Rising to heights unimaginable by most North American producers, Toronto’s own Rene LaVice has been on a whiplash-inducing ride to the top ever since being signed to Ram Records back in 2012. With a number of tracks hitting the Top 40 UK Dance charts and highly coveted slots on BBC Radio 1’s “A” playlist, Rene has continued to churn out hit after hit while continually evolving and impressing as a producer in the process.
Able to hit it hard in the dank underground just as much as he appeals to the crossover masses on the radio, Rene and his commitment to the sound and culture of drum & bass has allowed him to spread the love worldwide, most recently with a series of high profile remixes for Diplo, DJ Fresh, and Craig David, not to mention the arsenal of bits he has waiting in the wings as he zeroes in on completing his third full-length album release for Ram Records.
Having relocated to the UK but returning to the homeland of North America when the itch strikes, Rene is about to take things to the next level as he announces the formal launch of his Rene LaVice and Friends project that kicks off on May 26 in Toronto followed by his largest North American tour to date (more details here). Aside from featuring an extended session from Rene himself alongside Toronto-based heavyhitters like Stranjah, Mr. Brown, Polaris, and host MC Caddy Cad, the event marks a turning point in the ever-evolving career of the young producer.
To find out more about the event, the tour, and his passionate belief that drum & bass in North America is about to explode, we sat down with the man for a wide-ranging discussion that charts an ambitious blueprint for the future and the culture he has come to represent.
Lots of people may know you as a Ram artist, maybe they know you were a Toronto guy who made it big, moved to the UK and started living the rock star dream; what else should they know about this new chapter you’re about to embark on?
It’s been a wild ride that’s for sure. I’ve been around the world, cultivating the sound of drum & bass in my own way and working with people who have defined the sound from its roots. I’ve learned so many things, taken in so many influences, and developed as an artist to such an extent that now I feel it’s time to bring all of that back to where it all began and not only showcase what I’m about but hopefully really inspire people so we can all keep evolving the sound of drum & bass in North America.
Aside from your own roots here, why North America and why now?
Drum & bass has become a massive genre and it’s thriving in so many areas of the world. I just think that it’s something that is about to get a lot bigger in North America as well. In general, it’s rare that you have somebody who’s doing things on my level that’s from North America, you know what I mean? I think at this stage of my career, for better or worse, a lot of people look to me for inspiration and look to me for influence in many ways.
Let’s talk about Rene LaVice & Friends as a project; it sounds like it’s a specific show in Toronto but you have plans for it become something more.
It’s an event that started last year in Toronto where I not only envisioned coming back to headline in my hometown but to build a platform to bring though new artists, new talent, and to showcase the many legends in the scene that we have on our doorstep. Last year’s show was such a smash and this year looks like it will completely sell-out, so we just want to take things further and make this more formal as a project and brand moving forward.
Four or five years ago you were transitioning from “just” being a fan to someone who was recognized as “one to watch” and now here you are a respected elder curating the sound and even stepping into the role of a leader or mentor. What a ride!
It’s crazy, man. It’s very much like a coming of age thing even though I’m still pretty young. In the UK, and I realize this sounds pretentious, but just to give you a sense of how surreal it’s been for me, I’ve not only had a Top 40 record that you could hear on the radio, but people would stop me and recognize me on the street! It’s not only surreal but it kind of screws with your head, too; it’s almost like you don’t understand what’s going on. I definitely didn’t understand what to do when people started to have expectations of me beyond just putting something in front of them and having them listen to it. People approached me as if they knew me as a person and I definitely went through periods of crippling self-doubt. People often forget that I’m all alone in this. There’s no boss, there’s no team, I’m the only one doing this. But it has also set me up in a good position to see a lot of the issues that up-and-coming artists experience.
People often forget that I’m all alone in this. There’s no boss, there’s no team, I’m the only one doing this.
Earlier you mentioned that the club night is one part of it. What are these other elements that people should be expecting?
Basically, the reaction to the event has been so positive that I feel like we have to build on that. When you come through with a new idea you’re never sure if it’s going to work or how it’s going to be received by people but something about this has clicked and the vibe in Canadian and North American drum & bass in general is amazing right now. There’s a vibrancy coming back to the music and to the North American scene that I’m really sensing with this. For now, in a very Canadian way, it’s all about being humble and appreciating what we have. I see it as a meeting of the minds to come and experience music and enjoy what we’ve built as a community and culture and go from there really. If nothing else, it’s just going to be a celebration of the culture and that’s enough, really. It’s going to be amazing.
The album feels like it’s going to be a big part of that movement as well.
That’s right, it is. Right now I’m sitting in my studio working on my third full-length album. It’s going to come out on Ram Records in the coming months and am very excited about it. I’m going to have a brand new single coming out first that has not been announced yet; I’m polishing it off now. All I can say about it is that it features a vocalist who was on one of the most prominent remixes I’ve ever done in my career. She has such an amazing voice and the song is so great, it literally gives me goosebumps when I listen to it.
As for the future of drum & bass in North America?
When you travel to countries like Austria and the Czech Republic, where drum & bass is one of the biggest genres on the radio—and not just radio targeted to youth, like in the general sphere of music in general—it really changes the way you see things. There’s a difference between 5,000 and 20,000 at a drum & bass party and maybe people think it’s a crazy idea but I don’t see why drum & bass can’t be an absolutely monumental genre in the United States and Canada. Trust me, it’s going to happen and I’m going to do my part to make it happen.