It would be fairly easy to feel out of place at the Much Music Video Awards (MMVA). Thousands of Canadian pre-teens crammed onto Queen Street in Toronto is cheesy enough, top it off with the ventriloquists known as "VJs" and it's an uncomfortable place to be. Tom Wrecks and Pat Drastik of Thugli, know this all too well.
"We felt so out of place—we walked out on the red carpet with Fefe Dobson. Kids were screaming at us and we were signing all of these autographs. We kept thinking, 'You don't know who the fuck I am, do you?'" says Drastik. Sporting matching health-goth inspired black-and-white outfits, Thugli hit the red carpet for the 2014 MMVA's, where their "Run This" video won for "Best Video Director." It also recently hit 1.1 million plays on THUMP. "We were floored. Having that award in my room is kind of awesome."
While growing up in Ottawa, Wrecks and Drastik pooled inspiration from a variety of artists and outlets. From young DJs like A-Trak and other DMC World DJ Champions to the 2Pac starring 90s flick Juice. "I was making beat and hip-hop in high school, but I was always fascinated by the scratch sound. I had heard it in hip-hop songs and in movies. I knew I wanted to start incorporating that into my own music production, so it just snowballed from there," says Wrecks.
After attending his first DMC show in 1997, Drastik knew instantly that he wanted to get into scratching and DJing as a career. At the time A-Trak was the youngest world champion ever, which was a pivotal achievement for the former Montrealer, who rapidly became the next-big-thing in dance music. Drastik couldn't shake off his rapture. "He was the same age as me—I was blown away. I was like, 'how is this possible?' This kid from Montreal, two hours away from me, won," he says. Motivated by A-Trak's performance, he went on to win the Red Bull Thre3Style National Championship title in Canada in 2010 and landed third place in Paris at the world finals.
Drastik's win was one of the many reasons for their combined move to Toronto. It was in Toronto where Thugli took full form. "The day I moved there, I said to Tom 'Let's be serious about this, crackdown, and treat it like a nine to five,'" says Drastik. "Well, it's more like a two to five in the morning, but it hasn't stopped us since."
Although they've long hung up their gloves from the Thre3Style ring, Thugli continues their involvement with the event out of sheer passion for what Thre3Style does for DJing. "We've showcased a couple times at the world championships and at the national level in Toronto. This year we wanted to be more involved," says Drastik. "We understand it fully, having not only done it ourselves but practicing it as our careers, we get the whole culture behind it."
Like any Thre3Style enthusiast, Wrecks and Drastik are quick to clarify that winning isn't the only takeaway for participants. "Thre3Style is for everyone. Everyone that DJs at a club can relate to this and now that it's happened, there have been so many ideas birthed from it," explains Drastik. "It has elevated how people DJ in their sets outside of the competition. Thre3Style has completely influenced everyone as a DJ and how they DJ."
A DJs conditions and requisites stem well past the Thre3Style expectations. Thugli has a constantly growing backlog of performances—as both headliners and openers—and they've come to understand the innate responsibilities of both positions. They agree that there is a set of unanimous courtesies that DJs should adhere to, dependent upon their position on an event's roster. A manual has yet to be laid out distinguishing the good manners from the bad, but if Thugli were at the helm, they'd call it: DJ 101.
Rule number one: Let the opener be the opener. "As an opener, you can't go in and rage and play whatever you want. You have to play accordingly," explains Drastik. "If we're opening for someone, we make sure we don't step on anyone's toes. You can tell is a DJ is really dope if he plays an opening set that gets people going, but builds the night up."
Rule number two: Don't play the headliners tracks as the opener. "No one opening for you plays your records before you go on 'out of respect'," he adds. "We were at an A$AP Rocky show in Ottawa and this guy started rinsing all these A$AP records before he went on. We rushed the stage and cut him off. Like, what the fuck man. People paid mad dope to see him do that, not you. That's DJ 101 right there."
Rule number three: Do your job and please, do it right. "In the end, it's a job. When you're getting paid and you're in the club, it's your responsibility to do your job properly. If you're cooking entrees before the appetizers are out, you're going to get fucking fired."
Camaraderie and mutual respect are the bread and butter of the Canadian electronic music scene. Although Thugli no longer includes the scratching aspect to their performances, they're able to recognize the value of live electronic artists, like their fellow Canucks and friends, Keys N Krates. It's an aspect of electronic music they feel deserves time basking in the spotlight. "They perform their music live. They actually do something out there. Nowadays we're kind of lost behind the illusion of huge LED screens and the same songs on repeat," says Wrecks. "These live performance aspects stand out and need to be credited for that more often."
"Don't be up there looking like you're checking your email the whole time," adds Wrecks.
Drastik laughs and continues. "Yeah. If that were us and we had nothing to do up there but email, we'd probably kill ourselves."
Connie Chan is the editor for THUMP Canada, and you can find her on Twitter.