Functions Of The Now is a mix series charting modern developments at the innovative edges of dance music. Originally conceived in 2013 to shine a light on the once-again fertile grime production scene and its influence, the remit of the series quickly widened to incorporate all manner of interesting manipulations of existing club modes. Whether it’s Air Max 97’s “oblique club trax”, M.E.S.H.’s gaseous abstractions or DJ NJ Drone’s hyperkinetic take on Jersey Club it all has a home in Functions Of The Now. We hope to draw connections between these often disparate forms.
After catching up with E.M.M.A. in the last edition of Functions Of The Now we stay in London to meet someone who’s had an immeasurable impact on its club scene: Trax Couture label boss Rushmore. Having started out running illegal parties in East London basements at the turn of the decade, in 2012 Rushmore and co-conspirator Fools decided it was time to go legit and create House Of Trax. With the goal of creating a space specifically for dancers whilst shining a light on the OG innovators of localised US scenes, the stage was set for what has become one of London’s most essential parties. Drawing connections between legendary Dance Mania DJs, ballroom house, footwork and grime, the music policy has been as freewheeling as it is energetic, with a common thread of rhythmic adventurousness at its core. Unlike many nights tapping into these club modes, the artists at the core of these scenes are always front and centre, with previous guests including Paul Johnson, Tyree Cooper, Rapid, Spooky, Slimzee, MikeQ, Venus X, Uniiqu3 and DJ Taye. Alongside this, House Of Trax have been vital in pushing younger artists operating at the peripheries with Truants faves like Air Max 97′, Moleskin and Grovestreet all making appearances.
It wasn’t long before HOT branched out further. A fateful trip to Miami inspired Rushmore to start making music, and once his tracks were up to scratch the music and clothing label Trax Couture was born to house his productions and satisfy his parallel interest in fashion. A couple of years in and the label has really kicked into gear. Having been sent a wealth of creative club tracks from a globally dispersed set of likeminded producers, Trax Couture started World Series, a 12 part series that’s connected UK happenings to France, Australia, the US, Canada and Chile thus far. The series is essential listening for anybody interested in steely and adventurous percussion tracks, with Air Max 97′, Imaabs and C++ providing particular highlights.
It’s the latest release that has really taken things to another level, however, and it’s almost a shame it’s coming to end when things have gotten this interesting. Today sees the release of Malaysian producer Moslem Priest’s World Series Vol 11 and it’s a truly striking piece of work. Fans of 2010 Hessle Audio/Hemlock will be at home with it’s rhythmic ingenuity, but that template is updated for a 2015 audience. Intricate, polyrhythmic percussion is married to club ready toughness with results that perfectly split the difference between functionality and creativity. You haven’t heard anything like EP highlight The Wall, which to our ears sounds like Shackleton cutting short the 10 minute exploratory headtrips and going straight for the jugular.
Rushmore’s production work is also hitting a purple patch, with an EP of potent, midi-horn house jams out on the famous Nervous Records today, and the forthcoming World Series Vol 12 borrowing some of Wizzbit and Davinche’s ’03-’05 magic to deliver a minimalistic take on that classic era of grime. He’s clearly a busy man so we were psyched he took some time out to record FOTN XVI for us: this series can get pretty abstract sometimes but Rushmore has come through with a set of raw ‘n’ rugged drum tracks that would burn up any dancefloor. For the uninitiated it’s a window into the raucous world of House Of Trax.
As usual we have some recommendations before we get into the interview. First up is Finn’s triumphant return for Local Action, following last year’s inescapable set of earworms Keep Calling. The Knock Knock EP is cut from the same RnB-sampling cloth, with results not entirely dissimilar to those of Kromestar’s legendary grime alias Iron Soul, but Finn’s melodic sensibilities are a cut above the imitators that have sprung up in the last couple of years. Local Action continue to do hero’s work connecting producers in the adjacent instrumental grime scene to up-and-coming MCs with Faultz coming through to vocal “Iya”, though the real highlight is the emotional “BB”, a comfort blanket set-closer that will have even the ‘ardest weeping on the dancefloor.
Elsewhere Organ Tapes reaches a higher plane with his Word Life mixtape for Tobago Tracks. Previously the label output of TT has been overshadowed by their excellent mix series (check out Ma Nguzu, Why Be and Malin’s contributions if you haven’t already) but on Word Life a balance is struck. Sitting somewhere between James Ferraro’s post Far Side Virtual output and the Endless/Bala Club axis (Endgame, Lexxi, Kamixlo and co), Organ Tapes debut is a gorgeous, uncanny valley take on dancehall and afrobeat. Written between Shanghai and London, a sense of rootlessness is conveyed through the drifting autotuned vocals. The mixtape is far from aimless though, with lush, R Plus 7 style synths and a solid rhythmic backbone keeping everything on course: a truly special statement of intent from a producer that is definitely worth watching out for.
We caught up with Rushmore to talk House Of Trax/Trax Couture: past, present and future.
Let’s talk origin stories: how did House Of Trax come to be? “It began real with the party me and Ben [Fools] used to run before HOT called Rhythm Talk. This was 2010 and HOT started in 2012. Rhythm Talk was a free entry, illegal party in Dalston/Clapton basements with all our DJ mates playing under aliases, smoking inside etc. I used to go hunting on the street for empty basements and then offering money to the owners. Do you know Ali Baba’s in Dalston? The kebab shop next to Nando’s? We did the third party in their basement. We’d rock up with a massive system on the night. We provided everything: sound, doorstaff, the bar. It’s funny looking back on it to be honest.” So who was playing at those parties? “Bok Bok played the first party – all the Slugs guys used to play – Doc Daneeka, Throwing Snow, Ikonika, Delroy Edwards just as he came through, Spinn and Rashad played our second birthday. We basically knew Rhythm Talk wouldn’t go on forever so we needed to start something new. Dalton basements were getting snapped up and we always wanted to do it somewhere new each party. As stuff gained momentum it was like “Oh actually this could build into something – let’s make it a more viable model”. We never compromised anything for Rhythm Talk so to just take it to a normal venue wouldn’t have been right. Hence a new format, name and concept.”
