So you thought electronic music was all about bro-bangers and bass drops? Wrong. House and techno DJ Joel Armstrong has made it his mission to celebrate patience—and if that means looping the same minimal beat for eight minutes until the tension is just right, Armstrong has the discipline to do it. Or he’s just gone to the washroom to take a leak.
Currently holding a residency at the city’s best underground-but-not-quite Gastown venue, MIA, the DJ often spins music from local artists alongside tracks rarely found in typical set lists. He’s famed for playing songs that baffle Shazam—and now the truth is out.
Officially revealing to the Straight that he is one half of Moosefly—one of electronic music’s most innovative duos, whose tracks have been issued by labels in the U.K., Germany, and New York—Armstrong says he once played an entire set of his own music, and got zero complaints. That’s a first-class producer.
That Armstrong has earned such a stellar reputation in electronic music is surprising, given that he literally grew up in the Indonesian jungle. And despite being struck by lightning in a tropical thunderstorm as a child (true story), Armstrong has no qualms about mixing alcohol and electrical equipment.
Now with zero fear of electrocution, Armstrong is the only DJ in Vancouver who won’t let a little beer spillage on the decks ruin a dazzling performance.
Best gig ever
I have two that are hard to choose between. One of them was this show in Frankfurt called Museumsuferfest, with my Moosefly production partner, DJ Skai. It was an outdoors thing, a bit like Car Free Day on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, but all along the banks of the River Main in Frankfurt. It was three days, three million people, and an absolutely wild party.
And then my most recent favourite was when I opened for andhim at MIA. They were such rad dudes, and somehow we managed to persuade them to come with us to [afterhours club] Gorg-O-Mish. My really good friend Jared Love and I were playing back to back, and they just decided to tag in and play their tracks too. Together we all closed out the night. I was glowing for a whole week.
A song that cleared the dance floor
I don’t remember the song but I remember the situation. There was an artist who was playing right before me, and he had a lot of friends on the dance floor. He was playing really epic music—all this big-room EDM. He amped up the crowd so much, and I just didn’t have anything to follow. I had to reset the dance floor, and my first track literally cleared everyone out. Don’t worry, though—I got them all back.
Favourite Vancouver producer
Easy. It’s Iain Howie—he’s just amazing. And a close second is Jared Love. I’m so excited to support them because they’re talented, and they understand that the scene is bigger than themselves. They both represent the kind of thing I want to see happen in Vancouver more often: people with little ego but huge artistic talent, and the drive and the patience to work through the mire of production.
What’s up with DJing as Obi-Wan Kenobi?
I was playing on Halloween at Celebrities. The Empire Strikes Back is actually the first movie I ever watched, because (unsurprisingly) there weren’t too many theatres in Indonesia, and Star Wars is my favourite story of all time. Am I ever going to bring the costume back? We’ll see!
I bought it cheap online and got it shipped super-speed—you might even say light-speed—through eBay. I feel like if I really wanted a good one, I’d work up some serious bank to actually invest. But now I don’t have the beard anymore, I’d have to plan ahead.
Oddest request you’ve ever received
I was DJing when Shine nightclub was still a thing, and the dance floor was packed. Everyone was having a great time to some nu-disco and deep house music. And this person comes up to me, and he says “Hey, dude. You know what would really get this crowd going? Gangnam Style.” I’m like, “Man, what are you here for?”
I found it so strange that he couldn’t tell the difference between those genres at all. And he just kept pushing the issue, and asking again and again. That guy was plain weird.