Local label also responsible for some of the city’s best show posters
Since 2006, Saskatoon’s Pop Quiz Records has been steadily releasing some of the most challenging music to come out of this city since, well, ever.
The group has also put out EPs from artists from such places as Richmond, Virginia and Detroit, Michigan.
With the majority of the releases trolling the realm of experimental electro, ambience and noise-heavy rave ups, amazingly the music and art on Pop Quiz can be downloaded for free. Of course it goes without saying that you should probably pitch them a couple of dollars if you dig what they do.
Helmed by Jon Vaughn along with cohort Carrie Gates, Pop Quiz is also in the party business. And business is real good.
Ominocity recently caught up with Vaughn for a chat on the label’s origins, partying in a golf dome and why you should go see shows that match grind bands with electro DJs.
Ominocity: What are you trying to accomplish with Pop Quiz, both as a label and for planning events?
Jon Vaughn: I started the label in 2005, initially as a sub label of my first label BricoLodge that I curated with VJ and artist Carrie Gates, to release EPs of music by a small circle of friends in Saskatoon. Some of these artists included Nuthre aka Jeff Morton, Max Haiven, Ryan Laprairie, and myself. We were experimenting with various genres of dance music and conceptual approaches/remixes that were a bit off the path for my other label, which was oriented towards releasing full-length works and complete statements. BricoLodge was created as a sublabel itself of the No Type empire, based out of Montreal, Quebec, where Pop Quiz seemed to come out of nowhere on there the internet showcasing a handful of anonymous producers.
The inspiration Pop Quiz’s aesthetic came from the idea that our music could be produced by different ‘characters’ – similar to the output of Germany’s Wolfgang Voigt and his pseudonyms he released on with his labels Profan, Kreisal 99, Auftrieb, and eventually Kompakt. However, as BricoLodge completed its journey releasing 23 albums by the end of 2005, Pop Quiz stepped forward and branched off as its own entity. One thing this kind of open structure allowed us to do was take risks with exploring different styles of electronic dance music, which was a new and exciting thing for us in the early 2000s, as most of us came from backgrounds of experimental music, free improvisation, rock ‘n’ roll, and academia.
A year after the quiet launch of the Pop Quiz label, 2006 marked the beginning of the label transforming into a real collective of musicians and artists. Carrie Gates became the resident VJ and web designer for the label and Regina-based producers Submit aka Nathan Steadman and Limbo/Effort aka Liam Brennand and Kero aka Sohail Azid from Detroit/Windsor joined the label releasing several seminal EPs. During this time a new generation of talent emerged from the underground of Saskatoon, and their interests in exploring and expanding the aesthetics of art and music matched if not even challenged our own. Amongst these people were Mehta Youngs and Will Kaufhold, members of the instrumental/indie band No Birds, whom I began collaborating with and beginning a very important dialogue about the future of music. After a year or so of working with them on various experimental, improvised, and noise music projects both Kaufhold and Youngs emerged as incredibly able electronic music producers showing a lot of promise for continuing the label’s dream of releasing dance floor-ready tracks and throwing truly bumpin’ parties. Many artists have continued to emerge and join the label/collective including Y2lhen/Sublingual aka Lennie Budgell, Waverace aka Liam Hart, Booji Bomb aka Jeremy Kiss, Excalibur aka Cal Lakevold, Rude aka Joshua Padarathsingth (Brooklyn), Bkol Spyod aka Lief Carlson, Castle If aka Jess Forrest and recently Mount Olympus/Chromatic Accelerator aka Josh Feldman, Moonbahn aka Bennet Dobni, Jon Paré, Caves aka Peter Grier and co., XOD aka Tod Emel, Clive Sinclair aka Dane Sinclair, and DJ Toom aka Masayuki Tomita.
In 2007 the first label event “Pop Quiz Party Jam” was created for one of my birthdays at my friend at DJ peer Stimmy the Whale aka Tim Jahnke’s house, which we affectionately referred to as “Stimmy’s Island.” The night featured an all dance music programme, some live, some DJ’ed, and thus the seed for our underground rave/dance community was planted. Since then Pop Quiz has hosted many other ‘Party Jams’ and special events, taking residence in all kinds of venues from bars, clubs, art galleries, halls, churches, record stores, golf domes, public parks, warehouses, and most recently the basement of the old location of CFCR where we are currently holding down a monthly night featuring a mixture of all kinds of live acts and DJs, as well as semi-regular events at Lepps with diverse programmes of noise, experimental, and punk/grind bands.
OM: What have been some of your more successful releases?
JV: Our compilations have seemed to always get the most attention and support from people, both online and in the “real” world. I’m very passionate about creating diverse yet flowing collections of works and always showing the listeners something new with each release. Second to that some of my older releases as Trancer and Phlegm Gadget have done quite well, followed very closely by the original poster boy for the label Nuthre aka Jeff Morton whose releases have received a lot of praise, good reviews, and support in various DJ charts. Other standout releases that have had considerable success and/or proved the test of time have come from Submit aka Nathan Steadman, Theta aka Max Haiven, Y2lhen/Sublingual aka Lennie Budgell, Mehta/Freude aka Mehta Youngs, and Form aka Will Kaufhold.
Overall every release as done quite well on the label, and a few of the more experimental releases have received equal if not more appreciation from listeners in contrast to the typically enjoyed dance floor oriented releases.
. OM: You also do events – what do you have coming up? And what makes them interesting?
JV: We have two shows in the month of March, that both represent well for the eclectic and inclusive philosophy of the label and collective.
One of the things that are important to making an interesting event for us is having an eclectic yet carefully planned out sequence of performances at our shows, we try to bring different scenes and communities together in a way that is both surprising and stimulating but also profound and logical. We aim to change everyone’s lives a little each time, by taking both artistic and cultural risks by making new connections between art and artists, and creating a positive space for diverse groups of people to merge and mingle. We encourage anyone to check out what we do.