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Randomdoug

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Artist Spotlight

Gray Area Spotlight: Randomdoug

Rance Collins

He’s one of the hottest DJs in Toronto, known by the moniker “randomdoug.” But, to his friends, he’s just Doug, and Doug’s rise in the music scene has been far from random. Instead, it has been the result of a consistent, unwavering love of his art.

“I can even remember as a child,” said Doug, “we had a vinyl record player, and I remember being young… and actually turning it and playing with it, not knowing what I was doing, but now looking back it makes sense… that I did that.”

Every element of Doug’s life has intersected through music, even meeting his wife, appropriately, on the dance floor at the club Footwork, which is now known as Coda.

It started for Doug in 2002 when he was visiting the now-defunct Government nightclub in Toronto. Watching the sets, he felt a spark of inspiration. “Ok… I could probably do that. I really love the music,” he thought to himself. As he went through the club scene of Toronto, again and again, the thought hit him, “Maybe…”

“Those are the spots that I’d say cemented my love for the music and propelled me to… finally give it a shot,” said Doug. He learned the trade through a friend who happened to have some equipment in 2006. It was through the club Comfort Zone that his big shot came. He was hanging at the nightspot nearly every weekend. He made friends with the DJs there. He politely asked if he could watch at a distance. In the meantime, he had started working gigs at smaller venues.

“I kind of got close to one of the DJs [who worked on] Saturdays, his name is El Duran,” explained Doug. “He let me hang out at the back… and then one day, [El Duran] and [former resident DJ of Comfort Zone] Paranoid Jack… they kind of asked me on the spot… cause I went there after a small gig I had at a small bar, and I had my DJ stuff. And they just asked me to hop on!”

With the support of these mentors, Doug grew to be a popular DJ in the area. He has enjoyed local residencies and consistent work in Toronto, which has proven to be a stepping stone for some of the top artists in the field. “We do have quite a bit of guys and gals that have gone international,” said Doug. In January 2020, just before the pandemic changed the live music scene, he got one of the best gigs, playing the BPM Festival in Costa Rica. “That was amazing.”

A particularly influential track for Doug that helped inspire his foray into the job was “Just Kick” by Renato Cohen vs. Tim Deluxe (Carl Cox Mix). “That would just get me going,” he said. “I used to hear it in the Government Main Room, and I would request it at Comfort Zone.”

Comfort Zone has become a standby for Doug, and over the years, he’s enjoyed his fair share of memorable moments at the club. One time, a patron got a little too into his set. “They were just so excited,” Doug chuckled, “and they just jumped over the front [DJ] area. Then, while that’s all happening, the bouncer tries to get him off the stage, and then while doing that, it unhooks my laptop… and the music goes off.”

“But the cool thing was Mikey Terra, who was the next DJ… basically he was already coming on, so it came at not too bad of a time.”

Terra started to applaud, saying, “Hey, way to go randomdoug,” to fill the dead space. It was only about ten seconds without music, but Doug said, “That feels like an entirety when that happens.”

Doug works off the crowd’s energy when it comes to playing a set. “Whether you start playing more vocally or you start playing more techno, or you start playing more bouncy or housey, you can kind of feel the crowd and what they’re into given the time and what their mood is. You just ride that wave and go with the flow.”

It started with the classics, the real classics, for Doug. His clearest, early memories from childhood involve listening to Lionel Richie with his mom. “I guess I have my mom to thank for that, for her pretty good taste in music.” His mom also pushed him to learn piano from the time he was a toddler through middle school. “And then I played the bass in high school because I wanted to be cool. I was in a little bit of a band for a bit.” He also took up percussion.

All this experience led him to be better at his craft. “Anything like that with music theory or learning timing… it only helps with… programming your set, when to bring in a track… just the construction and the flow.”

Looking to the future, Doug will expand a new venture: his brand, R&R, which he and his wife started not long before COVID hit North America. The R&R stands for Return and Revolve. Doug explained, “Basically it’s returning to what we like.”

After putting on a few parties, they went into forced hiatus in 2020. They have recently been able to get the brand back on track, hosting an event last December. “A lot of the OG heavyweights of the Toronto scene came, which was really cool, and it was a really good vibe.”

Doug will also be putting time into music production. Of course, he will continue to be a fixture on the Toronto scene, where he maintains a residency at Comfort Zone and plays Coda and Vertigo. For updates on all of Doug’s future activities, follow randomdoug on both Instagram and Facebook.

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