Posted on Jul 8th, 2008 in Behind The Scenes > Live by A-Trak
I was only back from Europe for 2 weeks when I boarded that cheap charter flight where they fed us President’s Choice TV dinners and headed back to Ye Olde Continent. First stop, Paris. I was booked to play a Vice party with that tall frenchman known as Busy P. Before the gig they had an Ed Banger in-store at Virgin where a special guest was advertised. That was me, I’m special. Hard to keep a surprise when I’m the only guy on Serato, going on stage to make sure they have the turntables plugged right. The Virgin Megastore is really big and it was fun to have an all-ages audience. They had us playing on a mixer that I don’t know and I spent my whole set looking for the “crossfader on” switch, but aside from that it went well!
I found out Kanye was also in town and tried to invite him to our gig but he was in a deep jetlag-induced slumber. We headed over to the club. As I got there I saw my boy leaving the club and he was like “yo let me introduce you to Keith Murray!” I’m not sure why Keith Murray was at my party but I was very surprised that he knew who I was. He kept saying “A-Trak, you’re crazy man, you’re on some shit.”
I did my gig and sweated quite a bit due to a broken AC unit. Then as I finished my set around 4am, Kanye texted me that he was awake and his sleep schedule was “jacked”. Mine was too, so I decided to go hang out with him after my gig. He was staying at the fanciest hotel in Paris, it was 5 or 6 in the morning and we kicked it for a while, talking about various coming-of-age themes. A few hours later it was time to head to Barcelona.
Sonar is one of the best festivals for electronic music. I call Barcelona party-town. So it’s a good combination. I played at Sonar 2 years ago with Diplo, we did a tag-team set together (we actually rehearsed!) and I still get people talking to me about it today. In that sense, the stakes were high. They wanted me, Mehdi and Kid Sister to all do a set together. They billed us as “DJ Mehdi vs A-Trak feat Kid Sister” which, as reflected in this post, has daunting mathematical implications. Before we could solve them, Kid Sister actually pulled out of the gig because she was in the studio finishing her album. It was back to just Mehdi and me. I got in town, received a basket full of fruit and champagne at the hotel and went to link up with the homies for a dinner of tapas and sangria. They were watching the quarter-finals of that soccer tournaments but I made them bounce before the end because I was hungry! He he… sports. Of course Mehdi and I hadn’t rehearsed this time. When we toured together last fall we used to go back and forth playing about 5 records each. The good thing about that is we were really trading off, essentially playing at the same time. The bad thing is it was hard for either of us to take the set in any type of direction because we were constantly trying to keep the energy up after what the last guy just played. So for Sonar we took a different approach. Mehdi played the first 45 minutes, then I did 45 minutes, and we kept the last half hour open to do whatever felt right, just knowing we both really wanted to throw some hip hop in there. It worked out great! Truly one of my favorite shows this year. We were each able to play our little quirky selections without having to rely on just the big bangers, which is super satisfying at a big festival like that where you know there’s 10 other guys playing those bangers. And it felt so good to play some Biz Markie in that piece! I’m over all that rave shit, it’s all about the Biz now.
Well, I can’t say I’m done with the glowsticks too fast because the next day we all flew to Ibiza. I just kept saying “A-Trak in Ibiza, who woulda thunk”. A few years ago — even a year ago — I never would have believed I’d play there. That name is soooo the caricature of big commercial house and techno, well past that thin line of where it’s funky, I just couldn’t fathom how I could fit there. But we all know that everything is merging in music, everyone is crossing paths and suddenly there are new possibilities. So they booked me, Mehdi and Busy P to play from 2 to 6am at Space, the famed megaclub. I was definitely more comfortable knowing that it was 3 of us and we could make a statement together, musically. I wouldn’t have done it by myself. Anyway we flew in that afternoon and my first realization was that the island is really pretty and pleasant. Of course it’s pretty, it’s on the Mediterranean. But I guess you just don’t think about these things. We went to rent scooters and headed to the port to eat some gelato by the water. Then we walked over to the old part of town with cobblestone streets and grabbed dinner at a picturesque italian spot.
The main difference between this place and any other small town by the water in Spain or Italy is the people you see walking around. They’re in Ibiza for a reason, after all. You see a lot of caricatural guido dudes. A lot of older British music lover types. Some aging hippies, some flamboyant men. And babes, lots of babes. After dinner I took a disco nap and we headed to the club at 1:30. I can’t lie, when I walked into that spot I did get a “what did I get myself into?” feeling. That club was huge!! You see that mass of people hypnotized to the cold techno beat and you think, “am I going to clear the dancefloor?”
But in fact I think we did well. Pedro set it off first the first hour and he was super comfortable. People started getting really hype, which I think is a little different for Ibiza. I get the impression that clubbers usually go out for long (long long) hours and just zone out while they dance, but we had them going buck. All 3 of us did our thing, it was a lot more hi-energy than the Sonar set and you can’t really go as far as playing rap in those big rooms in Ibiza but we definitely had our own identity and put our stamp there. I don’t think that crowd ever heard any Three 6 Mafia B-more club chants, but the message of “I love having sex but I’d rather get some head” is universal, isn’t it? Sebastian Ingrosso also came to show love and he introduced me to a local booze called Hierbas. That stuff was so good, I bought a bootle to try and impress some models. No fib!
I stayed in Ibiza for 5 days! I didn’t want to fly back and forth to America again, having gigs in the UK the next weekend, so I decided to post up there and work on music in the sun. I went to the beach, I had lots of gazpacho, I went out clubbing much later than I’m used to and tried to understand the science of that weird minimal shit. On one of the days I went and visited the Swedish Mafia dudes, visited their villa and they took me out to the famed Pacha club to watch Eric Morillo and Dirty South.
