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Toronto Star Article on MARK OLIVER


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It's Saturday night at The Guvernment superclub on Toronto's lakefront.

Everyone's dressed to party.

In the laser-lit darkness, 2,000 people lose themselves in non-stop music and movement. Glow sticks shimmer.

Presiding from the heights of the music booth is resident DJ Mark Oliver.

He's watching the crowds, sensing their energy, mixing the music that keeps them moving. Oliver, 34, is the big-name DJ they want to dance to all through the night.

He's brought choice selections from his 20,000-record collection.

He gives them the beats they want, the music they want, nine hours, no breaks. He plays underground music, not the kind you hear on commercial radio.

It's a natural high for Oliver, mixing the music he loves for this vast, enthusiastic crowd. It's also exhausting. Stolen bites of energy bars and sips of power drinks get him through. There's no leaving the booth unless he grabs a minute during a longer piece of music.

The Guvernment is the most important residency in town. Oliver creates the scene. He's it.

Fans wear shirts with his name, bring him tributes — artwork, cakes, shirts and keychains. He's had Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Wesley Snipes, Tom Cruise and Prince at his feet.

He's a star himself, all night.

Come Sunday daybreak, abracadabra, his celebrity coach turns into a domestic pumpkin. Oliver climbs out of his lofty DJ booth and into a silver Volkswagen Jetta.

He drives home in the dawn, arriving just in time to play hide-and-seek with his 16-month-old daughter Abby, who is fresh and bright-eyed after her night's sleep. He takes a shift of changing diapers on his newborn son Owen.

Sarah Campbell, his partner, cooks eggs and sausage while Oliver flips pancakes, and the family sits down to a big breakfast together in their small east Riverdale area house.

Oliver will catch a few hours' sleep late in the morning when his performance buzz wears off, and will sleep into the afternoon. Not enough, he concedes. But it keeps him going. It has to. A lot of his energy these days is absorbed by fatherhood.

Tuesday afternoon, Declan, his 11-year-old son from an earlier partnership, helps him search stores for music he can create with. There's a recording studio in the Oliver home, and Sarah handles some of the responsibilities associated with it. Oliver draws his family into his enthusiasm for music, bringing together the two elements of his life that count for him.

One of the best-known and most sought-after DJs in Canada, Oliver is casual about the celebrity but never about the music.

"I'm just in it for the music," he says. "I'm always looking for new sounds. That's what keeps it exciting for me.

"Even as a small child I knew how important music was to me," he says.

Born in East Kilbride just outside Glasgow, Scotland, he moved to Canada at age 7 with his family: his parents, two older sisters and an older brother. His siblings had staked out traditional family roles in which to excel, athletic, artistic and literary gifts.

"I was seen as the sensitive one, and I was encouraged in my interest in music," he recalls. His mother, a pianist, and his father, who had played clarinet in Scottish jazz bands, were happy to see their son take up guitar and saxophone.

Oliver grew up in Agincourt, and played in the concert band and stage band at Father Francis Libermann High School. Outside school hours, he played in garage bands with his friends.

He went to York University for its jazz program, but majored in political science and devoted a lot of energy to the university soccer team. After two years, he left school because he was so eager to be a DJ. He went to Europe, visiting clubs in England, Scotland, Greece, Belgium, Austria and Germany.

"That opened my eyes to different kinds of music, to the club culture of Europe, to a whole new world," he says. "The popular music here at the time was heavy metal, a white rock scene. In Britain it was black music. House music was just taking off.

"Most clubs in Europe were playing jazz-funk and a retro vibe. I really got into that."

This gave him the edge when he came back to Toronto. He got a cocktail waiter job at a club called Krush at Kingston Rd. and Main St. where most of the bartenders and waiters were actors. He worked there weekends, and returned to university during the week.

"My friend and I were telling the DJ what to play — we were indirectly creating a scene," he says. "It was such a wild place, so out of the way but with a parking lot full of limos and Lamborghinis."

When Krush closed, the owner opened a club on Jarvis St., called the Tazmanian Ballroom. Oliver left school and his lucrative bartender's job to do the DJ work he really wanted.

