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D.W. Waterson Is Blowing Up With "Bubble"

Meet the Toronto DJ committed to keeping the party popping.

by Candy Thomas

D.W. Waterson is the consummate multi-hyphenate. As a non-binary/queer creator, DJ, drummer, writer, and award-winning director their passions seem to blend seamlessly, creating a dynamic creative force with a resume to match. 

Waterson is the creator/director of the award-winning series That’s My DJ and director of the Crave original The D Cut, and CBC Gem’s Devout +Out. In 2018, Waterson caught the eye of actor Idris Elba, who hand-selected them to work on the hit Netflix original series Turn Up Charlie. This momentum of the party continues to build, and on November 26 Waterson released their debut EP,  Home Brew Vol. 1, a high-energy 18-minute evocation of their party Home Brew and love of electronic music.

One notable track on the project is “Bubble,” featuring Jane and Finch rapper Sydanie. Together, the duo released a new kaleidoscopic music video to support the high energy single. “My goal in directing the video for ‘Bubble’ was to create a fun, colourful explosion,” says Waterson. “We were able to make the track and video even more silly and vibrant, while not taking ourselves too seriously— which is the attitude I hope my audiences adopt at my shows.”

It’s been a long journey, from their start as a teenage drummer, dreaming of releasing their own music, to working through the pandemic. Waterson is visibly excited for listeners to hear what’s in their brain. We reached out to celebrate the release of Home Brew, pry into their creative process, and learn about the importance of collaboration.

Congratulations on your new release, can you tell us a bit more about Home Brew and how it came to be?

Home Brew is a party I started eight years ago. Its name is based on my dad’s homemade mixtapes that I’d admired as a kid. Those were the tapes I listened to the most because they had the best tracks from the radio, and what resonated most with me was how it was curated. My dad has great taste in music and compiled a little bit of every genre. That represents how I DJ. While I primarily play electronic music, I like to play the best of electronic, whether that be pop, future house, deep house, bass, or disco. It was this party that inspired the Home Brew EP; the vibes, the attitude and the electrifying nightlife. 

What’s the story behind “Bubble”? Did you pen this track mid pandemic? Who was in your bubble?

I did a ton of research when seeking collaborators for my EP, ensuring that all featured artists were part of the queer community. But I’d known of Sydanie for a while and had been a fan of hers for a long time. I knew that nobody else could slay the track like she would. I (respectfully) hounded her for six months during the pandemic to feature her on my EP, and after many months of trying, her schedule finally cleared and we were able to make it happen with restrictions lifting. When we got in the studio, Sydanie had written wall-to-wall lyrics. They were all so incredible but the bars that stood out most were the lyrics that made it into our song “Bubble.”

What is your creative process like?

I’m most inspired by the party; so it’s been tough over COVID to not be connected to the dance floor. But creating this EP, I stayed mentally locked into my Home Brew party. I knew what sounds and energy I wanted to put into the album, so it started there. Once I had the foundation of the tracks, I began to reach out to artists, to continue to mold the tracks into songs that I would play at my monthly queer party.

Do the drums still play a big part in your creative process, either in the studio or on stage when performing?

I am a percussionist through and through. Even how I DJ is very rhythm-oriented; if you don’t have an interesting, driving beat, you don’t have anything.  As for my live performances, drums are the heart and soul. 

As a DJ/producer you’re often bringing vocalists and other performers on board for collaboration – how important is collaboration to your process?

As someone who also works as a director in film, something I’ve brought into my musicianship is the importance of collaboration. When making films and series, everyone is the master of their own department. And that was something I was able to bring into my music-making process, which is getting great collaborators who love, know and understand their craft, and filtering them all through my voice as a producer.

How do you go about selecting who you create and collaborate with?

I feel like research is such an under-utilized tool in our industry. I spent months looking at the ‘best of’ lists, at ‘who played festival’ lists and asking opinions of mixers and colleagues, not to mention scouring SoundCloud and message boards for queer Canadian artists. There are so many artists who are wildly talented, many who are untapped and under-utilized. It’s a crime that more talented queer artists aren’t being uplifted in the Canadian music scene. 

Are there any specific live music moments or experiences that you can recall having contributed to you deciding to pursue music full time?

When I was 16 years old in high school, I played at a college bar; it was my first big live show as a drummer. I was so high on adrenaline, and because I’d played the drums so hard, I basically had noodle-arms after two songs. It was wild for my body to know exactly what to do and to get so high off of the energy in the room for live music. That was a turning point for me in pursuing this career.

What’s next for you?

Hopefully playing more live shows, the world and COVID-depending. I’m also planning on releasing a second portion of my EP, Home Brew Vol. 2, which is in the bag and ready to be released soon.