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A-Trak - On The Right Trak

Author: Jane Stabler
Friday, 8 February 2008
While most of us graduate high school still totally confused about what we want to be when we grow up, Alain Macklovitch, aka A-Trak, seemed fairly sure of his career path the minute he hit his teens. 3D’s Jane stabler found out more.

A-Trak purchased his first turntables at only 13 and won the DMCs World DJ Championship when he was just 15. That achievement made him the youngest recipient of the coveted award ever, and the first Canadian to take home the prize. Despite admitting the whole thing started as a bit of a hobby, albeit a committed one, A-Trak is now a household name for those serious about their hip hop and DJing, and his success only looks set to continue.

“I think for the first couple of years I was DJing I thought it would be a big hobby but not a career, y’know,” he says. “But as soon as I got into scratching it became a big deal for me. I would come straight home and practise every day for a couple of hours. I stayed in school and I always figured I would do music for a few years and then have a, quote unquote, ‘normal life’. I hope that the way things are going now I can keep building music stuff for many years to come.”

He doesn’t seem to have too much to worry about yet, and his initial aspirations for a ‘normal life’ also don’t seem likely to take hold any time soon. After a string of his own musical successes and generating an international demand for his skills on the decks, A-Trak caught the eye of Kanye West back in 2004 and has been his official DJ since. Whilst being part of the Kanye crew is definitely opening A-Trak up to a more mainstream audience and even more touring than he was already doing, he concedes that it’s difficult to manage being a hip hop superstar’s DJ as well as finding the time to work on his solo projects. “Yes [its difficult],” Macklovitch admits, “but I do it. When I work with Kanye, it’s everything. He pushes everyone around him to get the best out of everyone and everything.”

Being so accomplished in his own right, it’s easy to imagine a DJ of A-Trak’s caliber and international status struggling a little to share the limelight with a star like Kanye, but the guy is as modest as he is talented. “I don’t have any issues playing my role, [with] my position in that show. I think maybe the fact I’ve been doing this for a long time, I understand the right context for everything. I understand what’s best for the show, that’s my role.”

Having been an acclaimed part of the hip hop DJ scene from such a young age A-Trak has successfully raised the bar for himself for years, and despite the conflicting work commitments, working with Kanye West just adds another impressive notch to the belt holding up his baggy jeans. The increasingly impressive résumé does come with a certain amount of pressure however, a lot of which Macklovitch agrees he puts on himself, but anyone who has come into contact with this DJ knows that his constant pushing of boundaries also stems from an absolute love for what he does. “I think it’s a combination of both [pressure and passion]. I definitely love what I do, it’s a passion and I give it my all, but I do put a certain amount of pressure on myself. There’s probably certain points of my career that I could have just had a sweet ride but I’m always not quite where I want to be yet. There’s always the pursuit of where I want to be.”

A-Trak’s inability to rest on his laurels and his ongoing pursuit for the next phase of his music has seen the way he works change with the musical times. With almost a decade of experience behind him, A-Trak has witnessed a lot of changes to how things are done in his industry, and looking back he’s somewhat amazed at how hard it used to be for DJs. “It’s been a huge change,” he considers. “Firstly in the way we DJs access music. You know, remembering when I would hear a song I wanted to use in a set or do some routine with, the whole process of tracking down two copies of a vinyl record was such a crucial step in the shows, and nowadays we get everything on mp3 and it happens so quickly.”

Now not just responsible for organising his own sets, today A-Trak is in control of driving other people’s music careers through his label Fools Gold. As if the man isn’t busy enough! But where there’s a will there’s a way, and A-Trak’s dedication to the music he loves seems unstoppable. “I feel great, I make time [to fit the label in].” he enthuses. “It’s grown a tonne this year. We started it at the beginning of the year and now the brand is out there, and people know about us. It’s the kind of music that excites me the most, it’s exciting to see what’s coming up.”

As far as his own career goes, he’s already been happy in his job for more than 10 years, and that’s a lot longer than most people stick out any career, or commit to most things for that matter. With his ongoing and increasingly impressive personal achievements, and his unwavering commitment to growing new artists within his genre of choice, it’s not surprising A-Trak also has a one-track mind when it comes to his future. “I hope that moment [when I need to do something else] doesn’t come,” he reveals. “I think that because it’s evolving and [with] what I’m working on now, hopefully the next few years I can see more, even more. There’s still so much for me to learn.”

WHO: A-Trak
WHAT: Plays Good Vibrations, Centennial Park
WHEN: Saturday 16 February