INTERVIEW WITH MAYNE CHAMPAGNE

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Mayne Champagne is not a newcomer by any means. After over 10 years of producing in both Toronto and Edmonton, he's back in his home city and is ready to push boundaries with his own music—and music videos. Before he performs at The Iscream's September 2nd showcase, Whiskey Kisses IV, we spoke to him about his past, his future and his new video for Sexin U.

How would you describe your sound?

It’s a very wide range. I can go from a pop, R&B influence like Boyz II Men to a Neo and then I can go a little bit more raw like an R Kelly, so it’s somewhere in between. I like to jump between two extremes. I like the polarization of both sounds.

So you released a new video for your single SEXIN U—can you tell me a bit about that?

Yeah, I took an artistic chance on that video. I wanted to do something that was just different. I knew nobody in the city would ever take a chance like that, it’s very extreme. It’s probably the only XXX music video in the city. So yeah, it’s different.

So do you like to kind of push buttons like that?

I think as an artist you have to—especially when you’re not signed to a label and you don’t have a big marketing machine. You got to figure out, you know, you don’t want to compromise the quality of the music or the vision, but you still got to figure out the angles of what’ll get people into you and what makes you stand out from another artist. You gotta take risks in this game.

Where did the name Mayne Champagne come from?

Actually I had the name—I know a lot of people were like ‘oh you took it from Champagne Papi’—I had the name way before I knew it was Drake’s alter ego. It’s just basically taking my first name—which is Jermaine—and I just chopped it in half and then I added Champagne in the end.

Do you live in Scarborough?

Actually for the past 10 years, I’ve been living in Edmonton. But I’m originally from Scarborough. So my high school years and my early 20s, I spent in Scarborough and then I relocated and the past 10 years I’ve been in Edmonton. I’ve basically been getting a name out here, but then I got an opportunity to come out here because now I have an in-house video guy working with me and a few other people on my team, so we’re just putting things together. We have Icy Roads—that’s my label and we sell merch under that as well.

What is the difference with the Edmonton music scene vs here?

It’s emerging. It’s not built up like Toronto, I’m not going to lie. It’s not built up like Toronto, but as far as Western Canada is concerned I think it has the largest urban market. They definitely have a scene out there for urban music.

So are you rolling off of that momentum from you’re time in Edmonton?

Basically what happened was I started off as a producer, for like the past 10 years—probably more than 10 years. So I started off producing for people like Drake. Before he blew up I did a record for Drake called "You Must Hate Money." I was going under the name Jump—it’s on Wikipedia, you can google it. So I produced for him when he was a nobody. This is like MSN messenger days, like way, way back—Myspace days! So I started off as a producer and then I produced local acts and then I moved to Edmonton. I just got this urge. Like I’ve always been recording but I never took it seriously until now. There was a social media challenge based off some racism that happened in Edmonton where there was a guy campaigning on behalf of Edmonton, doing a PSA and then he was called a racial slur. It was a video tape that went viral and started a movement. The movement was called #makeitawkward. I saw that and was like well this an opportunity to address some racism and then at the same time, get myself out there as an artist. Since the mayor and him teamed up and made a #makeitawkward campaign, I made a #makeitawkward song and it got me on TV. From there I’ve just been pushing the momentum.

Anything coming up in the next year?

I’m teaming up with DJ Capone. He plays at some of the bigger venues in Toronto. We have a festival—well, he has a festival that I’ll be hosting. That’ll be Canada Day weekend 2019. So it’ll be like 4 clubs, 2 boat cruises. It’s going to be big and we’ll have like international DJs from England and New York. So opportunities coming up for sure.

Tell me something about you that we might find surprising!

Ok, here’s an interesting fact: I was in jail with Baka [Not Nice]. Back when he was talking about being in jail, I did time with him.

Woah, what? What was he like in jail?

It was interesting because the place we were was a federal penitentiary named Joyceville and you have yard time from like 6-10 p.m. and in the gym there was this room where we had microphones and all types of stuff and equipment. You could play CDs and tapes in there. And he was never in the music room! That’s why I find it interesting. That’s not no shade toward him, I just have never seen him in there. That’s why I think it’s interesting that he is where he is, because I’ve never seen him—I’ve seen him in the yard, but never in the music room. Then to see how his life has taken off now, it’s pleasantly surprising. It shows anyone can change their life. He went down a different road and now he’s successful, so my hat’s off to him.

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Robyn Bell