him stints at New York's Centro-Fly, Chicago's Mad Bar and San Francisco's Stompy and Naked Music parties. He is also a regular on the European club circuit with frequent gigs at Fabric, Basics, The Bomb, Plastic People, Basement Jaxx, Space, Paris' Rex, Brussels' Food Club and Glasgow's Sub Club — where he was voted best set of In the City conference by DJ magazine.
Now a jet-setting musician, Fred considers shopping at Inbeat to be a familiar, full-circle trip. “I used to work at Inbeat when I moved to Montreal, and I've been a customer here for almost 10 years, so I get a really good service. They have everything. To get the same stuff, say, in Paris, you need to go to five different stores.”
Inbeat was Montreal's only underground house music source when it first opened for business in 1988. Owner Christian Pronovost, himself a DJ, cut his teeth feeding the city's jocks and thus educating the ears of its clubbers. The shop's latest endeavor is www.inbeatmusic.com, a full-service online record store that duplicates the distinct Inbeat personality. The site features front-page “hot picks” in both vinyl and CD formats and is updated twice weekly complete with detailed track descriptions and 30-second WMA clips of each piece of music sold on the site.
With online shopping and having 12-inches mailed or handed to him, Fred reaps the rewards of being a world-class DJ without ever stepping foot in a record store. But the shop experience is still important to him. “Luckily, at home or on the road, I get special treatment and sometimes have access to very limited-quantity stuff, the under-the-counter privilege,” Fred says. “I get most of my white labels in the mail, or when I travel, people hook me up with new stuff on vinyl or CD-R. It's great to have access to fresh music, and I'm really grateful. But it's very important for me to go to the record store at least once a week to hunt for that special record. I go with recommendations, but I also listen to a lot of records, in case I find something else. I also look out for my favorite labels and producers.” Check out what he found this time around:
“B Strong 4 Me (Miguel Migs Remixes)” (Yoshitoshi)
Naked Music's Migs does it again; he never really fails to do what he's supposed to do. There's a vocal mix and a dub. I guess I'll be playing the dub because I'm just a dub kind of guy! This is a classic Migs production with nice instrumentation and lots of space in the mix.
“Santa Maria” (ºYa Basta!)
This is taken from their album that came out last year. It was really big with the left-field crowd, the Gilles Peterson kind of crowd. The album features accordions, and it's downtempo, so it has a very tango sort of feel. It could have been cheesy, but it's not. It's very interesting and well-done with no clichés. The Tom Middleton remix is doing the job for me, kind of broken-beat but not noodley.
“I Want” (Ideal)
This is from a record distributor in London. I recognized André Harris' name, but I hadn't heard it in years. I think he did a record on Cajual I liked back in the day. A lot of those old Cajual producers have just disappeared, so this is a nice comeback. One side is house, and the other side is broken beat. Basically, this is just really vibey, good, solid deep house.
“The Lift Part I (Lance DeSardi Remix)” (Court Square)
This is just a really good record. I really like the Lance DeSardi remix. I'm liking his stuff more and more lately; he still has that deep West Coast vibe mixed with that '80s feel that's so popular these days. And the production is really tight.
“Hustlin”/“For Her” (Select)
This is quite different from Joshua's usual stuff, but you can still recognize his vibe. I think he uses some Neptunes samples. And, of course, Select is part of that new wave of U.S. labels popping up every week, part of that big U.S. funky revival.
PARLIAMENT OF HOUSE
“Inside” (Purple Music)
This doesn't look like much from the cover; it looks like an old Power Music record from back in the day — that label that put out “Sex Maniac” and other classic tracks. It's pure, classic, shuffly deep house. Really timeless. It's nothing I haven't heard before, but it's still exciting. It's very playable and reminds me of that old Kerri Chandler or DJ Deep kind of sound.
“November Girl” (Poker Flat)
Everything on this 12-inch is really, really old-school. There's a lot of music like that out these days, acid-house style. It's part of that revival of the late '80s, early '90s, an influence that has always been quite present in house, anyway. They are always people trying to bring back that sound. It can sometimes be terrible, but it can also be great. This is one of the better ones, a good example of the basics of what house music should be: a groove, a beat and a spoken vocal. The two remixes I really like are the Martin Landsky remix, which has a heavy square bass line that sounds like Adonis or Mr. Fingers, and the Rob Mello mix, which has a really electronic, '80s feel. For some reason, it reminds me of Hardfloor.
“No Resistance (Jon Tejada Remix)” (Svek)
I must say, I am very new to the Jon Tejada thing. I have been a fan of his stuff, but it really falls into the tech-house category to me. When somebody says “tech-house,” for me, this is what it means. I have recently started playing lots of this stuff in big rooms and big clubs, mixed with the deeper stuff I usually play. This is a very playable record; it has a nice vocal, nice beat, nice electronic chords, and it's really funky all the time. Really good textures.