Interview: A-Trak

When you’ve won the biggest DJ competition in the world at 15, what else is there to do? Plenty, as A-Trak (born Alain Macklovitch) so casually proves. This Montréal-born turntablist wasted no time in turning his sights to the electro house scene, where more reverence and champagne fueled fun followed. He’s sold out clubs and festivals, been tabbed as Kanye West’s personal tour DJ, spawned multiple hit tracks and remixes, and oh, we haven’t even mentioned his little side project called Duck Sauce. A-Trak dropped by Zouk a while back, so we got him to share some thoughts on his mile-long resume.

Text Hidzir Junaini
Image and interview courtesy of Zouk Management

Winning the DMCs World DJ Championship at 15 must have been a huge deal. How did you take it at the time?
I was thrilled! I also remember giving myself a bunch of new objectives right away. I remember coming home thinking, “Now I need to make a mixtape, and I need to come up with new routines because I’ve been doing the same ones for a while, and next year I’ll have to defend my title.”

Folks might not know that your brother is Dave 1 from Chromeo. Does talent run in the genes or did you two grow up in a musical household?
Our parents aren’t musicians, but I think they raised us in an environment where the arts and culture had an important place. Dave and I grew up very close and I used to just hang out with him and his friends. So when they got into playing musical instruments, I wanted to follow. That’s what led to both of us doing music: just the fact of us doing everything together. When I started messing around with scratching around the age of 13, that’s when I felt like I found my own voice and I just kept going from there.

Was there any sibling rivalry going on?
No, not much. But I did want to find an instrument that would feel like my own, rather than playing something that Dave could also play, because Dave was kind of good at everything. When I started DJ-ing, he couldn’t do what I was doing. As a 13 year-old I remember that was exciting. But Dave became my biggest supporter and convinced me to take it seriously and practice every day.

And you’ve gone as far enough as to end up as Kanye West’s personal tour DJ at one point – tell us about that.
I had an amazing experience working with him and although I don’t tour with him anymore we still collaborate. He’s an extremely inspiring person. And a nice guy too, despite what people seem to think.

You also collaborate with Armand Van Helden for Duck Sauce. Did you expect ‘Barbra Streisand’ to be such a breakout track?
‘Barbra Streisand’ was our second single. Our first track ‘aNYway’ was already quite big compared to anything else that I made beforehand. So at the time we were just trying to match the success of ‘aNYway’. We knew that ‘Barbra Streisand’ had something catchy but we didn’t think it would get as big as it did, getting platinum plaques and stuff. It’s still growing, six months after being released.

What’s the one track you drop that never fails to get people dancing?
My remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Heads Will Roll.’

As someone who got into DJ-ing a very young age, what would your advice to aspiring young jocks be?
I’d say just have fun with it because people can hear that in the music. Stay dedicated, work on your craft for as long as it takes to get it to sound great. Whenever you think something is done, push it a step further, push yourself and your sound.

Dance to A-Trak at