It’s loud and lit inside Drai’s Nightclub on this Saturday afternoon, but the club itself is empty, save for a handful of workers moving inventory or going over their assignments for the coming evening.
The noise and daylight is actually coming from Drai’s Beachclub. The two are separated by a curtain, and when that curtain is open—like it is right now—it’s business up front, party in the back.
As bodies strut through the dayclub on the rooftop of The Cromwell, Alain Macklovitch, the Canadian DJ/producer better known as A-Trak, makes his way to a balcony overlooking the scene.
Eleven stories below, you can faintly hear the music and the crowd noise interwoven with the traffic of the Las Vegas Strip. The outdoor digital marquee tells the world A-Trak is in the building, and on the casino floor there’s a feeling of FOMO swelling as swimsuit-clad patrons make their way through the Drai’s entrance to the lobby elevators.
In a few moments, A-Trak will take the stage, bringing the already amped up crowd to a Jessie Spano-on-caffeine-pills level of euphoria. Right now he’s surveying the audience while a photographer snaps his profile.
The Summer of A-Trak
A-Trak will have plenty of opportunities to pose for cameras during the 2018 Beachclub season. He’s on the calendar for some of the year’s biggest weekends, including a blowout Electric Daisy Carnival Week show featuring fellow artists Anna Lunoe and Kittens—a party promoting his Fool’s Gold record label.
“DJing is my sport and it’s what I do best, but it’s fun to switch it up,” he hints about his upcoming collaborations. “It’s fun to give fans a treat too, sometimes in some of these shows we might play—literally back-to-back—one or two songs each passing the ball to each other.”
A-Trak promises that all of his sets at Drai’s will be different, but he knows that fans will be hungry for his latest music, including “Prayer Hands,” a collaboration with YehMeh2 born out of a friendship the two had shared for more than 10 years.
“This is the first time that he and I just sat down and made tracks together, just the two of us,” A-Trak explains. “The catchiest [songs] we came up with—the ones we ended up keeping—all had weird vocal samples, unintelligible vocal samples, like weird kinds of mumbling.”
Those incomprehensible vocals—“tribal” is a word that many have used to describe the sound—give “Prayer Hands” its appeal. A-Trak says the song “definitely straddles a few lines” without falling neatly into one genre.
“I like to make DJ friendly tracks that aren’t too juiced up so you can still listen to them at home. Because some electronic music is really just for the festivals,” he says.
Festivals like EDC, which he’ll return for in late May.
Las Vegas as a Dance Music Destination
As someone who landed his first Las Vegas residency seven years ago, A-Trak has witnessed the evolution of electronic music on the Strip. It was a pendulum swing, he says, with most of the credit going to the late DJ AM, who kicked things off inside Caesars Palace’s old Pure Nightclub.
“The whole DJ scene has changed a lot because I remember Las Vegas before AM,” he says. “If you think about 2007 or 2008, I was trying to bring electronic music to North America. I was still touring with Kanye [West]. I was starting Fool’s Gold. I was really trying to plant seeds.
“AM came in and made room for active DJing—where the DJ’s identity was felt in the set.”
Before settling in for his afternoon session behind the decks, A-Trak sat with Vegas Seven for a Q&A about dayclub essentials, what’s on his playlist, and bouncing ideas off his brother, Dave 1 of Chromeo.
What makes a great collaboration?
The best collaborations are ones where the end product is something that neither of the two could have come up with by themselves. When two people sit down together, the sum of the parts [can] end up being a little less than one plus one. There are certain tracks two people will make that are somehow a little less good than when each one of them individually does, because sometimes you’re just trying to find that comfort zone and it doesn’t fully add up. There are other tracks where it feels like it just goes into a whole new territory. With YehMe2, it feels like we found our sweet spot real easily. Because we know each other so well, we’re just able to volley off each other’s strengths without having to sniff each other out so much.
What are you listening to right now?
There’s so much music that came out, even just this week. I’m into a lot of different stuff. There’s a [new] Chromeo single: “Must’ve Been” with Dram. I love that one. And obviously the Cardi B album has some really cool stuff.
Usually people come to you with remix requests. What’s the biggest that you’ve turned down?
The bigger ones are the ones I’ve turned down. I turned down “I’ve Got a Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas. My musical agenda was different at that time. David Guetta wrote to me and I barely knew him, months before the song came out and it was like, “Hey, I’m working with the Black Eyed Peas, got a huge song with them, here’s a little snippet of the hook, I can’t send you the whole song, we really want you to remix it.” And I was like, “Hey, I’m sorry, I’m really busy right now.”
Your brother, Dave 1 of Chromeo, says without A-Trak, there’s no Chromeo.
Without Dave, there’s definitely no A-Trak. We’re tied at the hip. People don’t know that we’re brothers, and for us, it’s so obvious because we talk five times a day and we help each other out on all our projects. I’m the first to hear their demos. Same thing on my side. Dave’s the first to hear my demos, but even when you go back to the origin, he’s my older brother.
I started scratching when I was 13 and I had no idea what I was doing. He was definitely the first person who heard me. He coached me at that age, even though he wasn’t a DJ then. He was a musician, he was playing the guitar from really early on and forming bands in high school, so he had a good bandleader ear even when he was a teenager. When I was 13 and he was 17 and he saw me mess around with scratching, it was him that said, “You have a future in this. Please take it seriously. You should work on this every day after school. This is very, very special.”
And you’re still close and working together.
We were never not close, but it’s a different relationship when both [people] are in their 30s. We have a good sense of who we are and what’s dear to us. When you’re in your teens and in your 20s, you’re still vetting things out in your life. Now it’s unconditional. We have each other’s back. We understand each other better than anyone else.
What are your essentials for a Beachclub show?
Water. Water. Water. Sunscreen. Water. Water. Water.
A-Trak performs at Drai’s Beachclub this season. Tickets can be purchased via the Drai’s website.