Home / A & C / Beats and more beats

Beats and more beats

There’s IMP Labs at the U of R!

That’s a nice door. / Arthur Ward
That’s a nice door. / Arthur Ward

Guess what champs! Apparently, there’s IMP Labs at the University of Regina. Sorry, what? There’s labs at the U of R that run tests on impish little human beings?? Goodness gracious, no!

Dr. Charity Marsh, an interdisciplinary professor at the U of R and current Canada Research Chair in Interactive Media and Popular Music, opened these Interactive Media Performance (IMP) Labs in 2007 as part of her research projects.

“My areas of research are community based research projects around Hip-Hop culture,” states Marsh. “I do work on electronic music culture, popular music in Western and Northern Canada, Indigenous Hip-Hop, and [I] look at a lot of issues around gender, race, representation, identity in music, and creative technologies.”

Well, if that doesn’t sound legit, I don’t know what does! So, are the IMP Labs basically a spot for only Hip-Hop artists to come turn tables and spit out rhymes? Nope!

According to Marsh, the IMP Labs are not just Hip-Hop Labs, and “you could do full orchestral scores on an MPC.”

I have no idea what an MPC is (I forgot to ask and didn’t feel like Googling it). Dang. However, my best guess is that it’s one of the many cool beat machines found in the Labs, and it probably gets along great with the software programming devices, the film editing thingies, and even the DJ turntables down the hall. See? Lots of cool stuff in these IMP Labs that you can either learn to use or use to master your already-awesome electronic or not-so-electronic music skills. (Editor in Chief note: MPC stands for Music Production Center. You’re welcome).

Just pop in during the community hours (5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays). Unlike bars, casinos, and lounges, if you’re a minor, you can come bust some sick tunes in the Labs, and you won’t get kicked out as long as you bring an adult with you. Such fun.

Ah, now the special little abbreviation ‘IMP.’ Was the Labs’ name planned, or did it just magically turn out to be a clever play on words by complete fluke?

“I mean, it was very tongue in cheek,” Marsh says. “I chose IMP because the acronym is around impishness and playfulness. So, understanding that as adults we don’t play enough, here’s another place where people can play and provoke thought, critique, creativity, [and] imagination.”

Boom! There you have it, people! A name with a purpose.

In fact, this IMP Lab not only has a name with a purpose, but it also has an even greater purpose besides opening itself up to the public for playtime. Marsh explains:

“We do workshops for schools; we do workshops for a lot of social programs, like we’ve done stuff for Street Culture, we’ve done stuff for lots of different organizations, and then lots of schools.”

These workshops range in themes from arts and athleticism, which focuses on break dancing to DJ-ing, rapping, or whatever other cool creative workshops the IMP team comes up with.

Hmmm…teaching kids about music and culture. Sounds like a pretty perfect purpose to me!

Chris Merk, formerly known as “the rap kid” when he was 10 years old and now a local Regina Hip-Hop artist who pours his time and energy into working at the IMP Labs, states “I was always wanting to show people that there’s this music (Hip-Hop) and [that] I think it’s awesome.”

Well, in my opinion, he certainly does that by creating his own music to share and by teaching people at the IMP Labs and through workshops about Hip-Hop.

In fact, Merk was gracious enough to tour me around the Labs, which are located in room 049 in the basement of the Riddell Centre, pointing out the new musical equipment, the sick, vibrant graffiti artwork on the walls, the intriguing 3D art hanging from the ceiling, and even the vinyl library.

Wait a second. The IMP Labs sign vinyl flooring in and out so you can take samples home to see which colour and style matches your food-stained, rotting, utterly disturbing kitchen cabinets? Not even close bro. Vinyl = those-cool-round-big-black-old-school-records. Yay! So much enlightenment.

Before Merk showed me the DJ Lab down the hall, I gently placed my still steaming cup of Tim Horton’s dark roast black coffee on a desk to reduce my chances of allowing my coffee to vomit out of its cup onto oodles and oodles of beat machines. Who brings coffee to an interview in a room with expensive musical, technological equipment? This girl!

Anywho, according to Merk, the DJ room just got a bunch of new software, is sound proof (thank goodness), and has both vinyl turntables and digital turntables. So, if you have a phobia of vinyl, you can still come and learn how to DJ on digital turntables. There is hope.

Merk goes on to say, “When I was a student [at the U of R], I was coming here in between classes, so I would take an English class and come make a beat and then go to Philosophy class or something like that. And then I went to class thinking ‘how does nobody else know? I just went and made a beat, [and] now I’m in class in the same building!’”

Well, my friends, few people know about the IMP Labs because it’s tucked away in the asshole of the university (Riddell Centre 049). I mean, who actually goes down to the basement of Riddell unless they’re parking in the underground parking lot? Nobody! What a shame.

Despite the incredibly unfortunate location of the IMP Labs, it is quite popular among those who know about it and among the young and the old citizens of Regina. If the public isn’t scared of entering the U of R’s asshole to go lay down some sick beats in some sick company, then U of R students shouldn’t be scared either. And, guess what? Now you know where the heck the IMP Labs are, so if you’re even remotely interested in this stuff, you have no excuse to not pay the Labs a visit. HA! Suckers.

However, the female population seems to lack in the IMP Labs and stray away from the Hip-Hop genre in general. So sad.

“There’s not a lot of female representation, and I don’t know why,” Merk states. “I mean, I know why: because there’s so much misogynism and materialism…so many isms. And, so when I make music, I like to produce that. I think that’s what this whole place is about; don’t get stuck on those isms. Just come here and join the community.”

There ya have it folks! I present to you a catalyst for learning, a welcoming, ism-less environment, and a place that makes the U of R’s asshole a lot brighter: the IMP Labs.

About Destiny Kaus

Former carillon production manager/arts editor/arts writer.