A-Trak on His Record Label’s First Proper Album

At 15 he won the World DJ competition. At 22, he was Kanye West’s tour DJ. And now, at 28, Montreal native A-Trak is the head of his own record label, Fool’s Gold. With a bevy of talented artists signed to the label—including Kid Sister, The Suzan, and his side project, Duck Sauce—he and partner Nick Catchdubs decided it was time to release a compilation album with new tracks from the entire Fool’s Gold roster, called Fools Gold Volume 1. We caught up with A-Track to see just what gave him the itch to scratch, what makes this compilation unique, and what’s next for the ever-evolving artist.

You’re 28 and you already have two record labels under your belt. How does it feel to have so much success at such a young age? I rarely think of it in terms of accomplishments or things that I’m just sitting on. I’m proud of what I’ve done, and starting young is something I’m proud of, too. I hope it opens doors and changes peoples preconceptions of what you can do at a younger age.

What drew you to DJing in the first place? I was just trying to find my own thing to do in music. I grew up very close to my older brother who, even before Chromeo, was already in other bands with friends in high school. I played the piano for a couple of years and gave up on that. I just wanted to find my outlet musically. I tried scratching, literally on my dad’s record player, to see what would happen if I put a record on there and moved it back and forth. That’s what started everything, getting the itch. I just messed with records everyday after school and started taking it pretty seriously right away. It became a passion.

Were there any DJs that you were inspired by when you first started? This was around ’95, and my brother and I were both getting into hip-hop for the first time. We used to listen to more classic rock like Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, but the Beastie Boys were probably the transition for me. I just started studying scratches on albums. I remember P-Thug, the other guy in Chromeo, used to come over to the house and Dave would be like, “Hey, look at my little brother, he can scratch!” And he was more into old school hip-hop, so he said, “Oh, you like scratching? You should listen to DJ Jazzy Jeff.” So he gave me a cassette that I really studied a lot, too.

Was there something about the Canadian music scene that was different? Basically, it was just being on the sidelines, compared to America. First of all, I was too young to get into clubs, so all I knew was what I heard on records, or what I saw on video tapes of DJ battles. Or my brother would go to clubs and try and recollect what he heard, and I’d try to understand how to DJ that myself. In the mid ‘90s, it was a time when there were coastal styles for DJing: There was a distinct NY style and a West Coast style, especially when it came to the technical stuff. So me being on the periphery, I was able to take everything in equal doses and make my own little concoction.

So with Fool’s Gold, how do you go about finding the right artists to represent? One of the reasons Nick and I started Fool’s Gold was because we were just surrounded by good music. A lot of it just kind of comes to us, some of it might be friends of ours or just us looking through the internet finding stuff.

We interviewed Kid Sister last year before her album dropped. How did you two hook up? Her brother is a DJ and was starting to make some noise, and he was friends with some of my friends. My publisher was in Chicago and was already starting to look at her, so through a couple of connections I knew who she was. I didn’t even really know that she made music, I was just on tour in the summer of 2006 and started talking to her as I was about to go to Chicago to do a show, and was like, “Wait, you make music?” And then we wrote some songs together a little bit, and started dating at the same time too, so it just all came together.

What kind of sound were you going for in terms of the Fool’s Gold compilation album? The compilation was pretty straightforward for us, because all we did was ask our existing roster to make new songs. At this point, we have a bunch of artists on the label who have put out a record with us, so it wasn’t a question of scouting new artists. We thought for this album, it was a chance to show what these guys are doing. It was with the idea that a lot of these producers and artists have more club or DJ-oriented records and on this CD, the idea was for it to reach more of a general audience. To me, a compilation can play in a shop or a boutique or something that someone can put on at home when they’re getting ready to go out.

Is there a reason you chose to sell the album at Open Ceremony? The concept of putting a record out with a clothing shop is something I’ve seen a bit of in the last couple years—somewhere where the clientele intersects with our fan base. It’s just sort of a reality that nowadays there isn’t that much of a marketplace in traditional record shops for a compilation.

