Please welcome, if you will, The FADER’s newest weekly columnist, A-Trak, who will be sharing with us all the life and times of a superstar DJ and globetrotting gentleman. His column is called Around the World until he tells us otherwise.
Part 1: Attack of the Unibros, Santogold, Chromeo and Kanye.
Attack Of The Unibros tour: great success! Let’s recap, shall we? After spending 3 days mastering the Kid Sister album in London, being extra anal and working with the most awesomest engineers in the world to make the that baby bang like no other, I went to Germany for a triple-header of Unibro destruction with Boys Noize. We actually had a first show a week prior in Newcastle, but Germany is really when the tour kicked off properly. We hit Munich and played in a hot hot club. Like a dummy I showed up in a flannel shirt, which was promptly removed. I DJ’ed the first hour, then Boys Noize did an hour, and then we started going back and forth, tag-teaming. That turned into the format for the whole tour. Playing on the same mixer (me on Serato, him on CDJ’s) made it really fun to tag-team because we were freaking the effects during each other’s mixes. And it actually helped that we don’t play the same type of tracks because we were never stepping on each other’s toes, musically speaking. I made sure to do a little hip hop set at all of these shows too. It’s fun because people don’t expect it, so they end up flipping out. The next day was Berlin, with a surprise appearance by our broham DJ Mehdi. Mehdi’s flight was delayed for like 8 hours or something ridiculous like that. He landed at almost 2am but was still able to come and DJ because these German parties go laaaaate. I had my video camera at all these shows. I asked this guy who actually makes videos to film the gig for me; I think he was really high because he literally filmed the disco ball for the whole night. And disco balls aren’t kind to the autofocus function. The 3rd German date was in Cologne. That club was wild, there was giant candy everywhere and all these people in strange costumes dancing on stage: a bunny rabbit, a few horror masks and schoolgirl uniforms. It rounded off the weekend real lovely. We did at least 1000 people each night, it was a great first run.
After that I was finally able to rest for a few days in Berlin. It was my first time hanging out there. I really like that city, it reminds me of my old neighborhood in Montreal. Boys Noize has a dog that he brings to restaurants. We went to a spa and started working on a record together. He’s got a whole bunch of gear piled up in his studios. I had fun twiddling knobs and banging on drum machines. Peaches also showed me around the city a bit and took me to the Holocaust Memorial. Another interesting thing about Berlin is that all these artists live in what used to be East Berlin. After the Wall got torn down there was a whole bunch of artsy squatting and it became like hotbed for creative types. And rent is dumb cheap!!
We played in Oslo at this spot Bla where I’ve played a bunch of times before. The big question was, what country’s got better hot dogs, Norway or Germany? Germany is the birthplace of the bratwurst, but in Scandinavia they put these crunchy onion bits on their dogs. I can’t call it! Boys Noize is also obsessed with this Norwegian candy called Bamsa Mums and I love that name. I couldn’t stop saying it for like a week. Then we went to Paris where I guested at this Institubes vs. Boys Noize Records party. It was literally the 2 labels facing off, there were 2 stages on opposite sides of this big square room. The crowd was mad young, all Facebook kids. It was pretty friggin’ glorious though. It ended super late and when I woke up I dragged my tired arse to the train station and hopped on a TGV headed to Bordeaux, where I had a gig by myself outside the Unibros tour. I slept some more on the train and when I got to my destination I realized my girl had been trying to call me a bunch of times. She had just read about AM and Travis’ plane crash and wanted to tell me. I got the news as I awoke and arrived in this strange city by myself. It was really hard to digest. Thank god they’re getting better now. I really didn’t feel like DJ’ing that night but I went through with it and finally went home the next morning.
Then I did a run of dates on the Santogold tour. Had to keep it moving. I was doing a 40 minute set after the other openers, right before she got on. I definitely couldn’t play the same sets as I was doing with Boys Noize for Santi’s crowd! The first date was in Philly, I drove down there with Catchdini. It was also Santi’s birthday and her friends surprised her with a cake backstage. Free cake alert! From there I went to Toronto. This was a week before the Toronto Unibros show and the city was plastered with our posters. They even had giant posters on trucks! They went hard. Then we hit Cleveland, a city where I’ve had many a crappy show in the past. But this gig was actually enjoyable and may help fight the prejudice that I had built up against that city. Santi’s crowd is really in the midst of crossing over, so you see a few hipsters but also some moms and stuff. One lady came and talked to me after my set and had never seen a DJ do tricks before. She was all like “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life, I’m about to tell all my friends about it!” My homie Chip Tha Ripper also came through and showed some love. On the Friday instead of putting my day off to its god-given use (resting), I flew to LA to play with MSTRKRFT at the Henry Fonda theater. Logical, right? I linked up with Steve Aoki when I got in town and he took me to his new restaurant that he just bought. It’s a Korean BBQ and it was yummylicious. At one point during the meal Fat Lip (from Pharcyde) walked in, which was a bit strange because the restaurant isn’t even really open yet. I’m still not sure how that happened. The show itself was dope, they had my name up on the marquee in big and the crowd was yoooouuung. Sinden was in town too so I went to check him out after and had to catch a 6am flight to be at the last Santogold show on my run, in Detroit. That was probably my favorite one too.
After a few days off in Chicago came the North American portion of the Unibros tour. In fact it was just 3 cities: Toronto, New York and Montreal. I arrived in Toronto with a painfully annoying stiff neck. So the first thing I did was look for a sauna to take care of that little situation. I didn’t know my body was able to sweat that much! It did help though. The club was packed super early, it was a good show. Then came New York at Webster Hall. By a twist of fate Chromeo played Webster Hall while we were Toronto. So the Macklovitches sold out that room 2 consecutive nights! Yes New York was sold the heck out and there was electricity in the air that night. My favorite tidbit is that our friend DJ Eli got married that evening so Pase Rock, J2K and Amanda Blank came to our show post-wedding, still wearing suits. There’s some cool pics from that show here. We had like 2500 people in there. And finally, the big closer, Montreal. Doing New York and Montreal back-to-back is crazy for me because it’s like the sorta-hometown and then the real hometown. They had giant cutouts of the Unibro heads in the venue. I’m trying to track down a pair now actually. They had me doing TV interviews before the gig. I had such a good time just playing my set. Then Boys Noize got on and the liquor started flowing and all I can say is it was a celebratory end to the Unibro extravaganza! I tried to avoid the crowd surfs during this tour (crowd surfing is so 2007, dudes) but that night I couldn’t resisit. Again, there’s some great pics here.
But that’s not all. I had to somehow get out of bed at 8am and rush to the airport to continue my adventures. I flew to LA and got in the studio with Kanye to do some work on the new album. I could only be there for a day so we crammed some long hours. Let’s keep that for the next blog. I gotta fly to Paris in a few! Someone buy me a neck pillow.