Work Redux #002: Cameron Hildebrandt

April 1, 2021

Constantly searching for a feeling that lives between soul, jazz, reggae and house, Cam finds inspiration in the unknown and ambiguous.

Sharing stories told by artists past and present, he embraces the timeless messages and knowledge passed down through music. Soulful, spiritual and smooth can be used to describe his selections, but his peers can usually sum it up as ‘a Cam record’. And it’s in those records you feel his warm and open minded nature, like an extension of his character. So, sit back and enjoy 60 minutes of Cam.

Where did you grow up, and where do you call home now?

I grew up in a small town called Orillia. It’s about one and a half hours north of Toronto and is located on 2 lakes and surrounded by countryside. Currently, I call Toronto home and have lived here since 2005.

What was a formidable early musical experience of yours?

I think my first contact with underground music came when I was about 10 years old at my older cousin’s house. They had a huge collection of shoe-gaze and punk rock tapes. They would make me mixtapes to take home and I would try and tape similar sounds off the radio.

Did you grow up in a musical family/house?

Ya, kind of. None of my family were musicians, but the radio was always on in the house. This was in the early 90’s and we were members of the mail order service, Columbia House, so we were always getting random CDs and tapes in the mail. There wasn’t a big emphasis on the music itself per se, it was just always on in the background… I think our dog liked it on when no one was home.

Jerrys Fine Used Records.
Jerrys Fine Used Records.

Do you remember when you started to branch out and discover your musical tastes? Was it a friend, sibling, or lover that helped you along your path?

I have an older sister and when she got into high school she became friends with a bunch of skaters. She started driving me around more and had borrowed a lot of CDs from her friends. It was a mix of punk and rap and I loved it all. Eventually I started skateboarding and was watching a ton of skate videos. I liked the soundtracks and would watch the credits to see who it was and try to find it in the local shops. Fast forward to 2008 and I broke my leg and couldn’t do much other than watch TV and listen to music. I started downloading a lot of jazz and soul albums after learning it was the backbone to most rap music. This was when my obsession with more obscure 70/80s music started.

Do you have any other creative pursuits, or do you engage with music in any other ways?

I am just a music appreciator and DJ. I don’t play any instruments or work with music in any other way. I love digging for records and learning about history through music. I’m always searching for the records I don’t know exist. I am constantly amazed by the amount of music out there and once you think you know it all, you’re mistaken.

One thing I really appreciate with your Work Redux mix is a very short spoken introduction at the start of the mix. It makes it feel like a conversation, or a hangout. Something very casual and off-the-cuff. Is this a feeling you try and capture with your mixes?

For sure. Years ago, I started a series of mixes called ‘Living Room’ where I try to capture the vibe of being in my apartment listening to records. Even when I’m out DJing I love talking to people about the records I play. I want it to be casual, unpredictable and accessible in the same way that hanging out and listening to records can be.

Instalment on A Pinch Of..., an Hour Long Odyssey through, Reggae, Downtempo and Dusty Gems.
Instalment on A Pinch Of..., an Hour Long Odyssey through, Reggae, Downtempo and Dusty Gems.
You Are What You Eat, Cam & Ensoul for the 5th anniversary of Toronto-s Imanishi Japanese Kitchen.
You Are What You Eat, Cam & Ensoul for the 5th anniversary of Toronto-s Imanishi Japanese Kitchen.
Living Room 5, from spending a lot of time in the living room.
Living Room 5, from spending a lot of time in the living room.

Jumping off from this, I also appreciate how much you engage on Soundcloud, ID'ing tracks for folks and just generally putting yourself out there. This may just be your personality, but is this generosity and openness a part of your ethos when it comes to music and DJing?

As a DJ we play music that is (usually) not our own, so it’s essential that we share the artist’s information and track names. Like I said earlier, I want the music to open a conversation or create an interactive experience. As a DJ, if you know the tracks that people like, you can give them more of the same.

Your mix is very dynamic in terms of tempo and rhythm. I'm wondering how you manage the impulses of the story-teller and the party-starter?

When I make a mix, I want it to be both and I like to include all genres and tempos. My mixes usually follow a formula of slow to fast, which is what I try to do when I DJ a party too. I treat it almost like a 3 act structure, with maybe a 4th act for the very important cool down. I really like dance music with a conscious feeling to it, so that helps being both the story-teller and party-starter.

I found myself really attentive and focused with your mix on, and it made me think of the concept of deep listening, which in essence is listening with the intent to learn. Is this something that resonates with your idea of telling stories through sound and music?

Yes, definitely. I’m always deep listening, so I assume the people listening to my mixes are doing the same. Sometimes the story writes itself, especially if you listen hard enough, but when I plan out a mix, I try to pair songs with similar instrumentation, lyrics or vibe. When you can connect 5 or 6 songs with these similarities you definitely get a feeling of a story or cohesion. Sometimes it’s subtle, but if the listener notices this it really shows people are deep listening.

The feeling I was left with after your mix wound down was a sense of hopefulness. Do you have any thoughts in regards to hope and music?

I think it’s pretty simple, if you surround yourself with positive messages you’re given hope and inspiration.

Work Redux is a collection of mixes made to be listened to while working. We work closely with local and international DJs to assemble thoughtful music that will carry members throughout their day and introduce them to new sounds. East Room is a shared workspace company providing design-forward office solutions, authentic programming and a diverse community to established companies and enterprising freelancers. We explore art, design, music, and entrepreneurship, visit our news & stories page to read more.