As a break from his homework, Sam Donald will open up his Ableton music software. Working from his desk, Donald uses his laptop, a small sound card, a mike, and a guitar to produce his own electronic dance music (EDM). Every couple of weeks, he’ll toss a remix online for his friends to check out.
Donald has always been a music fan, having started to learn the guitar at the age of eight. However, he hasn’t always been an EDM fan. In first year, he was involved in an indie rock band.
“That’s really where the electronic music was birthed from,” he says. “One of the guys in my band sat me down and said ‘Look, we’re not going to get famous being a rock band anymore. That time’s past. The real money, or the real career path, is in producing, and the whole DJ thing.’ ”
Since then Donald has been producing music and disk-jockeying both independently and with the group Baers at Montreal venues including Vinyl and Blue Dog.
For Donald, the music itself isn’t the only things that’s important, but also the attitudes that pervade it.
“Something that really started to appeal to me about EDM—I think a lot of people identified with—was the fact that it’s all about unifying and being part of an experience that a bunch of people are a part of, rather than closing yourself off and having this condescending air of musical tastes,” he says.
It’s because of this take on music that Donald sees artists like Bassnectar as a major musical influence.
“He’s a calm soul, a zen personality that is really bringing to light the magic of how music can bring unity to people, and that’s something I really admire,” he says. “I really like musicians who incorporate music into their being and see the music not as something they make, but see themselves as instruments that music can come out of.”
By treating everyone and everything with respect, Donald tries to transfer these notions of unity and equality to his everyday life.
“The most important thing in my music has been getting over the fact that I’m not better than anyone,” he says. “I used to hear a Justin Bieber song and say ‘Oh that’s crap.’ When I started producing, I realized there are all these really honest, hard working people who create a Justin Bieber or Katy Perry song, and to sneer your nose at it, at least for me, inhibited my own progress as an artist.”
Now, Donald is clearly unafraid to draw from mainstream popular music—his latest track is a remix of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.”
Moving forward with his music, Donald is looking to bring some of his rock and roll past into his electric tracks through his guitar.
“It’s been interesting seeing the instruments creep back into what a lot of people consider a lifeless art form—the four to the floor drum beat going on all night,” he says.
Donald says he hopes to pursue a career in the music industry.
“I’ve been looking also at video production with music, which is obviously a growing field,” he says. “In a perfect world, I’ll be in front of crowds of 40,000 in a couple years—but you know I’m not taking away the possibility of the cubicle.”