What else do you have coming up for yourself and for the record label? For the label, this is our first official full-length release, so we want to just continue putting out music. We’re also going to be opening a storefront in New York. As far as me, on the music side, now Duck Sauce is doing well. It started as my side project, but now it’s bigger and I do it myself, so just more music for Duck Sauce. And also, working on some sort of 8-track record. I think for myself, just focusing on more production as I continue to do all my various projects.

Do you have any favorite places to go out in New York? In terms of bars, somewhere to just get a drink, I like to go to Barcaro. My last show in New York was at Brooklyn Bowl, and that was great. It kind of feels like one of the more dynamic, inviting, and respectful-to-artists venues in New York, and the food is really good.

Group Dinner Lottery

Organizers of big group dinners have it rough. The individual is subjected to the whims of 5 to 15 people or more, often on an email chain where the last suggestion paired with a witty retort or clever anecdote about the level of attractiveness of the staff at such-and-such restaurant wins. Well, screw it. If you volunteer to organize a group/birthday/going away/welcome home dinner, use this new fool-proof method and eliminate haggling amongst potential dinner-goers. It’s not complicated. It’s a lottery, but unlike the New York state variety or credit card roulette, in this game of chance everyone wins. Write down each restaurant on the list below on a separate piece of paper, shuffle ’em around, and pull from a hat. First restaurant wins. It’s not complicated, it’s just science. Bon chance!

Bacaro Sit in the cavernous basement wine cellar for a candle lit evening that’ll mask the group’s escalating inebriation. Make a private party reservation if you have a large group and get your own Phantom of the Opera-inspired room.

Abe & Arthurs Sure, it’s a little sceney, but the menu is pretty easy for everyone. They have Spinach & Artichoke dip, fish, pork, steak and pasta, and salads for girls who don’t eat. It’s also a one-stop shop in that you can take the crew directly downstairs to SL. Just remember, no physical activity for 30 min after eating.

Scuderia Let’s face it, Da Silvano is for your parent’s friends. But during the summer, the outdoor sidewalk seating just crushes it (in terms of awesome-ness). Scuderia has a younger vibe and your friends will thank you after a night of 6th Avenue people watching and catching up.

Gemma Easy to book a biggun’ as long as you plan ahead. They’ll forget the ‘no reservations’ policy if you have a group of 12 or more, and they prefer to arrange a prix fixe menu for you and the gang.

The Smith East Village American Brasserie with a photo booth in back! Just in case you get bored with the seating arrangement.

Barbuto Groups of ten or more can reserve the kitchen table and sample the chef’s tasting menu. Way cooler than the way the proletariat does it.

Freemans Reservations for 6 or more, and nothing says celebration like escaping the city rush up Freemans Alley and stepping into Narnia/Hogwarts/The Wardrobe/Whatever mythical realm you prefer.

Dumont For groups up to 15, the Williamsburg hotspot reserves the breathtaking terrace, and if you’re smart, you’ll request the ‘treehouse’, that rises above the garden and gives your party a little more privacy.

Los Feliz Tri-level taquería has plenty of room to accommodate your rowdy group, plus their lounge stays open until 4am, so the odds of getting kicked out early are nearly impossible. There are also 150 tequilas in stock here, in case you want to set some sort of record.

Alta The seasonal tapas menu is extensive, and there’s no food envy as everything’s share-able. If you’re feeling aggressive, order “the whole shebang” for $420. It is one of everything on the menu, and no one will go home hungry. Request the upstairs area through the kitchen for super secluded private dining.

