Calgary’s Smalltown DJs named among 35 best lesser-known artists of last 35 years by Spin
Smalltown DJs, made up of Pete Emes and Mike Grimes, were chosen by Bootsy Collins as one of the 35 best lesser-known artists of the last 35 years in an article in Spin. (Courtesy Smalltown DJs)
CALGARY -- This last 12 months have been a real bummer for most artists working in the live event industry, but 2020 is set to end on a high note for the Calgary duo, Smalltown DJs.
Made up of Pete Emes and Mike Grimes, the pair were chosen by the legendary Bootsy Collins for a piece in the current issue of Spin titled The 35 Best Lesser-Known Artists of the Last 35 Years, Picked by 35 Well-Known Artists.
"They take a dance groove and kill it, in a good way," reads a quote from Collins.
And it's high praise from one of the godfathers of funk.
Collins — who played bass in James Brown's band, The Pacemakers, and was a member of Parliament-Funkadelic — is credited with creating the style of 'playing on the one' or the first beat, which helped formulate the funk movement in the 1970s and '80s and pop music as we know it today.
"It's been a tough year through and through so this has been a cool little thing," said Emes.
"Hopefully it's a sign of good things to come in 2021."
Emes and Grimes collaborated with Collins on a song called Good Thang, which was released in October by Fool's Gold Records.
"I think that was obviously what inspired his choosing us, he liked working with us I guess," said Emes.
Getting hooked up with the legendary bassist was as simple as reaching out to his management.
"We were working on a song and Mike said, 'we need a vocal on here,' and I said, 'this would be so perfect for Bootsy, we gotta at least try,' so I reached out to his management and they said, 'we love it, we're in,' then it went from there," said Emes.
"They're just great people so it was really cool."
Smalltown DJs may be Collins' choice of 'lesser-known artists' but they are anything but in Calgary music circles.
Emes and Grimes started performing as Smalltown DJs at the Night Gallery, a popular venue on First Street S.W. in the early 2000s. The pair then decided to open their own spot, the HiFi Club, on 10th Avenue S.W. in 2005, which was a staple of Calgary's live music and DJ scene for the last 15 years, closing last month due to ongoing pressure from the pandemic.
The pair have also toured across North America and Europe.
Being featured in an illustrious publication made this year a little less tough, said Emes.
"Spin is such a legendary publication, growing up I used to read every issue so it's just cool in that regard," he said.
"We've been featured in Spin once or twice before but not on something like this."
Live events have been shelved during the pandemic, but Emes and Grimes have stayed busy, performing on their Twitch channel. They're also part of the ownership group behind Home and Away and Emes has been doing Smalltalk, an interview show on the ItsGoodTV channel on Twitch.