Photo of Roger Sanchez at Industry in July 1996 courtesy of Gavin Bryan.
Article originally published November 30, 2011 by The Grid online (TheGridTO.com).
In this instalment of Then & Now, Denise Benson looks back at the legendary King West super-club that put Toronto on the international dance-music map, Industry.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: Industry nightclub, 901 King West
Years in operation: 1996-2000
History: Industry was a labour of love that grew out of youthful enthusiasm, overlapping friendships and prior club experiences. DJ Mario Jukica (Mario J) was 19 and his promoter friend Gavin “Gerbz” Bryan 24 when they moved from Oakville to downtown Toronto to develop a vision for a nightclub with DJ Matthew Casselman (Matt C) and business-minded clubber Daniel Bellavance. Bryan and Casselman had worked together at RPM (now The Guvernment) and were two of the core forces behind afterhours club BUZZ (now Comfort Zone), where Mario J was also a resident DJ.
After eight short, but impactful months, BUZZ was forced to relocate and out of it grew something much larger. The four men came together to create a thousand-person-capacity venue at King and Strachan, then a rather undeveloped area. Industry’s doors opened on July 5, 1996.
Why it was important: Industry embodied the maturation of Toronto’s late-night, underground dance-music movement. It operated during some of the most explosive years for raves in this city and proved to be an ideal home for a more seasoned, diverse, largely post-rave crowd. Above all, Industry’s programming, size and sound quality helped establish this city’s reputation abroad while also convincing Toronto to take itself—and its talent—seriously.
As DJ/producer Kenny Glasgow—an Industry resident DJ for its entirety and now one-half of Art Department—put it when I spoke to him earlier this year for Resident Advisor, “I think that when Industry opened, Toronto realized, ‘OK, there is an actual scene here,’ enough for us to open a club dedicated and devoted to underground house music and underground dance-music culture. A venue of that size clearly made it something for everybody to enjoy.”
“We wanted to create a club atmosphere that would break all boundaries that mainstream Toronto clubs had,” recalls Gavin Bryan. “We focused on highlighting the best house, techno, drum ‘n’ bass and trance DJs the world had to offer. It was all about the music for us as owners. We wanted to create events that would have people walking out and talking for days and sometimes weeks after. I knew we had a world-class vibe, and I wanted to share it with all the best DJs in the world.”
To that end, Industry presented an impressive range of artists—including Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx, Paul Oakenfold, Paul Van Dyk, Cevin Fisher, Victor Calderone, Roni Size and Fatboy Slim—in their Canadian club (i.e. non-rave) debuts.
Industry’s core audience was experienced clubbers, gay and straight alike, who knew their music and packed the dancefloor both before and after the club’s peak time of 4 a.m. They are the people who made it possible for Industry to expose a lot of new international talent to Toronto and vice versa. From there, the venue’s ace sound, lighting and staging allowed the DJs to play at their best.
“Industry is a very special place—a DJ’s dream come true,” was how New York legend Danny Tenaglia, a frequent guest, described the venue to me in a 2000 interview.
At the same time, Industry put a big emphasis on Toronto talent, with local residents regarded as stars in their own right.
“In my opinion, the backbone of any club is strong resident DJs,” says Matt C, who mixed the club’s one official CD release, 4:AM (Industry Anthems Vol. 1), in 1998. “If you solely count on international talent, you’re leaving the success of your business in other people’s hands. This is why Mario J and I DJed at the club every week. Of course, legendary Toronto DJs like Dino and Terry, Peter and Tyrone, Kenny Glasgow and quite a few others also graced the turntables because they were all truly amazing—at an international level of quality.”
Adds Bryan: “We wanted to give a platform for local DJs to network with internationals in order to progress their music production, DJ careers and music labels. At the time, Toronto was known for throwing big raves and good warehouse parties, but outside of Nick Holder and The Stickmen, no one from Toronto was getting any shine because there was no real local scene.”
Like all significant dance clubs whose influence is felt long after their doors have closed, Industry was its own scene, thanks to the music, the audience and a deeply involved staff that included some of Toronto’s dance club scene-builders, like Steve Ireson, Jennstar, James Applegath, Rommel, Jason Ford, Mychol Holtzman, Ronnie Ferszt, Craig Pedigrew, Ludikris, Luke Fair and a young Christian Newhook (now known as Dinamo Azari of Azari & III).
Who else played there: Industry was anchored by residencies including Friday’s hip-hop night—which ran from 1996-99 with core DJs including Baba Khan, Sean Sax and Starting From Scratch—and SLAM Saturdays, a house and techno night open until 8 a.m., helmed by locals with international guests. The Syrous crew promoted a monthly drum ‘n’ bass night Thursday, at which some of the globe’s greats played, while the monthly Fukhouse nights gathered techno giants including Richie Hawtin, Stacey Pullen, Derrick May and Jeff Mills, who infamously made it to play during Toronto’s infamous blizzard of 1999 (yes, the year Mel Lastman called in the army). Also greatly loved were DJ Sneak’s Solid Sundays, which brought lovers of funky, Chicago-style house together on long weekends. Sneak, in fact, became an ambassador for Industry and re-located to Toronto partly because of the club.
Other key names to mention: Derrick Carter (who played at Industry a record 17 times), John Acquaviva, David Morales, Goldie, Josh Wink, DJ Heather, Honey Dijon, Frankie Knuckles, Wyclef Jean and the list of notables goes on.
Gavin Bryan makes mention of an event that many, myself included, still rave about.
“For me there were so many magical house and techno nights, but the most memorable was surprisingly a drum ‘n’ bass show: Roni Size & Reprazent live in 1998. It was standing-room only, with everyone on pogo sticks for two hours.”
As for Matt C, “One of my fave memories would have to be the DJ Sneak and Armand Van Helden party that was one of our long-weekend Sunday events. I remember approaching the club and seeing 600-700 people in line, and then going inside to see that it was almost packed. The stress of the financial side of running a nightclub as a 24-year-old was sometimes extreme, but seeing that kind of turnout really did good things for my spirit.”
What happened to it: While financial stresses caused by dwindling profits played into the foursome’s collective decision to close Industry’s doors, the forces of Toronto city development weighed heavy.
“The city had goals of building Liberty Village and the anchor tenant that occupied the rest of the office tower was CIBC,” recalls Matt C. “Neither of them wanted this crazy club where we were, so they both decided, after about three years, that they were going to start to make our lives very difficult. As a group, we decided to go out on our own terms. We asked the landlord to let us out of our lease, which they agreed to, and we proceeded to book the best of the best for our final three months. We ended off with a bang rather than chains on the doors, like so many clubs end up.”
Industry went out Sunday, Aug. 6, 2000 with a 20-hour party that featured Matt C, Mr.C and Danny Tenaglia. A Shoppers Drug Mart now stands in its place, with the cashiers stationed where Industry’s DJ booth once was.
“It is what it is,” summarizes Bryan. “We were not Coca-Cola, but were sure were the real thing—if you were lucky enough to take a sip of the Industry vibe, you know what I mean.”
Bryan continues to produce and market events as Gerbz; Bellavance founded Prism, a series of large-scale gay men’s circuit events; Matt C continues to DJ occasionally, but is a successful realtor working with former Industry manager Ben Ferguson; Mario J. went on to promote under the A.D/D. banner, but is now producing music as Milano, with a new EP set to drop on Tiga’s Turbo label on December 13.