Right on Track

Going inside a club anthem with DJ/producer A-Trak

Not many 29-year-olds can claim winning the DMC World DJ Championship at 15, much less being chosen to join Kanye West as his touring DJ, be a part owner in a record label, collaborate on the creation of a club anthem the magnitude of “Barbra Streisand,” or release a number of remixes and produced tracks under his own name. But that’s A-Trak. The humble and fashionable New York-based mogul can add to his bragging rights when he debuts his Surrender and XS summer residency May 27 at XS.

The names for your projects are unique: your label Fool’s Gold and Duck Sauce, your disco-house collaboration with Armand Van Helden. Where do they come from?

I usually know what names I like when I hear them. Whether it be for a tour, like the Magic 8 Ball Tour, or the previous tour, the 10,000LB Hamburger Tour, they’re always these quirky names, even Duck Sauce. I think that’s just part of my personality; I like quirkiness, words that are just out of the ordinary.

Duck Sauce is pretty quirky.

I used to always make jokes about Duck Sauce when I was a kid. I was like, “Is this different sauce that’s made of duck or do you put it on duck?” I always thought it was funny. And Armand liked it because of the griminess, and in New York everyone orders Chinese take-out food and it always comes with duck sauce.

There’s kind of a New York connotation to it and that’s something we tried to do with the “Barbra Streisand” video. The whole process of Duck Sauce and the way that Armand and I work together is very rooted in New York. So we like the fact that it somehow made us think of New York.

So, the question on everyone’s mind is, of course, why did you use the name “Barbra Streisand?”

Just ’cause it sounded cool. It gets people to ask the question that you’re asking. We knew that it would get everybody to be like, “What?!” It sounded appropriate and completely ridiculous, but somehow it made perfect sense.

Have you ever heard what Babs thinks of her namesake song?

She likes it. It took many months to hear back from her. The song was out for months and months, and finally a few months ago we heard back that she likes it.

Did you guys try reaching out to her?

Yeah, we did. She’s not that easy to reach. I think she’s reachable when she wants to be. I still haven’t met her, but we’re trying to arrange something. I’m just glad that she likes it, that she understood that it’s respectful and we’re not making fun of her. We just think she has a cool name.

There have since been so many remixes of people inserting alternate names from Charlie Sheen to Justin Bieber. Are there any you like?

I don’t really like any of them, [but] I don’t mind them. I’m flattered that the song became this reference that everyone wants to customize, I think that’s great in itself. I think at the same time there’s none that I like as much as the “Barbra Streisand” version, because all it is is someone else’s name.

What I’ve really enjoyed is people making YouTube spoofs and covers. People have remade the video adapted to other cities, and that’s touching. People make the effort, the filming, the editing, the video based on ours, and that’s cool because there’s a whole other layer of contribution to it. When these guys in Vienna, Austria, film a whole video, but in their city and with their friends, there’s a whole other feeling that comes to it; that really touches me.