With “Push,” his thumping new single featuring Andrew Wyatt, A-Trak has given us synthpop at its most addictive. Wyatt, of Swedish indie pop outfit Miike Snow, slides a catchy, electro-house vocal over A-trak’s anthemic, piano-heavy beat and the result ensures thousands of happy club-goers.
EW caught up with the DJ/producer and Fool’s Gold label exec to talk about how his latest collaboration came about, and what’s next.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Between your work at Fool’s Gold and projects with Armand Van Helden and Lex Luger, as well as just a very long solo career, your work has spanned an impressive range of genres — do you have a favorite or one you consider your musical homebase?
A-TRAK: I definitely don’t have a favorite project. I think what works for me, even just in terms of inspiration and motivation, is keeping this constant juggling act. It’s how I like to work. But I feel like I neglected doing A-Trak records a bit. So this new “Push” record has me particularly excited. Duck Sauce is house music and sample-based, Low Pros is trap and southern rap: a lot of my projects are defined, in a way. For my A-Trak records I’m taking a much more genre-less approach. It’s pretty simple: music that I like. It’s rooted in house, I think it has a bit of an indie sensibility especially in the vocals that I choose, and the production isn’t too hard. I have a lot more music that will be coming out in the coming months and “Push” really feels like the first of a series.
EW: How did the collaboration come about with Wyatt?
A: I started by making the track, the instrumental. Then I was thinking of singers that could sound good on it. I love the idea of working with vocalists that made records that I’m already a fan of, rather than cookie-cutter songwriters that write generic vocals every day for artists that they’re not even familiar with. I’m taking the spirit of collaboration into my solo project. I like working with people that I click with. I’ve known Andrew for a few years already, since the first Miike Snow album. The New York music scene is actually pretty small. So we went to the studio and he wrote his lyrics on the spot and we recorded together.
EW: Who writes the vocals in a scenario like this? Does Wyatt have free reign, do you work together, do you provide him with a mission-statement of sorts…?
A: I didn’t have a specific theme, but basically I played him the track and we started having a conversation. He would sing bits of ideas and I told him which parts I liked. Then he filled out the verses. He wrote all the words, and I was there to make sure it stayed on track with what I like. I have a pretty clear sense of things I don’t like, so it’s easy for me to steer a vocalist and make sure we don’t veer into something that wouldn’t represent me.
EW: It’s hard to imagine there are many people left on this list but, any dream collaborators you hope to work with soon?
A: I don’t really think in terms of dream collaborators. I prefer to find a good match for each song, each project, regardless of whether the artist is a legend or a newcomer.
EW: It seems like — and this is meant as a compliment — each album/EP gets more fun/less serious than the last. Is that intentional or a reflection of where you are musically/professionally?
A: Interesting! That’s pretty cool. I don’t know, I never sat down and thought “time to make some fun records!” In fact I think most of the music I’ve made has had some dose of quirkiness. Working on Duck Sauce really taught me that the more we infuse our personalities in the songs, the more it creates a connection with our audience. I grew up on the Beastie Boys, and I feel like those guys wrote the book on making music that is funny without being a joke. I feel like it’s a combination of that, and maybe feeling more comfortable and confident in the process of making music lately, which puts the wall down even more, so to speak.
EW: Between the Low Pros, Fool’s Gold celebrating its 7th Anniversary, Duck Sauce’s album, a number of music videos, and your forthcoming EP, 2014 has proven a very busy year for you — any particular highlights?
A: Some of the highlights for me have been on the live side, too. My label Fool’s Gold organizes these festivals called Day Off. This year we did it in five cities: New York, LA, Atlanta, Toronto and Miami. It’s been pretty incredible throwing our own events that draw many thousands of people, curating lineups ourselves and creating something that literally didn’t exist before.
EW: What’s next?
A: Everything! More solo music, finishing my project with Cam’ron, more Low Pros music, tours in 2015, growing the Fool’s Gold empire. We’re making more and more clothing too; we have a shop in Brooklyn… expanding the whole lifestyle brand. And having fun, always.