Interview: A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs

by Ulrik

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We caught up with with two thirds of the Fool's Gold trinity for a chat about their label, the DJ game and the wackness of 'goofy space headphones.'

In 2007, the World gained a shiny, new imprint. The inimitable A-Trak and the multitalented Nick Catchdubs joined forces and started the Fool’s Gold label at a time when the rest of the music business were shaking in their boots and counting their pennies. Far from being deterred by prognostications of doom and demise, the two charismatic music nerds enlisted the visual wizardry of graphic artist, Dust la Rock, and pretty much went on to conquer everything in their path through original marketing and straight-up house-rocking jams.

Today, Fool’s Gold have a string of quality releases under their belt, attention from all the right magazines and a brand new concept store in Brooklyn. Fool’s Gold, it would seem, are imbued with the Midas Touch. We caught up with the two DJ/producers for a chat about headphones, the intersection between hip hop and electronic music and that impressively fucked up video for Duck Sauce’s ‘Big Bad Wolf’.

AIAIAI: Hey guys, could you begin by briefly talking about your latest Fool's Gold-related projects?

A-Trak: I think right now the most exciting new project is the opening of our online store. We've had our shop in Brooklyn since the summer, and now everyone can buy our products around the world. Of course, this includes the AIAIAI collaborative headphones. I also have a new single with Zinc called "Stingray" out in December.

Nick Catchdubs: I just did a remix for Danny Brown's "Die Like A Rockstar" and working on an EP of my own for next year.

A: What’s the hot, new track of the moment?

AT: I'm really feeling Zombie Disco Squad "Pianoman".

NC: We just put out a Bart B More remix of Cubic Zirconia's "Take Me High" that's nuts, starting to hear it out a lot. As far as non Fool's Gold stuff, I really like Floorplan "Baby, Baby" - a bunch of DJs are playing it from different scenes, A-Trak has it on his latest FG Radio mix too. Hybrid stuff really appeals to me.

A: Apart from FG, who do you see as the main players at the intersection between hip hop and electronic music - label and artist-wise?

NC: There's really no one focusing equally on the two. You'll see electronic producers have a rapper on their tracks, or dabble in different tempos, but no one really trying to cultivate both scenes at once. Fool's Gold is definitely unique in that respect. But it's cool to see someone like Drake go and get Jamie xx to work on his latest album - it's always interesting when legitimate pop artists reach out to the underground and manage not to screw it up.

A: Which release on Fool’s Gold are you most proud of?

AT: This is a tough question. One of them would be Kid Sister "Pro Nails" because it was our first video. Kind of our first hit and the first song that really got everyone's attention. But I'm also really proud of the Danny Brown XXX album that came out this year. I'm proud of everything we release, so it's hard for me to pick a favorite.

A: What’s the main difference between being a DJ/artist and a label manager?

AT: On certain levels it's the opposite, usually DJs and producers interact with label managers and they're complementary. It's obviously very different types of responsibilities. But there's also some similarities with the way that Nick and I approach our job at Fool's Gold and the way we DJ. It's all guided by taste, it's our ear that directs where the label goes. We do our A&R job the same way we pick music for our DJ sets. We look for the most interesting music.
NC: On the creative A&R side, a lot of the same skill sets apply - it's your taste, you're curating and presenting music to people in a certain way and in a certain aesthetic. But there's a lot more responsibility on the label side, it pretty much engulfs my life. I thought I became a DJ, so I wouldn't have to hold a "real" job!

A: What makes an excellent pair of headphones?

AT: Sound quality is most important. For DJ headphones, they have to be pretty loud to be usable in clubs. It's important for the entire frequency range to be audible in all types of settings too: you want to hear the bass thump, the warmth of the mids, the shine of the top end... And also, it's cool when they look good!

NC: As a traveling DJ, durability will always be paramount. It's equally if not more important than the actual sound quality. You also want them to look right - the same way I wouldn't wear a wack t-shirt on stage, I wouldn't rock some goofy space headphones either.

A: How did you come up with the new features for the Fool’s Gold TMA-1?

AT: The majority of what we added to the existing TMA-1 headphones was design, we made them look like a Fool's Gold product. But there was also one change made to the cord: I took the original TMA-1 to a club gig and plugged it into the mixer and noticed that the headphone jack was sticking out vertically, so I asked that it be changed to an elbow-shaped bend!

NC: I had already been using the standard black TMA-1s, and for the Fool's Gold model it was great to suggest improvements that could make something I already used all the time better for my own needs: the cable lock on the ear cup so the cord doesn't pull out, and the curved plug so it fits better on certain mixers. Also, the FG colored cord and our lasered logo are a nice touch...

A: Nick, do you still find time to do any writing?

NC: Not for magazines and the like, but I still write all the Fool's Gold press releases / label copy, and the majority of our online posts, Tweets, etc... wait, I mean Mr Goldbar does all that!

A: A-Trak, how has DJing changed from when you first started out until now?

AT: It has changed a lot. On an equipment level, almost everything is digital now. I used to carry crates of vinyl for many years. Now it's rare to see that. Also, DJing has become much more popular to the general audiences. I think it's harder for DJs to stand out from the masses now because everyone has access to everything. But in certain ways it's still the same art. Technology is just a tool. A great DJ is still a great DJ, the magic is still there and there's still the same passion, the same research that goes into the job.

A: A-Trak, we’re a bit curious about the video for Duck Sauce’s Big Bad Wolf - who first got the idea of having yourself and Armand Van Helden lodged between the legs of two howling sex machines?

A-Trak: It was the director! He's the crazy one. We just agreed to play along with the craziness. And I think he did an amazing job.


A: if you had to sum up Fool’s Gold in one word, what would it be?

AT: Quality.

NC: SHINY.