Amsterdam house innovator Tom Trago breathes new life into the idea of a post-club mix, with a brilliant early morning session after a show at Amsterdam rave cave Trouw.
The Dutch wizard has always enjoyed switching things up, incorporating deep disco, funk, rave, Chicago house, soul and more into his own productions, showcased over three impressive albums. It’s a move that’s worked well, with Trago becoming a highly sought-after name over the last few years, as a summer overflowing with live bookings has shown – as has continued play of his undeniable 2012 disco-fixer hit ‘Use Me Again’.
We caught up with Trago to chat about the luscious, smoky mix he put together for Clash, and to get the gossip on his excellent new album, ‘The Light Fantastic’.
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Tell us a bit about your Clash mix:
The mix is made of a selection of tracks that are all-time favourites. Most of them I play a lot in clubs at an early stage of the evening or quite late/morning sets. I was aiming for a certain peaceful mood of the mix, the tracks are not too pushy and don’t have too much climaxing. The mix has three tracks by my good Amsterdam friends (Aardvarck, Dexter, Awanto 3), as well as some classic techno electronics (Carl Craig’s ‘Sandstorm’ and Aphex Twin’s ‘If it Really is Me’). It was made in Amsterdam, when I got back from my residency at my favourite Club, Trouw. Maybe that’s why it has this early morning hazy vibe to it. Hope you enjoy!
Tell us about ‘The Light Fantastic’ and what you were aiming for with the album:
I set out to create a dancefloor album that contains tracks that bring more than just a groove to dance to. And I wanted to collaborate with people around me, people I hang out with in daily life. Most of all I wanted to make an album that DJs always have in their bag – for them to have tracks that are suitable to play at various moments throughout the night.
Making the album, you spent four months constantly in the studio. Was it a particularly intense process?
The first month was the most fun. I rented a cabin in the woods and made the first sketches. After that I returned to my main studio in Amsterdam to mix and arrange the tracks. There was a lot of material to choose from. In the process I narrowed it down to about 15 tracks on which I focused in detail. In the end, ten tracks made it to the album release. To me, the most intense part is deciding which tracks make it to the album and perfecting those tracks to satisfaction. There’s always something I want to change. It’s not just about trying to get your best work on there, the tracks also have to work together. I am happy that it’s done, yet I also wanna start on a new one.
You said you wanted to go back towards the style of 2009’s ‘Voyage Direct’ with ‘The Light Fantastic’. Why was that?
On my first album I was inspired by a dance music; disco music, house music, club music. There was something natural and pure happening on that album that I wanted to take as an inspiration for this album. I didn’t want to recapture that vibe, but just take it as a starting point, as I felt I wasn’t finished on that subject, as I’m intrigued by the repetition in dance music.
There’s a lot of interesting takes on funk and disco on the new album. Have these areas always been an influence for you?
Yes – funk, soul, afro, dub, jazz. My taste in music has always been diverse. When I started out as a DJ I tried to incorporate all these genres into my set and I still do from time-to-time. When it comes to my own music, I let all that inspiration breathe through it.
How did the collaborations with Steffi and Breach come about?
Dutch producer Cinnaman and I played at Panorama some years ago. We stayed at Steffi’s apartment in Berlin, as I knew her from her days in Amsterdam. We hung out for a few days and made some beats. I kind of forgot about them, but found them when I was working on an album selection. I dusted off one of them and this became ‘Two Together’.
Ben Westbeech [Breach] moved to Amsterdam not too long ago. He came round to the studio and tapped into the track I was working on at the time, which became ‘True Friends’. He immediately had some vocal lines in mind and laid them down instantly. San Proper is also featured on that one.
How is the electronic music scene in Amsterdam at the moment?
I think Amsterdam (and The Netherlands) have always had a big impact in dance music. In the late ‘80s and ‘90s you had influential clubs like RoXY and The It, which fed the local scene, and finally resulted in a boom of commercial Dutch club music in the late ‘90s. In the ‘00s you had minimal music taking off in Amsterdam, which was pretty much a copy of what was happening in Berlin. And the last few years it seems that the sound shifted into deeper house, with a lot of kids looking for that original house sound.
For the past few years clubs like Trouw and Studio 80 have a created a steady following and been supporting the scene ever since they opened. Labels like Clone, Delsin and Rush Hour have been operating at the forefront of electronic dance music in the last 15 years. First people looked at Paris, with the whole Daft Punk / Ed Banger thing, then to Berlin for the whole minimal movement, then to the UK for the UK house sound, and now people may look at Amsterdam for a certain house sound. In the end I guess everything goes in cycles.
Apart from your album, what else have you been doing in 2013?
I’ve been touring a lot. DJing every weekend and working on a few remixes. I have also been preparing my live show, which I will be touring in the next year. We have added a visual element, which is created by my friend Meeus van Dis. Looking forward to touring the whole thing. And I have been working on a few tracks with Bok Bok. We will be putting out some 12”s independently in the next six months or so.
Words: Tristan Parker
Photo Credit: Nick Helderman
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‘The Light Fantastic’ is out now on Rush Hour Recordings. Trago will be launching the new album with an all-night set at The Nest, London, on November 1st.
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