Over the past year, House of Trax has provided a much-needed shot of adrenaline to London clubland. This month sees the launch of its founders’ similarly energetic and immaculately turned-out record label, Trax Couture.
Styling itself as a modern take on The New Dance Show, which first aired on WGPR-TV 62 network in 1988 and featured an endless pageant of dapper Detroit youths throwing shapes to the jacking, jerking sounds of Dance Mania and the like, House of Trax’s musical policy is centered around ghetto house, booty, ballroom and footwork. The East London party has quickly established itself as the UK outpost of the resurgent voguing scene spearheaded by MikeQ in the States, and has welcomed not only the Vogue Knights mainman to its decks but also the likes of DJ Sliink, Tyree Cooper, Zebra Katz, Traxman, Vjuan Allure, Bok Bok, Slackk and Fatherhood. Whichever way you look at it, it’s something like a phenomenon.
Trax Couture’s first release, HOT001, is by Rushmore, co-founder and resident of House Of Trax alongside Fools (who is also behind the terrific Letraset artwork). As the EP hits the street, and ahead of this Saturday’s DJ Assault-headlined HoT party at Dance Tunnel, FACT spoke to Rushmore to find out what’s up.
Why did you start Trax Couture? Was it a goal right from the start, or did it arise naturally, perhaps accidentally, out of the clubnight?
“Trax Couture was always a plan for us, but we had no fixed time frame. We knew that it was a direction that we wanted to evolve in. I [Rushmore] hadn’t long been producing when we started the parties and Fools had always planned on finally finishing some tracks, so we knew it was on the cards at some point. We knew the time was right once we had some tracks that got great support from our friends at Night Slugs and from the US, namely MikeQ and Fatherhood.”
What kind of music do you intend to release on the label? How does it relate to the sound of the parties? And how would describe that sound?
“Even though the party is little over a year old it has a strong musical identity. At least for the first year we wanted to build a distinctive base with our releases which definitely adheres to the sounds you’ll hear us and our guests play at the party. That’s the thinking behind the name HOT EP, which has a clear link to the party. We also think it’s important as the owners to bring forth the goods and step up to represent what we do first.
“We think once the label is established then we will be able to put out other great music which might not be typically heard at the parties but either takes influence from or would not be wildly out of place coming from us. Kind of frustrating as we have some of that music available to us now but think we need to establish ourselves first rather than go for a splatter gun approach. Although at least it gives us a direction and a source of music close to us that we love. On the other hand it could all change in a few months! [laughs] The best way for us to describe the sound would be: The New Dance Show 2013.”
“The EP is essentially a selection of my best tracks from 2012. They’re tracks that I was making just as we were starting up HoT. As we launched with MikeQ last January, I wanted to have my own take on ballroom/vogue tracks. I had been playing his and other key ballroom players’ music for some time but when supporting him it was nice to have some of my own material.
“The release breaks down into two ballroom tracks: ‘Couture’ and ‘Harder’. ‘Couture’ is a hard-hitting, stripped-back track made to make people walk. It’s been a staple at Vogue Knights, thanks to Mike, when they have their runway section at the ball. Was pretty honoured to hear that! ‘Harder’ is more of a playful vocal ballroom track, with use of the trademark ‘ha’ samples and crashes.
“We then have ‘Low Slung’ which was inspired by footwork drum patterns but at a slower tempo, so lots of pitched snares, hats, vocals and a lot of sub. ‘3000’ is the lead track on the release which was produced as a tool for me to mix from juke/footwork back to a more house tempo – so it starts of at 150 and in the break there’s a tempo drop to 128 – and is generally driven by a wavy acid bassline. We kept back ‘Model’ for the digital release to give a point of difference from the vinyl and that sits on a Jersey club type drum pattern but has many house elements with a big happy break in the middle.”
Do you plan to release music by artists other than the club’s residents?
“We do want to release music by other artists, we have a few in mind which we will start to lock in soon but we’d imagine that to be due for release end of this year or early next year. It’s tricky finding a balance of not rushing things and being too slow, you know. Things can change on a daily and weekly basis but that’s the schedule for now.”
The artwork for the record, like that of the party, is pretty special. Tell us about that.
“Thank you. The talent behind the artwork is co-founder Fools aka Benedict Bull aka Letraset Lover. His care and attention to painstaking Letraset detail is what gives us a strong point of view with all our artwork. He references lots of early NYC and Chicago house flyers and early UK rave flyers too. He adds his own HoT twist and there we have our aesthetic to fit the music and the vibe!”
Any future plans you can tell us about?
“HOT EP 002 will be coming from the Letraset Lover himself, Fools. We’ve finally kissed and made up after our bust-up over whose release was to come out first! We actually had a dance comp to settle it, think more Zoolander runway scene than Vogue Knights at Escualita though! [laughs] That’s currently due for a pre-summer release. Then by the end of March you will see our first season of our capsule clothing line which will launch with our website, under the same name: Trax Couture. This will consist of 4 x T’s, 1 x Baseball Jersey shorts suit plus artwork prints. Plenty more in the pipeline with regards to the clothing too.”