A key figure in the Montreal electronic music scene and nightly fauna, Thomas Sontag – better known as Thomas Von Party, is more than just your regular go-to guy when it comes to outlandish clubbing and trancey shamanries. Dividing his time between his manager’s job for his brother’s Turbo imprint, his own bar and club Datcha nestled in the heart of the Québec capital, and obviously his chiefly masterminded Multi Culti venture which we’re focusing on today, the man knows no rest.
The label made a name for itself by arraying a compelling take on intercontinental music tropes, building up a unique catalogue of earthy electro-house groovers, making his the art of draping primitive ceremonial drumwork within a lush spectrum of melodies. Bridging cultures and recasting half-world away pieces of a long-scattered puzzle of human expression into an heartwarming blender, Thomas raises the curtain on the label’s spick-and-span ‘Moon Faze Sun Gaze‘ compilation and goes in depth about the track selection and ultra-limited box-set edition. You can also stream his rework of Manfredas ‘Glasswalk‘ exclusively via IA, as it finally didn’t make it to the comp.
Interviewed by Baptiste Girou
"One serious 8+ hour dance per year is essential to keep the mind and body aligned, but also to keep up the connection to music as a dancer and a trancer, not just as a dork DJ or A&R man."
You’re working as an impresario for your brother Tiga’s Turbo imprint, run one of Montreal’s finest places to dance aka Datcha and operate your own label, Multi Culti. How do you find time to even party?
On the bright side I don’t have to work a “real” job. I spend a lot of time on music, at the club, in and around nightlife, but finding time to REALLY party is separate and critical. One serious 8+ hour dance per year is essential to keep the mind and body aligned, but also to keep up the connection to music as a dancer and a trancer, not just as a dork DJ or A&R man.
Your next release, the ‘Moon Faze Sun Gaze’ compilation is coming out in June (2016). Please tell us more about this special instalment.
We thought it was time to flex out on a package that reflects the full spectrum of our cult vibration. We have a diverse crew from all around the world, it’s a groovy growing family so we wanted to wrap it up and wave the fun flag together. We took our time developing the track list and went all-out in terms of complexity, cost, and concept for the release.
"It’s so over-the-top and obviously an insane labor of love. We even timed it astrologically, like proper hippies, working to balance opposing forces and all that jazz"
The artisanal Balinese production, with hand-sewn fabric record-sleeves, embossed tin box, printed sarong, tote bag and booklet… it’s so over-the-top and obviously an insane labor of love. We even timed it astrologically, like proper hippies, working to balance opposing forces and all that jazz. So far it seems to be working, and the rollout has been a great vibe!
How did you come up with the idea of making such a finespun artisanal object?
Fusing music into the physical realm is something to be taken seriously. I mean it’s essentially unnecessary in the digital era, and producing records (or god-forbid CDs or tapes) can feel superfluous, yet another drain on our precious natural resources. So it was important to us to design something special, with enough love and substance to it to merit this luxurious manifestation, to justify the hours spent, the carbon coughed up… something that would really resonate in the world.
We were very fortunate to have our friend Alex Turpin on the ground in Bali, overseeing production, working magic with local tailors and artisans, thinking way outside the box to make our box the bomb.
"All these huge data companies tuning algorithms to suck as much of our awareness as possible. I think that it’s essential people wake up to that struggle in their own mind"
What role does spirituality play in your everyday life and music-related moves?
Spirituality is a tricky thing to define but to me, it’s simply a graceful state of true self-awareness. Sometimes that means getting high on plants, sometimes it means a deep breath that hatches a peaceful, loving thought, sometimes it’s cooking with vibe, sometimes it’s creating music… crucially, if we don’t open our mind up properly and channel love and creativity, I think we’re missing the boat party we call life.
There are a lot of things fighting for our attention these days. All these huge data companies tuning algorithms to suck as much of our awareness as possible. I think that it’s essential people wake up to that struggle in their own mind. Remember that if you spend 3 hours on Facebook, an hour on Tinder, 2 hours in front of a movie – before you know it you’re out of time. What were we talking about again?
As its name implies, Multi Culti enjoys colliding genres, cultures, boundaries… What’s your motivation for establishing the label?
I think cross-cultural communication is essentially beautiful and I wanted the label’s brand to overtly reference that. We openly borrow from the global well of sound and seek out music that has an open, expansive feeling. You could say we’re fetishizing exoticism, but I think exposure to ‘foreign’ ideas is a first step toward greater understanding. Our minds deserve to be illuminated as to all the things that we have labelled ‘other’.
