It's fitting that A-Trak, the world champion turntablist, was the only act to play both days of this year's Hard Summer in L.A. More than anyone else on the two-day bill, the Montreal DJ could deliver totally different sensibilites in each set.
As an accomplished DJ, producer and label head, A-Trak is constantly working in dance and hip hop. "For me there are always 18 things going on at the same time," he tells Rolling Stone. "There's my constant touring. In the fall I'll be doing a couple of tours, going to South Africa later in the year, but then also I have a lot of production, I have a lot of music coming out. A new single in September, an EP in November and Fool's Gold is constantly going."
He'll be touting the label with some big showcases in the next few months. "We have a shop in Brooklyn, a storefront, we do events," he says. "We've got a big block party happening in New York on Labor Day, September. [Then] we're bringing it to L.A. in October, too."
Fool's Gold will display its hip-hop side with a collection this fall. "We've got a compilation of friends and family of the Fool's Gold just doing gritty underground rap, nothing for the radio," he says. "It's Action Bronson, Freeway that we're bringing back, Main Attractions, Chuck Inglish from the Cool Kids, we even got some stuff that AraabMuzik produced. There's a song that I did with Juicy J."
It will also feature the label's star hip-hop act at the moment, Danny Brown. "He's amazing, he's uncompromised, he's just such an essential rapper for this moment in time and he's gonna stay," he says.
When he's not compiling hip-hop tracks, A-Trak is busy promoting underground EDM. He recently made headlines for a Huffington Post article calling EDM "A hair metal soap opera."
In that post he encouraged artists to "challenge yourself to challenge the crowd." He also told fans it's their responsibility to come in with an open mind. At Hard, A-Trak was encouraged by what he saw from the audience. "I think the crowds in America are getting more educated in electronic music," he says. "There's this undercurrent that comes with the wave and a lot of people are already very curious."
As a longtime part of the scene, he feels a responsibility to educate newcomers. "Every time I play the festival I try to sneak in a lot of music that people don’t hear every day and open people's ears. I have a radio show on Sirius where I try to do that too," he says. "It's very important to me that I play stuff that other DJs don't play and also bring the whole heritage of turntablism and scratching with me so that all these new kids that are discovering DJing get to hear the whole breadth of it too."
Whether it's dance or hip hop, A-Trak's goal is the same. "I'll go and find the underground records and bring them up with me," he says. "I'm trying to fight the good fight."