Moreso than any one place, a good music scene needs active and passionate people at its centre. A city that’s seen its fair share of beloved clubs come and go whilst losing none of its party spirit, Amsterdam is emphatic proof of this point. Emerging in 2006 with the cheeky Hip-Hop inspired House of ‘Live With The BBQ’, Tom Trago found himself positioned in the middle of two waves of ‘Dam talent with the likes of the Legowelt, Dexter and the Rush Hour crew preceding him and upstarts such as Awanto 3 and Young Marco following in his footsteps. A globe-trotting DJ, a respected producer and all round man about town, the last five years have also seen Trago show a flair for A&R’ing as the head of Voyage Direct – a label focused on promoting Dutch electronic music. To celebrate half a decade in business, Trago is helming the release of Voyage Direct’s ‘First Mission’ compilation – a collection of original material featuring music from veterans and newcomers alike to paint a vibrant portrait of the Dutch scene with every hue of the House music palette.
A fixture in some of Amsterdam’s most vaunted DJ booths since the 90’s, Boris Werner accrued an impressive local reputation with residencies at the likes of Studio 80 and Sugar Factory. The pairing of Werner’s perma-friendly demanour with his ruthless knack for working floors into a fervor meant his talent caught the attention of those beyond his hometown, with the inevitable transition to production happening in 2007. Friends with Trago, San Proper, and pretty much everyone else in the impressively tight knit scene in ‘Dam, Werner made his bow for Voyage Direct earlier in the year with the thumping ‘Acid Casino’.
Getting the two together for a goofy video chat session on Skype a little while back, they spoke about ‘First Mission’, Farm life and Kobe Beef…
Boris: How was the other week at Village Underground for you?
Tom: It was really great. The club was off the hook and it was fun to be on the road with all the boys.
B: Its only the start right?
T: Definitely. Big shout to everyone at Village Underground. Dope venue.
How did you like London?
B: It was the first time I played at Village Underground, I found it really ‘Church-ish’. It was really cool and people were up for it, they were getting down. The moment when you gave shots to the crowd during Benny’s set was awesome.
T: Free Vodka for everybody!
B: Yeah man, it should be like that.
T: And you’re on the way to the studio now?
B: Yeah I’m at the bus stop now actually (laughs)
T: Cool I’m here waiting for you.
B: (laughs) What’s your favourite track from the compilation?
T: Most definitely the biggest banger is Simon Weiss, ‘Tele-vision’. Its been amazing to see the response from crowd’s who don’t even know it. They’ve been going apeshit for it. People were emailing me asking what it is – its nice to feel that something’s buzzing. My other favourite is the Magnesii track, ‘Want Need’. The Awanto 3 track is killer too, its a roller.
B: I call it ‘Indestructible Groove’ – people ask me what kind of music I play and I just say ‘Indestructible Groove’. The Maxi Mill track – ‘Do You Want It?’, and the Efdé & Tom Ruijg track ‘The Slightly’ are really cool too. I think the best thing about the compilation is there’s something for everyone – whether you’re a herbivore or a canrivore (laughs).
T: Yeah Efdé and Tom Ruijg have been making great music for a while in Amsterdam so I’m happy we can push their music on Voyage Direct. This track was actually made because William Kouam Djoko had bought a new winter jacket, so the guys built an autotune vocal about how good he looked in his stupid winter coat. We eventually stripped it back to the instrumental version, but that’s pretty funny – I’ve never heard a track about somebody else’s new winter jacket (laughs).
B: Yeah the way it worked out because we’re all neighbors now was really cool. We all have studios right next to each other – its like a community now. I just moved in with Maxi Mill two months ago and I’m really happy about the whole vibe, its really inspiring to be working and living in this creative environment.
T: Also Juju & Jordash are nearby and they’re Tech-experts, they can help you with fixing anything and solve all those kinds of problems. Then you have San Proper the local animal – loads of cool guys. Its nice to have everyone close together, feedbacking and working on music together.
B: Awesome – how is it being released then?