"It was a struggle at first, financially," he recalls. "The guy who took over my bar was shocked at what I was doing. But it was so much fun that I didn't see it as work. Being able to play the music I loved and get paid for it — I could hardly believe it."

When the club closed two years later, Oliver found himself in demand as the only DJ in town playing acid jazz and acid house music.

To keep one jump ahead on the music scene, he flew back and forth to Europe, avidly read music magazines, and particularly made use of the DJ magazines that were beginning to spring up in Britain.

"It's tougher today," he acknowledges. "There are hundreds of DJs in Canada playing the same music so there's a lot more competition. It's stressful. If you're at the top of your field, others in the field take shots at you. I used to take it personally, but it doesn't affect me as much any more. I've come to accept it. I'm confident in what I do."

Oliver is a little bemused at the celebrity status DJs have acquired in his 16 years in the business. When he started out for $45 a night, the DJ was the often-anonymous guy playing the records. Now, big name DJs have the same cachet as big name music groups, and his own name is right up there. "He's the man, in this town," says visuals mixer Chris Parker, who has worked with many DJs at major events in the past several years.

Oliver does quick-trip shows in clubs in Calgary, Ottawa, Vancouver and Edmonton. Before his residency at The Guvernment, and before his family expanded, he was flown to do shows in Mexico, the U.K. and U.S. cities.

He has performed with international star DJs like Sasha, Paul Oakenfold, Paul Van Dyk and John Digweed. And musical acts he has appeared with include Jamiroquai, Moby, and The Chemical Brothers.

"There's a whole package that comes along with it now," he says. "Image is important, and you have to treat yourself as a business. I make my own records. I do reviews for music magazines. And Tuesday nights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. I record my Internet radio show live. People can listen to it at any time at http://www.markoliver.ca."

While his family sleeps, Oliver works at his broadcasting or DJing through the night at the clubs. Most days he will work until 6 or 7 a.m., get to sleep around 8, and wake up again by 1 p.m. He tries to nap for an hour or two late in the afternoon, but often works for hours during the day preparing music for the night's engagement.

There are other hazards of the job, aside from chronic sleep deprivation. Many DJs have hearing problems, from the outrageous decibel levels they routinely experience. Oliver is in the danger area with one ear, but has no damage to the other. He has neck and back problems from lifting equipment, and from staying in one position for hours on end.

But he takes care of his health.

"Some people think every DJ takes cocaine to keep going," he says. "It's not true. I know that if I don't do harmful substances, I have more energy to play my music. I've seen friends get sucked up by the drugs or eaten by the scene. That was an eye-opener to me."

Oliver did his share of wild partying in his younger years, and now has a more settled air about him. He's handsome in an understated way, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes, and he dresses casually in jeans and smart tops, both at home and at work. He presents a distinctly laid back appearance — he doesn't even own a suit — but has the added interest of his passionate intensity over his work simmering below the surface.

Perhaps it's the felt paradox that creates his charisma. Or perhaps it's simpler than that. "People sense that he's a really nice person, and they feel comfortable with him," says Campbell.

At Club Money on Friday nights, he draws about 1,000 people and is lowered by harness into a DJ booth that hangs from the ceiling. He works other clubs on a less regular basis. But Saturday night at The Guvernment is the work week's highlight.

The club has a renowned sound system that is unique in Canada, and a specially designed DJ booth that minimizes the strain on Oliver's ears. (In some clubs he can tolerate only four hours before getting a pounding headache.) He sells out the place week after week, with 3,000 people over the course of the night. He's been there 5 1/2 years, and missed only three Saturday nights.

"I'm kind of like The Phantom — a really long run," he says. "The Guvernment is the best residency in the country. And there's not even a club that would compare to it in New York, now." He turns down offers that would take him out of town for longer than a day or two.

"The difference between me and the international DJs is that I have a family," he says.

"I can't get up and go whenever I get an offer in China or Australia or Europe. I'd rather take the long view and have a stable family life."

At the same time, he's never stopped loving his work.

"People are all gathered here to dance and celebrate life," he says. "My job is to tap into all that energy and to give them the best night they can have. It's really fun — I wouldn't do it if it weren't so much fun."
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room


TRIBE Member
mark deserves all the credit he gets and more. you may not like the guvernment crowd, but mr. oliver is still an awesome and inspiring dj and one of the founders of the toronto rave scene.


