MAGAZINE

The Champion Returns
// Andréanne Sasseville / Sep 9, 2009

As he climbs into the ring for his second round, DJ Champion is fearlessly ready for any opponent. With Resistance, DJ Champion chose to wipe his record clean from the success of Chill’em All (2004) and start fresh. With less instrumental tracks, accented dirty guitars and more accessibly constructed songs, Maxime Morin aka DJ Champion, fulfilled a new challenge. His self induced challenge of discovering music again with the humble hope of sincerely sharing it with thousands of eager ears.

The pressure of delivering a new and ‘better’ sophomore record, given the recognition of the previous one, was tangible for Champion. The doubts generated by the release of an artistic piece are seldom expressed: “When you write and record, you’re in a bubble. Once you’re done with the mastering of the album and it’s ready to go out, you go through a series of questions: is this really me? Is it really good? Am I really comfortable with the result? And this time around, it was a horribly panicking moment for me.’ DJ Champion is finding relief in sharing his thought process with the public and the press and even finds some answers to some, up until now, fuzzy questions. What do you do when your signature vocalist (Betty Bonifassi) moved on to another musical project and you are left with the fear of selfishly repeating yourself with an already tested recipe? “You can’t keep hammering the same nail over and over. You have to go back to basics, cut some ties and choose to hit on a brand new nail. I needed to find a new purpose and take some risks.” That’s why the first draft of new materials that DJ Champion wrote after his endless tour last year, he just deleted. “It’s crucial for an artist to first and foremost create for his own needs. It’s the only way you’ll be able to ‘see’ yourself in your work. You can’t think of pleasing others and want to compromise. Honesty, authenticity is what will please people. Music fans are not stupid.”

Champion’s says his track ‘No Heaven’ was never intentionally written for radio airplay yet chart numbers attest to its popularity. Same goes for the first Nirvana song. “I’ve had requests to remix some songs and people expecting a carbon copy of ‘No Heaven’. It doesn’t work that way. I wrote that one song and can’t do it again.”

With a new male vocalist Pierre-Philippe ‘Pilou’ Côté by his side, a revisited attraction for earscratching rock and roll energy and a family of very loyal musicians, the flavour is different yet the aftertaste remains the same. This time around, DJ Champion transported his live style performance to the studio. DJ Champion is proud to have this new vocal color added to the album. His Maestro abilities were stirred to get a new texture that resembles and respects all the artists involved. “I like to push people to go where they wouldn’t normally go sometimes. We tried a lot of things on this album. It wasn’t all automatic. It’s a fine balance between intervening with personal taste and letting them be who they are.”

So has this reflective outlook been influenced by his worldwide travels and a wide open access to the international market? Not so much. Yet the answer is not so simple. Champion likes to focus on the sole indicator that your musical direction should be aligned with how you can and will deliver a song on stage. In his case, keeping some liberty for him and his band to rewrite the story every night is important. “I knew I needed to go towards something closer to the live show. That’s the natural side of me, when I improvise and let lose. That’s what I enjoy. I hate a show that is too staged, prepared, with too many added effects. The raw energy on stage is how most fans discovered Champion in the first place.”

So there is no expected result and there is not quest for happiness. Just an understanding that success will shine through with hard work and crude truthfulness. And in order to enjoy success, you have to have lost a few battles. All winners have once been losers. That’s a less popular lesson: “People won’t and shouldn’t tell you who you are and what you are. You need to build on your ‘natural’ talent. You need to trust yourself because really, not many people will ever be as honest with you as you can be with yourself. You need to feel and be a loser in order to rethink your objectives, adjust and evolve. I think that’s key for established artists as well as new ones.”

This new album will surely keep DJ Champion busy. He welcomes that with a contagious enthusiasm. This means promotion, more critics and best of all, new tour dates and renewed contact with the audience. With recent shows that have already taken him to TIFF in Toronto and his official launch concert under his belt, DJ Champion is making his way to the TRANSMISSION Conference as the headliner for transmission.LIVE 2009. How does he see it this time around? “Transmission is the coolest and one of the better organized showcase platforms we’ve had the chance to experience. You get to play for key tastemakers who are there to listen. There are so many showcasing opportunities where you play for drunken jocks that just don’t care. I am happy to be back to play at TRANSMISSION and sincerely support the event.”

You know you’ve encountered an uncommonly creatively defying artist when the twists and turns of the interview are positively unexpected much like the honest reflective creative process behind his second opus. He’s resisted the music business and is showing strategic perseverance. His story is one of resilient resistance. See DJ Champion and his G-strings during transmission.LIVE 2009, on Thursday September 24th at Market Square.

Andréanne Sasseville oversees Canadian Content Development investments and Music Industry Relations for SIRIUS Satellite Radio in Canada (since 2004) and calls on her reporter duties to feature and support Canadian artists on weekly segments for eTalk, daily segments for TVA in Quebec as well as artist interviews for Cineplex movie theatres and music reviews for various Canadian magazines.
Photo by Francois Hogue, Montréal 2008.

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