A-Trak x Greedmont Park [Interview]
Monday, May 17, 2010 by Team Greedmont | 5 Comments; | Category: Electro, Music, Pop, Rap, RnB/Jazz/Soul
The setting is a venue in East Hollywood. Talk about hearts on the dance floor. Flashing lights fight with the hazy smoke in attempt to reach out to you. Psychedelic glimpses of heaven spin in your head as you absorb the energy pulsating from the colorful strobe lights overhead. Your feet are in a pretty sticky situation, and with every jump and grind your shoes become more and more engulfed in vat of beer, vodka, burnt bits and depending on the extremity of the party that you are at, vomit. Bones, everywhere. Especially the more pointed and dangerous ones. I dare you to get out of sync with the thumping crowd and expect an elbow or shoulder blade to not get slammed into your face. In the middle of this musical orgy, I spy with my drunken eyes a wasted youth clutching his beer bottle, celebrating the life that he has just began, the fears of failure a bachelors degree away. I spy with my drunken eyes a cocky persona, her jeans hug her curves tightly, she’s thirty, crow’s feet is a dead giveaway, but to anyone with the right amount of cash and with the right whip, she’s twenty one. Tonight she has been anonymously crowned queen of the dance floor. And why shouldn’t she be, she got the night off and saved up for the damn tickets. Not to mention the fact that it took two hours to straighten that mess of a hair and squeeze those size 14 hips into size 7 jeans. I spy with my drunken eyes a confident and happy persona,she’s alone. No need for an entourage of girls to blend in with and a steady supply of drinks to free her spirit! She is high off of life, an institution that she has forced herself to ignore the negative facet of and instead remain fixated on the good.
Sadness, happiness, love, hate, sin and lies all under one roof and don’t tell me you can’t feel the energy radiating in a room full of hip thumpers and rump shakers. I spy with my drunken eyes, the creator of it all, the man with the golden hands spinning and turning rhythms and anthems that combined potently and subliminally force you to let go of the worries of life and give in to the joys of the night. We hail him the Apollo of the turntables, his fans and beloved following refer to him as A-Trak. If you deem necessary we can cut the figurative bullshit and throw around the known as, Alan Macklovitch. When you’re a creator that has been at the forefront of such a massive and monumental movement, Shiva, Zeus, Allah it’s all the same just as long as you acknowledge the creation that has taken place, the work, hustle, grind.
Although music as an art form is abstract, I got a chance to talk about the more concrete aspect of it with A-Trak. We talked about everything from the late DJ AM and Keith Elam, brought the conversation to life with the pharaohs of hip hop and rhythmic harmonies: Africa Bambaataa, Kanye West, Jam Master Jay and took it right back to where it started with the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Audio Research, and a bar mitzvah. From the commencement of the interview, there was a characteristic in A-Trak’s being that I instantly held in high regard. He knew his stuff. So many people will drone on for hours, giving you auditory tours of their celebrity lives, but with A-Trak, I was schooled on the art that he specializes in, DJing. A-Trak, Kanye West’s handpicked tour DJ, the man who has scratched Kanye West, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Common and Kid Cudi classics, 1997 winner of the DMC World Championships, taught me about sets, routines, and the techniques to masterfully mixing songs from different genres to create one sweltering night. After ensuring that I was sufficiently schooled on the art of mixing, we went on to talk about some of the people that have influenced A-Trak. We started off with the late Guru,Keith Elam, who A-Trak said inspired him by simply “making good records”. We began to talk about the Gang Starr duo that Guru had been the half of and A-Trak commended them on how they stayed “truthful and gritty” at a time when hip hop was evolving. On the subject of emcee’s and gritty hip hop, Run DMC and especially Jam Master Jay took home the award and were cited as being the “pioneers of hip hop” that exposed a whole generation to a new style of music that eventually took over the nation. Jam Master Jay, he dubbed the “anchor that kept [Run DMC’s] credibility as a group unquestionable”. So as you can clearly see, not only does the man have the keen ability to mix songs to get the most favorable ass shaking result, but he also knows the history and importance of all these hits.