T: Well I just got all the records in for the compilation. It looks pretty fucking banging. I’m happy it came in, it felt like Christmas. That’s going to be released in the next few weeks.
B: Yeah that’s like three records and a CD isn’t it?
T: Yeah and they’re all going to drop within three weeks of each other. The first one is from Efdé – its dope (Tom’s shows us the artwork over video chat). Did you have a good rest of last weekend then Boris?
B: Yeah I hit the studio with a friend of mine Bas. It was good weather, so we had chilled outside as well, got some nice food and walked around. How about you?
T: Sunday I had a chilled day, I went to the Matisse exhibition at Stedelijki in the day – that was pretty banging, then I saw Terry Riley play at Muziekgebouw to open the World Minimal Music Festival there. It was sick! Although I fell asleep halfway through the show – the start and the end were good (laughs). Now we’re back in the lab baby, getting shit done!
B: Yeah! So you released your ‘Hidden Heart of Gold’ on Voyage Direct, how’s that going? Everyone’s really into it from what I’ve heard.
T: It’s my Emo record! (laughs)
B: How did that come about?
T: I just wanted to make big whiny music (laughs) No, actually its written on the record but the whole thing is dedicated to a good friend who died when he was on flight MH-17 which got shot down over Ukraine. Especially the ambient dub on the B-Side.
B: I’ve heard the extra long version, the one that’s even longer the B-Side…
T: Yeah its about 30 minutes. Sometimes you just have to take time you know?
B: Its a nice homage man.
T: Just tripping out (laughs)
B: I wanted to know if you remembered the first time we met? I think I’ve slightly forgotten.
T: It was at Spirit of Burgas in Bulgaria, on the beach.
B: Fuck, yeah…
T: And you were joining the Studio 80 team right? Rush Hour had the same stage the next day.
B: Yeah that was 2006.
T: Yep from then on, it was Love Generation – just groove…
B: That’s funny. I asked you some months ago how we came up with the idea of remixing ‘Lost In The Streets Of NYC’ and neither of us actually knew how that happened.
T: I remember which Coffee Shop I was cycling by but that’s about it…useless. ‘Lost In The Streets’ must have been near the start though.
B: We had a lot of mutual friends as well, like San Proper stayed in the basement of Vaaghuijzen. You were never a Vaaghuijzen kind of guy?
T: I missed that generation. Vaaghuijzen was a legendary bar for nightlife cats from Amsterdam, I didn’t really tap into it at the time though.
B: I think San Proper stayed there more often than his own home. It was like a blueprint for what we’re doing now.
T: It was a school of hard knocks (laughs). Are you still going to that farm next week?
B: Yeah I’m checking out the possibilities with William and the other cats. I heard you and San Proper might be coming over?
T: I think it would a great place for us to finish the Dirt Machine project.
B: Yeah its got a nice space to it, you can chill out, have some nice surroundings like some moo’ing cows along the way. Just chill the fuck out and get some fresh air without all those cars rolling by. Its in the East of Holland, like a two hour drive from Amsterdam – my dad retired and he got the place to chill out and escape the city life. I went before with some friends and it really turned out great, so I’m excited to do it again. Its quite inspiring in a way.
T: I actually did my last album in a forrest house that was also in the East of Holland. City life is amazing because there’s so much shit to do but you also lose so much time in doing stuff and meeting people.
B: Yeah come, you’re a great cook to and so is San Proper so you guys can make us stuff.
T: San Proper is a cuisine maestro. My personal favourite dish to make at the moment is Asparagus, Brocolli, Cashew Nuts, Feta Cheese all slowly cooked into a sort of curry, because I’m a vegetarian.
B: You don’t eat meat or you sometimes do?
T: No never, I’ve been vegetrian for four years. Actually in Japan though I ate Kobe Beef, I had to try it, it was beautiful.
B: I’m a carnivore to the bone! I don’t even think about it – sometimes its good not to eat it every night.
T: Just do what you like. You don’t eat meat or you sometimes do?
‘Voyage Direct: First Mission’ is out next Monday 27th April.