Renowned Chicago house-style artist Traxx brings his internationally respected DJ skills to a Deep Club event at 1010 Workshop this Saturday, April 30. Born Melvin Oliphant III, Traxx came up in the Chicago electronic-music world listening to WBMX and was impacted by the creative vision of Ron Hardy, the godfather of house music. Traxx didn't initially set out to make his own music, because he felt there were plenty of people in the world already making amazing music. Now he is well known for his wide-ranging and imaginative original music and remixes informed not just by what makes sense for the track, but also by his knowledge of how music fits together from the ground up.
Traxx got early encouragement to produce his own music from DJ Hell from Gigolo but didn't know how to properly proceed until he met Tadd Mullinix (aka JTC), who got Traxx into a studio when he was playing parties and venues in Detroit.
“Without his help, I would not have figured out how to actually produce and make sounds using the original sounds of the vintage drum machines and keyboards of the ’80s,” confesses Traxx. From that foundation, Traxx freely experimented endlessly at a time when all producers had to do so to stand out and cultivate their own sound, a quality that isn't as common with newer modes of thinking about music.
“There was no blueprint, there was no formula, everything was "as is,” and you just had to deal with that being a dancer, or jock," says Traxx. "This fundamental approach has been lost since then, because in today's society, people will only respond to what they know. They want to have that security that nothing will go wrong, musically speaking. What I attempted to do from very early on is to incorporate a sense of wonder and curiosity into a segment when I'm playing, just to shake things up. Some people love me for that, others hate me for it. Some of them are stuck in the past, listening to their all-time-greatest-hits compilation, and that's that.
"Others are way more open-minded," he explains, "longing to be presented with something that can actually expand their own musical universe because someone is mixing, let's say, a house record with an EBM track. It has a lot to do with the feeling of the track, and not if the genres fit. The energy has to be the same, or the complete opposite. I find these moments of friction between different musical pieces very intriguing, and no matter if you call it house, techno, EBM, italo disco, it doesn't matter, because if the energy is right, you got it.”
Traxx continues to make music using analog equipment, and he is known for heavily favoring analog formats to play, as well, so he uses vinyl in the mix whenever possible. This overall aesthetic and Traxx's clear creativity as a house producer and DJ has garnered him considerable attention in the electronic-music world, as has his own imprint, Nation, which released a 25-track retrospective of the development of jakbeat, a style Traxx pioneered and a term he coined in 2004 for a kind of anti-movement that aimed to make music for future generations to enjoy.
For the Denver date, an exclusive cassette of Traxx material will be available through Denver-based tape label Always Human Tapes. Though often considered an obsolete media format, the cassette has long become a staple for bands wanting to find an inexpensive way to release music and as a way of repudiating the throwaway culture that dominates popular music.
“Everyone can do a podcast or upload an MP3,” says Traxx about the appeal of a cassette release. “A cassette is something that will be tied to the memories you made on that evening, and therefore will be cherished much longer than a collection of bits and bytes on a hard drive somewhere. I am not oblivious to modern technology; I use it every day. But modern society is unaware of, or just doesn't bother with, the pitfalls that technology can bring. It's just not as challenging anymore, and having a solid, tactile product in your hands, that you have to put in a tape deck, have a stereo hooked up to that...listening to the music contained within becomes a sort of forgotten ritual that is much more meaningful than double-clicking a file on your computer.”
Traxx, 10 p.m. - 5 a.m., Saturday, April 30, 1010 Workshop; for information on the event and ticketing, visit deepclub.us, $15 - $25, 21+
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.