I took it all in, it was very educational. I’d be texting with Nick, he was at his hot NY apartment and I was drinking mimosas… I kept saying “I’m doing research!”
Before you know it the week flew by and I flew my ass back to London. This weekend’s mission: Glastonbury. My brother played that festival last year and was scarred for life. Glastonbury is known for its mud. It’s a huge festival, and when I say huge I mean 120,000 people. You’ve got all these people walking through fields and it always rains so it quickly turns into a mudfest, so much that you’re expected to show up with big rain boots which the Brits call wellies (short for Wellington boots).
This is hard to understand for artists. Even if you do a festival where the people in the crowd are wearing ponchos and whatnot, usually on the performer side you’re still able to show up wearing you gig clothes. But not here. No one is spared. You wear your bummiest clothes and by George you get yourself some wellies. I understood all that before showing up. But I still ended up shocked out of my mind. I drove down there from London with Mr and Mrs James Ford from SMD (we have the same manager). Lovely couple. I was there for 2 days. The first was meant to be pretty easy, I just had to do a 20 minute set for Annie Mac’s live broadcast on BBC radio. I got in, struggled a bit to meet up with my friend who picked up some wellies for me, put my backpack in storage because there’s no dressing rooms, went to meet up with Sinden, Herve and Martelo in the catering tent.
I watched Hercules & Love Affair and walked almost half an hour through the mud to get to the BBC tent. All this was fine, I was in good spirits. I did my set for Annie, it was good fun.
Then I hung out a bit, I was hoping to get out of there around 11pm to get some rest. But apparently it was too hard to get a ride before 1am, which is when the day ends, so I stuck around a little longer. You’re in a field in the middle of nowhere and it’s not even clear where a car would pull up so you don’t have much choice. At 1 I was supposed to take some sort of BBC bus to the hotel where their staff was staying, to then grab a taxi to my bed & breakfast, but I never found that bus. I met up with my manager’s friends and we were all going to leave together, but it was proving to be really hard to simply call a car to pick us up. I was quite tired, I only got 4 hours of sleep the night before, so the main person looking after me offered that I go lay down in her friend’s little “cabin” until the ride situation was sorted. They call it a cabin because it’s a bit nicer than the tents that most people sleep in but honestly it was just a dog house, like a kennel. It was literally the shape and size of a dog house and there were 2 small mattresses in there. I fell asleep. I was awoken by a knock on the door. I looked at my watch — 4am, are you serious? We’re still here? I was ready to be like “guys, am I ever happy to get out of here!” but it wasn’t my posse, it was the guy who sleeps on that 2nd mattress, heavily inebriated. I tried calling the people I was with but their phones were dead. Great. I’ll just sleep some more, I guess. Except this dude starts snoring like a fucking grizzly bear. I’m in a dog house and there’s a guy right next to me sounding like a chainsaw. When they finally came to grab me it was 5, and we still had to go find a cab. I got to the B&B at 6, dead.
10:30am, there’s a knock on my door. “Sir, you need to check out!” Kill me. This isn’t like a hotel where you can just be like “yeah I’m packing my bags!” and sleep for an extra hour. This is just a house and when they say you gotta go, it’s because there’s a car in the driveway with a family that’s ready to come in. Mind you, the main reason why I wanted to rest so bad was that I had to do 3 sets that day! I had my main DJ set at 5pm, then I was DJing for Kid Sister right after me, and later on at 10pm I was booked to play in another tent for Vice. For the first couple of hours I was very grumpy. I had a splitting headache and I was a grumpasaurus rex. At least it wasn’t raining that day. The sun was actually out. I got to the festival and there was barely any mud, it was just regular earth and dirt. What a privilege! I had plenty of time to check in with the stage manager and make sure everything was ready for our sets. I got some food and started relaxing. The Kid Sister gang arrived. We did our sets, we played for a crowd that was baking in the afternoon sun so it’s always a bit “meh” but it was fine. As the evening progressed I had a few beers and started forgetting about last night’s disaster. For a minute we couldn’t figure out where exactly I was supposed to play this last set. We finally found the tent, it was pretty tiny and there was approximately 6 people there. But I actually enjoyed doing a laidback set after everything that happened. Jay-Z’s set started right as I was ending mine, but we couldn’t even get to that part of the festival grounds. Every last person was trying to go watch him and they were closing roads because it got too crazy. So we drove back to London and called it a night. I stayed a little longer in London to play at Erol’s lady’s party Durrr. I really thought I was going to play for a crowd that didn’t know me at all. I was surprised to get there and recognize a bunch of people who were at my last couple of shows in London (Yo Yo, Stag & Dagger, Fabric, all those May gigs). The Cool Kids were in town for a release party of their EP so they rolled through with the freshness. It was cool to meet Rory Phillips, I really like the dude’s edits and remixes. It’s funny how I actually got booked to play at this thing, Erol’s girl saw me do a hip hop set at the Stones Throw WMC party back in March and thought “this would be cool for Durrr”. When I got there Erol was like “do what you want, play whatever you want, have fun”. And that’s just what I did! I played a bunch of my own tracks and Fool’s Gold upcoming heaters. The sound system at The End is ill and my joint with Laidback Luke sounded biiiiig. But I really didn’t play hard, just a bunch of funky stuff and even a bit of 90′s rap for those London indie kids to get open to. Great way to finish up a wild week-and-a-half in the Euro clubs!