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Rennie Foster: 10 Locations of Inspiration

Rennie Foster’s musical career began when he was just a teenager. A native of Canada, he was influential in Western Canada’s ’80s hip hop and b-boy scene as a member of Sound Advice, who later went onto become rap group Swollen Members. Rennie’s own path led him instead to underground dance music, spending much of his early life in Tokyo and becoming a key player of Japan’s club scene.

Since returning to North America, Rennie continues to tour the globe with his hi-tech soul and has released music on labels such as Transmat, Soiree, Night Visions, Rebirth, Laurent Garnier’s seminal F- Communications, as well as remixing artists such as DJ Bone, Juan Atkins, Swayzak and John Beltran.

More recently Rennie launched his own imprint, RF, as a way to control the intent behind his music and get back into the DIY mindset of creativity. His latest project is an example of just that, funded by Crowdfund, Rennie will shortly release his third album, Game of 100 Ghosts.

Dedicated to the late Aaron Carl and featuring artwork from legendary artist Abdul Qadim Haqq, Game of 100 Ghosts compiles some of Rennie’s most celebrated work alongside brand new material. In anticipation of the release, we asked Rennie to look back on his life experiences and speak on ten locations that have inspired his journey to this day.

1. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

I live in the now. Or at least, I try to, so wherever I live I become very involved in the local music community. Vancouver is where I live currently, with my daughters and my partner Karah, also my dog Phife. I really love the city, and similar to all of the places I have lived during my nomadic life, I recognise patterns in the culture, many positive, some negative, and it inspires my art.

I have a really strong support base here, and a tight group of good friends. My recently released album, Game of 100 Ghosts, was made at my studio in Vancouver and features several live musicians, all from BC and recorded there. I have had a residency for the past three years at a great club here called Gorg-O-Mish, one of the most successful and longest running after-hours in Canada with a sound system that rivals the Tokyo systems I used to play on. My studio here is definitely the best one I have had so far as well. So life is good in VanCity. 

2. Tokyo, Japan

I lived in Tokyo, as a single parent with two half-Japanese daughters, doing music and DJing, from 2004-2011. I also lived there at the end of the ’90s for a shorter stint, when I was first starting to release records. That’s a long time connection, and Tokyo is basically like my hometown. I have lived all over Tokyo, from Ayase, Hachioji, Machida, Omote-sando to Nishi Azabu. all that. It’s very rare for gaijin DJs to be voted into the top 50 DJs in Japan list of the Japanese publication LOUD, but I was on that list for several years in a row.

There is a lot of love for my music in Japan and most of my catalog was made there, and inspired by my surroundings and life inside that culture. I played in all the great clubs: Womb, aGeha, UNIT, Yellow etc. as well as many small venues and underground parties, some of the best music in the world is going down there and that is on the real. I had a great residency at the infamous Rock West after hours in Shibuya as well and if you are down with the real techno underground in Tokyo, you know the legends. 

3. Paris, France

I have been lucky enough to play in Paris a few times and every time epic things happen for me. Once Laurent Garner called the studio where I was sleeping on the couch looking for me because he had heard some tracks of mine from Bone and wanted me to make a record for F-Com, which I did later, called la Defense after an area in Paris.

I went to meet him at the Rex and he just started dropping my tunes one after another. I was dancing with the crowd who had no idea I had made the music they were jamming to, it was amazing, and that’s just one story. I have at least 20 epic stories that take place in Paris. Also I played at Batofar, another legendary underground after-hours. That is my thing I think.

4. Kyoto, Japan

While I was living in Japan I had a DJ residency in Kyoto at the long time, legendary, underground club Metro. There is a great promoter there named Ryoma Sasaki who also owns a record shop called Transit Records named after my song “A Commitment to Transit” released some years back. So many great sets and parties there, I even went back in 2012 to play there with my friend, also from the same hometown of Victoria, Mathew Jonson, who has been really successful, such a great talent. Kyoto is a beautiful city, and I spent as much time there as I could, skateboarding from temple to temple. The food, like every Japanese city, is unique and delicious as well. 

5. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

As I type this I am getting ready to fly to Winnipeg tomorrow, for my third time, for the Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition, where I’ll be playing alongside legends like The Orb and Mr.C, as well as top Canadian dance music industry like HATIRAS, Luke McKeehan from Nordic Trax and Isis Graham from Substation Recordings. The first time I played in Winnipeg was at a techno party thrown inside The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and since then, this is my second time playing MEME. Such a down to earth, working class vibe sort of city, with a real love for underground house music. Many talented locals as well. 

