You never know what’s in Basic Soul Unit’s record bag. Depending on the night, he can throw down melodic techno, heavy jacking sounds, deep house, disco, and often a combination of these. Stuart’s strength as a DJ is his versatility and this is what makes his sets so fun, the unknown.
Hong Kong born and raised in Canada, Stuart Li aka has been steadily making his mark in underground electronic music circles since his first release in 2003. His diversity came from listening to Toronto’s college radio stations and attended after hours parties before working at Cosmos Records store, dealing vintage Jazz, Soul, Funk, Latin, Brazilian, Disco, House and Hip Hop.
Reflecting his diverse interest in music, Stuart’s house & techno productions can swing from lush and soulful to crunchy and jacking . He has released and remixed music on respected labels such as Dekmantel, Nonplus+, Dolly, Philpot, Mathematics, Mule Electronic, Versatile, Ostgut Ton, Créme Organization & more.
Basic Soul Unit is bringing bottomless record bag to Good Room this Friday night, playing with Mike Huckaby, Soramimi (live) and Ne Sileas (grab your tickets here). We caught up with Stuart ahead of the party find out what gets him going.
What is your holy grail of records?
While I don’t have much time to dig anymore or the budget to click buy on Discogs whenever I get the itch, there are a few records I’d still love to have. This is one of them.
Dead or alive, if you could pick anyone to dance to one of your sets who would it be and why?
I’m going to have to go with my old friends the D4C crew from Toronto. These guys came up in the club dance scene around the late ’90’s and did their thing at a lot of the gigs I played at. Whether it was House, Jazz or Hip Hop, they just let the music guide their moves. It’s great to play crowds world-wide but there’s something great about playing to hometown dancers week-in and week-out that are on the same wavelength musically speaking. You can catch their moves below. Coincidentally, this vid (by Jason Ebanks and Ramon Charles) was a promo for a Tee-label called Loop that I was running with Ramon and another friend John from the same crew. It was family vibes.
Has dance music changed for better or worse since you got into the business?
I guess I’m old enough to have been through a few cycles of ebb and flow in dance music popularity. The music itself isn’t better or worse. There’s always going to be commercial and underground, and there’s always going to be good and bad music. Of course you could argue that from the business stand point, things are worse in the digital age. But then technology has also enabled more people to create music who couldn’t afford to before. Times and technology change but the human need to dance is eternal.
What would your last meal on earth be and to what soundtrack?
I’m going to go with Chinese braised fatty pork with preserved vegetables (梅菜扣肉). I love a lot of different foods but I was born in Hong Kong and my dad’s side of the family is Hakka. This is a family favorite and a comfort food. It’s not the healthiest dish but then again it doesn’t matter if it’s your last meal. While having a belly ache from the oil and fat, I’d probably sooth it down w James Mason’s Rhythm of Life album before drifting into eternity.
Could you share five of your favorite tracks with us…
James Ruskin – Work (Steve Rachmad Mix)
A veteran of the Dutch scene, there’s more than a few of his releases (under various monikers like Sterac or Parallel 9) that are my all time favs. I picked this driving percussive remix as its one of his heaviest productions.
Chicago Skyway – Heavens Mix 2
You can ask Sean Hernandez aka Chicago Skyway, he probably has a thousand versions of Heavens. Mix 2 on the original release through Eargasmic is the one that does it for me. The forlorn strings give way eventually to a heavy percussive acid workout!
Bjork – Violently Happy (MAW Basso Hitto Dubbo mix)
This remix of Bjork from Masters At Work elicits memories of Toronto loft and warehouse parties in the early 90’s for me. The mix doesn’t have much to do with the original, but who’s thinking about that at 3am in the morning on a sweaty dancefloor?
Basic Soul Unit – Soulspeak (Shed Mix)
Not really one to big up my own work but in this case, Shed turned my original upside down into a raving mad stomper. With the crunchy distortion and layered sounds, I’d say it’s even a bit farther out and heavier than even his original stompers.
OAR003-B – Oni Ayhun
This emotive piece works for me every time anywhere on any dance floor. Done by Olof Dreijer of The Knife in 2009, its already a classic in my books.