Create. Define. Release: After more than a decade, CDR Toronto’s support hasn’t wavered
Toronto, ON – On a cold and wintery December afternoon in Toronto’s East End, I met with Gavin Alexander, Gareth Morgan and Ramón Charles – members of CDR Toronto’s brain-trust – to discuss music and culture in Canada, but more specifically CDR. We talked about its inception, the state of CDR and what the future holds. But what is CDR (Create. Define. Release.); and what makes it different from other producer centric events in the GTA? Well the format is simple. CDR sessions offer music makers the opportunity to submit their own songs (burnt onto CD, on a USB key or uploaded in advance) then hear them played in a club environment over a superb sound system.
CDR was started over 10 years ago by Tony Nwachukwu, then a member of Attica Blues. When the group’s run with Sony Music and MO ‘Wax came to an end, he sought to create a safe space where young artists could play their works in progress, develop their sound and find an audience. He soon called upon his friend Gavin Alexander to help get the project off the ground.
“Toronto is a great city for music; with a huge range of sounds created within the GTA. After being here for 2 years I quickly realized I had to bring CDR to Toronto.” – Gavin Alexander
Billed as “The Night of Ideas and Tracks in the Making” the first CDR session was held at the Embassy Bar in 2002.
Gavin Alexander remembers: “The idea of immediacy, creating art and being able to engage with an audience was very appealing to me.”
The word quickly spread from there and the night eventually moved to the place which would become its spiritual home, the legendary Plastic People in London. CDR has since spread its gospel around the Globe with events being held in Sydney, Melbourne, Berlin, Pittsburgh, and Paris.
Fast forward to 2012, Gavin now finds himself in Toronto. “Toronto is a great city for music; with a huge range of sounds created within the GTA. After being here for 2 years I quickly realized I had to bring CDR to Toronto.”
His run-ins within the local music and arts community allowed him to cross paths with Ramón Charles, Janine Wright and Koray Özel, like minded individuals who would be instrumental in getting the project off and running.“Before I even approached Ramón he was already sending tracks to me. He was very much an inspiration.”
Since September 2015, CDR has been amassing a growing following all the while building an amazing community of creative people. Not just music makers but also listeners. To put it simply, people who are fans of new music. Over time regular participants like DJ/Producer Gareth Morgan, who goes by DJ G-Spot, and Snafu76, have come into the fold, DJing throughout the night and providing customized mixes of the submitted works.
Ramón Charles says, “We try to make mixtapes in order to spread the word about all the amazing music being made in the city.”
It attracts artists from all walks of life, genres and skill levels. Gavin continues, “I see this every time we do CDR. Just random people immediately connecting with each other, not just vibing but, sharing their creativity and appreciation for each other’s work.”
Ramon Charles adds: “It’s a great playground for producers and musicians to let their songs free.”
All this goes down in the basement at 805 Studio on Dovercourt. It’s a cozy venue with a beautiful dance floor and plenty of seating; an ideal setting for those looking to network, dance or just listen and admission is free. “We were lucky and blessed to have found Studio 805 as a venue… Big ups to Elizabeth and the 805 crew for being so welcoming and taking a chance with us.”
The night starts by digging into the CDR archives, playing and mixing tracks submitted by the participants in previous sessions and prior to the night’s event. Before moving on to “Open CDR” where the latest crop of submissions is played and mixed by Gareth while the artists Name and the Track name are flashed on the big screen.
Gareth: “People are really there to listen and contemplate the music.”
Submitting music to CDR
Participants can submit their music by uploading their track directly to the CDR website by bringing a USB or submitting a CDR at the event itself. By submitting their music participants not only have the opportunity to hear their creations played over a state-of-art sound system but they automatically have their name entered into a draw to win music software.
CDR is not only the night. Ramón has lent his talents as a graphic designer to help create a visual esthetic on par with what is being created sonically. He’s also used his skills as a film editor to create short vox pop vignettes culled from footage recorded at each session. Featured in these vignettes are interviews with participants and members of the audience who are asked to speak on a variety of subjects and give their feedback on the nights proceedings. He’s also done work editing the CDR In-Studio series where members of the CDR community are interviewed within their creative spaces.
After a highly successful run of events in 2015 and 2016, what does the future hold for CDR?
Ramon Charles: “We’re talking about expanding what it is we’re offering. We want to reach out to the community to network and figure out ways we can highlight them or work with them.”
Gavin Alexander adds: “We’re looking to maybe change the process. Have artists talks before Open CDR.”
CDR Knowledge sessions have been held in London, these events offer workshops given by technical experts from companies like Ableton, Apple and Native Instruments. “There are lots of people out there who need help. In terms of understanding what it takes to Mix a track properly, to Master a track properly. There are people within the community who’ve been teaching music making for years.” There is also CDR Live, a concept where the participants are invited to reproduce their works live.
“At CDR we’re obsessed with the creative process.”
CDR has wrapped up its 2016 season after presenting another successful evening of new music on Dec. 22nd. The event will be on hiatus until the spring of 2017. With so much in the works there is a lot to look forward to in 2017 as CDR will be hosting its 10th Session in Toronto.
For more information check out http://cdrtoronto.ca.
Written by Hugues Lamour for HipHopCanada
Twitter: @cdrtdot | @its_cdr