Sometime in 1997, Kootenay DJ Hoola approached Community Futures to see if they would bankroll him in his fledgling career.
“I got myself a loan by telling them, `you know, I could probably start my own DJ business if you hooked me up’. They gave me seven grand, I made a business package and I got some people to sign off saying they would pay me X amount of dollars to DJ,” said Hoola, whose real name is Mike Paine.
“One of the first to sign off was Kevin Dewar, who owned this building.”
The prolific disco-house performer and long-time director of the Living Room Stage at Shambhala Music Festival met the Star this week at the Savoy’s soon to be opened Bloom Night Club to share his history with the space.
Utopia, Avalon, Fluid, RezAvoir
When he first started out, Hoola said the Nelson scene wasn’t especially receptive to house music.
One of his close friends, Leif Luttmer, had a residency at Utopia. There were other electronic pioneers, such as DJ Adept, but the audience response was weak at first. Regardless, Hoola appreciated the creative community and the opportunity to get his beats heard.
“At Utopia they didn’t really feel comfortable with the electronic thing. They didn’t get it. It wasn’t their thing. But that was the first time I got to DJ, and I was doing what I love,” he said.
His time there was short-lived, but not long afterwards the club came under new owners.
“These four people came out from Toronto and called it Avalon. Within a few months they set me up with a residency, and I played there every Friday for the three years they had the club.”
By this point Hoola had become immersed in the scene, meeting DJs from across North America while working at Shambhala Music Festival every summer, and he started inviting them to the Kootenays.
To make the acts work in town, however, they needed venues with supportive management—something they eventually found.
“It was Sean Purdy, Laurie Langille, Heather Love and Matt Catalano. They were the main ones to start underground music in this venue. Underground dance, techno, that sort of stuff.”
He remembers those three years with fondness. When Purdy’s lease expired, Hoola and Langille stayed on as it transitioned into the Fluid Lounge under general manager Langille, who is also known as DJ Morninglory of Meow Mix.
“From the beginning of Avalon to the end of Fluid was almost 9 years. That’s a big chunk of my life,” Hoola said, smiling at the memory. Finally, it changed one more time—this time to the RezAvoir, which was the only club in town at the time.
He played there right until it closed.
Promoting the scene
During his time DJing at the Savoy, Hoola was getting progressively more involved with the Shambhala Music Festival. It was from those experiences, and a few trips to Burning Man, that he started making industry connections.
“We brought in Raw Soul, and nobody in Nelson had seen an out-of-town DJ before. We went through a bunch—Doc Martin, DJ Garth, Adam Freeland, all the Finger Lickin’ guys, the list goes on. Bassnectar, he’s one of the biggest names in the world right now and we were booking him regularly,” he said.
Having the artists visit and share their work was exciting, and he said the DJ community has grown into an interconnected network that holds a “family reunion” every year during Shambhala.
“It was great because basically we looked up to all these DJs over the years and we played their music, so being able to bring them to town and share their stuff, it was like Christmas.”
He said artists brought their freshest tracks on vinyl, and many of them became good friends.
“There’s one guy who shares my name, Rob Paine, he was like an instant brother and we’re bringing him back this year for Shambhala. The Fort Knox Boys are tight, they come up every year and hang out, go fishing in Procter.”
And so he decided to start a promotion company with his wife Sara Spicer, who goes by DJ Lion-S. Together they formed The Pride.
“Back then nobody was doing it. My wife did most of the work bringing in acts for Shambhala for those first ten years, booking acts and getting talent. She found DJs and brought them to town, and I think it helped shape the landscape of the sound.”
In the electronic music dance scene of 1997, house was all the rage.
“It was straight up, 4/4 house music. Everyone was playing it, and for the first few years Shambhala was pegged as a house music festival.”
Then they morphed into break-beat.
“When we brought Bassnectar, he played a hybrid of that style, his own genre, like glitch-hop, trip-hop down tempo break-beat but but with a lot of bass. It was pretty fresh back in those days.”
Then, once again, they evolved.
“Pretty much now every stage at Shambhala has its own genre, and every stage takes care of a different style of music.”
Which means he has the freedom to stick with his tried and true favourite—old school, disco-style house tracks.
“My stuff might be feeling old these days, because I like the sounds of funky dance music and I’ve stuck with that style over time. I keep up with the genres, but I mostly stick with my thing.”
For years Hoola moved over to Spiritbar, where he helped owner Ryan Martin with bookings.
“I’ve got to give props to Ryan Martin for holding it down for like seven years. He’s done some great things down there to develop the scene.”
And now that Bloom is opening, he’s planning to utilize his connections to bring in increasingly exciting acts, including big-ticket events.
“This is the next evolution of this space. This is kind of the heartbeat of the whole scene in this town, this is where it started and this is where it went strong for 10 to 15 years.”
Hoola said the space will be versatile, and will be host to a myriad of musical styles.
“I’ve got pictures of what this place looked like six months ago, and it’s amazing we’ve turned it into this. It’s insane the amount of work that’s going into it.”
Adham Shaikh will perform at Bloom on Friday as the debut event for the club. Having released his album Basswalla earlier this year, he’s been touring exhaustively and is looking forward to warm up the newly installed PK Sound system.
“This is a really versatile space,” said Hoola. “We’ve got a DJ system on wheels, and multiple sound booths.”
He said he’s thrilled Jimmy Budschuh and the Shambhala Music Festival crew have resurrected the venue. And 18 years in, he’s still going strong.
“It’s cool that now we’ve got the Shambhala club right here in downtown Nelson.”
Tickets will be $10 and doors open at 9 p.m.
For more information visit Bloom Night Club on Facebook.