Expeditions: Ottawa’s monthly journey into Progressive House

April 3rd, 2022 by  |  Published in Features, Interviews, News, Show Announcements

DJ Alain M

Expeditions is Ottawa’s newest monthly event featuring Progressive House music. It is held regularly at Live On Elgin and hosted by local DJ’s Alain M and Steve Finney. Each event will also include a guest DJ.

The next edition of Expeditions is coming at you on April 23rd. Advance tickets are available now.

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I recently connected with DJ Alan M, to find out more about Ottawa’s newest party and discuss what he’s been up to over the course of the pandemic.

How long have you been DJ’ing and how did you get started?
I was an early fan of electronic music – right from the late 80’s and early 90’s. I grew into music through rock (prog and metal) but going to bars in Hull in my late teens and early 20’s opened my eyes to the concept of mixing. I started collecting vinyl 12-inch singles of remixes I’d hear at the bars, taught myself with a couple of basic turntables that had a pitch control, and bought my first set of 1200’s in 1995. So, the passion runs deep, for sure.

I started out as a fan of German and Dutch techno, got into New York and Chicago house, and then trance in the mid-90’s and evolved from there. When my wife and I started a family, all DJ’ing went on hold but I always kept listening and collecting music that I liked.

Now that my kids are older, I’ve gone back to DJ’ing and enjoying it very much. I have a day job which I also love, but this is what cleanses my soul. It just never dies.

You have your monthly Expeditions event at Live on Elgin with Steve Finney. How did you hook up with Steve and start this new monthly event?
Since 2019, I’ve been running a weekly podcast called Ottawa Prog Vibes and I’ve been hosting guest DJ’s on it since 2020. I connected with Steve last year when he did a fantastic guest mix for my parallel series, Mellow Prog Vibes, and since he was in Ottawa, we started talking and this led to him taking over the curation of the Mellow Prog Vibes and becoming involved in throwing these progressive house events with me.

He is an excellent DJ with a similar trajectory to mine, we just got along from the start and I’ve really appreciated having him with me to put these events together, talking about music, doing studio jams etc.

How did you land on Live as your venue of choice?
Live on Elgin is, first and foremost, really well located. I’m a hardcore downtowner and a good location is a top consideration for me. Also, they have a good sound system, which I appreciate because it gives people the chance to really enjoy all the texture of the music we play.

The owners, Jon and Lawrence, are super nice guys, they have always been good to us and their staff is also top notch. The size of the venue is a good fit for us because it is big enough to get a vibe going and at the same time it has this cozy feel that makes people feel welcome.

The two of you have also started up a bi-weekly Thursday nightery at Il Perugino. How has that been going? Does it have a similar vibe/music to Expeditions?
It is a progressive house event, so the musical programming is consistent with what we do and love. The vibe is different – it is a tiny bar and it has no dance floor, so it’s more of a chill vibe for people to get together with friends, have a few drinks and enjoy some good music.

We’ve had a really good response so far. The St. Patrick’s Day one was epic! And with spring and warmer weather, and their patio about to open, there will be a lot more people. Again, good location on Dalhousie. That party is more about re-establishing the concept of going out on a Thursday night and getting people warmed up for the weekend – and at the same time, because there’s no cover charge, it gives a chance to more people to come and listen to some progressive sounds for those who are unfamiliar with the genre, in a super friendly environment. The staff there is awesome and because the place is so small, it generates a lot of warmth.

The next Expeditions is April 23rd. This will be the third event. Who is your guest that night? Where can someone grab tickets?
Our headliner is Ottawa-based, Turkish-Canadian DJ and producer Doga Erbek, one of our city’s great talents. His music has been signed to some of underground electronic music’s best labels (Amitabha, Suprematic, Faraway Scope) – he has played in New York and Montreal and has been a guest on radios worldwide. He’s excellent, I’ve seen him play at the Black Rabbit festival last year and I’m excited to share this gig with him.

Tickets are available through Live On Elgin.

For this one, Steve is travelling out of the country so the warm-up for Doga will be a B2B between myself and my good buddy Nikoli, from Music.Art.Ppl – another local legend.

Steve is back for the following Expeditions; we’re thrilled to have Blake Sutherland headlining that show. Blake is one of the godfathers of progressive house in Ottawa, he’s been around for a long while and his Cityscape Sessions were absolute fixtures for everyone who was into prog house. Steve and I will open for Blake – that’s on May 21st.

Then on June 18th we host Amber Long from Toronto – that will be a huge show for us. Amber is on the global stage as an artist and as the mastermind behind record label Modern Agenda. She played here last September at an event organized by our good friends Music.Art.Ppl and was spellbinding.

It’s been a strange couple of years. With limited live events and no dancing, how did you stay busy with music over the last two years?
Mostly, I ran my podcast, Ottawa Prog Vibes. The cancellation of live events opened a window of time that I decided to use to make connections with other progressive DJ’s and producers from here and around the world. That’s when I opened my podcast to guests, and by doing that I had two goals: one was to invite progressive DJ’s from around the world to play for an Ottawa audience, to help expand our city’s musical tastebuds. The other was to showcase Ottawa DJ’s to an international audience, and that part has been especially rewarding because it has really put a spotlight on the depth of the Ottawa electronic music ecosystem.

I’ve been lucky to host some incredible guests from a number of other countries, and I have been proud to host some very talented and hard-working Ottawa-based prog DJ’s as well.

I’ve also got myself on some radio shows: Beach Radio (UK) twice a month, XBeat Radio (Belgium) once a month, plus a few guest spots from time to time. I’ve been honoured to be invited to mix on Sri Lanka’s Underground Culture show, Brazil’s In Progress podcast, Loops Radio in Turkey, Mixing Radio in Argentina, and here in Canada, Toronto’s ION show and Montreal’s After Hour show.

But, whenever there was a chance to do a live event, be it outdoors or as a sit-down event (in-person but no dancing), I took it. We did three Sit Down Sessions at Live on Elgin, we sold them all out, and even though people couldn’t dance I could see how happy everyone was to be out, in person, listening to good music on a good sound system and sharing a night out with friends. I never did a single live stream, I just stuck with the podcast which is a weekly (approaching episode 150 already!).

Besides DJ’ing, are you into producing your own music, or doing remixes for others?
I’m tempted, but haven’t made the jump yet. However, I do a bit of remixing on the fly and that’s one of the things I love most about playing live. I love layering tracks on top of each other, and I will always throw in a few surprise sound effects, acapellas or samples, or additional percussion to a track based on the vibe on the dance floor. Nothing can ever replace that feeling of being there in the moment.

Connect with DJ Alain M:

Connect with Steve Finney:

Connect with Ottawa Prog Vibes:

All Ottawa Prog Vibes and Mellow Prog Vibes podcasts are posted on these music sites (free) along with many of the guest mixes for other radio shows.

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