Traditionally, “fool’s gold” was associated, as its name suggests, with a yellow-tinged mineral, typically mistaken for its more valuable doppelgänger. But there’s no confusion about Fool’s Gold Records.
From the label’s distinctive image to its dynamic, hard-to-pin down roster of artists, since 2007 “Fool’s Gold” has come to stand for originality and a damn good time. Having discovered Kid Cudi, re-discovered Danny Brown and introduced the delectable Duck Sauce to the world, the label’s success can largely be attributed to its musical prospectors/co-founders, Nick Catchdubs and Alain “A-Trak” Macklovitch.
In the run-up to the return of their annual Labor Day flagship party, Day Off, taking place at Brooklyn Live at the Inlet, we caught up with A-Trak to find out a bit more about what to expect from this year’s event, whether laptops killed the turntablism star and what exactly the deal is with his label’s preoccupation with ducks.
How did the Day Off party come about?
Events have always been something we’ve done with Fool’s Gold. In our first year as a label we did a tour and in 2010 we had this idea to do a party around back-to-school time and it turned out we were able to get this venue in Soho on actual Labor Day. So we turned it into a daytime block party and called it “Day Off.”
What was your thinking behind the party?
We kind of saw right away the opportunity to bring together the community, and kind of zeitgeist, of this very downtown New York circle that Fool’s Gold ran in: hip-hop and electronic heads, the art kids and cool photographers. We booked a combination of friends and acts on the label. It became this convergence point, which made us want to do it every year. After doing it in New York for a couple years we expanded to other cities.
So, from this specific New York party it expanded to include Miami, LA and Altanta. How did you tailor it for each city?
Everything that Fool’s Gold does is very curated and these line-ups are a good example of that. It’s fun to sometimes just add that little touch of attention and care to certain cities. When we started coming to LA, we bought out DJ Quik, a legend in LA rap that our younger audience who listen mostly to electronic music and new rap had probably never seen perform before. It’s not systematic though, in LA this year we had Action Bronson and Travis Scott and sometimes it doesn’t need to be the obvious choice but we’ll choose artists that we know have a good audience in that city. Action Bronson is an East Coast rapper but is hugely popular in LA, we understand that. We’re not sitting in some cubicle desk looking at Wikipedia facts, we’re in the field, in those cities and we know what people like.
Any acts for the New York lineup this year you’re excited to bring to people’s attention?
There’s a couple. I’m really excited to see Post Malone’s performance. I saw him perform at a Fool’s Gold event in Montreal and he’s great live. He’s got a couple songs that people love and know by heart but there are a lot of people who also don’t know him yet. We’re catching him at that point in the wave.
It must feel great to witness that sort of thing.
Yeah, it’s exciting, there’s another guy called Towkio, from Chicago. He’s down with Vic Mensa and same crew as Chance the Rapper. All the guys in that crew are such good performers so I can’t wait to see Towkio perform. I haven’t even seen him perform before but I know he’s going to kill it.
Since your first Day Off event, have you seen a shift in the trends of what people are listening to?
I think it stays pretty consistent. The only difference, really, is the names shift out from year to year, but in terms of the line-up it’s a mixed basket of sorts. You’ll have your bigger name in hip-hop, your up and coming name, your DJ that kind of plays electronic stuff that works for a hip-hop crowd.
I saw you had a competition running on Genius for people to make suggestions for their dream artist co-lab. So, turning this question on you: if you could work with any artist, who would it be?
Hm, I would choose something really off the wall. I’d love to make a track with someone from another genre like Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, or Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys. I’m such a fan of riffs, it’s what my ear always goes to and for me those are two of the few people keeping classic rock alive. I grew up on Zeppelin as a kid so it kind of speaks to me.
Speaking of which, you’ve gone through quite a music journey yourself from your more classic hip-hop turntablist days to the more dance-y electronic stuff of late. I’m wondering how that works for you? It must be almost bittersweet helping enable this transition while, in a way, seeing the art of turntablism lost?
Well, in the back of my head I kind of have a plan for turntablism. I think it’s important for me as a DJ and for music in general to not stay too stubbornly attached to the way things were done whether it be technologically or sonically; ride the waves and accept the new sounds and work them into what you’re doing yourself. I love the sonics of music now and I think there’s a way for turntablism to evolve and still find its place with new music. It’s something that I’ve quietly been working on and fusing into my sets. I’ve always continued to use turntablism in my djing, it’s just part of the way I DJ and I think there’s ways for it to be updated and feel new and futuristic. Anybody can enjoy a good scratching performance because there’s something about it that just always sounds futuristic so there’s ways for it to not be left behind, it doesn’t have to be this sort of old-school vinyl thing.
The same could maybe be said of what’s been so critical to Fool’s Gold’s success with your emphasis on merchandise and vinyls and trying to merge the old with the new?
I agree, in fact I feel like in recent years there’s been more emphasis than ever on limited edition special bundles released with album packaging. It speaks to the die-hard fans who still want some sort of product. I think special packaging is even more commonplace now than ever.
So, what’s the deal with all the ducks? Any story there?
Nah, no significance. It was all kind of a big prank, was just a bit of fun. It still is fun.
I guess that’s a critical part of your label’s continued success, keeping it fun?
For tickets to Day Off, click here.