Where Celebs Go Out: Marc Jacobs, Amanda Lepore, Adrian Grenier, Emma Snowdon-Jones

At David Barton Gym annual toy drive: ● MARC JACOBS – “In Paris, there’s a small club called Montana, and there’s a restaurant called Thiou. Bars I really don’t hang out in. Oh, there’s this great club that happens once a month in Paris called Club Sandwich. And it’s at the Espace Cardin. And everyone gets super dressed-up, so it’s really, really fun. I try to go whenever I’m in Paris, if it’s going on. And we stay out all night and just dance like crazy. And in New York, my favorite restaurants have always been the same. I love to eat at Pastis. I love the Standard. I love Da Silvano. I eat in the lobby of the Mercer a lot, the hotel. I usually go to Pastis for lunch, and there’s a sandwich that was on the menu, but they don’t make it anymore, but I always insist that they make it for me. And it’s really fattening, so I shouldn’t eat it, but it’s chicken paillard and gruyere cheese and bacon. And it’s so delicious. It’s really good. And it’s my weakness. It’s just like the most perfect sandwich.”

● DAVID BARTON – “Oh, I can’t think where I like to hang out in Seattle except my new gym! There’s a great place that just opened up in New York, up on 51st, called the East Side Social Club. Patrick McMullan is one of the partners there. He’s co-hosting with me tonight. Great place; really cool. It’s very old world, kind of like going to Elaine’s, kind of little cozy; sit at a booth; very cool. Love a little place called Il Bagatto, over on 7th between A & B — little tiny Italian place, East Village, kind of a neighborhood place that I go to. What else? I don’t know restaurants. I’m very casual. I’m so not that into food. I mean, I could eat cardboard — I’m just not into food! I like people. I like atmosphere, but I’m just not that into food.” ● AMANDA LEPORE – “I definitely like Bowery Bar and I like Hiro. Boom Boom Room. Just anywhere where everybody is, I guess! [laughs] Novita, I like, my friend Giuseppe. Any favorite dishes? I try not to eat too much! ● PATRICK MCDONALD – “My favorite restaurant in New York is Indochine. It’s been around for 25 years. Jean-Marc, I adore. I love the bar at the Carlyle. I don’t drink, but I like to go there for tea in the afternoon. And I love Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon on Gramercy Park. I love Pastis, Odeon, and everywhere. I like the French fries at Pastis.” ● PATRICK MCMULLAN – “I love going to Waverly Inn downtown. Boom Boom Room is fabulous. That’s really a new, great place. SL, on 409 W. 14th Street, down below is nice. Of course, I have the East Side Social Club that I’m involved with, and that’s great for hanging out in, for eating. Favorite dishes anywhere? Oh, I don’t know, just anything that people recommend. I usually go with what people recommend ’cause most people know what’s good — the waiters know, so I think that’s the best thing. Red wine is good to have to drink sometimes. They have a drink called the Eastsider at the East Side Social Club that’s really good; any of their pastas; their ravioli is great there. What else do I like? That new place that’s open, the English place, on 60th in the Pierre — Le Caprice, that’s a nice place. At the Waverly Inn, I like the macaroni and cheese. It was funny because the macaroni and cheese is about two dollars less than a room at the Pod Hotel, which is where the East Side Social Club is! The Monkey Bar is fun. There are so many cool places in New York. I just go where people tell me to go.”

At elf party for Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe:

