DJ DELF is the new stage-name for popular educational performing artist Étienne. Étienne is a two-time “Canada’s Artist of the Year” winner (CMW Awards, MuchMusic, MTV), who writes and produces music to help teach different languages to his audience. These languages include French, Spanish and English. He has performed sold-out concert tours in theatres and arenas worldwide. His music uses rap, rock, and dance music and has been recognized worldwide for his unique approach to educating listeners in a new way. Enjoy our interview with DJ DELF below!
Entertwine: When did you get your start in DJing? What attracted you to this style of music?
DJ DELF: DJing is relatively new for me. I have loved listening to dance and house music for years. But, I was so busy putting out rock and rap albums that I never thought of trying out a more electronic sound. When I did get into the DJing, I realized that I had to release this new album under a new stage-name. That’s why the artist name is “DJ DELF” instead of “Etienne” (which is the name most people know me by).
Entertwine: What led you to start creating educational music in order to teach listeners different languages, such as Spanish, English and French?
DJ DELF: When I was in Teacher’s College, I looked for music out there that I could use with my students to help them learn French. Most of the music out there was too childish. Most often, it was some guy that sat on a stool singing folk songs or kids’ music. I was teaching pre-teens and teens. I knew they wouldn’t go for that. So, without telling my students that it was me performing the music, I played them songs that I made up to help them learn grammar and vocabulary in French (and later, Spanish). Very soon, other teachers found out about it, word spread, and the music went worldwide.
Entertwine: What was it like winning Canada’s Artist of the Year award for TWO years in a row? What kind of preparation went into winning this award?
DJ DELF: That was an honour and a blessing because you have to first be nominated by a panel of your music industry peers (major label producers, record executives, etc.) and then the winner is decided by national voting. Fortunately, I was touring like mad for those two years. So, I was in the public eye enough to get votes. I was so busy in fact, that both years years that I won, I couldn’t attend the ceremony. And that’s weird, because I remember when I was growing up, that I absolutely hated when artists weren’t at award shows to receive their awards. But, one time I was in Edmonton and then the next year I was in Vancouver. The awards show is held and taped in Toronto. From Vancouver, though, I had my producer Jay Reihl accept for me and he put his phone to the mic, so I addressed the audience that way. It was fun. But, I did finally get to go a few years later when I was nominated again. I didn’t win that year but I had a blast at the award show. The backstage VIP party was particularly memorable.
Entertwine: Your educational music uses a mixture of rap, rock, and dance styles – what encouraged you to use these styles, and what artists in these genres influence you the most?
DJ DELF: I can’t play music styles that I don’t like. The diversity of music styles that I use are absolutely a direct result of the music I listen too. Truth be told, my favorite style of music would probably have to be death metal. I am in awe of the sheer complexity and musicianship of the craft of that style. If you ever listen to the complex operatic-metal of a band like Therion you’ll know immediately what I’m talking about. Of course, I can’t use the death metal music style for my educational music (although I have been known to inject some death metal growls and screams in choruses live in concert, much to the chagrin of my guitarist Roland Bibeau). But, that same kind of edge can be found in my rock, dance and rap songs, for sure. As for influences, on the rock side of things, I love to listen to a lot of bands that are appreciated mainly by other musicians. Bands like King’s X, Circle of Dust, Mortal, Bride, Tourniquet, Magdalen, and Veni Donime probably top my list. On the rap and dance side of things, I love the tracks produced by artists like Stromae, Kamini and Lecrae.
Entertwine: What plans do you have for the rest of 2014? Any new releases, shows, tours, etc?
DJ DELF: I’m excited for what the rest of 2014 and what 2015 will bring. In the new school year, I hope to do some concerts in a few major cities. But, we hope to begin offering on-line concerts to reach any schools worldwide at the same time. Social media has made amazing things possible. Before, I had to tour Australia, New Zealand and the USA in separate years. Now, I can perform to anyone worldwide right on the internet. Hope to see some Entertwine readers in concert or e-concert soon!