Toronto’s house music scene was once predominantly underground, save for its existence in popular culture through places like Guvernment and Electric Circus. Today, you can find major house and techno clubs and events across the city.
We sat down with Mark Kufner, one half of OG house duo, Toronto Hustle. He and his partner, Jeff Graham, have been entertaining Torontonian’s for over three decades. Glossi Mag picked his brain on Toronto’s changing music scene and what’s next for Toronto Hustle, and his new consignment shop, MARKet Place.
We asked Toronto Hustle to bless Glossi Mag with a mix – and they delivered. Take a listen and enjoy our interview with Mark Kufner. Scroll down for tracklist.
For those of us who were too young to experience Toronto’s underground house scene in the 90’s, how would you describe it? How does it differ from the scene today?
The house scene here in the 90’s was incredible. There were amazing nights and quality parties literally 7 days a week. Clubs were packed on resident nights without having to book out of town guest DJs and some of the best nights were mid-week. Musically, most of these nights played a wide range of genres: from house, garage, techno and progressive house.
Some of the biggest names were Peter, Tyrone and Shams, Dino + Terry, Mitch Winthrop, Matt C, J.M.K (Jeremy, Mike Sitchon and Kenny Glasgow), Mario J, Andy Roberts etc. DJs were breaking records here at venues like OZ with PTS for Thundergroove Sundays. There were international DJs being booked, but nowhere near the frequency that they are booked in Toronto now. All that changed when Industry opened in 1996. They started bringing in big name DJs almost every Saturday.
The main difference I find in the scene today versus back then is people went out to dance. Period. No nonsense dancing. There was no social media, no smart phones – the only interruption you could have was maybe a text message, but even then a lot of people didn’t have cell phones yet. Also, if you were a DJ you had to buy records, there was no digital music yet, no laptops in the club and you had to know how to mix and program.
Inside Oz Nightclub, photos by tribe.ca
Where did the name “Toronto Hustle” originate from?
The name Toronto Hustle is something that I had been thinking of for quite some time with my DJ partner and friend, Jeff Graham. We wanted something that described us and where we are from. DJing and producing is a constant hustle and we are from Toronto, so there you have it!
Other than music, what do you think makes for a good Toronto party? Or, what makes it a Toronto party?
The people! It’s always about the people. Toronto is a very fortunate city because there is such a massive dance music culture. The people here definitely make it a Toronto Party.
We recently saw Hardrive’s “Deep Inside”, a classic house anthem, sampled on Kanye West’s “Fade”. What are your thoughts on house music crossing over with mainstream genres and musicians?
I think it’s great. If someone like Kanye wanted to use something we did I would be all over it. How is that a bad thing? It exposes you to such a wide audience that otherwise may never have heard your work. I’m sure Louie Vega and Barbara Tucker are happy that Kanye sampled them. Hopefully Kanye came correct with those sample clearances too.
More on this “mainstream trend”: do you see this as hurting the genre’s authenticity, or just broadening its reach?
Definitely broadening its reach. I’m pretty sure that Nikki Minaj also sampled Maya Jane Coles track ‘What They Say‘ for her ‘Truffle Butter‘ track featuring Drake and Lil’ Wayne. You don’t have to change because something you have done has mainstream attention that’s for sure. Underground dance music will always remain authentic because most of the people who do it are doing it strictly for the love.
What is your approach to producing music? How does this differ from remixing?
Our approach for making tracks is to do what we feel is the sound that we love. Every track we have released is a track that we ourselves would play, and if it’s good enough for us to play then we feel its right for us to release. As for remixing, it’s different because you are giving the chance to put your own spin on something someone else has created. You get the track and can use as much of it as you want, then make it your own for the moment, and hopefully the artist likes it.
You’ve shared the stage with a lot of classic house DJs – do you have a favourite?
That’s a very hard question to answer. I have been fortunate enough to share the stage with a lot of icons in dance music. If pressed to choose, I would have to say that my favourite DJ I have ever shared the stage with would be Frankie Knuckles. I had the chance to play with Frankie on three separate occasions and every time he was a perfect gentleman – always super nice and the sweetest guy. I was really sad when I heard the news of his passing. I will never forget those gigs.
Can you name a music artist, album, era or musical moment that changed your life?
The artist that changed my life hands down would be Masters At Work! An album that changed my life would be the first Daft Punk album – it was revolutionary at the time. Also, Armand Van Helden in the mid 90’s was a game changer. “You Don’t Know Me” was an industry anthem and every time it was played you could hear the crowds singing along word for word.
You recently entered the fashion realm by opening up consignment shop MARKet Place: can you tell us more about it, and what led you to that?
Anyone who knows me knows that I love fashion. I have always had a passion for garments and footwear border lining on obsession. If I’m not thinking about music I’m thinking about clothing. I’m big on goods made in Canada and USA, particularly work wear, heritage and military pieces. I have recently started MARKetPLACE on Instagram as a space for men to buy and sell quality garments and footwear, and I’ll soon be expanding beyond Instagram!
Is there any crossover in your approach to music and fashion? Particularly when selection tracks or clothing items to showcase?
I am always about quality over quantity in both music and fashion. Quality first and foremost!
What’s next for Toronto Hustle?
We have a new EP dropping on Mikita Skyy Records in the new year with a massive remix by label boss and superstar producer DEMUIR! We also have an EP in the works for Germany’s Rough Recordings and are working on a new night here in Toronto for 2017.
Phone App: Instagram
Instagram account: @RedWingJapan
Toronto party moment: When we played “Free” by Ultra Nate and Mood II Swing while opening for Frankie Knuckles in 2008 at the Mod Club. What made it extra special was that Lem Springsteen from Mood II Swing was standing in the middle of the dance floor. We stopped the music and played it from the beginning of the track, with that amazing guitar intro and all I remember seeing was Lem’s face from the stage – it was a beautiful moment that I will always cherish, and Frankie loved it too.
1 – Adesse Versions – Devoted – Toy Tonics
2 – The White Lamp – It’s You (ron Basejam remix) – Futureboogie Records
3 – Harvey Sutherland – Priestess (orig. mix) – Clarity Recordings
4 – Schatrax – Champagne Dancer – White label
5 – Moodymann – Freeki Mutha F cker (all i need is u) – KDJ
6 – DJ Koze – XTC – Pampa
7 – Black Loops – SEX – Toy Tonics
8 – The Black 80’s – What you say now (Till Von Sein x Tigerskin remix) – Sonar Kollective
9 – Pascal Viscardi – Where pathways meet – Love notes from Brooklyn
10 – Dirtytwo – last night – Razor n tape
11 – Red Rack em – Wonky Disco Bassline Banger – Classic music company
12 – Gnork – Larm – Crow Castle Cuts
13 – KiNK – Valentines Groove – Clone Royal Oak
14 – Nachtbraker – Really ties the room together – Dirt Crew
15 – Soul Of Hex – Heat – Freerange
16 – Adesse Versions – Radio Rahman -Toy Tonics
17 – Maximilijan – Purisim (Black Loops Remix) – Rough Recordings
18 – Atjazz – Foxtooth (Kaytronik Floss Dub) – Local Talk
19 – Ezel, Tumelo – Get Down – Local Talk
20 – Ugly Drums – Like it’s ok – Delusions of Grandeur
Karina is a contributor at Glossi Mag.
As a lover of the unconventional and celestial, you can find this Gemini either on the hunt for vintage treasures, having a tarot card reading or eatin’ some hot stone bibimbap.
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