● JENNY MCCARTHY – “In Chicago, I would have to say Gibsons Steakhouse still; in Los Angeles, Katsuya, still love that sushi; I’m addicted to it. And in New York, Koi. I’m very trendy and boring, but, hey, that’s where the good food is, so …” ● PERI GILPIN – “In L.A., we like BLT a lot. We have five-year-old twins, so we’re like in bed by nine o’clock — pretty boring. Corner Bakery for soup.” ● CANDACE CAMERON BURE – “L.A., hands down, our favorite restaurant is Gjelina, which is in Venice. And we love Craft; love Michael’s in Santa Monica. Here, in New York, my favorite restaurant is Lupa, which is a Mario Batali restaurant; love it here. And I don’t go to clubs anymore, nightclubs; I don’t ever! At Gjelina, they have a burrata with prosciutto and, usually, a warm pear or a warm peach. I love that! I really love tapas. I enjoy getting a lot of appetizers, more than just a main dish. We, actually, have had our own wine label, Bure Family Wines, for two years, which is at several restaurants, so matching the food and the wine is a big part for us. We’re big foodies” ● DEAN MCDERMOTT – “There is a great bar, Ye Coach & Horses in L.A., on Sunset. I’m so bad at this stuff! Oh, Katsuya, in the Valley, awesome sushi. It’s our favorite place. We go there like three times a week.” ● KEN BAUMANN – “In New York, my favorite restaurant is Il Cortile. It’s in Little Italy, and it’s run by this guy named Stefano, and it’s incredible, phenomenal food. In Los Angeles, my favorite restaurant’s gotta be Cut, which is in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.” ● SHAILENE WOODLEY – “Honestly, I’m not really a club kinda girl. I’d rather go to a local bar with some friends and hang out there. Or just go back to my house and have people come over. I’m more of the congregate-at-my-house kind of chick. I’m 18, so I don’t drink, so I don’t go to bars. There’s a place called the Alamo, which has karaoke and it’s a bar, but we go and karaoke there probably once a week.” ● FRANCIA RAISA – “I’m not a big club person. I really like bars and lounges. In L.A., I like to hang out at Buffalo Wild Wings, watching sports and drinking beer with my friends. I really don’t go out that much. I hang out at home and have my own glass of wine, watching Grey’s Anatomy. Oh, I just tried this restaurant yesterday at Gramercy Park Hotel. It’s a new, Italian place — Maialino. It was amazing. And again, I’m very simple, so I like pizza, and John’s Pizza out here is amazing to me, too. And hot wings I like at Planet Hollywood. I’m obsessed with them!”

At Zeno “Hot Spot” launch party @ MTV Studios:

● SKY NELLOR – “I am a huge sushi fanatic, so I just had Katsuya three times in two days in L.A. What is it about Katsuya? It’s the baked-crab hand roll in a soy-paper wrap. It’s just so yummy. I want one now! In New York, I have a fixation with Bagatelle. I just love the fish and the veggies. Nightclubs, nightlife, oh, my God! Apparently, I’m a really good bowler, so I hang out at Lucky Strike everywhere — Miami, L.A., Kansas! We just had a bowling party, and I won, so … Oh, they didn’t let me see my score. I just kept getting strikes to the point where they were, like, ‘Give her more shots! We have to stop this girl!’ And the drunker I got, the better I got. Clubs — if I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out to dance. And I’m going to go where the DJ is playing. I don’t care what club it is. I went to a dive in L.A., at a party called Afex, just because some of the best DJs were playing that night. Like, I don’t care about the crowd. I don’t care about the scene. I care about the music. I don’t think the venue has a name. I think it’s called No Space. They just move the party around.” ● SUCHIN PAK – “I have a great place. It’s called Broadway East, and it’s on East Broadway. And I love it because it’s a beautiful space, but also it’s literally across the street from my house. That always helps. And then there’s a really fantastic place called Bacaro. Oh, it’s amazing! It’s downstairs. It’s almost a dungeon-like place. The people that used to do Peasant, the wine bar there, moved to this place. I like to say the Lower East Side on East Broadway is where the grown-up hipsters go. For a true Lower East Sider, it may not be true Lower East Side, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved more south than east, and I keep trickling that way.”

At charity:ball for charity:water:

