DJ Rice behind the decks at the HiFi Club.
Christopher Murphy, Stoked On Photos
This month DJ Rice (a.k.a. Mark Quan) is celebrating 20 years of Sunday Skool, the weekly house music night he started at the legendary Night Gallery and moved to the HiFi Club when the former closed its doors. The milestone makes Sunday Skool one of the longest-running nightclub residencies in the world (yep, the world). A born-and-raised Calgarian, Quan first witnessed a DJ scratching and mixing in a local record store. His mind blown, he convinced his mom to co-sign a loan so he could get his own turntables, which he continues to use to this day. The official 20 year anniversary celebrations happen Sunday, Mar. 27 and will feature a return of Rice’s original Sunday Skool cohort Todd Omotani, a renowed graphic artist/creative director and DJ currently based in Seattle. We caught up with Quan to talk longevity in the notoriously fickle world of nightlife and why cellphones have been the biggest thing to happen to clubs.
Twenty years is a long time to do anything. Are you surprised Sunday Skool has lasted this long?
“It has become such a routine and a part of my life now, when I think about how long it’s gone on I have to shake my head. It’s amazing. Not many people stay 20 years in any kind of a job.”
Do you still have regulars from the Night Gallery era coming out to the HiFi Club to see you?
“Oh yeah. When they can come, they come. I even have some who have never stopped coming from back then. A few friends have kids who are old enough to come now. It’s pretty crazy, though we’re certainly not as busy as we were back in the Night Gallery days, the first 10 years.”
What was it like back in 1996 when Sunday Skool first started?
“It was all vinyl, all records. And there were no cellphones back then. Cellphones and digital media really changed the clubs – the ability to take digital photographs. That’s why you can never really find much footage of the nightclubs back then, because people would have to carry around a 35-mm camera.”
No one was dancing with one of those in their hands!
“Yeah! It’s so different now. Back then, you came, you paid a cover charge and if you walked up and it was dead, you would still stick around and make sure you got your money’s worth. Now people come to the club, they’re texting, ‘oh, it’s not very busy here… let’s go to another place…'”
Has the way you approach your sets changed at all over the years?
“I’ve never been a guy who pre-programs my sets. I always walk in and every night is different – different people, different elements. The first part of the night you’re just feeling them out, playing this and that, seeing what reactions you’re getting. I’ve always just played it by ear.”
What’s the one track that never fails to make people go crazy?
Well, you’d have to say “The Whistle Song” by Frankie Knuckles. It’s been my closing song for 20 years, every edition of Sunday Skool.”