The label head, producer, and DJ remembers Day Off's first year and what still lays ahead

By Madison Vain
Updated September 04, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT

Fool’s Gold Day Off, the multi-city festival thrown by Fool’s Gold Records, kicks off this weekend in Atlanta and makes it way to Brooklyn on Monday, Sept. 7. Each city gets a slightly different lineup but this year features A-trak, Meek Mill, What So Not, Flosstradamus, Earl Sweatshirt, Travi$ Scott, Action Bronson, and a near-promise of cool surprise guests. The festival was founded in New York in 2010, and in addition to Atlanta and New York, it’ll hit Miami, Austin, and Los Angeles. Before the party kicks off, A-trak (born Alain Macklovitch) looks back at the first year and plans for those to come.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The Day Off website says, “This is where the vision of Fool’s Gold comes together.” What do you mean by that?

A-trak: Day Off is the best example of Fool’s Gold’s vision and experience because it brings together different genres and artists to one place in a way that makes sense. If you look at the lineup on paper it might be like, “There’s a rapper and a band and a singer and an electronic DJ?” but when you’re there and experience it all in one kind of flow it feels very natural. You can tell even by the demographic, it’s not a bunch of disparate subgroups, it’s a very unified crowd—they all like all these types of music. A lot of what we do is about presentation and packaging and being able to reach out and put together these lineups that are a cross between artists who are signed to Fool’s Gold, artists who are friends of Fool’s Gold, artists who we’re just fans of—like when I booked Trick Daddy a few years ago in Miami I had never met him, but I was a fan of his—and we piece it altogether to make it one experience.

What do you remember most about the first year?

The first year was 2010 in New York at City Winery—we were using their loading docks. It was so nerve-wracking because two or three weeks before we were still trying to lock down a venue. They would all be leads and fall through and, you know, it’s not easy doing a big time party, an outdoor party, and at this time it was a free party. You might be like, “Why isn’t there a cool, fun, daytime, free party in downtown New York?” And what we learned was, “Well, it’s a little difficult to organize.” But then during the actual show it was a lot of fun. It was also just gratifying to see everyone having fun—there were no lulls, no fights, just this shared energy.

Was the goal always to expand? Or was it just a one-off?

We wanted it to be a yearly thing right from the start. And we definitely hoped it would grow, but who can really predict growth? Especially this scale? I think one thing that kind of defined itself over time is that it’s more hip-hop leaning—the day off is anchored in the rap side of what we do. Part of what’s been fun with having these parties every year and building this sort of ritual or tradition is seeing some of our peers, other artists, who come and hang out every year, and then booking them. Like Action Bronson is headlining our L.A. show this year—he’s been coming to practically every New York party. The A$AP guys come pretty much every year and just hang out. It’s sort of like it’s marked on peoples’ calendars now. And we’re mainly thinking about the performers and the crowds and planning security stuff and merch booths and if the food vendors are set up and sometimes you don’t anticipate the ways it turns into this hub for the community. All the cool photographers are there, bloggers are there, other musicians—from the up-and-coming to the established-are there. That’s the kind of stuff that’s really gratifying to see.

Do you have plans to expand further?

Yeah, for sure! We tried to even expand more this year but it’s a tricky deck of cards. We want to make sure we’re always moving forward but every step needs to be really strategic.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

The surprises. I don’t even know what they’re going to be yet but that’s the part that’s most exciting—it’s been getting crazier and crazier the past couple of years but we always pull off these surprise guests and a lot of it gets planned at the last minute and it just turns the day into something even bigger than we could anticipate.

Are the surprise guests ever surprises for you as well?

Last year in Atlanta, Travi$ Scott brought out T.I. and Yung Thug and it was this really funny scenario where I was playing my own set—Travis was after me—I had tried to get Young Thug to come beforehand for my set but Mr. Thug is a little hard to reach [laughs]. But then Travis runs up to me while I’m on stage and he’s holding his phone up and he’s FaceTiming Yung Thug, like, on his phone. And I’m DJ’ing so I have a limited attention span but I sort of realized what was going on and I kind of guessed, “I think he’s about to bring in Yung Thug.” And sure enough he showed up. So I had a heads up of maybe 45 minutes there. T.I. I didn’t even know. I just heard, “T.I.’s here,”[laughs] and he got on stage.

You launched the Fool’s Gold label a few years before Day Off even, what were you not getting where you were that made 2007 the right year to launch?

I mean there barely was dance music at the time. Dance music was still considered cheesy when we started Fool’s Gold.

I imagine it actually was still considered cheesy for the first few years after.

Yeah, we used to call it “electro” because it didn’t have the same connotations. I used to run another record label before, so I was accustomed to putting out music by my friends and peers—that becomes a bit of a reflex. We started Fool’s Gold over the holidays of ’06-’07, and looking back at 2006, the scene was shifting a lot. It was the tail-end of the mash-up trend turning into this electronic, rap, club, hybrid scene. And I was starting to produce for some of our friends, and Diplo was getting started in Philly and the Flosstradamus guys were just starting their projects in Chicago and everyone was kind of connected—Nick [Catchdubs] and I were becoming closer—it just felt lime a time and place that needed to be crystallized in a sense. It needed to be packaged, almost just for posterity. And we just wanted to do cool stuff, and the record industry was completely tumbling at the time on the major side of things. For us it felt freeing—we could do it anyway that we wanted. We barely needed a lawyer [laughs]. And that community mindset has really stayed throughout, and day off is a place where I think that really shines. We’re a group of people who met through music and became genuine friends and we’d like to bring people into our world and just have a good time together.

If the goal was to preserve a moment then, in a way, what is the goal now? How does that evolve?

We’re DJ’s, we’re used to keeping up with the times in a sense. Its about riding the wave and adapting to the wave and continuing to sign stuff that feels like us but also feels current. And that’s all we know, we’ve been doing this our whole lives basically.