A-Trak is a producer/remixer extraordinaire. Of course, you already know this as it’s impossible to have a night out without hearing at least one track that this Canadian music maestro has somehow tweaked in to something awesome. We Are Not a Rock Band caught up with him to find out what one of the most in demand names in the industry has been up to, what’s coming next for him, his label and his side project Duck Sauce. Oh and to get answers to the questions that really matter, like what the most listened to track on his iTunes is. He says he can’t tell us that. We suspect that might be as it’s something awful. God knows we’re all guilty of it.
WANARB: Hi A-Trak! You’re from Montreal. How did growing up there affect your musical influences?
A-TRAK: My influences are varied, but mostly hip hop and everything that comes along with growing up as a hip hop DJ — the samples, all those DJ classics. I think growing up in Montreal definitely did influence my musical choices, especially from a very technical standpoint of turntablism: when I was learning how to scratch, there were distinct East Coast and West Coast styles and I was able to pick and choose from both and strike my own balance. Also, being on the periphery meant I had less access to it all, especially just being a 13 year-old, so whatever influences I found were a goldmine to me.
WANARB: So considering your influences are mostly hip hop, what got you into dance music?
A-TRAK: Daft Punk. I remember seeing the video for Da Funk and being drawn to it because Spike Jonze directed it, and I knew his Beastie Boys videos. The Beastie Boys were probably my biggest influence in music. And then when Around The World came out I remember thinking “this is kinda funky, like those records that we sample for hip hop beats”. I wasn’t hearing these in record shops. If I went into a record shop I wasn’t paying any mind to the dance section. This is all thanks to the videos. The Discovery album is when I really started paying attention.
WANARB: What’s your most played track on iTunes?
A-TRAK: Ah I just updated my iTunes so that doesn’t show right now.
WANARB: You’ll be in London over the bank holiday weekend playing at SW4. How does playing to an outdoor festival differ to playing in a club? Which do you prefer?
A-TRAK: Playing outdoors usually means playing less detailed songs, going for bigger power, broad strokes so to speak. I like it all, honestly.
WANARB: You’ve played all over the world in all sorts of locations to lots of different audiences, not least of all as you were Kanye West’s tour DJ. What was the most nerve-wracking gig you’ve ever played?
A-TRAK: When I was DJing for Kanye we performed at the Lady Di memorial concert, broadcasted live to literally millions of people. Our set was a sort of megamix, it was only like 8 minutes. I got up there and my equipment was messing up, and I had to keep it all afloat. Not fun. But we got through it and apparently no one noticed.
WANARB: Sounds like a sticky situation! What has been the toughest point of your career?
A-TRAK: Probably around 2002 or 2003. I’m fortunate to say I never hit rock bottom or never even had a hard time getting gigs. But at that stage I had stopped doing those DJ battles for a few years already, my scene was dwindling and I was looking for the next step. I didn’t want to stay stagnant.
WANARB: What tune are you hotly tipping to be a smash for summer and autumn?
A-TRAK: Easy… Duck Sauce “Barbra Streisand”!
WANARB: Nice plug! Are there any producers out there at the moment that really excite you at the moment?
A-TRAK: Congorock and Kingdom are the 2 producers that I think are most promising right now… And that’s why they’re on Fool’s Gold, hahah. I think they both have a sound that’s very current and both put their distinct twist.
WANARB: What’s next for Duck Sauce, your collaboration with Armand Van Helden?
A-TRAK: Right now we’re setting up the release for “Barbra”. We played that track in our WMC sets and the youtubes went coocoo… We still had to clear the sample! So it took a while to get all the legal stuff in place. Now it’s all done. I actually just saw a mock-up of the single cover art 1 minute ago… It’s crazy! We have a bunch of other joints that we made around the same time. We made 5 joints in one sitting in February. Which is similar to what we did last year, we had made 4 in the same part of the year. We choose the best one and put it out as a single, and we play the other ones in our sets. We also started doing gigs this year, we did 2 which is a lot for us. Have you seen the giant duck?
WANARB: No, but he must be mall-ard to miss! (sorry). Back to business, do you prefer to remix or make your own tracks?
A-TRAK: For a while I preferred to remix, because it’s like the ideal collaboration… you don’t have to go chase after a good vocal, it’s right there from the start. But now I’m really itching to make a bunch of new A-Trak material.
WANARB: So… any remixes or collaborations coming up?
A-TRAK: I can’t tell you that!
WANARB: Oh. Ok. Well, do you have any news regarding Fool’s Gold that you can tell us?
A-TRAK: Yeah the next singles coming up are by KLAM, Congorock, LA Riots, Kid Gloves and Style Of Eye. In the fall we’re releasing the debut album by The Suzan, this Japanese girl band produced by Björn Yttling, as well as the first Fool’s Gold compilation of all original material. We’re also doing a Stones Throw x Fool’s Gold tour in early August.
Cool! Thanks for the chat A-Trak!
Have a listen to A-Trak’s Tiga Remix then grab yourself a copy over at Beatport. We’ve also included a link to download his latest mixtape ‘Dirty South Dance 2’!
Tiga – What You Need (Tiga Remix)
MORE ON A-TRAK
Another massive thanks to A-Trak as he’s given me a chance to post this classic video.