● ADRIAN GRENIER – “Brooklyn. Fort Greene. Habana Outpost — it’s run mostly on solar power, and it’s a sustainable business.” MARK BIRNBAUM “Well, if I do say so myself, Abe & Arthur’s on 14th Street; SL, the new club underneath it. I still love Tenjune. And I like hanging out at home other than that. What about places other than your own? So I shouldn’t say the Chandelier Room, in Hoboken? I really like going to Bar and Books in the West Village — that’s our spot. You know where else I like to go? Miami — the new W South Beach is unbelievable, by far the best hotel down there. The design is incredible; the pool area is very nice; they have good restaurants there — there’s a Mr. Chow’s and the other one is good; the rooms are really nice; it’s very well done; it’s just very fresh, the entire thing; and the artwork is incredible. You don’t feel like you’re in South Beach — not that there’s anything wrong with it — but it’s really, really, really, well done.” ● NICOLE TRUNFIO – “I just found this really cool jazz club in Paris where they still dance to old, rock-and-roll music in partners. It’s a location undisclosed. I don’t remember what it’s called. It’s in the Saint-Michel — it’s just off it. You can jump into a taxi, ‘cause we went to a jazz bar called the Library, but that was closed. So we asked the taxi driver, and he took us to this place. So, I’m sure lots of local French taxi-drivers would know the place.” ● LAUREN BUSH – “Oh, gosh, I’m like so uncool! It’s such an obvious question, it’s so hard … I’m a vegetarian, so I love Blossom restaurant. They have a good, quinoa-tofu dish. It’s like gingery. It’s really good. ● EMMA SNOWDON-JONES – “I love Le Bilboquet because it’s consistent, and mainly wherever your friends are it makes the place. It’s on 63rd, between Park and Madison. I’ve gone there since I was in boarding school. I’d come into the city on the weekends, and I’d go there. I think anyone that’s been in New York as long as I have knows it. That’s a really, bloody long time, sadly. As good as my Botox is, it’s too long!” ● KRISTIN CHENOWETH – “I am an old-fashioned girl, and I still love Joe Allen’s. I go there all the time. And right next-door above, is a place called Bar Centrale, and I go there, too. I was just there last night for three hours. I like the manicotti at Joe Allen’s. It’s excellent!” ● JULIAN LENNON – “Probably the Jane bar and the Rose Bar in New York.”

At launch of S.T. Dupont in-store boutique @ Davidoff on Madison Avenue:

● RON WHITE – “I love the bars in Glasgow, Scotland. You could go sit in a bar by yourself and in five minutes, you’d be talkin’ to 10 people because they’re so curious about anybody that walks in that’s not normally in there. They just want to go talk to ’em and find out what they’re about. They’re just as friendly as they can be. I was there for the British Open, or the Open Championship, as it’s called. And if you go to a bar in New York City, you can sit there for the rest of your life and not meet another person because they’re not really gonna come up to you and go, ‘Hey, what’s up? What are you doing in town?’ That just doesn’t happen here.”

Lessons in Getting Funky: Chromeo’s Dave 1

David Macklovitch makes up half of the Montreal-bred, synth pop duo Chromeo, with his counterpart, P-Thugg (a.k.a. Patrick Gemayel). In the music world, he’s known as Dave 1: A dude who’s simultaneously studying for his PhD at Columbia, and getting read to drop an album next summer as a follow-up to 2007’s majorly-hyped album Fancy Footwork. Chromeo is playing one show this fall on October 16th at Irving Plaza to promote the mix they put together for the !K7 Records’ DJ-KiCKS series. And fortunate for Chromeo fanatics who simply cannot wait around until next summer, eager for some new tunes, the single “Night By Night” will be release through Green Label Sound on Wednesday, September 23rd for free download. We caught up with Dave 1 during mandatory study hours while he took a quick break from the books to talk about chicks and muzak (smooth rock, if you will).

What are you up to today? I’m at Columbia University, studying at the library. I’m working on my dissertation for a PhD in French Literature.

When are you delivering your dissertation? Hopefully in December, but at the latest in May.

How are you enjoying it? Good, good, it’s sort of stressful. Anybody who writes a dissertation goes a little crazy so, I think I’m there. I’m feeling a little bit of that but I gotta do it.

How have you been balancing working on your PhD and your music career? It’s been hard over the last couple of years, but by now I’m used to it and I’ve always done music stuff on the side. It’s gotten a bit harder but I just do one or the other and that’s pretty much it. Now, I’m working on the new Chromeo record and we have the !K7 Records’ DJ-KICKS series release and I’m going to do a lot of touring over the weekend so it’s always both.

