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Electric Women
Pursuit Grooves offers Toronto's first female-only hardware sampling course

Pursuit Grooves

“I know so many more female DJ’s than I know producers,” said Vanese Smith (AKA Pursuit Grooves). “I’m trying to find out how many are here, and if can we grow it.”

This June, she’s offering an introductory course at Off Centre DJ School for women who want to try their hand at hardware sampling.

“I don’t want to make it seem like women can only learn in female-only environments,” said Smith. “That’s not the case, that’s not how I learned anything.” Smith is no stranger to male-dominated spheres. The emcee and music producer is one of few women in her craft. She’s comfortable with that, but knows not every woman feels that way.

“I had one woman e-mail me who was asking about the class, you know, she worked at a record store for years and felt that the guys would never come up to her and ask her any questions. It’s like, these are things that you’ll only understand if you’ve gone through it yourself. If you’ve never been in a position where you felt like you were intentionally being ignored because people didn’t think that you had anything to offer – you wouldn’t quite understand. So I’m just trying to offer an alternative. And hope to build a community in Toronto of female electronic producers.”

Smith has been writing and performing since she was a teenager. She has performed to much critical acclaim in Toronto and abroad. She attended the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy in 2008 in Barcelona and recently completed an official remix for The Knife.

“I’m at a time in my life where I’ve worked with a number of labels around the world. I’ve performed live with this particular hardware all around the world. I just feel like I have a lot to share, so if not now, then when?”

 “Music is literally a form of self-expression, and you can do whatever with it that you please. Whether you want to emulate your favorite producer of if you just want to create something personal, for yourself. It’s a way for you to creatively get out your ideas.” She holds that hardware sampling is like any other creative tool, like brushes and paint. “My goal is to offer women a tool that allows them to quickly get their messages across by creatively using sound. I believe that your sound palette has a lot to do with how you produce your music and how that represents you as an artist. I’m trying to teach tools that you can carry to other platforms.”

Over the span of the nine-hour course, she’ll introducing a small group of women to hardware sampling. Hardware sampling figured quite heavily into the development of both hip-hop and electronic music. It’s a method of taking sounds from virtually anywhere and manipulating them according to one’s own tastes.

The first week will include learning the basic functions of the SP, a bit of background on music creation in general, and a primer on her own work. She also wants to know where participants are at in terms of interest and experience, and what they hope to get out of the course. The second week she’ll present an original song – then her own song (consisting solely of sounds from the original song). “I’ll be giving a breakdown of how I actually did it. So they’ll see that this is how you implement those functions — reverb, delay, tape echo and layering and things of that nature.”.

“I believe in mentorship,” said Smith. “It’s important for any and everything, this passing down of information. In this electronic age, its really easy to just assume that the information is there because you can go online and look it up. In a lot of ways that is true. But there’s a different thing that happens when there is a one-on-one interaction. There’s a personal sharing of information that you’re not going to get from doing your own research, you know? Everyone has different experiences and all I can do is share what I’ve learned.”

If you’re interested in learning hardware sampling or DJing, visit here.


Tiffy Thompson is a writer and illustrator for the Toronto Standard.  Follow her on Twitter at @tiffyjthompson. 

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