Interview with Beartrax


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Towards the end of last year, Brooklyn-based label Melodize had their first release: an exhilarating 3-track EP, featuring an impressive contribution from John Tejada. It saw the year off well, and set the precedent for what we can hope to expect from the label in the new decade.

The artist behind the release / label is Beartrax, a quietly emerging Brooklyn local who has had a steady stream of releases over the last few years. With this new label, we thought it would be good to chat with him about his inspirations, and where he hopes to take things in the future.

Hey Beartrax, thanks for speaking with us. What have you been up to recently?

No problem. I’ve been super busy with launching the label this year. It’s been a lot of work to get it up and running but I’ve enjoyed every bit of it and it’s nice to see it finally coming to life. Otherwise, I’ve been busy making a lot of new music, working my day job as a lawyer and making sure to go out and catch shows in Brooklyn for inspiration.

How was this year for you? What were your highlights?

As I mentioned, this year was about getting the label off the ground so just about all of my focus was on that. I spent the year getting a few releases prepared by finding remixers, getting the artwork done, pitching to distributors, and finalizing the first release. The highlights were definitely getting producers whose music I’d been buying and getting inspired by for years agreeing to do remixes on the label, as well as getting to hold the first record in my hands once it was finally finished.

When did you first go dancing and where? What got you into music?

I studied abroad in Paris the summer of 2011 and stumbled upon Rex Club- I’d just turned 21 and had never been to any clubs before in North Carolina where I was from. Needless to say, I was instantly hooked- there was a M_nus label showcase that night with Troy Pierce as well as Barem, who was doing a live set of his album he’d just released with the label. I still look back to that night for a lot of inspiration and still can’t believe I was lucky enough to have such an intense and inspiring first clubbing experience.

You are classically trained in violin right? How useful is that in techno?

I am. I grew up playing violin in orchestras and then switched to jazz where I played electric violin. I think classical was great for learning the ins and outs of the instrument and stuff such as technique, posture and bowing. Jazz helped my development a lot too as I delved into music theory and learned how to improvise, which is what I do over tracks when I play out. I think any time a producer can use an instrument it gives them an advantage in terms of making their sound more unique. On the other hand, it can be tricky figuring out how to incorporate it sometimes, but that’s the beauty of production- it’s a blank canvass of trial and error. 

How hard is it to combine with your live show? How do you do it?

It took a while for everything to click- it can be difficult getting the electric violin to sound solid in a club mix along with everything else but I’ve been doing it for about 6 years now which has given me time to tweak things. I’ve found some good gear along the way which has helped me find good tones for the electric violin, which can be difficult as the electric tone isn’t very natural and warm sounding by default. I’ve also learned the balance of how much to improvise and play over songs and when to just let the song breathe without any additional improvisations over it.

Why did you move into dance music after playing metal and jazz?

Before the night at Rex Club I was already interested in production as I did some when I produced demos for my metal band. That night really kicked me into gear and inspired me to get a copy of Ableton and start experimenting with loops and sounds. Being in a band is great but after college, people in both the metal and jazz bands I was in went their own ways and it was hard to find other people to play with. Electronic music is great because you have complete control and I can take my laptop anywhere with me and produce for a couple of hours without having to coordinate with three or four other people.

What inspired your latest EP? Where was it written, and with what in mind?

I wrote the tracks a couple of years ago with no particular thoughts in mind other than making some melodic tracks with my gear. I used a Minitaur for the basslines and think the violin fit with it well in the tracks. I always start writing my tracks by getting inspired by a melody from a song I really like (whether it be metal, new wave, techno, etc.), playing around with the chord progressions and scales from it and ultimately making my own song out of it. Both tracks feature piano chords that set the tone for the whole track, from the bassline to the violin riffs that come in later. 

How did the John Tejada mix come about?

I just reached out to him and was lucky enough to get a response. He was super friendly and professional and banged the remix out in about a week. I was looking to get a very good remix to start the label off on a good foot, but I wouldn’t have thought that you were being serious if you’d told me last year that John Tejada was going to be on the first record.

And how do you relax away from music, what do you do in downtime, with private moments?

I don’t have a whole lot of time to relax as I work as a lawyer as well but I enjoy being busy with that and it can be a good balance from working on music. The income certainly helps with running the label as well. I enjoy going out in NY as well as there are always great artists coming to town. On Sundays, I’m usually recovering on my couch and watching sports/making music. I enjoy going to museums as well such as the Met, Moma, and Guggenheim- visual art is a big inspiration for my music.

What have you got coming up for the new year?

There are some more releases in the pipeline that I’m super excited about and I’m planning a label showcase too here in NY so stay tuned on the Beartrax and Melodize social media pages 🙂 

Buy Beartrax’s latest EP, Clarity, on Melodize now at Beatport