Date posted: October 22, 2011 By: Jimmy J

Through the magic of the internets the elusive Sean L recently stumbled across our site and made an appearance on Facebook. So what happened to one of Toronto’s founding rave DJs? Was he exiled from Canada or is he a fugitive? Held up in a Turkish prison or just enjoying life back in the UK? 15 years later he settles the score.


Your departure has been explained by a 23 Hop deportation rumor. Any truth to it?

Ha ha, rumour and mystery make every story more interesting, but there is some truth to it. I did not get deported but I did get arrested for selling alcohol without a liquor license, I was a given a summons to appear in court but I never showed up for the trial. You summed up why I left in your bio of me, I was still getting a few gigs but not enough to support myself financially and had no day job.

It was time to go home, I had been partying hard and needed to go back to Merseyside and get my head together. There is always some sadness when you say goodbye to friends especially when you have had such good times, but I needed to go home and glad I left when I did.

Are 23 Hop memories bitter sweet then? Tell us some memorable BSC moments?

Not bitter sweet at all, just great memories and loads of them, as a club it was similar to Liverpool’s Underground club and the Hacienda, with minimal decor just a few lights and a bank of fuck off speakers. Nothing would be cleaned for weeks so if you sat down anywhere you got covered in crap. The mural of Che at the top of the stairs was perfectly apt it was “ Viva La Revolution”. Like the other clubs I mentioned though it was nothing without up for it punters keen to embrace something new.

Malik X was an awesome force, a great DJ and the best MC I have ever heard, I remember Dr No dropping in ce ce penniston and grooving round the booth, Malik was buzzing on the mic rapping about Neil’s whig out, the whole club was laughing, those 2 really fed off each other.

I can listen to the hardest techno styles but for me Mark played the best sets and in my opinion is as good a deck fiddler as there is with a character of rare quality. It was always good fun in the Booth and there was a good camaraderie amongst the BSC, I will always love those guys!! Dropping stuff like The Orb, huge pulsating brain and hearing cheering from the dance floor and getting love from the punters was a fantastic feeling.

Where have you been since and what have you been up to these days?

I moved back to my hometown of Southport and have lived here since, no place like home I guess. These days I’m driving trucks for a living, I swapped the Technics wheels of steel for Scania’s, it pays the mortgage.

How did you end up in Toronto and get linked up with the BSC? 

A story of fate and luck. Unemployed in Thatcher’s Britain I left for Canada, I did not know if I would stay for a month or whatever but I had family there and decent contacts for some construction work.

I had only been over a few weeks staying up in North York and bored one Saturday night I headed downtown, Billy no mates. Fate had me walking down Richmond St off the beaten track, next thing 3 rum looking cunts are walking toward me, I was worried they would beat me up and mug me.

Anthony Donnelly, John Angus and Danny Henry, great guys all 3. They dragged me up to 23 Hop where Mark Oliver was playing all the right tunes but the place was empty. Anthony and John though had a clear plan and brimmed with enthusiasm. The name Exodus was decided and Mark, Malik and Dr No were going to DJ and they were going to promote the thing properly.

I had brought some scouse house favourites with me and had done a few club nights and illegal parties back home so I begged them to put me on the bill and they gave me a chance, within 2 weeks they had 318 crammed and rocking!!

Malik came up with the Boomin System Collective name declaring the 4 members, that and the loyalty of Exodus kept me on the bill.

Malik quite often mentioned on air that you were “stuck in a little hut”?

I was flag man on the Gerrard St Bridge over the DVP reconstruction, they did it in sections so the streetcar route could continue but the road was closed to cars, I did that 12 hours a night sat in the hut listening to my walkman, trying to keep warm in your delightful winter weather. Money was really good though, Union Job.

What became of your record collection?

I took a flight case full with me and left the rest, not sure what became of them but I hope someone had some use of them.

Did your DJ career continue when you left Canada?

No I hung up the headphones when I left at least professionally. I have played a few parties in friends houses and still like to play with the old tunes every now and again with virtual DJ.

What’s your all time favourite top 23 Hop anthem?

Mark’s Coco Steel and Lovebomb, Feel It.