So what was the initial concept for House Of Trax? “We wanted a club night for dancers with an open inspiration that came from an obsession with The New Dance Show from Detroit and a big focus on US music. What I take from The New Dance Show is that it was a pioneering programme that played all the new club music and had sick dancers dressed to the nines. I suppose it’s a similar agenda to other club nights but that was the muse. We held quite a few dance contests and tried streaming the first few to actually try give a programme experience but we couldn’t really get the streaming bit right and I’m not sure if it’s the right idea to stream from the club.” Yeah it can be quite unnerving to know you’re being filmed in a club. “Yeah, especially if you’re off your nut, or just want that privacy. We started in a basement up in Stoke Newington, then ran the party for about 1.5-2 years in Birthdays when it first opened. Now we’re doing it regularly at Bar A Bar.”
You’ve had fairly diverse programming but to me it all fits together in its own way. What do you see connecting the artists you book? “Yeah we’ve been quite broad, but still fitting together. It’s just the raw vibe to the music from everybody really, and the energy. I also feel like everyone we’ve booked have been pushing the envelope or are icons in their game.” That’s one thing I’ve always liked about your parties: you always put on the original innovators from those scenes. I think that’s important when you’re working with localised and/or marginalised scenes. “Yeah for sure! I mean for us it was never an idea not to book those cats. I think those were other motives: it just didn’t have a stage and some people just weren’t playing over here. It was all done with a can-do attitude: hitting people up direct, flying people over just for us (which was pretty ridiculous) and working with people to try to create a few dates for it to pay off. It’s cool now though, because all those DJs are touring regularly and are more available as it’s grown. I feel very privileged that I have an open dialogue with some of the artists we’ve booked now.”
So when did the transition from party to label begin? “2013, so one year in really. I started making music around end of 2010/start of 2011 and once I was happy with my output I was like let’s get it out. It was an amazing four nights in Miami which gave me the push to start making music actually. I was out at the Winter Music Conference with James [L-Vis 1990]. He played a bunch of parties and we stayed at the Mad Decent apartment. There were pool parties with Annie Mac, Erol Alkan, Ed Banger crew, Van Helden, Lil Jon: it was another world. Being around lots of producers and similar minded people inspired me, and it was an extension to the life I had already followed for so many years; promoting, DJing etc.”
You shifted focus from yourself as you went into World Series though: how did that come about? “I started collecting all this dope music to play in sets and began dialogues with all these people and I knew it was time to shine the light, you know? Act like a label should do, with a proper roster and schedule.” So was the “world” theme incidental to the fact you’d been sent all of this music? “Yeah the name came after I sat and looked at all the music I was playing. I thought “Fuck, there’s a wide global spread of really sick producers”. Then it was obvious what it had to be: World Series. That’s coming to an end now though.” Now that it’s in full flight is there no hunger to keep it going? There’s a lot of world out there still! Were there any international scenes/locations you wished you’d included with hindsight? “I’ve thought about whether I should keep it running, but I think it’s best left as intended. It was a statement of intent as a label: to hold down this schedule and introduce all these relatively unheard producers. I did want to tap into Asia more, especially Tokyo. That can still happen though, just not under the world series banner.”
Let’s talk about the mix you made for us. I’ve been following the 100bpm mixes you’ve made but this feels far less conceptual. What was the thinking behind it? “This mix is much closer to a DJ set vibe, lots of new exclusive tracks from myself and forthcoming artists on Trax Couture. Also some linked artists connected to the World Series. Really new-new from mine and the label’s perspective. Wanted you to get the freshed scoop! I hope people vibe off it.”
What’s next for you and House Of Trax? “So October 23rd we’ve got Imaabs over from Chile. He did World Series Vol. 2 and he’s linked with the N.A.A.F.I guys. So that’s a nice step forward for them, him and us – everyone winning haha! Then 19th December at Bar A Bar we have H.O.T XMAS ‘WERKS DO’ – a work do for DJs and promoters basically, 6am license – it’s going to be a messy one. We’ve got our 4th birthday in January so plotting for that now too. The Trax Couture AW15 line is dropping soon and a few more EPs coming from myself and Evil Streets before the year ends.”
Sounds great! Any shout outs before we go? “Props to the whole Trax Couture team worldwide, all the listeners, dancers: Stay Fly, Make Noise!”
Rushmore – If you there
Rushmore – A-N-E
Jikuroux – ;_
Air Max ’97 – Expennditure
Rushmore – Zippa Trak
Ryan Wick – Let her ride
Dreams – Energy
Rushmore – Feel Real
TSVI – Drag Queen
Rushmore – Works Wonders
Lorenzo & Mina- Tombura
Rushmore – Elevator
NKC – Salon Room
Unknown – Unknown
Air Max ’97 – Passage
Ryan Wick – Stick Talk
Akito – Resolutions per visit
Youngstar – Calypso Blow [L-vis edit]
Evil Streets – Flips
Pass the 40 – If
Dance System – Turbulence
Fearz – Dipset
Cirqa – Breathe
GROVESTREET – Cunt horror redux
Moslem Priest – The wall
Imaabs – El Cuerpo remix
Father – Wrist [Taye&Paypal mix]
Paypal x Stevie Whisper – Ancient Techno production
Taye & Earl – XTCC
Beek – You Don’t know remix
Artwork: Joe Jackson