For A-Trak and Chromeo, It’s a Family Affair
FAMILY BUSINESS! FROM LEFT, DAVID MACKLOVITCH (DAVE 1 of CHROMEO); ALAIN MACKLOVITCH (DJ A-TRAK); AND PATRICK GEMAYEL (P-THUGG OF CHROMEO).
Patrick Gemayel (aka P-Thugg) and David Macklovitch (alias Dave 1) are partners in nostalgia-driven electro-pop group Chromeo. David and Alain (also a Macklovitch, and goes by DJ A-Trak) are brothers. Since winning the Disco Mix Club’s World DJ Championship in 1997, A-Trak has gone on to DJ for Kanye West and start his own record label. Together they weave a complicated collaborative web.
Interview first met with A-Trak outside Austin’s Moonshine Grill to talk about the music festival, and then spoke with all three Montreal natives.
MICHAEL POLLOCK: When you’re at South By, what do you feel your main role is? Are you a performer? A promoter? Are you doing A&R?
A-TRAK: The main reason I come to South By now is to push my label, Fool’s Gold. I probably wouldn’t come out here every year for gigs as a DJ, because I’ve done it a bunch of times already, and I think South By is mostly for new acts. But I always organize a Fool’s Gold showcase here, which I then DJ at. So I’ll still DJ, but it’s really about pushing the brand-new artist.
POLLOCK: How many South Bys have you been to before?
A-TRAK: I think this is my fifth one. Since 2007, every year.
POLLOCK: Are you looking out for new talent?
A-TRAK: Yes, scouting to a certain extent, but the majority of the artists that we sign are people that Nick and I find online. Nick is my partner at the label. We find them online, or it will come through someone that we know. There is very much a Web connection between our artists. One guy on the label will be like, “Hey, my buddy is doing a project. Do you want to hear it?” And we’ll be, “Hey, that’s cool. Let’s sign him.” It’s rare that we actually see a band at a random showcase and be like, “Yo, let’s approach them.” There is usually some sort of connection already, which is cool because then you end up with a family of artists that really feels like a family. But, that being said, I definitely have my eyes and ears open while I’m here.
POLLOCK: With you and Dave, it’s pretty much becoming a family business for you guys.
DAVE 1: Yep, the Macklovitch Mafia.
POLLOCK: Also, how is coming from Montreal to New York and all over the world?
A-TRAK: We’re pretty used to moving around, but it’s fun to play with these guys. I remember when they first started Chromeo. It was really in a whole different scene from where I was playing as a DJ. I was still doing mostly hip-hop, and they didn’t even really fit in the electronic or the indie world, because no one was doing music like them.
DAVE 1: Now it is just dope that we can play shows together.
A-TRAK: Yeah, over the years it has all converged, and we all work with the same people and play the same stuff.
POLLOCK: So was it a musical family you guys had?
DAVE 1: It has always been us three.
POLLOCK: Since high school?
DAVE 1: Yep, me and P have been playing music together since high school. Neither of us comes from a musical family. Then I got Alain into it, and that’s that, really.
POLLOCK: When did you and P-Thugg start performing?
DAVE 1: At the age of 15, but Chromeo started in 2002 or 2003, just doing small shows. We had like four songs.
POLLOCK: What was the first project called? Were you guys in a high school auditorium?
DAVE 1:Yeah, we had a high-school band. Then we started producing hip-hop, actually. P taught me how to use my first sampler.
P-THUGG: A-Trak played keyboards at our first show.
DAVE 1: Yeah, we were just like your local kids from high school, doing different things, and eventually from hip-hop we went back to Chromeo, and then Chromeo became its own thing. Then at the same time, Alain, who was always DJing, came around and our scenes merged, and now it’s this really cool organic team where we share fans. It’s especially cool to have P in Alain’s “Barbra Streisand” video. It just all kind of nicely came together, as they say.
POLLOCK: Where do you all live now?
DAVE 1: I’m in New York and P is in Montreal. Alain is in New York as well.
A-TRAK: We live across the street from each other.
POLLOCK: What is it like working from Montreal and New York? Do you guys just travel a lot?
P-THUGG: Yeah, it’s like a five-hour car ride.
POLLOCK: Do they hassle you at the border?
P-THUGG: They used to, but not anymore.
POLLOCK: Did you hear about the star of the FUBAR movie, who was stopped at the border and couldn’t come to his premiere?
P-THUGG: Yeah, I don’t think they are very funny.
POLLOCK: You don’t like the movie?
P-THUGG: The show or the movie. They have a show that’s related to it—Green Onion or something like that.
POLLOCK: You don’t like it because it mocks Canadians?
P-THUGG: It’s just not funny.
POLLOCK: Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
DAVE 1: The new Duck Sauce album is ridiculous.
A-TRAK: Yep, the new album is practically done, and then just a whole bunch of touring. I’m getting ready for Coachella, where I am playing both as A-Trak and Duck Sauce. Chromeo is playing Coachella too. And right after that, I’m doing a tour called the Magic 8-Ball Tour.
POLLOCK: Are there going to be some Fool’s Gold artists on that tour?
A-TRAK: Yeah, Kid Sister is opening, and Gaslamp Killer too, who is not on Fool’s Gold but—
DAVE 1: But is also Jewish.
POLLOCK: And that’s what important.
A-TRAK’S MAGIC 8-BALL TOUR RUNS THROUGH MAY, AND CHROMEO WILL PLAY THE CLOSING DAY OF COACHELLA, SUNDAY, APRIL 17TH.