Few of mine, A Homeboy, A Hippie and A Funky Dread, Total Confusion (heavenly mix), Orbital Chime, LFO and The Orb, A huge pulsating brain, a copy given to me by Terence.

Had you heard your Clash of the Techno set before visiting this site? Comments?

Love the website, the fact it was 20 years ago I guess is why I hit the search button. A very comprehensive account into the birth of Toronto’s rave scene, well done!!

No not heard the recording of the broadcast before, some decent tunes on there, I managed to press the wrong button though and had a few minutes of dead air while the Dr and Malik figured out my mistake.

Do you have any recordings or evidence of your time in Toronto?

Yeah there are some tapes about, some photos and the flyers and Sean L is on t’interweb thingy now.

What other memories can you share about Toronto parties that followed Exodus?

Loads of good parties, but don’t forget Exodus still had a few more great events. The Chemistry parties were good and led the way to the bigger warehouse events, Pleasure Force stands out too especially the first with Andy Carroll and New Atlantic as I helped arrange that part. Destiny, Phaze and Better Days got it goin on too. Summertime was great in Toronto with an abundance of great events

Toronto misses you, would you consider coming back for a “Boomin’ Reunion”?

Wow, nice of you to say that. I miss Toronto and the friends I had there. I think I should gain entry ok. It would be nice to see everyone and listen to Shuggy again and the other good DJs, party like the old days, I really never meant to leave it this long but I have never got round to it.

Anyway thanks for getting in touch, Respect to the Toronto Massive.

Cherish the Special moments in your life,

Sean L

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Photo courtesy of Frank Scuglia, Phaze 1993

Date posted: October 22, 2010 By: Jimmy J

Before we begin it’s important to note that this list of techno anthems is specific to the Exodus era at 23 Hop in 1991. And this wasn’t a task we took lightly, here’s the skinny on how the list came to be:

First we diligently scoured through our tapes from 1991 and compiled a list of all the tracks on them. Then we tracked down six original ravers (attended 10+ Exodus events in 1991) who offered more suggestions and submitted their version of the final 10.

Shout-out to Colm from Sketched-Out and James St. Bass for inspiring this idea.

The Top Twenty-Five 23 Hop Techno Anthems From 1991:

1. Infiltrate 202 – Altern8

2. The Future – K Groove

3. 

4. Feel it – Coco, Steele and Lovebomb

5. Technoboy – Electropeople

6. Energy Flash – Joel Beltram

7. Activ8 – Altern8

8. Charly – Prodigy

9. The Bouncer – Kicks Like a Mule

10. Hurricane – Sykosis 451

11. 

12. Cubik – 808 State

13. Annihilate – The Annihilator

14. I’m Alright – Y.F.B.

15. 

16. Everybody in the Place – Prodigy

17. Fireball – Timebase

18. Hardcore U Know The Score – Hypnotist

19. Exterminate – DMS

20. Check Out How We Jam – Bass Construction

21. Fireball Timebase

22. Hypnosis – Psychotropic

23. Such a Feeling – Bizarre Inc

24. Join the Future – Tuff Little Unit

25. Aftermath – Nightmares on Wax

Date posted: February 7, 2010 By: Jimmy J

captain b mentalIn our first post we described how Alan Stephenson’s tenure in Toronto could be used to define our golden age of raves. In our final entry we’re going to define the man himself. Who was this British raver that commanded our scene and then vanished into thin air? Was he even real? Or do we find out at the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s Toronto rave epic that he was just one big hallucination? Who would play him in the movie? I would cast Bruce Willis if he could pull off an accent, because I actually used to poke fun at B. Mental regarding his Bruce-like features. Alan Stephenson had a great a sense of humour; one of his proudest UK imports was a tape of Derek and Clive comedy which featured nonsensical conversations, compliments in part to Dudley Moore. Of course, Alan was quick to point out how uncool Canadians only knew the British comedic legend from his Arthur flicks. As much as he was an ethnocentric Brit, he was right – those recordings were hilarious. But when the laughter died down, serious allegations about the man known as Captain Brainstorm Mental lingered.