The upcoming release of yet another highly anticipated mixtape Dirty South Dance 2 from Fool’s Gold, will not only showcase A-Trak’s talent, but will also display what A-Trak means when he says that he only “plays tracks that [he] stands behind”. “Loonies to Blow”, via Dirty South Dance 2 is sickening. What seems like a typical poppy and techno mix of Drake, and Birdman’s “Money to Blow”, is in fact a fusion of the hip hop single with, Grammy Award winning, David Guetta’s “Toyfriend” instrumentals, speed up, slowed down and then equalized to put you in an euphoric, mind blowed state. The mixtape features a Carte Blanche, a house duo which consists of DJ Mehdi and Riton, and Kid Sister collaboration and a remix of Donnis’s “Gone” by DJ Craze. Donnis, Fool’s Gold and especially A-Trak have a long history in the industry. A-Trak has always held Donnis in high esteem musically. The hit single “Gone” was released by Fool’s Gold in 2009, Donnis has guest appeared on many of A-Trak’s records, and Donnis has never been a stranger to the Fool’s Gold DJs.
If you go to A-Trak’s site, and scroll to the first ever post, it reads:
Guess what folks! You might have heard that Kanye West and Usher are on tour together this summer. Well it turns out that Kanye asked me to be his DJ for this tour! So I won’t be at the August Vinyl Kombat events, but here’s my schedule with Kanye for the next 2 months. I’ll be keeping a little journal on here, so come back and check out the site in a few days!
Fast forward a few months later where A-Trak is recording scratches for Kanye West’s Late Registration and a couple of years later Graduation. Fast forward a little more to a year or so where A-Trak has become such a familiar name in the hip music culture that he becomes the recipient of huge endorsements and is collaborating with the likes of Zoo York and Kid Robot. Fast forward to 2oo7, where A-Trak has become so successful and garnered so much respect in the music industry that he launches the label Fool’s Gold, a league of extraordinary artists with sounds that are too unique and new to the game to be referred to as indie, are too organic and gritty to be named pop, but at the same time not as harsh as raw hip hop. Fast forward to 2oo9, where “Day N’ Night” , a single that would take the subculture of hip hop and psychedelic pop by storm and bring the man on the moon, Kid Cudi to sudden and unexpected fame, is released on a Fool’s Gold EP. Let’s not forget a collaborations with a man whose work, or some pathetic imitation by some wannabe house DJ, you’ve probably at least once during your lifetime shook your ass to, Armand Van Helden. And we haven’t even hit the climax of this spectacular talent, we’re in fact still building up. Recording not only for his artist that are signed onto Fool’s Gold, but also for A-Trak, is scheduled to occur within this year. In conjunction with that, he is once again teaming up with Arman Van Helden for a continuation of the Duck Sauce project.The Duck Sauce collaboration is well anticipated considering that “aNYway” one of the tracks which stemmed from the project took the dance and party scene by storm with its funky, make you feel SOOooo good, from the tip of your toes the the tip of your tongue, disco fever rhythms.
Time after time, party after party, artist after artist, mix after mix, we have seen how talented this former turntable prodigy is. The party hasn’t even started yet, but he has got us dancing, moving all crazy like letting the rhythms and techno beats take us back to the era when music and dancing was the supreme relief from the sorrows of life and the ultimate form of expression. So, don’t be scared of the dance floor. Let the disco fever take you. It starts with a couple of finger snaps and some foot tapping here and there. Relax, let your head bob to the beat. Don’t get embarrassed if your hips start to move.The venue, your mind. We’re celebrating with the Apollo of the turntables and everyone is invited. What’s the cause of this celebration? This beautiful, sickening institution: Life, and if the party gets out of hand, so be it.
Infinity+1 what made it different from all other mixtapes? I haven’t done that many mixtapes period so when I make one its a new project. Infinity+1 had a musical distraction defined more on discoesque, spaced out melodic songs. The way that I assembled it was a project within itself. The songs were fused into themselves.
fabriclive.45 what was the theme behind it? or is there even a theme when you are preparing a mixtape? More closer to my club sets at the time, instead of sticking to one sound it was a lot more of a range of sounds. Similar to the way that i play my DJ sets. It had more of a pacing to it in part because it kept taking sharp turns throughout the mix. No Hip hop in it because fabriclive.45 is a well established series in the electronic world and also with the concern of licenses. In reality you can’t license anything on a major label.
Is mixing textures, and sequencing a primary focus when mixing a song or is there another goal in mind? For me its a balance of both that’s been my platform, what I try to get across with my DJing a balance between technical and musical. I have a strong technical background as a DJ, I’ve won a lot of championship, came from technical background. You want people to enjoy their night but you also want to be able to show what you’re able to do. Over the last few years there is also a whole agenda with Fools Gold and the style of music that people associate me with and I like to champion. I play tracks that I stand behind. Whether it be friends or people on the label. It’s original and manicured.