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Are you going to give some previews of your new material during the October 16th DJ-KICKS show at Irving Plaza? I think we’re going to do that the Eagles’ “(I Can’t Tell You Why”) cover that we did on the DJ-KICKS album. And then we’re going to do another song, which is on our next record, and it’s probably going to be the first song that we’re leaking or releasing for free in the fall. I guess it’s like a preview of what our next records going to sound like, I mean, it’s not too far off of the last one. Our influences haven’t been changed dramatically. The new stuff we’ve been working on is maybe a little more like late ‘70s than of just ‘80s. There’s a bit of a ‘70s flavor and maybe a classic rock element here and there but it’s still our recognizable sound. It’s hard to talk about it because we haven’t finished but for us it’s mostly about trying new things.

And what about the subjects of your songs? It’s always chicks. That doesn’t change much.

What should we be expecting in terms of sound? This album is a little more like, Kenny Loggins, with the Kenny Loggins Michael Mcdonald thing. We’ve been listening to a lot of rock bands when they had to do the mandatory disco record, you know. Like when the Rolling Stones did Miss You and when KISS did, I Was Made For Loving You. There’s a hidden clumsiness to those records. They’re just classic rock groups that wanted to get funky because they were being pressured to, and the results were often very endearing. I think that has influenced the new stuff we’ve been working on a little bit.

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Have you been pressured to get funkier? No. When we started working on this album, P was really into a smooth rock phase. But really into it. He was going beyond Ken Loggins. His stuff was sounding like, Air Supply or something. It got a little out of control and I was like, “Don’t forget that for most people we’re a dance band so we’ve got to put that element into it.” It’s about balancing it all out.

Have you incorporated any new gadgets? We ended up buying a new keyboard. We’re always kind of refurbishing our synths collection because everything we do is with analog synthesizers and analog drum machines and all this vintage gear so we’re always buying new pieces of equipment that get incorporated into our songs right away.

Stories about songwriting for this album? An interesting thing about this new record is that we load it all, or most of it just on piano or on vocals and then we transform the song into your typical Chromeo song but we’ve been writing them a lot just on the piano. I think that’s a new thing for us.

Are you sick of playing any of the songs from Fancy Footwork? No

You still love all of them? I like them. Every time I play them it just reminds me of how proud I am of what we accomplished on the last record. It’s a modest accomplishment because we didn’t sell that many records but considering where we came from before and how things changed for us, I’m very proud of it. Where do you hang out in New York? I don’t go out that much, but my little brother across the street in Williamsburg, so we hang out in little restaurants in our neighborhood.

Any in particular? I like Diner. I like Marlow & Sons. That Hotel Delmano place is fun, here and there. There’s a place I like in Chinatown called Bacaro. I also like subMercer.

Now, I’m going to give you subjects for songs and you have to give them titles. Okay, that’s easy.

The first scenario is that you accidentally buy your girlfriend a vacuum for her birthday and she finds it offensive how you view her role in the household. That song would be called “Suck It Up”.

The second one is you fall in love within the first two miles of a cab ride with the female driver. That would be called “Love and Cab Fare”.

The third one is you buy a pair of jeans, you think they’re amazing, you walk around the store and all the sales people are telling you how great you ass looks but when you bring them home you realize you bought girls jeans. Yeah, that’s tough. That song would be called “In-jean-ue”.

New York: Top 5 Non-Vintage Wine Bars

imageCrash courses in tannins and charcuterie available now. 1. Terroir (East Village) – Hearth spin-off proves the East Village did need another wine bar after all. 2. Bacaro (Chinatown) – Venice comes to Chinatown. Get blotto in the grotto. 3. The Monday Room (Little Italy) – Intimate and classy, come feel good about a Monday for once.

4. The JakeWalk (Brooklyn South) – Fancy cheese, wine, and whiskey and everything’s Jake. 5. Ten Bells (Lower East Side) – Organic wine and fresh small plates in LoHo? The Bells toll for thee.