This project was inspired by music on rare mixtapes, the majority of which were compliments of the Captain. They represent a mere fraction of the commendations he accumulated throughout a decorated career of raving. Adversely though, he cast a dark shadow on Toronto rave nostalgia  – an obstacle that nearly prevented this project from ever coming to fruition. There’s a delicate balance between giving him the credit he deserves and calling a spade, a spade. I’m qualified to walk this line given my dual perspective: a 17 year old who considered him the coolest guy on the planet versus the wiser man I am today; coincidentally the same age he was when he jumped the ship called Toronto.

Thus, let us begin the facts.

Alan landed in Toronto in his twenties joining his father, sister and brother who had already settled into the city. He worked odd jobs which included busboy at a few popular restaurants. Yet it wasn’t long before his inner salesman negotiated a future in street vending – a career that began one day while passing a telephone pole with a job posting stapled on it. You know, the ones with little phone number tabs you tear off. It was an anecdote he described to me fondly – how plucking paper off a post was the starting point of a lucrative empire.

Alan Francis Stepenson Gemstones CardA series of street salesman gigs followed; and  his English accent, of course,  was a huge asset among his arsenal of sales techniques. Stephenson would go on to captain his own small vending outfit, known as Gemstones Jewelery. It was located at 9 St. Nicholas Street, an alleyway off Wellesley tucked away behind Yonge. Aside from the office, a telephone and some business cards, the operation was a pure hustle. The tiny, one-room headquarters was a meeting place for the fleet of street vendors who worked for commission and took home cash at the end of their shift. And since no one actually had proper vendor permits, police interaction and fines were a regular casualty of the job. Alan always told his “employees” he would pay their tickets – but really they all went into a drawer containing a pile of other past-due fines. The turnover rate was so high that most staff were long gone before they realized Gemstones management hadn’t made good on their payment promise. Alan justified this by pointing a finger at the vendor for getting caught, since he taught a ticket evasion technique that served him well: an alias. When questioned by police, you were to claim to possess no identification and then change one or two letters of your surname when reciting it. The slight variation made it easy to remember and natural to repeat under duress. Stephenson, for example, had his own vending alter ego – Alan Stevenson – because when the “ph” was replaced by “v,” the ticket was designated for an entirely different person and the fine was now worth less than the paper it was printed on. An inaccurate ticket meant no recourse for city hall but it was still a handy keepsake for future encounters with police: “Sorry officer, I don’t have my ID, but here’s my last ticket, will that do?”

Speaking of worthless, Gemstones products were costume jewelery rings – each sold for $5, or any three for $12 (a good up-sell for the savvy sellers). Every purchase was accompanied by a nicely printed piece of paper that guaranteed the ring against defects, ie. turning green after the supposed real gold or silver plating wore off.  When this defect occurred (and it always did) the certificate claimed the customer was entitled to a replacement item. The really smart buyers would always question this guarantee, asking, “But you’re a street vendor. How would I ever find you again!?” Like most shifty operations, there was a snappy response for every skeptic, “You don’t have to find me, just mail the ring to the address listed at the bottom of the guarantee and include $2 to cover shipping and handling.” The address on the guarantee, however, wasn’t the office address on St. Nicholas, it was an anonymous post office box. That way, Alan could pocket the extra loot without having to mail anything back.

Like I said, pure hustle.

The soundbite above features Alan Stephenson and John Angus on Hardrive with James St. Bass in June of 1992.

atmosphere raveIn 1992 Alan cashed in his jewelery business to focus on the potential within the surging rave scene. He tested the market first by selling mixtapes at the Factory nightclub and throwing a small rave, titled Atmosphere. The transition was nearly seamless – dodgy street tactics were easily applied to an untapped clandestine scene. Once all the jewelery had been liquidated, X-Static rave merchandise and Pleasure Force events became his new gems.

There’s no doubt Captain B. was extremely passionate about a scene in Toronto – even well before one existed. His influences over the years were obvious, but he also was motivated by numerous ulterior benefits.  For him, the scene was a source of income, intoxication and it fostered a haven of young men with whom his relations were extremely questionable.

