Rennie Foster is a true Renaissance man. Variously performing as a DJ, rapper, B-boy, skateboarder, producer, and, most bizarrely, an accomplished voguer (ask your mom about that one), Foster is the most exciting polymath you’ve never heard of.
Born in Victoria, the techno DJ’s early days were spent creating hip-hop records on gear that was either bought from thrift stores or “liberated” from careless venues. A staple of the city’s counterculture, Foster was at the forefront of the Island’s emerging music scene. While popular wisdom says that if you remember the 1980s you probably weren’t there, Foster bucks the trend with fond recollections of the community that went on to spawn superstar Nelly Furtado and several Swollen Members.
But although the DJ boasts a number of famous friends, Foster is dedicated to his roots. Touching down in Vancouver in 2011 after a long stint in Japan, the artist is keen to point out that he remains “a master of the B.C. underground.” Foster’s professional career is defined by playing shows that offer integrity over money—and if that means choosing free events instead of working on upping his DJ fee, then, by God, he’ll do it.
Now the head of his own label (RF Music), the internationally-acclaimed performer is focused on publishing great techno tracks, lighting up after-hours club Gorg-O-Mish with his new residency, and maintaining a personal collection of more than 100 fresh sneakers.
Best gig ever
I like to think it’s still coming! I have so many great memories that it’s impossible to narrow it down one show in particular. For me, it’s all about the vibe. I’m like a shaman, going around trying to do a ritual. Sometimes that ritual cultivates a very special atmosphere—and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m aiming to get people to a higher plane so we can experience ascension. That’s happened in big clubs and small clubs, and can strike when you least expect it.
Top track right now
Hiroshi Watanabe from Japan, also known as Kaito, just did a remix for my RF label. The original track is by a guy called Jay Syntax from Aberdeen, Scotland, and the song is called “Scanning Fresh Memories.” I’m working out when to release it right now. It’s a really deep electro track and like the rest of Hiroshi Watanabe’s music, it’s just fire. It’s not just the top track on my label, but the best thing in my bag right now. His music is amazing.
A song that cleared the dancefloor
I don’t want to answer that. I don’t want the words “clear the dancefloor” anywhere near anything about me. I avoid floor clearance at all costs, and I refuse to acknowledge it as a question.
Favourite Vancouver producer
I was part of a remix competition for [local electronic music collective] Groundwerk early this year. We gave people a track to rework, and the best version was scheduled for release on my label. The producer who won is called MIDI, and his song is just incredible. That was the first time I’d heard of the guy, but I’m really glad I know about him now. There are producers in the game who are practising stale ideas, and there are others who are creating really fresh tracks. His music is forward-thinking.
What’s up with taking off to Tokyo for 10 years?
There’s a lot of reasons. My initial motivation was because I was raising my kids by myself, and also attempting to do my art. I went there to try and get help from the mother of my kids and her family. It didn’t work out though, and I ended up doing the childcare pretty much by myself in a foreign country. But that’s not the only reason I stayed. Every year it got harder to leave, because I made more and more musical family there. I had the extreme privilege of having a great booking manager who got me shows all over Japan. I played huge cities like Osaka and Tokyo, spun on Okinawa Island, and had various residencies at smaller places like Kyoto and Shizuoka. It was a unique world to play. I mixed records at the big super-clubs like Womb and Unit as well as being able to participate in the small-room scene. And the press was really good to me. By the time I left, I was ranked as #22 in the Top 100 DJs in the country.
Oddest request you’ve ever received
I can’t remember the exact track, but I remember the situation. I was playing at the Anza club, and this girl came over and was bugging me for a particular song. I didn’t have it, so I turned her request down. She took hold of all the patch cords coming out of the back of the mixer, and ripped them all out, which cut the music. I said that I wouldn’t continue playing until she left the club, which I thought was fair. I was all ready to start spinning, but the Anza just wouldn’t throw her out. Then her boyfriend started screaming some crazy shit at me, so I went and dumped a load of beer all over him. It escalated pretty fast, but none of it would have happened if people had a little bit more respect for DJ culture, you know?
Rennie Foster's new record "Do It Like Hip Hop" featuring Moka Only will be released in the Fall on 45", 7" vinyl, and online via local label MSLX.