By Paul Rodgers
CALGARY — As Calgary’s bass music community continues to thrive, it’s important to remember that as with anything in nature, growth necessitates change. In recent times we’ve seen long-standing residencies celebrate anniversaries, while others have drawn to a close or changed hands, and some key figures in the scene have come and gone.
Sandro Petrillo a.k.a. Sergio Levels is one such individual. As one half of Piranha Piranha with Dan Solo, and as a solo artist dubbed Mr. Geography, he played a pivotal role in the formation of Modern Math and Northern Lights. Both weeklies brought in genre-pushing artists while simultaneously giving Calgary DJs and producers new stages from which to share and develop their craft.
In early 2015, Petrillo made a move to Toronto. The home he and his girlfriend owned and lived in together was “scooped up” for new development, eventually forcing them to sell it, and begin looking at alternate options.
“That was the initial thing,” explains Petrillo over Skype from a vacation in Mexico. “Of course, I needed a tiny bit of change, but I was very happy with things in Calgary… it was kind of like life led us in that direction.”
Toronto ended up being that new direction, and promptly after his arrival, he was invited to the Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp in Montreal. This helped him make some solid initial connections in the Eastern Canada, further developing friendships and getting into the club scene through his existing ties with the “national beacon” that is the Hifi Club.
However, moving to a new city has challenges. Petrillo spoke of a “deep sadness,” and that it took around nine months to really settle in. He had been something of a “jack of all trades” in Calgary; on top of DJing he did graphic design, sound, taught private lessons, and was involved with Beat Drop.
“There was a lot of stuff that I did in Calgary that you couldn’t put your finger on and say, ‘this is my position,’” Petrillo reflects. “And so when I went to Toronto, it was like oh yeah all of those connections that took so long to make, don’t exist anymore, and so it kind of was this harsh reality as to like ‘Whoa, I still want to do these things, but where am I going to get an income from, Toronto’s a more expensive city.’ It was devastating.”
He says the experience lit “a huge fire under my ass.”
“It’s kind of like this beautiful success story, so to speak,” he says. “It was so difficult.” After quitting the “shitty” job at a garden centre, Petrillo got back to working on what he loves and got himself engaged in the scene, landing gigs and offering his many talents when opportunities arose.
“I was just hustling and hustling and hustling, and then sort of like building up that position and forcing my way in to be like, ‘Hey, I’m useful, I really care, I’m fairly nice, let me work on your projects with you,’ and all of a sudden I’ve amassed a pretty good client base so to speak.”
Petrillo is keeping himself busy in Toronto, playing out regularly, co-managing the Modern Math label and working on a small, multi-disciplinary creative space he created called Pushmi Pullyu. His show in Calgary this month will be a celebration of Modern Math’s roots.
“It was a cultural thing,” Petrillo explains of the legacy of Modern Math. “It was kind of the right place at the right time and for us to be able to continue to do it on an annual basis in Calgary is huge. We both have so much love for Calgary and I’m able to explore different cities, but frick, Calgary was the spot. It needed to happen in Calgary… I just feel so honoured to be able to continue to do that and get the support that we have.”
Catch Sergio Levels at a special Modern Math night at the Hifi on July 16th.AB, Alberta, HIFI Club, Sergio Levels