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A-Trak - conducted by Aaron "A*maze" Joseph  

A-Trak Interview

May 2006

Alain Macklovitch has been mixing records for a minute now, and could very well be on his way to becoming one of the greatest DJs of all time. Chances are, anything you think you can do on the tables, he has already done and mastered. While you were playing Nintendo, this kid was in the basement working on his future. Macklovitch, better known as DJ A-Trak, started playing around with records at the age of 13, after buying used tables and a mixer with his Bar Mitzvah money. Two years later, he went on to become the youngest DMC champion, at the age of 15. Talk about a good investment.

Whether you know him as DJ A-Trak or as "Kanye West's DJ," one thing most people notice when they meet Mr. Macklovitch is that he's a real nice dude, and that he also spins better than most people ever will.

MVRemix caught up with A-Trak before his Headlining tour show on May 15th @ The Plaza nightclub in Vancouver.

MVRemix: How do you feel being back in Vancouver?

A-Trak: It feels great. Vancouver is one of the places where I've done the most shows and one of the first cities I came to after flying out of Montreal, Quebec. It means a lot being here, especially when flying out on a headlining tour. I want to make sure that the show here is very strong, 'cause I know we can do something big here.

MVRemix: How is your lifestyle different now compared to when you were well-known but still on the come-up?

A-Trak: Some stuff is different, but I still feel like I'm on the come-up. The only differences are if I am touring with Kanye, then the accommodations are different, but it doesn't affect my day-to-day life as much.

MVRemix: Growing up in a city as rich in culture as Montreal, do you think that if you grew up in any other Canadian city, for example Toronto or Vancouver, that your choice of music or skills would differ at all?

A-Trak: It's really hard for me to imagine growing up in any other city, 'cause everything I was exposed to is from where I was from. But I do know being from Montreal, or Canada in general, as a DJ in the mid-90s, there were different styles for DJs from certain coasts (east and west), so it was better to be from where I was instead of growing up in the United States and having to be one of two styles.

MVRemix: Growing up with Dave 1 (of Chromeo) as your brother, was that a big influence on your music? Did seeing him, and what he was into, make you want to start making music also?

A-Trak: Yeah, It was even closer than that 'cause we always did our projects together. He was the person who encouraged me to buy tables, and to practice every day. He always gave me feedback on my early routines and productions. Everything we did was together, so he was the person who had the most direct role in my career.

MVRemix: How did you go from being "A-Trak," to "A-Trak -- Kanye West's DJ?" How did you two end up working and touring together?

A-Trak: I met him in London, England after he saw one of my in-store performances, and from that five-minute routine he liked what he saw and ask me to come on tour with him and Usher (on the Truth Tour). At that time, Kanye didn't have a DJ. From then on, I started to do shows with him after the Truth tour and I eventually became his official tour DJ.

MVRemix: Does it bother you being called "Kanye's DJ" instead of A-TRAK?

A-Trak: Not specifically being called Kanye's DJ, because that's the truth. But I feel, if anything, it's up to me to stay active enough as A-Trak, as myself, so that people will know I have my own projects and that I am my own entity, aside from what I do with Kanye.

MVRemix: What are some benefits that people of your profession get that common folk don't? Let us in some of the secret lifestyle: the parties, girls, possibly a secret music society?

A-Trak: [Laughing and thinking hard about the question] To me, everything that comes with the music biz lifestyle isn't what interests me. I mean, I will go to some of those parties with celebrities, but I can't handle a few of those after a while. It can get really annoying especially when everyone is acting "too cool for school" and don't even dance when there's music. You rarely feel any atmosphere at a party like that. What's inspiring for me, through Kanye, is things like watching artists like Common record a verse, something I can learn from, but after that the V.I.P. joints and all that, it's funny. It's just cool to take photos and put 'em up on my website to laugh at for a bit, but I don't make more of it than that.

MVRemix: Aight, if you ain't gonna tell me anymore DJ secrets, I'ma have to move along, so tell me about your new DVD, Sunglasses Is a Must, what's up with that?

A-Trak: The DVD Sunglasses Is a Must is in stores, finally. It was like two years in the making. It's basically the story of my career, told by myself. I just realized one day that I had so much footage from when I started filming myself practicing, my early shows, battles, going out on was all on tape, so I just had to string it all together and of course anyone who knows how I approach things I have to give it a lil' tongue and cheek, so I can't even take myself seriously. I basically packaged it up and threw it out there for people to see.

MVRemix: You and your brother started up the fairly new music label, Audio Research. Can you tell us a little about the independent rap label and who's on it?

A-Trak: The label has been around since 1997, and since then we have worked with D-shade of Shades of culture from Montreal, then with DJ serious who is still with us, we put out his 2nd full length last year, D-Styles from Scratch Piklz and DJ Craze. The label is basically a home for when Dave and I feel we should put something out ourselves. Right now the main focus is on my solo stuff, the DVD, the '45 for Knucklehead, which is the theme for the DVD, and working on my upcoming album, which is in the works.

MVRemix: Aight, I'm now gonna test you on your French: "Qu'est-ce qui a dans l'avenir pour Alain Macklovitch?" (What's in the future for Alain Macklovitch?).

A-Trak: Ahh! [Laughs] am I supposed to answer in French?

MVRemix: Nah, I believe ya. You can answer in English.

A-Trak: Aight, cool. Right now my main focus is finishing this record, the recording process, and at the same time building up my profile, so that by the time the album is ready it will be ready to be put out. I been out on the road since the beginning of October, barely no stops, steady suitcase style across the world and it's gonna be like this 'til the end of summer. I'm on a full year of being on the road, either with Kanye or on my own, being active and putting out product out there whenever I can, like the mix tape I did with GLC. I got another CD called Oh No You Didn't! that's out also, and there's gonna be more coming out. The main focus is setting myself up for an album release and when that's done I'll be able to focus on more production with other people. I'm also still working with GLC; we gonna do another mix tape together and I'ma help him with some beats and vocals for his album, so that's pretty high on my priority list as well.

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    "What's inspiring for me, through Kanye, is things like watching artists like Common record a verse, something I can learn from..."