Tom Trago Bergen Trilogy interview

At Patta we strongly value the creativity of our friendships and it is always a pleasure when we can combine that with our own work. Patta and Tom Trago have been connected since the mid '90s. When Tom hit us up with the news that he was getting ready to release his most personal album Bergen, solidifying our long lasting relationship in the form of a collaboration was a no-brainer. A trilogy of t-shirts corresponding with his European album-tour was born. We asked Tom a couple questions about the t-shirts, his album and his relationship to Patta. Read below.

What is your connection to Patta, how do you know Gee & Ed?

When I started collecting vinyl music round when I was 12, in 1995, I started listening to Hip Hop after Punk and Soul music, especially ‘cause all skateboard videos started featuring rap music. Through Dutchmasters - a radio show on VPRO - I found out all that music was hard to find, this was the pre-internet era. Vinyl was the only format a lot of that music was available in, and even that was hard to find.

After I had immersed myself in the nerdy world of turntablism I found out there was this shop in Amsterdam called Fat Beats. Kid Sublime aka Jacob Otten of Rednose Distrikt worked there and I got to know him a little. Fat Beats mainly stocked US import rap music and was basically the only store you could find that kind of music and culture at back then. And Gee and Edzon worked there. They were kinda like gods for me as a teen and I really looked up to that whole click.

Edzon, Wix and SP were super sick DJs and put on parties back then (Chocolate, Knockout, BASSLINE, Mazzo etc etc) where all you’d hear was underground rap music. I wasn’t living in Amsterdam back then and my mom would allow me to go visit these parties once ever 2-3 months. That is if I could even get in, which wasn’t that often actually. So I’d save up all my money I made with my paper round and picking apples, get on the train all by myself and trek to the Fat Beats store in Amsterdam. You get that that was pretty exciting for a 12-year old kid. I must’ve had 50 bucks tops to spend, enough for like two imported records from the US, not a lot. You can imagine how long it would take me to decide what records to buy when I finally got there.

Through the Hiphop 120 radio show that was broadcast live from the Fat Beats basement I got to know the crew a bit better cause they’d let me sit in the studio Thursday nights. That’s how I got to know Piet Parra, SP and Craig Solo. Heroes, people I looked up to. When I got asked to record a mix for that show I must’ve taken two months to finally finish it. Through the years I got to know Gee & Ed better and when Fat Beats closed down it wasn’t long till Patta opened its doors.

What’s your favorite memory connected to these guys/the shop?

My favorite Gee story is very different from my favorite Edson story.. The one with Gee is when I was still Parra Soundsystem en we were in Berlin for one of Gee’s launch parties, probably for some sneaker or a t-shirt or something. I think it was fashion week. Gee wanted to go homeafter the event but Gary Wix and I had some energy left and convinced Gee to come along to another party. I bluffed that we were on the guest list, and we arrived to the front of the line after pushing through a 500+ crowd of course it turned out I didn’t. So we made ourselves scarce: Gee was mad, Gary had to laugh, we took a cab home. So we’re in a cab, I thought I recognised the spot, yell “we’re here,” one of us opens the cab door, turns out we’re still driving! Another car hit our cab window, it breaks off. The cab driver is ready to kill us at this point, so Gee took one for the team. Lifts this cab driver off the ground and yells: RUN, Tom, RUN! RUN, Gary, RUN! Gary and I run off, Gee follows. No idea how we did it but we all made it home safe.

Edson is my neighbor now, we live on the same street in Amsterdam. Always been calm and a boss. Loves to laugh. I love his wife and kids, I see them on the street all the time. I’m proud of him cause I know how he keeps the whole team together. As for the shop: I’ve been and felt welcome since day 1 but I’m the subject of plenty laughs since day 1 as well. I take it as a compliment.

How did your t-shirt series come about?

Ever since I was young I read a lot and I’ve always checked out creative stuff in that field. After finishing my 4th album I called up Gee & Vinz because I’ve been wanting to collab with Patta since forever and by then I had enough platform power to make this happen. After I got all kinds of other offers from other brands it just felt right to work with Patta, since we grew together and have known each other for so long. Patta is just the dopest, even if we weren’t friends, I still follow everything fashion and streetwear and Patta is truly unique in its authenticity. Also: it’s just really a family.

As an internationally operating DJ from Amsterdam, how and why did you end up living in Bergen? 

Through one of my best mates: Steven de Peven. He’s been a big part of my whole development, also in relation to Patta. Through him I met the love of my life: T’ai-Anna Mayo.

When Steven decided to move to Bergen aan Zee I would visit from time to time and I just got enamoured by the quiet, calmth and nature there. The artistic background of the place taught and touched me a lot. Since I now have two kids and Bergen aan Zee is my wifes place of birth we decided to move there. That in combination with my place in Amsterdam is the exact right kind of magic. I still enjoy tumultuous Amsterdam but also love to withdraw from it.

Can you speak on your personal development as a DJ/producer/music lover, where you started to where you are now?

To be honest, I think my friends like Cinnaman or Christiaan Macdonald would best answer this question. All I know is: my musical journey has gone through all genres. I’ve always had this strange urge to be HUGE. I think they call it megalomania. In my mind I’m like Prince. But the reality is that I make beats and smoke weed every day. Not so super fabulous.
I’ve been doing this for a while and have gotten better at it. I take all my experiences and loves along with me and try to find a way that reflects me. Beats and party mostly.

Besides that I found a way to expand my social network through music and be a connector. 15 years of travelling all over the worldand making friends is what music has given me. Now I’m just connecting the dots: there’s hardly any place in the world where I don’t feel at home. And I really enjoy connecting people and helping form meaningful relationships.

What global music have you been influenced by this time around?

African & Brazilian music always is inspiring because of the Crazy rhythms. Dutch hiphop like Adje still gets me going. Russian ambient works for me at this moment. Everything on Voyage Direct, my label, resonates with me cause I know the personal stories behind the music.


I’ve heard you say Bergen is made in the downtimes of life, between your daughters naps. Can you speak on how the process has influenced the sound?

Time has become more valuable. I put her to bed and then I have around 1,5hrs to myself. This made the question of what is it I really want to make much more serious. Inspiration is on another level. My daughter Sixtine Trago makes me value life’s treasures way more. Things like deadlines, money or bullshit between friends naturally moved to the back.

An album that is produced in this way, how does it translate to the live shows? 

Its a long process of finding the right gear to bring on the road, and also how do i keep an electronic live show really live. Not just a monkey pressing the button vibe. I think I now play way more live on the keys, which is scary too because i can really fuck up the show if I don’t come correct. I think the live show now will be more and more of a listening experience, more than they are dancey. I’d love my dancing audience to actually listen next to just dancing and raving.

What is your schedule looking like this summer?

Heavy touring, including a recently finished US tour, Australia Tour. Asia/Japan tour coming up. Brasil later this year.

Thank God I survived the last two tours. I love that I’m back in Japan. Japan is so special for me. This time im going with my whole family because I really really want to show them how special Japan is. Also im super proud my music resonates worldwide and not just locally
 
Rest of the summer looks like doing loads of festivals and parties, and having some great time off with my family, going to Italy and translating my album into a live show.

The third T-Shirt of the ‘Bergen’ trilogy will be available in store at Patta Amsterdam, London and online on Friday, June 8th. On June 8th Tom Trago will perform at De School Amsterdam, together with Cinnaman. You can find more information and tickets for the show on deschoolamsterdam.nl.

All images: Violette Esmeralda