Toronto Soul Club was started by several DJs and a saxophonist almost 8 years ago. With TSC, as well as their individual soul and non-soul projects, they are certainly one of the most active in the scene. I recently was able to interview DJ Nico of TSC.

Who is involved with putting on TSC and how long has it been going?

Toronto Soul Club started as a collective of 8 DJs/musicians who were running monthly parties back in May 2015. We were wanting to collaborate on events, share information and resources and just support the local soul scene. It included Dennis P (Northern Soul Horns), Parkdale Funk (Kal), Gramera (Graeme), Misty, Blush (Brittney), Splattermonkey (Mike), General Eclectic (Jason) and myself as Nico (Teresinha).

When TSC started, were there any other regular soul nights in the Toronto area?

Toronto has had a healthy soul scene since the 60s more in regards to live music. The eight of us were all holding monthly DJ party residencies, most spinning vinyl, when we decided to come together and pool our efforts. At the time there were a lot more dance parties happening that included soul. We were focused on one decade and format.

How did you get into soul music?

I’ve liked music since I was a child growing up in the 80s. So I was listening to 50s and 60s music through my dad who loved to make mixed tapes and CDs. I got deeply into soul music when I started to DJ in university through friends. Britpop was the big thing at the time and I had been collecting records since I was 16. I started to delve into girl groups through CD comps, searching out the 45s. That led to LP comps of multiple artists, especially Kent Records, so I began to discover 50s-60s artists and tracks that were popular in England.

How did you get into the ‘Soul Club’ or ‘Northern Soul’ scene?

Through record collecting, I learned a lot about music and artists. I’ve always been into mod culture. Toronto had a healthy mod scene in the 80s with the revival. I worked part time at McDonald’s and knew older kids with scooters that were into the 60s music along with mod revival. Fast forward to britpop and the 90s where artists referenced their influences which included the Beatles and Kinks. I delved into the artists that influenced those British bands so that took me to 60s Girl Groups, 50s RnB, and 60s Soul. It all started to come together for me. Add to that I dated an Englishman living in Canada who told me a lot about his growing up in the north east, dancing in youth clubs as a child. I knew about northern soul music before being with him but learned more deeply about how entrenched it was in their culture. Over the years I just kept wanting to find 45s that were on those comps I loved.

Are there any specific records where you can’t wait to unleash them on the crowd?

Playing to crowds in different cities, scenes, contexts, the records change. One 45 that is always in my box is Martha Reeves and the Vandellas  – Heatwave. The other would be Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs. People seem to know and love those two, at any age of dancers/crowds.

Are you aware of any soul music that came out of the Toronto area in the ‘60s or ‘70s? If so, do you play much that came out of that scene?

There are some amazing Canadian artists that played soul music in the 60s but most left Canada to be successful. What’s interesting is the popularity and success of Jackie Shane in Toronto when she moved here from the American south and was a part of the downtown club scene. She played gritty soul and r&b. Otherwise there was Ronnie Hawkins, another American living and performing in Canada. Shirley Matthews who left Toronto for New York and found some success. R Dean Taylor wrote songs for Motown and had a few popular tracks of his own. Notice the trend? Talented artists needed to leave to find success. I do play tracks by some of those artists.

Have you had a chance to meet any of the artists whose records you spin? If so, what do they think about their music being played in clubs so many years later?

We are losing so many of that generation of artists from the 60s. So it’s very difficult to get to meet them. I got to speak to Kim Weston who was on Motown and MGM to tell her how amazing her music is/was. Gino Washington also Detroit based, he still plays shows and loves the interest in his music. I also got to speak to JJ Barnes only a few months before he passed away last year. All of this was in Detroit as part of a soul weekender. Some of the artists spoke about how they are so glad to know how much their music is loved and cherished especially in the UK. The northern soul scene and its resurgence has given these artists a renewal of sorts and hopefully make the money they deserve to be paid for their art.

So much obscure or forgotten soul has been reissued by labels such as Numero, Kent, Soul Jazz, etc in the past two decades. Do you feel like you’ve dug into everything that’s out there or are you still stumbling upon and discovering soul you were unfamiliar with?

These labels keep putting out material from vaults so there are more and new things to listen to through them. In terms of discovering or breaking records, I don’t know if that exists for soul music anymore. It’s all been combed through. In some cases, it’s a new appreciation of records that don’t get played as often or were ignored being more common or popular and cheap. I’ve found over the pandemic every rare soul DJ has the same records so it wasn’t that unique or different. The discovery is how creative DJs can be in putting music together, connecting the dots for listeners or dancers. Rarity is meaningless, it’s taking people on a trip and piecing music together that builds an aural story with tempo and themes. Doing strictly one genre gets boring. Soul for me includes a wide gamut of sounds but I stick to the 60s.

Have you had any part in contributing to any resissues or compilations over the years?

I wish! It would be a dream job to work for a record label. I love the journalistic storytelling and history part of DJing and radio. I did help a record label with their soul funk band’s new record press release coming out March 2023. A friend joked that I’m headed towards curating a compilation. I’m putting that out into the universe. Hopefully an opportunity will come my way.

Have you noticed any changes in the crowd that attends since TSC began?

Crowds keep changing. They are young folks who have a very different musical reference than us GenXers. Far more open minded but also in some cases entitled to have what they want when they want rather than allowing themselves to be taken on a trip. They’re mostly great. What’s hard is offering something of quality and reaching the right people who will appreciate it. There is so much on offer so standing out is hard. That’s why sticking it out and being consistent may be the best way to stay relevant. Toronto has a small core group of people in to 60s soul that are aware of rare or northern soul. Relying on them to fill a dancefloor is not sustainable especially when a bar needs to pay their bills and have a full and steady night. DJs here need to broaden their offerings and get creative to stick around if you want a space with a dancefloor. It takes hard work and understanding of the club scene and how much it changes, especially after the pandemic.

Are you, or have you been, involved in anything else music-wise, besides TSC?

I’ve been involved in radio for over a decade now. Hosting, programming and producing shows. Some one-off’s for American and British radio stations. I used to write music reviews for a small health magazine. Also I published an independent magazine featuring interviews with bands back when I was in my early 20s. I used to volunteer at music conferences here in Toronto (NXNE and Canadian Music Week). Managed a 60s RnB cover band for a while, booked shows. I seem to be the go-to person in Toronto when people plan to travel here. I get contacted often for things to do or check out and help friends get DJ gigs while they visit.

Lastly, what are your goals for TSC in the future?

At the moment just to keep spreading the word on soul events here and in other cities, creating bonds with like-minded people. It’s helped us be involved in events as partners. Collaborating on fundraisers. No big ambitions. Just to be respected and build relationships and stay consistent, kind, and enjoy the community we are a part of here and globally.

You can keep in touch with RSC through the following:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: