Cruising down Park Avenue, we’re all dancing in our car. The speakers are louder than they rightfully should be, but that doesn’t matter because we already have a heavy pre-game buzz going. We’re heading to the club tonight, and A-Trak’s “Trizzy Turnt Up” is blaring loud enough for cars two lanes over to hear. They should be happy we’re sharing this tune with them though. It can make pretty much anyone want to dance.

That was a regular excerpt from any party night for us a few years ago. We couldn’t get enough of Dirty South Dance 2, or really anything that A-Trak did. It’s not that we were fanboys by any means, the guy just knows how to make good music that emodies what an epic night on the town should be.

From the early days to Tuna Melt, we’ve been jamming this Canadian’s dance inducing tunes, which is why we were ecstatic to have a chance to speak with him for a moment at Fool’s Gold Day Off in Boulder, Colorado. Check out what he had to say about Michael Jackson, Jay Z and the dressing up as a box of Kraft Mac ‘n cheese.

TMN: Thanks for taking a few minutes to sit down with us. How’s your visit to Colorado so far?

A-TRAK: Good. Yeah, it’s nice to be here. This is a state where I’ve done shows over the years and always noticed there’s a really captive audience here. Even going all the way back to when I was doing purely turntableist shows ranging to more recent stuff like Red Rocks with Bassnectar. I always noticed that there’s a really cool audience that just like is passionate about the music. Even my last tour like two years ago I played the Ogden theater, and that was a really cool show.

When we were planning Fool’s Gold Day Off this year, expanding to many cities, we had this thought of coming to Boulder to try to really foster a relationship with the audience here and create a long term thing.

TMN: Talk to us about how the Fool’s Gold Day Off started. Were you and Nick sitting around and one of you blurted out, “You know, we should throw a really big free party.”

A-TRAK: We’ve done events ever since the beginning of Fool’s Gold. The live component is something that’s been going on since the start. The first Days Off event was in New York four years ago, and I don’t know…it just came pretty naturally. I just remembered that we had noticed that there was no big parties going on during Labor Day Weekend so we decided to throw an outdoor block party. I think for that style of event it’s just better to make it free. We came back to the same spot in New York last year, and last year we also expanded to L.A.

I’m on the road all the time connecting to fans and I see the potential to take this franchise of events further. Event thinking back to the first year we started Fool’s Gold in ’07, we did a tour that fall. That was a crazy line up too. We had me and DJ Mehdi playing back to back, Kavinksy, Kid Sister, Cudi was on a couple of dates, and Cool Kids was on a couple of dates. Even thinking of that line up, that slice of time is pretty amazing.

That was during the first year of the label, and we saw right away that it was going to be important for the label because there was such a connection at the shows. We were able to see our fans face to face, understand what their tastes were, even like what they dress, what they listen to…that kind of stuff. They were even wearing the Fool’s Gold tees. There was just this tangible connection, which for a record label isn’t necessarily a given, you know?

So right from that first year, we knew we’d be doing events regularily, and Day Off is just one manifestation of that.

TMN: You’ve brought a great selection of artists with you like Nick Catchdubs, Casey Veggies etc. How did the lineup for this particular event come about?

A-TRAK: It’s always a mix of couple of artists on the label and extended family. Casey is a friend of ours, and we love his music. We love to build the bridge between certain artists and we know that he gets what the label is about. He has a good connection with our type of audience too.

This year we have a lot of Day Off events to fill with talent, so a lot of times we’ll brainstorm artist and pencil this guy for this city and that guy for that city. Thinking about whether it be a local guy or maybe his style fits the scene of a certain region. Then we bring out our core artists as well. Today was really important to have Danny Brown out there.

Curating is a big part of what Fool’s Gold does. For Nick and I, that’s when we’re purely in the creative zone. It’s like putting together a tracklist for a compilation.

TMN: Alright, we have to ask. Seeing as Halloween is right around the corner…

A-TRAK: I’m back here for Halloween!

TMN: Oh, that’s right! Are you going to bust out “Big Bad Wolf”? As far as Halloween songs go, it’s up there with hearing “Thriller”

A-TRACK: I wouldn’t feel comfortable with saying my song is up there with “Thriller.” (Laughing) Maybe for our scene. I never thought that I would have a holiday themed song.
’Duck Sauce – Big Bad Wolf’

TMN: Speaking of older songs, we have to tell you something. “Trizzy Turnt Up” was easily one of our favorite tunes for quite some time. It was pretty much our “party starter” for the evening. Do you ever throw that back into your sets?

’Trizzy Turnt Up – ATrak’
A-TRAK: (Laughing) Right on! That’s just a mashup, but I think there’s an artistry in making mashups as well. It was just one of those things where I realized that the acapellas were on the same key as the Claude Vonstroke song and just added a little bit of percussion. It’s a fun one for sure.

When I made the Dirty South Dance record, especially the second one, I remember laughing a lot because a lot of it sounded cartoony to me. I was thinking, “are people going to realize that this is kind of humorous, or are they going to take it to seriously?” I think a lot of people picked up on the humor.

TMN: With such a large and diverse catalog, how do you go about track selection for your sets? Do you fuse in a lot of your earlier works? Does it completely vary from show to show?

’Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll (ATrak Remix) club edit’

A-TRAK: There’s definitely a selection of songs of mine that I play at a lot of my shows. “Heads Will Roll” is a song that I still play even though it’s two years old. I feel like the Project X movie made it new to a lot of people. Aside from that, I tend to stick to more recent songs of mine. I don’t know, I feel like in any given set of mine, especially if you count Duck Sauce, there’s definitely going to be five of my songs. Given the vibe I’ll think on the spot and pull out an older song.

DJing is selection. It’s all about reading the crowd and finding that happy marriage between what you want to put forth musically and what works for the crowd. Because you don’t want to just do one or the other, right? You don’t just want to stubbornly play what you want to play because you need to engage the audience. But you also don’t want to be at the audience’s service because then you don’t have an identity anymore.

TMN: Speaking of your catalog, you’ve been able to put out so many amazing tracks spreading over so many genres. What goes into your thought process when choosing a genre or style for a track?

A-TRAK: Thanks. I don’t really over think it. I listen to a lot of different styles of music. The genre of a song is secondary to me. I’m aware of what I’m making, but I don’t make it for the sake of what genre it is. I’m not like, “Hey, it would be cool to make a rap song.” It’s more like the whole vision. It’s deeper than that for me.

TMN: Seeing as how you’re one of the best DJs in music, how do you feel about the whole “button pusher” debate? Do you get irritated when people make that broad stroke analysis of the industry, or do you just keep your head down and keep charging ahead?

A-TRACK: I speak up about it a lot and even wrote an article on the Huffington Post about it last year. I feel like there’s room for everything. My big mission is to educate the audience so they can understand what’s what. I’m a very technical DJ, but there’s no point in me talking down a DJ who has a pre-recorded set, if that set another value. If it has a theatrical value, or a great light show and is very artful, I don’t frown upon that kind of performance. You can add value in other ways. I just think it’s important for the younger crowds to be able to see that and understand what’s what.

I certainly don’t want to take money out of anyone’s hands, or tell anyone what they’re allowed to do. I’m just trying to educate audiences so they can appreciate the history, what fits where, and what’s related to what historically. Then they can decide what they like, you know?

TMN: Amongst all the shows, festivals, accolades, etc…what’s one example of something that made you take a step back and say, “Holy shit. I can’t believe that just happened.”

A-TRAK: Maybe Madison Square Gardens with Swedish House Mafia two years ago. That was really awesome because that’s just another level of venue and that night was the first time that performance at MSG happened. To be able to go into a big venue like that and not compromise my style, and do me, and open up an audience to what I do felt awesome.

TMN: One thing that we find interesting is the massive influx in product sponsorships/endorsements for DJs. Tiesto has Guess, Avicii has Ralph Lauren, and you’re obviously sponsored by Adidas. Did you ever think that you’d have a major brand backing you?

A-TRAK: When I was starting off my voice hadn’t even changed! When I was starting off it was a long, long time ago. I didn’t even think I’d ever play techno, let alone work with a brand. There’s so much that has changed.

I’ve never had an aversion to working with brands, I’ve always just felt that it’s important that the artistry doesn’t get compromised. As long as there’s a respect for that…as long as the brand ends up being a pedestal to showcase the artist then I think it’s cool. When I’m in an Adidas commercial with RUN DMC and I’m scratching, that’s something I’m proud of. I feel like I’m carrying a torch and bringing it to a new generation.

Even like…I did a Grey Goose commercial last year that was on TV. I brought the music to the ad, and a couple of my friends with me, and felt that the cinematography was really on point. If the art is good, then I don’t have a problem with it. And we all know that the record industry itself isn’t what it was, business wise, so we kind of need to try out new models. Brands have budgets for this kind of thing.

For me, the one really key thing…because I called out Jay Z when he did the whole Samsung deal…you know, it doesn’t mean that I think that every branded deal is dope. Some of them are corny to me. It’s a very simple question to me. You have to look at it from the shoes of a fan and think, “is this a better look for the artist or for the brand?” If it’s a good look for the artist then the fan should be happy for the artist being endorsed. If it’s more about the brand, then it gets a little weird. Art first.

TMN: Honestly, we couldn’t have picked a better association for you than Adidas. It’s such a natural connection.

A-TRAK: It’s dope! It’s been really great working with them, and they actually sponsor all of this year’s Day Off events. It’s really been a pleasure working with them.

TMN: You’ve worked with a ton of amazing people in the music industry. Who were some of your favorites to work with?

A-TRACK: Man…I still think that Armand (Van Helden) is one of the dopest. Duck Sauce is a joy for me. One because we’re just really great friends. As a human being, he is such an inspiration to me. I really love that person. I’m really lucky to be in a group with someone that I enjoy as a friend and respect as a person. I would never want to be in a group with someone that I resent. I mean, to be in Duck Sauce with Armand is so cool to me. It’s still cool, even on some fan shit.

There’s a lot of people that I’ve collaborated with that I’ve really enjoyed, from Kanye to even more like experimental stuff, even stuff like like Money Mark (keyboardist from the Beastie Boys).

’Duck Sauce – Radio Stereo (Radio Edit)’

TMN: Who would you like to work with that you haven’t already?

A-TRAK: To be honest, I’m really happy. I feel fortunate that I’ve worked with the people that I’ve worked with. Sure, there are some musicians that I would like to work with, but nothing is make or break. I’m a fan of music. Even small names, anywhere in the range of musicians I’d be happy to work with. It’s not vital like, “man, before I die I need to make a song with such-and-such.” It’s more like, “let’s have fun with like minded people.” It’s not a few people on a short list, it’s more like working with like minded artists.

TMN: With as much as you have going on, between producing, DJing, the label, etc…how do you keep it all straight? Is it hard having your attention divided between so many different projects?

A-TRAK: It’s definitely a lot, but it’s kind of how my brain is wired. All I know is to take on a lot of projects. I don’t think I’d be able to take on one thing. I think part of the key to survival for me is staying on my toes and bouncing from project to project. If I stuck to one thing, I think it would get stale. I always feel like I’m chasing the to-do list! As long as I can deliver what is fair to each project.

TMN: Alright, at the end of the interview, we like to fire off some random questions for fun. What’s one thing from Canada you wish you had when you’re in the states?

A-TRAK: Health care.

TMN: If you were in death row, what would your last meal be?

A-TRAK: Ummmm…hmm. Cous Cous.

TMN: We were going to guess poutine.

A-TRAK: (Laughing) No. Poutine is good at four in the morning. Let’s not forget what it is.

TMN: What’s the best halloween costume you’ve ever rocked?

A-TRAK: Man, when I was like ten years old, I made a costume where I was a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. My dad brought home some computer box from work, and I painted it. I painted every macaroni. It was really on point! I was like the human Kraft dinner box.

TMN: Name three things you can’t live without when you travel.

A-TRAK: Laptop number one, laptop number two and my phone.

TMN: Name three things that are always in your fridge, no matter what.

A-TRAK: Bottles of water, hummus and diced fruit.

TMN: If your music were an animal, what would it be?

A-TRAK: A ringtailed lemur.

TMN: Any reasoning behind that?

A-TRAK: Nope!

TMN: Fair enough! That’s all we have for you,

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