6. New York City, USA

B-Boying and B-Boy culture is how I first came to love music. Like many true dance music fanatics, I grew up on New York music and legends. The first time I walked around there I had to call my best friend, DJ Degree One and say, “I’m at Union Square!”. I was there to play at the Sullivan Room, and ended up playing my first time on a UREI rotary mixer, the very one Larry Levan used at the Paradise Garage apparently.

A couple years ago a Brooklyn crew, ID NY, flew me in to play a warehouse party in Brooklyn, in the middle of a huge snowstorm, it was fire on the floor of course, and I was still totally amazed that I was experiencing, in real life, my most romantic dreams as a young DJ. New York will always rule for style, IMO.

7. Detroit, USA

Lucky number seven, my favourite number, goes to my spiritual home of Detroit. My original connection to this city was my record “Monochasm” on Soiree Records in 2002, an underground vinyl label operating 25 years in Detroit. The outpour of support for my music has been constant since then and I’ve released with Teknotika, Subject Detroit, Aaron Carl’s Wallshaker label, DJ 3000’s Motech label and other underground imprints.

Jack White’s Third Man Pressing just released a Transmat homage 45” vinyl that has Derrick May’s “Innovator” track on one side and my tune “Floatilla” on the other, and I still release with Soiree to this day with my tune “Infrastructure (Rebuild Detroit)” coming out on wax later this year. My upcoming record on aDepth audio is also out later this year has a remix on it from Dex Nomadico from Underground Resistance as well. The connection between Detroit and myself has been a very organic thing, and I keep it close to my heart. A lot of whom I consider my musical family are there, including artists on my label like J. Garcia.

The last time I played in Detroit was for Tec-Troit festival, a free festival in the original spirit of DEMF thrown by DJ Roach and his crew. I did a Teknotika tag set with one of my original techno mentors, Gary Martin and we went on right after Los Hermanos, a major musical influence to me.

Detroit is simply where it’s at in my opinion, and not just inside the Movement Festival grounds every May either. My new album Game of 100 Ghosts also features the artwork of Abdul Haqq, who has done cover art for everyone from Drexciya to Planet E and is one of the main creators of Detroit Techno’s afro-sci fi style visual image. 

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8. Shizuoaka City, Japan

While living in Japan, I had a residency in Shizuoka for a great promoter, DJ Mori. I played many times at an intimate club with a powerful sound system called Rajishan. The club also featured a huge HAQQ painting on the back wall of the dance floor. Doing so many sets, staring at it inspirationally, I never expected one day I’d meet Haqq, we would become friends and he would design an album cover for me.

Life truly is amazing when you focus hard on what you truly believe in artistically. I may not have the most financially successful career, or have mainstream fame, but these experiences, like playing so many times in this vibrant city, have truly been treasures frozen in time to me. I make music for places exactly like Rajishan, and for real deep music people, like the underground scene of Shizuoka. 

9. Toronto, Canada

I lived in Toronto in 1998 and ’99, and it’s there at Toronto General my twin daughters were born. I only lived there briefly, but got involved quickly in the local scene with a DJ residency twice a week at The We’ave, which was a great underground club across from the Art Gallery on Dundas. Toronto has a deep house music legacy. In Vancouver, or my home town of Victoria, few people have been into it as long as I have, but in the T dot there is deep old school history.

I hung out with the legend Austin Bascolm aka Abacus and learned a lot, played loads of underground jams, and made my record “Chocolate Factory” there. So many great memories digging for wax at Play De Record or the many dope record shops that were around then. Also the West Indian food is incredible, I lived right by Albert’s. 

10. Victoria, BC, Canada

This is my hometown, where it all began. I was part of the first rap group, Sound Advice, the first graffiti crew, PIC, the first true house music club night, Fluid, and part of the fam that threw the first “rave” parties in this city. So many experiences, both positive and negative. You would be surprised at how many artists you know came from this little city on a island. It’s a fairly conservative place when it gets right down to it, and I have always been down to fight against that with art, sometimes very loud, and even illegal art. So that was tough sometimes. I wasn’t the only one thankfully.

I still work with lots of people from here, including playing my sixth year in a row at the world renown Rifflandia Festival. They have booked me every year since I have moved back to Canada, so I am pretty sure that makes me a resident at this fest, it’s truly a contender for best music festival in Canada IMO, the whole city gets behind it. I’ll be performing there this year with Moby, Hot Chip, and Nathan Jonson among others. 

Rennie Foster’s Game of 100 Ghosts is out September 12 on RF. More info here