"If you’re out partying on drugs, losing sleep – do you want things to sound 'tight' or do you want your mind blown?"
It seems to me that underground dance music forgets how free it really is. DJs have easy access to every recorded sound in history, and yet you go out and hear mindless sets of beat-grid-mixed tech-house, then have an online echo-chamber prattle on about how that sterile regurgitation was actually ‘killed it’. So to get back to the question, I’m motivated to snap people out of that extremely boring and conservative mind-set. I mean if you’re out partying on drugs, losing sleep – do you want things to sound ‘tight’ or do you want your mind blown?
Did you have any reference source as for the concept you wanted to develop? Any other label that inspired you?
I like taking inspiration from things at least one step removed from the medium I’m working in, so not so much another record label… some inspirations: the clothing brand PAM, actual religious cults, musicians like Jon Hassell, psychedelic brother Mickey Moonlight, Connan Mockasin and Aphex Twin.
"Greed is a problem. Xenophobia is a problem. Uncontrolled anger is a problem. Lack of love is a problem. I think that’s the big one. The love barrier"
When you look around, what kind of barriers do you feel still need to be broken?
The world faces huge challenges, but they’re pretty much all fractal replications of the conflicts we face as individual human beings. Greed is a problem. Xenophobia is a problem. Uncontrolled anger is a problem. Lack of love is a problem. I think that’s the big one. The love barrier.
We all dance to the same beat in this life, no matter where we’re from, what language we speak or what god we serve. We ought to dance together and share the love in our hearts. Music is a space where we are free to think in those terms, not tethered by any practical notions, so for fuck sake we owe it to ourselves and to the world to be idealistic, right?
The label displays colourful, ethnic and ritualistic artworks. How important to you is the visual design side ?
It’s very important, so much so that we really don’t think about a timeline for a release until the artwork is finished. We worked on developing graphics for the compilation for over 4 months, just a tremendous amount of back and forth with both with our designer David Horne and this dude Joel aka Ventral is Golden who did these amazing collages for us.
What’s the last record you fell in love with?
Hmm on the Multi Culti tip I’d say that Joakim edit of Amadou & Mariam on Crowdspacer. It’s just beautiful, and effective on the dancefloor.
The last gem you dug up?
I found two brilliant artists on Soundcloud recently but I want to keep them secret still because I’m signing them. You want my gems just follow me on Soundcloud and tune into the labels and my new radio show on N10.as J.
What does your schedule read for the next weeks / months?
I’ll be ping-ponging to and from Europe from the end of April through to the end of summer, doing Love International festival in Croatia, club shows in Berlin, Rotterdam, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Mykonos, Piknic Electronic, AIM Festival and Eclipse in Montreal… should be fun!
MOON FAZE SUN GAZE x TRACK BY TRACK
1. Von Party & Dreems – Wet Raga (listen)
I started this track ages ago… I’m a compulsive track-starter. I just like making grooves but rarely have the patience to fine-tune everything to the point of completion. Gus (Dreems) did a pass and then actually we asked Jori Hulkkonen to mix it for us, cuz we wanted the heavy, Carl Craig kinda kick.
2. Zongamin – New Tribe (listen)
Zongamin is a real inspiration. He’s an immensely talented guy and we were really keen to work with him on Multi Culti. Actually we had him illustrate the cover for Multi Culti Japan. He’s a complete original. I’m happy to report that he’s also doing a full EP for us very soon!
3. Manfredas – Glasswalk (listen)
One of my favourite tracks off the comp… Manfredas is just a total DUDE… great DJ, party pirate, his personality and aura just resonate with Gus and I and we’re thrilled to have him on board. The fact that he even lit the incense on these Indian samples is just a wonderful synchronicity for the cult.
4. Crowdpleaser & Mah’Mood feat. Habib – Yasmin
Crowdpleaser is another guy who just feels like family… we’re all veteran DJs in the crew and there’s a certain kind of vibe with fellow journeymen… this one is a really special track, very unique feeling to it. Deep.
5. Bird of Paradise – The Holy Mountain
I don’t know too much about Jo Howard, but I can tell he’s part of the cult. It’s nice to have someone from the UK on the team and obviously this guy knows a thing or two about vibes.