“The very dangerous Captain Brainstorm” – Malik X (33:53)

Alan Francis StephensonAlan quickly became an unqualified mentor to many young minds. Despite an unhealthy lifestyle founded in dishonesty, he managed to have monetary success – which was a misleading message to the impressionable. Armed with only the most rudimentary business skills, his biggest resource was a revolving door of exploitable young men who glorified his English accent. Me and many of my friends were among the first batch.

As the scene progressed Alan descended further into a fantasy world in which he had diplomatic immunity. And since the microcosm he inhabited was populated by teens there was no true authority to govern his corruption. Existing somewhere between X-Static, raves and chemical enhancement, he became more distant with reality with every passing Saturday night. Downtime was spent on his leather couch at 40 Gerrard St. East, soothing his mid-week MDMA woes by further self-medicating.  With over-indulgence running rampant he developed a complete lack respect for the well-being of himself and those around him. No one could possibly carry on like he did without experiencing serious repercussions, and rumours about B. Mental’s mental stability were mounting. The rare conversation I had with him in 1995 revealed the person I met at my first Exodus rave wasn’t all there. Sadly B. Mental had lost touch with reality, his surname-nickname now a prophecy that had been self-fulfilled.

alan francis stephensonWhen the infamous Toronto Sun article surfaced, the charges attached to the arrest seemed to put his behavior in perspective. Nevertheless Alan defended the allegations via a published letter to the editor of Tribe magazine. He claimed the taboo materials arrived unexpectedly after signing up for a general mailing list at a gay bookstore (which operated on the other side of the Gemstones’ office wall.) He realized this defense wouldn’t hold up in the courts of Canada especially given he (and the company he kept) had been under surveillance for several months. Plus, the discovery of a large quantity of narcotics didn’t help corroborate his innocence. While on bail he transferred X-Static to his brother-in-law, tied up some lose ends and headed for Mexico.

I clearly remember the last time I saw him. I was mostly detached from the scene and working at Movenpick in the BCE place. He strolled by with his signature walk and I quickly turned the other way, fearing what he might say if he saw me in a sell-out button-down shirt and tie, making an honest living working for the man. The conversation would have gone all Derek and Clive with the ironic laughs at my expense. “You prim-and-proper-c*nt… You look ridiculous, Jimmy J!” Yes, Alan coined my nickname too, originally “H20” but replaced by “Jimmy J” after he noticed a DJ by that name on a UK rave flyer.

And despite my eventual epiphanies, I’m still curious about him because there was a moment in time that I considered him to be a good friend. How is he now? What does he do for a living? Given that he’s now 50-years of age (and hopefully back in touch with reality) he certainly has his own demons of dual perspective to deal with.

But the burning question still remains: Was he able to bring his coveted collection of mixtapes with him when he fled Canada? Alan was responsible for managing the 23 Hop booth tape deck during Exodus raves so he undoubtedly had the best archive of Toronto rave audio in existence. If the tapes weren’t seized when his apartment was raided, they may very well be in some part of West Sussex in England, either Littlehampton or Bognor Regis, where he’s currently rumoured to reside.

Date posted: January 25, 2010 By: Jimmy J

“This one goes out to the man called Malik, [whispers] happy birthday.” – Dr. No (16:27)

January 25, 1992. It started like most Saturdays with a morning shift at my neighborhood Esso gas station. But unlike previous Saturdays in 1991, I wasn’t as anxious to clock-out. Since there weren’t any raves scheduled, there was nothing to rush to after my shift ended. With no location to rave at in the new year, the city’s 300 ravers were in the midst of an identity crisis. And even though raves were functioning weeks prior – the scene’s uncertain future made them feel like a distant memory.

“A regular feature at 23 Hop, for those of you who remember that.” – Dr. No (15:18)

But there was a little hope. I was told by Captain B. Mental that we could expect to hear some techno on Radio London (even though Malik was three weeks into rave retirement.) That day my shift ended at 6pm – giving me enough time to walk home and slam a tape in my deck to record the broadcast. Malik gave Dr. No a 30-minute slot during his show to showcase techno. He called it the Techno Lab, and the above recording is what transpired.

This recording is evidence of an amicable passing of the torch between two men from the same school of DJing. No one was more qualified than the Doctor to ambassador the vibe  formed in 1991. In the years that followed he rode the the groove of progression and never forgot how it all began.

