DJ A-Trak: Blurring the lines and building a global picture
A few years ago, the majority of kids turning out for DJ A-Trak shows were what he called “uber DJ fans” who preferred to film him for YouTube clips, as opposed to doing what his mixing suggested: dance.
But more bodies have been moving in the last couple of years, according to A-Trak, the 27-year-old DJ born Alain Macklovitch in Montreal. The wunderkind turntablist began winning international DJ awards at age 15, making him one of the youngest, greatest masters of the decks. He will bring his ever-evolving mix of rap, breakbeat, techno and house to the HARD New Year’s Eve DJ party on Thursday.
The Brooklyn-based DJ has a new look (think maturing hipster: Beard and fedora have replaced baseball cap and sunglasses), and he's pushing his sound further into the realm of the international dance charts in an attempt to further blur genre classification.
“This time is reminiscent of the mid-'90s, where hip-hop guys were making house music," he said during a tour stop in Mexico City. "That’s what allows me to play this Jeezy record or this Gucci Mane record next to some weird German techno record, because to me they make sense together.”
A-Trak started his indie imprint Fool’s Gold Records in 2007, toward the end of his 4-year run as Kanye West’s official tour DJ. He’s always kept busy with dance-worthy remixes, most recently of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll," but his latest focus is on planning his next album.
So far, A-Trak denies rumors that he's been tapped to work on Madonna's "Hard Candy" follow-up, but he's got plenty to keep him busy with or without Madge. In addition to building Fool's Gold (which recently joined forces with Downtown Records) and his international lifestyle brand, A-Trak has also collaborated with DJ Armand Van Helden. The duo known as Duck Sauce will release a greatest hits EP with a limited edition rubbery ducky in early 2010.
He also executive-produced Kid Sister’s debut, "Ultraviolet," released last month after two years in the making. It was highly anticipated in the blogosphere, but the album’s poppy mix of rap and hyped-up Chicago juke music received mixed reviews. The pair, who have performed together at SXSW and Coachella in years past, were an item for several years but broke up during the making of "Ultraviolet." "We’re still good friends. We completed the album, so we’re fine."
Kid Cudi’s breakout “Day ‘N’ Nite” still stands as Fool's Gold's biggest success. Cudi’s album ‘Man on the Moon: The End of Day” opened high on the charts and was among the betterselling rap releases this year. Cudi eventually signed an album deal with Motown Universal, but seeing his protégé go from unknown opening act to rabid fandom has been nothing short of amazing for A-Trak.
He considers West an inspiration, even in the fallout of the rapper-producer’s infamous outburst at the MTV Video Music Awards. “He’s my boy. But I think he knows he was wrong,” A-Trak said, before adding, "I think it was also sort of blown up too far.” A-Trak ended his touring obligations with West in 2008, but he introduced the Chicago artist to Daft Punk, which led to the creation of the 2007 Grammy-winning single “Stronger.”
A-Trak won’t stop until the “global picture” of his career is complete. He’s currently pushing the Japanese female rock band the Suzan, produced by Bjorn (of Peter, Bjorn and John) and part of the Fool’s Gold showcase at CMJ.
“I always try to reach more audiences. I consider myself a DJ first, and I’ll always be a DJ, but to reach more general music fans… that’s a cool progression, I think.”
-- Camilo Smith
DJ A-Trak plays HARD with Boys Noize, DJ Mehdi, Destructo and others on New Year's Eve at the Hollywood Palladium. Regular tickets, $60, are available through Groovetickets. Doors open at 8 p.m.; music till 4 a.m.
Photo: Biz 3