Get Familiar: Tom Trago
We are proud to present our latest collaboration with one of our longtime accomplices: Tom Trago. A couple years ago, Tom invited Patta's music director Victor Crezée to take a fresh look at his unreleased material. This was not their first creative intersection, as they both grew up with and around Amsterdam’s hip-hop scene. The project quickly grew into a tumultuous operation. What follows is a conversation between Tom, Victor and Passion DEEZ, delving deeper into the history between Tom and Patta and the sentiments behind the ‘18’-album.
Passion: You guys have quite a history, right?
Victor: Tom and Patta go way back. He's family to us.
Tom: Patta does indeed feel like family to me. When I was 14, I went to Fat Beats where Gee and Edson worked at the time and Vic eventually did too. That was the place I saw Vic deejay for the first time. I was very jealous and competitive at that age. I just wanted to be better. Vic could cut and scratch so well that it was discouraging and motivating at the same time. This was still before Patta. At Fat Beats I met everyone and from there an unbreakable bond developed. Not long after that I started out as a hip-hop deejay, sometimes collaborating with Vic, and I produced beats. Eventually I was influenced by house and more uptempo stuff. I never stopped making hip-hop though.
Victor: Tom gravitated more towards Rush Hour. At a later point our careers came together again.
Tom: Eclectic nights were on the rise in those days. On one night you could hear hip-hop, house and everything in between. There was more and more of a hybrid variety. Victor and I started playing together more often, and Patta once again played an important role. I was part of Parra Soundsystem, which consisted of Gee, Parra, Wix, Mo, Vic and me. Strong friendships formed at the time and are still very much alive today
Victor: It were different times indeed. If you listened to hip-hop you came to the same places and that forged a bond. A typical day back then looked something like this: you went to Rush Hour to search for records, cracked some jokes at Patta, got to a bar afterwards, went to Jimmy Woo later on and if you were really feeling it to Tom’s house after that. A lot of careers and friendships have been formed during these days.
Passion: So, tell me about the album. How did the project start?
Vic: A couple years ago Tom told me he had a huge amount of beats lying around and asked me if I was interested in going through them. Of course I was. He hadn't exaggerated. It was a lot. We decided to make a collage of those beats.
Tom: In the studio, we opened file after file. We quickly realized that this project was a little bigger than we initially thought. Vic and I both grew up with mixtapes. Some mixtapes used to be legendary. Like the B-Boy connection mixtapes that DJ Edzon made. They were a little story. Small books. You could hear the passion and craftmanship in them. Just yesterday I was listening to this Wix and SP tape. I don’t think that stuff will ever get old.
Victor: It takes you to a place, a world, a moment.
Tom: And that's exactly what we were trying to do on this album. Madlib's albums were a great inspiration. A multitude of beats, some that don't last more than a minute. You’ll hear a small vocal, then a sketch from a movie. We both really like this aesthetic. We took a lot of time to think about it. Taking out and adding beats. When that was done, there were no MCs on it. We decided to add some of our favorite artists to color the story even more.
Passion: There are some very unique names on there. What was the selection process like?
Tom: We made a list of MCs. Names that we both liked. We started approaching them. We didn't ask them to deliver full songs. It could also be a small contribution. This loose way of working was great. For example, the first track is Vic singing and if I remember correctly this was the first time you sang on a track?
Victor: Could be.
Passion: And you knew everyone personally?
Victor: I think the only person we never met was Kristian Hamilton. Kristian is a special kind of guy. I got a DM one day with a voice memo that was quite peculiar to say the least. It immediately drew me in. I wondered who this person was. At one point I received a voice memo of him singing on my birthday. I asked him to send me some songs and I was deeply impressed. The song he eventually delivered is my personal favorite.
Tom: And he delivered immediately. We chose the instrumental and within 16 hours we had a complete song, despite the time difference. A unique collaboration. I can't wait to meet him in person.
Passion: Tom, you are mainly known as a house and techno deejay. Can we expect you to play '18' in the club?
Tom: Definitely. The song with Kalibwoy, for example, I've already played a few times in the club. People loved it, even if it doesn't necessarily fit in that setting. The music is the music.
Victor: Why limit yourself?
Tom: Exactly. 18 has become a very diverse album. It goes from R&B to Dancehall to uptempo electro.
Passion: It’s not the first time you and Patta collaborate right?
Tom: That's right. We first worked together on an album that came out on Dekmantel. We decided to make a t-shirt with it as well. This one sold out quickly. I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes I still see people in town wearing this shirt. It planted the seed for a bigger collaboration.
Victor: We sell clothes as Patta, of course, but there's a bigger story to tell with all the projects we do. Like this one.
Passion: how important would you say collaboration is to your process?
Tom: Very important. I need the energy and input of others to get the most out of myself. This album would be totally different without Vic, probably a lot less good.
Passion: If I understand correctly, you have made some changes in your career and life in recent years. Can you tell me a little bit about those changes?
Tom: Every day I wake up with a lot of energy, that energy can also go in the wrong direction. Music is the perfect outlet for this energy. I toured for 20 years straight and it was great, but that doesn't take away from the fact that you can also lose yourself in the night. I really needed a break. Wanted to be in the studio more. Covid-19 came at the right time in that regard. I got the time off to finish projects and feel the connection with my wife and my daughters. From that I regain strength and inspiration for new projects.