What is the difference between techno and pop? Pop is very vague category. I think a pop sound can’t even be defined, it isn’t one sound. It is just popular music, ends up being what ever songs have a universal quality. Techno is very specific, sub genre of dance music. It’s a style of music that came out of Detroit in late 80s through certain specific drum machines.
Does the technical and mechanical aspect of mixing ever get in the way of it being an art form? I hope not, I try to make sure that when I do an insert of technique in a set it doesn’t divert attention away from a part of a song. You have to know when to show off and when to let records tell the stories, but you also want to show the crowd technical ability.
When you mix a song and then a few days later when you’re at another venue, you spin the track again. Do you switch the set up or is it a routine? Alot of times I switch up sets quite a bit, certain songs if I find work with a mix, I stick to. But that has to be a mix that is so good that is better than anything else that I can do. There is a pool of songs that I use but are played in different ways.
When you hear a song, do you have time to appreciate it or are you instantly thinking of ways that you can remix it? No there are a lot of songs that I appreciate by themselves, the songs that I use I have to first learn them and the different parts.
Just like Kool DJ Herc created hip hop with his use of breaks, do you employ the same techniques but with the purpose of making techno mainstream? It’s hard to compare the common approach between Africa Bambata and DJ Herc were doing by playing records and putting it under the umbrella of hip hop. Playing records of variety of sources and genres and not restricting myself of records from one genre, same set house, dancehall and old school and hip hop and mix it all up, and once I’ve played it in the set, the set makes sense. It is how you use it and if it goes well. I don’t want to make techno mainstream. Some of the music that I use is techno, house, dancehall and alot of other sub genres. I don’t get caught up with categories. The governing factor is if the sound is good in my ear.
Other than the mixtape what other projects and collaborations can we expect from you? Collaborations? Duck Sauce with Armand Van Helden, and we have some new tracks dropping this summer. [Armand Van Helden] is a classic well established DJ in house music. Hip hop kid who got into house music. Also some recording of my own and with Fool’s Gold artist
Going to be working with Travis Barker, in a sense taking DJ AM’s place, is it a big shoe to feel, Do you attract the same crowd? Was your set at the Roxy a preview of what’s to come? In a sense yeah, I really try to make a new project out of it. We have different styles. Was a friend of mine I met Travis through him. He was the connection that brought us together. We both want to be very respectful, but it’s More about what Travis and i are doing.
How did Guru, Keith Elam inspire you? Making great records. Gang Starr favorite groups. They stayed true to their style and sound as hip hop evolved and went through trends you could count on them to stay on path. Truthful, gritty hardcore rap with wisdom. Guru lent his voice to records that were classic. We used Gang star records for routines. Gang Starr records never left the DJ crate.
What did you learn career wise while touring with Kanye West? I worked with him on so many levels for so many years. By making great music, by paving a way for uncompromised and creative music to reach the masses. Kanye is the champion underdog, doesn’t sound like it’s reaching or polished but sells millions. To see how hard he words and his vision for his art that is very inspiring.
What role do you think Run DMC and Jam Master Jay played in the music and hiphop industry? Pioneers of hip hop a whole generation of kids heard for the first time and were exposed to hip hop through the. They went further than any other group.From their collaborations with Aersmith, to their massive tours, there was a whole generation exposed. Jam Master Jay is an icon, the anchor that kept their credibility as a group unquestionable.
When you first started off, did you think that being a DJ would get you this far?At first it was a hobby took time to accept it.
What in the music industry was missing that made you have to start Fool’s Gold?Came about from new sounds were being created a whole new sound somewhere between hip hop and electronic music in the DJ scene. No record label was putting these records out. You could tell from the parties themselves,and what the kids were listening to. No label that stood for that.
What makes the artist on Fool’s Gold different from other artist? Certain mix between creativity and people who are creating new sounds, and a camaraderie we all feel towards each other and what we are doing.
Do you get inspired by venues like the Palladium, Studio 72 and The Roxy? Yeah definitely surreal to be mentioned in history flattering to be a part of history.
Dirty South Dance 2
2. Trizzy Turnt Up
3. How Low Can U Bake
4. We Don’t Want No Goblins
5. She Got A Dum Donk
6. Whatever You Shoot
7. Ice Cream On Blast
8. Carte Blanche feat. Kid Sister: Do! Do! Do!
9. Twerk That Driver
10. Vampires Going Ham
11. Loonies To Blow
12. Make The Trap Wile Out
13. O Let’s Overdo It
14. Donnis: Gone (DJ Craze Remix)
15. Ain’t I A Joker
Intro by A-Trak <—Download here
[Words by Rose Bellefleur]