So you wanna be a hotshot DJ with your own hip record label? It's not as easy as you might think. But it can be done. And if you're Nick Catchdubs of Fool's Gold, it can be dynamite!
photo by Ian Meyer
New Times caught up with the ever-explosive head-spinner on the eve of another Winter Music Conference blow-out and asked him to share some of the secrets of his and A-Trak's killer success.
What advice would you give to a young gun interested in launching a label?
We started Fool's Gold with a really clear vision of what we wanted to achieve musically and aesthetically, and designed it so that with each release we build up the label as a whole at the same time as we promote each individual artist. It's easier than ever for anyone to release music out into the world, so a label has to stand for something greater than the sum of its parts. That's not just on a business level, but a personal one too. We're a family! I'm happy to basically give up these giant chunks of my life because I believe in Fool's Gold. I know that I'm helping my friends succeed -- every time one of us wins, we all win. That's an awesome feeling.
What advice would you give to a young gun interested in launching a DJ career?
It's a bit of a letdown to see the apprentice system erode, the days of the crate carrier growing up to be the DJ have fallen by the wayside because anyone can just grab a laptop and get started. The pathway to getting good at DJing is exactly the same though: observe and study as much as humanly possible, and then figure out how to put your own spin on it, because true originality might be one of the only ways left to stand out. That and a great haircut. I'm still working on the last part.
What advice would you give to a young gun intent on being both a label chief and a DJ?
RED BULLLLLLLL! Just be realistic with your time, and learn how to turn things down or ask for help when you need it. Also you have to REALLY want to be a DJ and do a label equally. If there's one side that's calling you more, it's probably best to pursue that side. I'm stuck like a jerk because my heart is 100% in both.
What have been some of the biggest obstacles faced by Fool's Gold?
Just the time management really, because A-Trak and I have to travel a lot, and constantly have any number of personal projects in the works at the same time we're doing label stuff. And of course your everyday dumb office shit, making sure the light bill gets paid on time and that sort of thing. Getting my car towed (twice!) picking up records from the Turntable Lab warehouse... But it's all a learning experience, you figure out how to adapt and make things run more smoothly every week.
What have been some of the greatest joys?
Handing someone an actual vinyl copy of their record makes me feel like Santa Catch! I vividly remember giving the "Day 'N' Nite" single to Kid Cudi at Le Royale after rushing to pick it up earlier that afternoon -- he hopped on the couch, waved it around and was beaming all night. Any time a new release drops it feels just as great. And long before that when we first get music in, whether it's finding a new track to put out or an artist sending in their latest remix that we've commissioned, the sheer anticipation of dropping it is a huge rush. Also, on a personal level, it's still nice to get any press. I used to write and edit so the process behind it is totally demystified, but it's cool to be recognized and have something to show my parents that I'm not a bum.
There's Fool's Gold Records and Fool's Gold Nights; do you see a time when there'll be Fool's Gold Clothing and Fool's Gold Clubs?
Hell yeah! We're already doing shirts but of course we're working on expanding that -- we're all relatively fashionable guys. I don't know about running a club, but Dust and I sure wouldn't mind having our own bar down the street.
Was there one person &/or label you looked to for inspiration when you were considering launching Fool's Gold?
We just thought back to the iconic labels we grew up with, how you would pick up every new release no questions asked just because you trusted the logo. Every sleeve we ever put up on the wall, every liner note and production credit we ever read all the way to the end. We wanted Fool's Gold to inspire that same kind of devotion.
Did you and A-Trak begin with a business plan or did you just wing it?
Not a written business plan per se, but we certainly talked a great deal about our ideas and what the steps would be to get this off the ground. A-Trak and his brother already had a decade of experience doing Audio Research in Canada, even though that was a very different time in the industry that knowledge still carries over.
How important is having a partner?
Have you ever heard the theme song to Golden Girls? It's great having someone to bounce ideas off of -- we push ourselves to constantly do better and be more creative. A-Trak and I are generally on the same page to begin with, but the back and forth ensures only our best ideas make it out there.
Where do you see the music business heading over, say, the next five or ten years?
I try not to think of "music business" that way, I'm infinitely more interested in how today's good artists will twist and turn into tomorrow's great ones, and what random-ass kid is going to surprise me with an amazing tune. Whether you get your music on an 8 track or a USB drive or teleported to an iPod in your tooth, that music still needs to be dope. And I think whatever happens on an industry level, Fool's Gold's role will be to curate and provide it.
Fool's Gold Second Annual WMC Spectacular: With Nick Catchdubs, A-Trak, Annie Mac, DJ Mehdi, Treasure Fingers, and others. Saturday, March 28, at White Room, 1306 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Doors open at 10 p.m. Admission is free. Ages 21+ with ID. 305-995-5050, whiteroomiami.com