DJ Swann: Analog Nostalgia 

Thursday 04th, January 2018 / 12:30
By Kevin Bailey

Photo by Melissa Deang

CALGARY – Regardless of an aging generation’s attachment to the past, time marches forward at an accelerating pace that moves through new mediums and different ways we make and play music. What gets lost in the mire of streaming services and artist pages, however, are the tangible physical representations that once grounded our memories and associations to the songs we listen to.  

Calgary’s Brian Pollock – a.k.a. DJ Swann – took on a project that aims to smash the pause button on all that and rewind us back to simpler times. With assistance from a host of local producers, he’s released a cassette tape that showcases some great talent hidden in this city’s hip hop community.  

“I came across this PDF, How To Become A Beast Producer In 30 Days. It was very detailed,” says Pollock. “The day that I got that PDF I was super inspired and just reached out to a bunch of dudes.” 

The result? A 30-day production rampage from a roster of beatmakers including Swann himself along with Metawon, who also arranged and mixed the tracks for the project, Brotherhood, Dustin Def, Loophole, Scott Fuckers and Wal Martian, collectively known as The Northern Touch.  

“The idea was to aim for one-minute beats and each person would contribute ten,” explains Pollock. “It’s very much ADD. Just give you a little taste, a little bit of flavour, then on to the next one.”  

Beyond putting out a string of bangers, Pollock’s goal was one of community building. He used the project as a basis to get to know his fellow producers and build stronger connections in a city where these relationships are often fragmented and decentralized. 

“Thank god we have Beat Drop in this city because events like Feedback Friday allowed for dudes like myself and the guys on this project to get to know each other,” he says. “The community is definitely stronger when you have a place that you can go and be social and chat about your music.”  

The end product is The Wasabi Tape, one full hour of Calgary boom-bap classics – two thirty-minute sides and one flip of the artifact itself. If you don’t want to opt for yet another download, the intended format lends itself to the experience: 

“Cassettes are so nostalgic. Dubbing stuff off the radio, making pause tapes, you know what I mean?” Pollock reminisces. “This was probably ’88, ’89, my mom had a boombox that had a little black-and-white TV in it, two cassette players, and we would just dub off the radio to cassettes. It was just the worst ‘80s pop music, but I can picture the kitchen that boombox was in.” 

In a life that’s taken him all around various spots in Southern Alberta, with an adolescence in Atlanta and Fort Worth, certain tapes represent snapshots of the musical journey for Pollock: 

“The first rap cassette I ever had in my possession,” recalls Pollock, “was like a dub of a dub of a dub of Eazy E – Eazy Does It. It was a black tape with a yellow label. And the first tape I ever bought with my own money was a cassette single of Masta Ace, “Born to Roll”. That was an interesting one. On the back it had an instrumental but also a ‘sexstrumental.’ Just the beat, but also someone having sex—sex noises. I was kind of baffled by that as a 13-year-old kid.”  

Although downloads are enabled, you can pick up what is sure to be the most meaningful cassette in Pollock’s memory banks when he performs this month. And remember, never put it in your box if the shit eats tapes.  

You can check out DJ Swann and The Northern Touch roster for the release party Thursday, January 11 at Broken City.  

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