Nearly three years ago, Alain Macklovitch, better known as DJ A-Trak, was holed up in a Los Angeles studio rehearsing with his longtime touring partner Kanye West for the hip-hop mogul’s Graduation tour. On a break, he bumped into DJ AM, who “told me he was working on some stuff for Travis Barker,” A-Trak recalls. AM and Barker, it turns out, were priming material for a drums and vinyl-scratching duo that would become known as TRAVI$DJ-AM — a partnership that lasted until AM’s drug overdose in August 2009, less than a year after the pair survived a horrific plane crash.
Now A-Trak is carrying on his lost pal’s work: the Blink-182 drummer and Montreal turntablist recently announced they will kick off a new drummer-DJ collaboration with a pair of shows at the Roxy in Hollywood on March 9th and 10th, followed by performances in Las Vegas and at SXSW.
A-Trak says the new partnership was born several months ago when Barker, who hasn’t performed with a DJ since AM’s sudden death, reached out and said he was ready to return to the stage. After seeing some of A-Trak’s L.A. gigs and meeting him briefly at Coachella several years ago, Barker was prepared to offer the DJ known for his mashing of electronic and hip-hop music the job. A-Trak, who has remixed and produced for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Kid Cudi, admits he had some initial reservations. “On one hand I was very flattered,” he recalls, but “part of me definitely wondered, ‘Do I want to step into AM’s shoes?’ “
Still unsure, A-Trak trekked cross-country to Barker’s L.A. studio to jam and see if there was a “connection on the music side.” After laying down some of his signature skuzzy beats over Barker’s machine-gun snare rolls and crashing cymbals, A-Trak could tell the two instantly “gelled.” “It flowed really easily,” he says.
Now the pair are preparing to show off their new partnership, which A-Trak says is rooted in hip-hop. “I’ve been fiending for some sort of opportunity to do something that’s more technical and more of a performance and that’s where I see this Travis and A-Trak thing going,” he says. “Travis reached out his hand to me. If he feels ready to [perform] with another DJ and keep this idea going, then I’m all for it.”