“Techno – the music of the future. And remember where you all started to hear it first – Radio London CKLN 88.1” Dr. No (23:18)

This particular day picked up more steam with reports of Mark Oliver spinning at a pub outside Toronto. With my tape deck left recording, I met up with Captain B. and we went down to the CKLN studios on our way to the pub. It was my first time there and Alan introduced me to Malik and Dr. No, who I had only ever seen from a distance – through the missing concrete slabs in the DJ booth.

From the studio we made our way to the pub. I can’t remember for sure if it was in Brampton, but I do remember taking a Go bus to get there. It was definitely in the 905, but before the days where you actually had to dial it. After spending a bit of time at the pub we weren’t hearing the hardcore we were hoping for so we boarded the bus back to downtown to continue our quest. We knew 23 Hop wasn’t functioning the way it used to, but decided to take our chances and went directly to 318.

We walked right past the empty cover booth – a tell-tale sign for club-goers that the end of the party is near. The house lights were on, no lasers were on stun, and the system wasn’t boomin’. Whatever party had been there had not succeeded. A tiny crew of confused Exodus hopefuls gathered outside the DJ booth. Then Dr. No arrived and everyone looked to him for answers, almost as if he was delivering long-awaited news to a family in a waiting room. In this case the loved one was Exodus Productions, which had been in a coma since the morning of January 1st and the prognosis wasn’t positive.

At that moment B. Mental pulled a tape out of his puffy green Naf-Naf jacket and popped it in the booth’s tape deck. The uncomfortable silence was over. The tape was a recording of the Exodus New Years rave, which began with Dr. No on the mic. He and everyone else had a laugh and we all starting dancing to the cassette now blasting over the club’s system.

I was in 23 Hop, and even if the audio was an analog version, I felt like I was back at Exodus with the Booming System blaring from the booth. Better yet, I was reliving the NYE event I had missed.

Unfortunately the flashback was short-lived. Roughly 20 minutes later the manager on duty pressed stop on the tape deck so he could close shop. We all quietly filed out of the club on to Richmond Street. The same question was on everyone’s mind: where do we go from here? This impromptu rave was over, yet the night was still young.

But then what? Because during those sobering moments I realized the true golden age of raving in Toronto was over.

“It’s enough to make a grown man cry and a man’s bottom lip swell-up.” – Malik X (00:07)

Track List

  • Here and Now – By Shakaboom
  • Triple XXX – Bug Khan & The Plastic Jam
  • Get on the Move – Bass Construction
  • The Melodic EP – One II One
  • M25’s – E-Type
  • Jock’s Nightmare – Intense

The following bonus recordings of The Techno Lab were contributed by Jeff Penttila:

And a subsequent recording once again submitted by the man, Jeff Penttila. Not great audio on this one, but definitely the Doctor as he makes mic appearances “Whatcha gonna do when the bass hits you…..” We think this might also be the Technolab, possibly January 4 1992 – as he plays The Trip by Phuture, which he just had on rotation on NYE.

Date posted: January 9, 2010 By: Jimmy J

The last recording of the Booming System Collective in action. We join Dr. No in progress as he tones down the hardcore at 5:45am in the morning. Not a single person in the room knew that in 2 hours and 15 minutes from this moment Exodus would evaporate. And how appropriate for this to occur on NYE, a definitive conclusion to these unique days of raving. 1992 would bring forth entirely different experiences – some great, some lackluster, but such is the way of progression.

This is yet another tape that seems to have fallen victim to B. Mental tape deck meddling. I believe only the first few songs on this side are actually from the evening (the reverse has more). It’s peculiar how the tape jumps back and forth between house and hardcore until we’re in a Radio One FM broadcast. Regardless, it’s chalked full of classics.

Enjoy.

Track List

  • The Trip – Phuture
  • Everybody in the Place – Prodigy
  • Testify – The Sounds of Blackness
  • Hardcore You Know The Score – The Hypnotist
  • The Bouncer – Kicks Like a Mule
  • Can You Feel It – CLS
  • On The Move – Sonic Solution
  • Hardcore Heaven – DJ Seduction
  • Manix – Oblivion (Head in the Clouds)
  • Give it Up – Airtight
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