Galen Allan is a DJ with a focus on electronic music. He has a new show on CiTR 101.9FM called u do you radio, airing on Thursdays at 11a.m. During our conversation, we chatted about his approach to planning the show, the fluid nature of electronic music, and his experiences in the Vancouver DJ scene.
Hilary Ison: Do you listen to radio, yourself?
Galen Allan: Yeah, I listen to a lot of shows after the fact — a lot of radio stations in London and Berlin that aren’t on at the right time here, but that’s what so great about Soundcloud or Mixcloud. For me, that’s where I explore music. I find so much music listening to other DJs.
HI: And it’s kinda cool that it’s still coming from a radio format.
GA: Yeah, and I’m playing the music here, and people are asking me what song that was. So I find it, I like it, I share it, and people dig it. There’s continuous sharing.
HI: The whole DJ world involves getting music from other people, sharing.
GA: Yeah, it’s a funny flow of ideas in the form of songs, especially because you can break songs down into samples, so people take samples and then use those samples in their songs, and they heard that sample from a song on the radio. Especially with electronic music, because it’s so easily disseminated and reformed and put in a new parameter, like you can take a funk sample, chop and screw it and mush it down and you’re listening to techno.
HI: So is there a particular idea behind u do u radio, or themes in specific episodes?
GA: Each episode is very indicative of what my listening habit has been over the last week or two. So a lot of the times, it’s new music. I’ll hear a song I like so I’ll track that song down because I want to play it. The idea of the show is just to share the music that I like and I’m listening to.
HI: So do you do a lot of DJing out in Vancouver, too?
GA: Yep. I moved home to Vancouver to go to school in September 2016. I was living in London for two years, just DJing, and I was in Toronto for three years before that. So I’ve been away for a while. Before I moved away I was DJing a bunch, in my previous DJ career, I like to say.
HI: A different identity?
GA: Completely. There are still some songs that I’d bring out in a set, but I was just DJing down on the Granville Strip and stuff. It was all electronic, but more disco, bloghouse. I always think about my musical progression from when I started DJing to now, and it continues to evolve. When I program for the show, it’s completely experimental. I play a lot of ambient to start the shows off with, I think it’s a good way to get into a show and set the vibe, and I wouldn’t have been interested in that before. Ambient to me is some of the most interesting stuff to listen to because it’s more emotive. I still can’t really DJ that stuff anywhere. You can’t be out on the dancefloor playing ambient tunes.
HI: So what’s your experience of playing in Vancouver?
GA: We have a night at the Boxcar called Cuddy Sessions which is tons of fun. It’s the first Thursday of every month. We just play whatever. Disco, Kenyan surf tracks, ‘80s […] super weird and random. We’ve had a lot of friends come in with their music, and I’ll teach them how to DJ on the fly. I would love to play some acid techno somewhere, but I don’t have those connections right now. And Vancouver’s not huge, so there aren’t too many opportunities to do it.
HI: I guess it’s obvious when you know you’re doing a good job as a DJ.
GA: Yeah, it’s really obvious, especially if you’re playing a dancefloor. At the Boxcar there’s no dancefloor, but we’ve had a lot of dancing going on there, and that’s when you know you’re doing a really good job — when there’s not even a place to dance and people are dancing. But yeah, it’s pretty easy to tell. Recently I was DJing a movie premiere at the Imperial. It was a Wednesday night and people usually just go home after the movie, but the management wanted us to stay and DJ so they could sell beer. There was nobody dancing, and I played one song and all of a sudden ten people were on the dancefloor. I didn’t even know ten people were still there, like, where’d they come from? So sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
HI: Why did you want to start a radio show?
GA: I had a radio show called Friends of The North on Toronto Radio Project [TRP], internet radio. It lasted about two years. Having an outlet to share the music I listen to, it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. I think that’s why I started DJing — to be able to select the music and curate what everybody’s listening to. It’s kind of a weird control issue probably, but hopefully people think I should be doing it.
HI: That’s why we have experts in things. So people can do it for us.
u do u radio is self-described as “Acid, Afro-beat, Lo-Fi, Ambient and plenty of classic house.” If that’s your thing, tune into CiTR 101.9FM Thursdays at 11a.m., or listen at citr.ca. Archived episodes at citr.ca/radio/u-do-u-radio.