TRIBE Member
Good article

I am not a huge fan of the Guvernment myself but i can't take anything away from Mark..

He definetly deserves all the praise and credit he recieve's.I have seen him outshine many of the so callled "Big dj's" that have played the Guv over the years...

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
mitchel raphael wrote a really good article on mark oliver a year or two ago. it might still be on the national post website.

i'm sure tranceaholic has a copy of it too. probably autographed and framed. :p
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TRIBE Member
& if i remember correctly tribe did a really good job of profiling mark oliver last year...respect to mark for being such an integral part of the toronto scene for so many years...

chemistry/exodous massif represent!!! (& of course the cameron house sunday night parties)...



TRIBE Member
I love the Guv and Mark Oliver's music is the main reason!

IMO, the "Money" crowd is sooooooooo bad not even Mark Oliver's musci can make me stay there!

(The sad thing is I can *remember* the Tazmanian Ballroom)


TRIBE Promoter
Great article, thanks for posting!

I greatly admire Mark for so many reasons such as his outstanding ability with music, his rock solid common sense, hospitable personality and the fact that he is an all round great person.
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TRIBE Member
i'm sure tranceaholic has a copy of it too. probably autographed and framed.

yes its on my wall ;)

I loved the article because it showed the personal side of Mark alot of people have no idea about

He's a great guy and I wish him all the best, especially during this period of happiness


Fans wear shirts with his name

lol, I gotta iron it out for this weekend now


TRIBE Member
Originally posted by H2Whoa
Isn't this the same article that was in EYE few weeks back?
it's not word-for-word, but the feel is very similar. both are based heavily on his bio (as i would expect most artist profiles to be). and torstar owns eye, so....


TRIBE Member
He really is one of the classier and down-to-earth DJ's I have ever met, I am glad he is getting a little recognition in the mainstream. Definately good shit.
Jamie :)


I've yet to hear Mark Oliver, but that was a great article to read anyway. Thanks for posting it Adrian.
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Mad what ups and respect to Mark Oliver.

I have always enjoyed his sets wherever I have heard them be it at The Guv, This is London and even Money. He has done his fair share of 'adding value' to the Toronto electronic/underground/progressive/clubbing/whatever you want to call scene.

Thanks for posting an interesting article.



TRIBE Promoter
Originally posted by AdRiaN

"I've seen friends get sucked up by the drugs or eaten by the scene. That was an eye-opener to me."

Ain't that the fucking truth! Respect him or not......the man puts down.......

I met some people once from London England who knew who Mark Oliver was.

Mad props....


I truly respect Mark. Most of you are to young to remember the pleasure forse days where I first heard him dj.
You guys might hate the government but he is one of the ones who started it all.
He is doing what he wants and playing for the crowd that he wants and I respect him for that!
Congrats Mark you deserve it! It's been a wonderful 12 years!


TRIBE Promoter
I don't care what anyone says. I have a lot of respect for Mark Oliver... and NOT just because he spins Trance ;)
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TRIBE Member
Originally posted by Pest
I truly respect Mark. Most of you are to young to remember the pleasure forse days where I first heard him dj.
You guys might hate the government but he is one of the ones who started it all.
He is doing what he wants and playing for the crowd that he wants and I respect him for that!
Congrats Mark you deserve it! It's been a wonderful 12 years!

WE AGREE! Mad props to agreement.


TRIBE Member
Originally posted by Kalemic
hospitable personality


Mommy said: if you got nothing nice to say, stay shut! So I'm staying shut. Even though this "madrespectfest" above is begging for another point of view...

[post no.14]

Smiley Jo

TRIBE Member
Oh Dad...


My Dad called me up yesterday to tell me about this article.

"Hey Jo-Jo," he says "There's an article on one of your guys in the Toronto Star today... You know, one of those spinners."


I love my Dad when he tries to be hip!

Joanna :D


TRIBE Member
Re: Oh Dad...

Originally posted by Smiley Jo
My Dad called me up yesterday to tell me about this article.

"Hey Jo-Jo," he says "There's an article on one of your guys in the Toronto Star today... You know, one of those spinners."

your dad thinks that 'your guys' are fetish midgets? woah!
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