6. Dreems – Sine ‘O’ The Tymes
I think this one is a sleeper… one of my favourite Dreems tracks to play out. Slow, chuggy, spacey acid to warm-up or tear down, and the ambient outro is truly gorgeous.
7. Nick Murray & Kris Baha – Say Something
I fucking love Australia, what can I say? These two dudes are part of the crews responsible for Power Station and Animals Dancing, so they know how to go off-the-rails in the best way. Good to hear someone still has balls enough to pull out their guitar and riff the fuk out on top of their acid. It’s actually pretty Goa.
8. Nicola Cruz – Pagano
Ecuador’s answer to Nicolas Jaar jams on top of some classic compass point groove, dropping the bassy, folkloric funk. Thrilled to have this on the package.
9. Moscoman – Se Acabo
Mosco has become a close friend, he’s doing fantastic things on Disco Halal, he’s ambitious in the best way, and he’s truly talented. This one is nicely different from his other tracks and perfect for us.
10. Xanga – Boom Boom Boom feat. Sheikh Djibouti
Another awesome Australian, Xanga dances to his own tune, making super funky rhythms. He has never even heard of the top 100DJs, or Beatport, he’s too cool for that whitebread shit and we’re lucky to have him.
11. 84PC – Shkarim Ba Afela
84PC are basically Tel Aviv’s Malka Tuti crew wrapped up into a supergroup. I hung out with them this year and was blown away by the sheer vibe. Everyone was smart, talented, friendly, good looking, and sharing delicious food with me. Heaven.
12. Red Axes – Boosh Gdola
The Axes were my favourite producers of 2015, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Just immensely talented, very interesting in terms of their influences, and truly wonderful guys. It’s a pleasure working with them and the extended family they’ve introduced me too.
13. Zsou – Admiral Byrd (Dreems & Peret Mako Remix)
This is an interesting one… Dreems on his typically epic remix form, this time reworking ex-pat Zsou. This one teases a forthcoming release in support of http://www.bayoubluefamily.com/.
14. Von Party feat. Naduve – Cobra Kush
When I was in Tel Aviv I hung out with Naduve. He took me for a dope falafel and then we went by his studio. I had this track that was nearly finished and got him to record that dope snake charmer top-line on it. He did it in one take – one of those real ‘musician’ types.
15. DJ Gr◯un土 – Dolmenzoo
Japanese vibe-master DJ Gr◯un土 takes us up chill mountain and the view is vibey.
16. Umoja – Umboweti
A Dutch duo I don’t know too much about, I stumbled on their bandcamp one day and found a killer edit they’d done, got in touch and ended up getting this bomb locked down. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more out of them soon…
17. Peter Power – Sun Sun Damba
I met Peter one night at Renate… it was my birthday and I got refused entry to Berghain (thankfully), so I ended up getting blown away by his set, staying in contact and eventually signing him. Total dude.
18. A1st – Theme of Sun Memory
I’m very proud of this one because it’s one of those unlikely finds that comes from passionate A&R work, listening to every demo you get sent and finding something that just fits perfectly. This has the feeling to me of early 90s chillout… idealistic shit.
19. Ccolo – F33lings
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Chris Colonna is one of the top ten coolest dudes I ever met. He’s just got this free wheeling creativity that comes from having a screw or two loose and a healthy swing on his dick. By all rights, he should be a superstar.
20. Rodion & Local Suicide – Owl & Wizzle feat. Mz Sunday Luv
Italian Alien Rodion teams up with the Berlin massive here on a really dope piece of sonic sorcery. Very nice to get a bit of feminine energy on the compilation here, for all our ethnic diversity, it’s been far too much of a sausage fest.
21. Thomass Jackson – Midway Atoll
A great guy I had the pleasure of hanging with in Mexico City, Thomass is a welcome addition to the crew, a solid musician and great DJ.
22. Thomash – Calango Fumando Palha (Lunar Version)
Thomash is one of our core crew and it’s easy to hear why – total vibe control.
23. Lum – Rosa
It was inevitable that we’d up synchronizing with Lum, shamanic house guru, Tulum cult leader, Crosstown don.
The complete Moon Faze Sun Gaze Cult Edition Box is out on June 18th in a very limited run, pre-order from Bandcamp.
Discover more about Multi Culti on Inverted Audio.Thomas Von PartyMulti Culti18 June 2016ElectroHouseTribal