DJ Caylem is half Dene, half Cree, whose mother is from the Cowessess First Nation in southern Saskatchewan. He is a Tsuut' ina artist from Treaty 7, promoting and doing live shows in western Canada.
Growing up, Simeon listened to the classic rock and country that his aunts and uncles were playing, and the disco tracks of his cousins.
"One of my uncles loved reggae. I never knew what reggae was or heard it until he started staying with us and playing reggae music. Through all of these different styles, different people in my life, I was actually exposed to a lot of different formats of music.”
A MIND-BLOWING EXPERIENCE
Inspired by late-night beats on CBC Radio and Kraftwerk, the German band known for pioneering the electronic music genre, he eventually aimed for tracks of his own.
It was one of his earliest exposures to what his future sounds would be.
With a budding passion for the genre, Simeon attended his first rave. It was where he experienced all cultures and social groups enjoying each other's company.
"It was a mind-blowing experience because my ears were opened up to a new style and new sound of music that I had never heard before."
He was hooked on electronic dance music after seeing everyone letting go, and being themselves.
"It wasn't stuff being played in the clubs, it was stuff that was being played on college radio or after-hours parties or in the bigger cities like Detroit, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles."
But soon, Simeon was playing his own shows as a DJ.
THE ENERGY AND THE AUDIENCE
"I've been deejaying across Western Canada for the last 28 years, playing everything from house, techno, trance, breaks, downtempo, jazz, ambient — coming back full circle to house and techno."
Simeon, who focused on playing Top 10 tracks for his nightclub audiences, has been a fixture of Calgary since the 2000s. His loyalty to his fans is what keeps him doing shows.
"It's all of the energy that people give you—that your audience gives you. You gotta take that, turn it around, give it back to them because they're trusting you to create something with that energy."
Emotion and inspiration are what Simeon tries to give back to his audience. His one-hour tracks unify the people in the room, moving them closer together.
To prepare, Simeon plays his music three or four times before a show that he makes with digital instruments blending sound effects and vocals — a process he puts together in his studio. And he hopes he’s telling a memorable story his audience appreciates..
"You're hearing things in between the notes, in the spaces. In between the notes you're catching the sounds that you didn't hear before. The lyrics you didn't hear before or you're catching one chord that's been played, and that's enough to spark or emote some kind of an emotion or a feeling inside of you."
Most importantly, Simeon wants to connect with his audience. Ranging from a diversity of fans, he wants to step out from the facade of any kind of fame.
Simeon has been working to promote Indigenous artists within the electronic dance community. An example is Hard Times, a show put on by Simeon at the restaurant N9NA, which featured all Indigenous DJ performances.
To better support other Indigenous artists in the community, the Hard Times show, and others like it, are set up as networking opportunities. Simeon's "neechie network" includes other Indigenous DJs working to get on to bigger shows.
"This is a big thing for me because it's my opportunity to bring everybody from the Indigenous community in Calgary together so that we can network, that we can amplify each other."
NETWORKING TO STORYTELLING
In 2018, Simeon was asked to play at Alberta's Electronic Music Conference (AEMCON), a music development event and educational platform showcasing 150 electronic music acts from around the world.
"That conference was really the catalyst that sparked the fire. And within that year's time, I did a lot of growth, and I did a lot of networking,” says Simeon. “Not just an artist, but growth as a person."
It also resulted in the creation of Simeon's latest house track, “Journey's End.”
Highs and lows included, this is one of his most personal tracks to date. Transforming from DJ to storyteller, his new direction is all about releasing feelings within everyone.
"It's a creation of a story that makes you realize [it’s] not my story, but a story for yourself as well, and to tell yourself in one year's time."
Simeon is planning to release two new releases with four tracks and a full-length album with 10 songs.
With a career spanning 28-years, he's been influenced by genre after genre, decade after decade, to get everyone out and feeling the same, positive vibe.
"To be able to throw that down onto an album or even just a simple four-minute song to give your story, your rendition of who you are and what influenced that to get you where you're at right now is probably the greatest gift that you can give back to your audience."
Photo courtesy of Caylem Simeon.
- By Floyd Black Horse