Fool’s Gold will be holding a yearlong residency at Public Records, where the label will traverse the wide range of styles that it has touched over the years. The kickoff party will be February 19th with the label’s founders A-Trak & Nick Catchdubs behind the decks. The following dates, spread through the rest of the year, will touch on specific themes and styles. Expect a turntablist showcase, a soulful house night curated by The Brothers Macklovitch and an end-of-summer outdoor jam.
Buy your tickets here for the party and head below for the chat
Can you speak a bit on the inception of Fool’s Gold? The early days, what drew you together to make this project a reality?
A: It all started with music discovery, at a point in time when the way we share things was changing fast. Nick and I were both DJs and our worlds were converging. We used to send each other songs over iChat. A bunch of our friends were making music that felt very exciting, we wanted the world to hear it. We started Fool’s Gold in 2007, with a bit of a “if no one else is going to do it, we may as well” spirit. We wanted to follow in the footsteps of labels that crystallized specific scenes, that had a distinct visual identity, that created collectible objects. But we also wanted to do that at the speed of the internet, which was new.
N: It was definitely a “jump right in” situation, but through the years our best projects have all had a DIY spirit. If we wanted to do something, we’d figure it out. Whether it was shooting a video, making merch or putting on a festival!
What was the original vision and direction for the label and has that vision remained the same, or has it adapted and changed along the way?
A: A big part of the original vision was to create an umbrella for “club music”. We had one foot in hip hop, another foot in electronic music. Bloghaus was raging, mashups too. In our DJ brains, it all fit together. I remember we used to have conversations about 80s-90s labels like Sleeping Bag, Tommy Boy, Nervous were everything could fit side-by-side. Another important point was for the biz to be artist friendly. All those concepts still stand today. What’s changed is the distribution, the discovery process.
N: Some of our best records have come from actual friendships too, putting out a project from someone we’ve known for years DJing, or from other creative relationships. But we’ve also discovered great artists who are total strangers! I guess the only real rule is there’s no rules.
There are many people who dream and aspire to start their own independent label. Can you speak on some of the challenges you faced and how you overcame them ?
A: Running any type of independent business has a lot of challenges. No one ever taught us how to make a business plan. If a lawyer said a contract was good, we didn’t second-guess them. And there’s a whole coaching side to signing artists, there’s a mentor role to take on that has its own learning curve too. Our deals have always been set up like partnerships, so I think were taken aback sometimes when a an artist’s manager would talk to us like an adversary of some sort. We’re very passionate so we probably had to learn how to not take everything personal and let business be business. But ultimately I also think that every challenge can be figured out with some common sense once you learn from a few mistakes.
N: It’s the sort of thing you need (aka are COMPELLED) to do without the promise of making money. You have a creative vision that must be fulfilled, or an interest in fostering a community of likeminded artists or hopefully both… that definitely keeps you going through the harder moments.
Is there any specific advice you would give to someone wanting to accomplish this in 2023?
A: I always feel like it’s important to know what value you add as a label, and for the agreements to reflect that. A lot of artists don’t even need to sign to a label anymore, you can go straight to a distributor. So if someone is signing to you, what do you bring? Are you just a bank? Do you have a loyal audience? Do you bring relationships? I also think you should know the different types of deals that exist and choose a structure that makes sense with what you’re bringing to the table.
N: Be specific about the vision, and consistent with how it’s applied. I like knowing how when people see the Fool’s Gold logo on a record (or lightpost!), there’s an aesthetic and an ethos that comes across even though the music itself can be stylistically diverse and genre agnostic.
Reflecting on the past 15 years, what are some of the stand out moments for you?
A: A lot of our events were really memorable. When you talk about “moments”, sometimes the events were when the spirit and vision of the label was the most palpable. Bringing Juicy J to New York when his solo mixtapes were first starting to pop and seeing him connect with a young A$AP Mob. Throwing a rave in a mall in Austin in the middle of the night. Booking our idols like Mannie Fresh, DJ Premier, OG Ron C, Kenny Dope and actually becoming friends with them. You always remember the firsts too. Making those early Kid Sister videos on a shoestring budget and getting MTV to pick them up. Kid Cudi “Day N Nite” becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Our first tours selling out. I’m gonna shed a tear!!
N: New York parties are always special, I can always associate each year’s event with the surprise artists who performed and friends who came out. And probably getting fried chicken afterwards.
What records and artists are you most proud of ?
A: That’s like asking someone who their favorite child is. And also, even the records that didn’t pop feel close to our heart. But hey, of course we’re super proud of Danny Brown, Flosstradamus, Tchami, Duck Sauce… If I was to pick some of the less obvious ones, I’d say: ‘Loosies’ compilation, Rogerseventytwo “You Take Me Higher”, Trackademicks “Enjoy What You Do”, releasing the first Run The Jewels album and seeing how big they became.
N: It’s a wild catalog for sure. I was just thinking today (while the Pink Pantheress / Ice Spice song was on) about how ahead of it’s time the World’s Fair album was. There’s so many jewels in the catalog for people to discover, good music doesn’t have an expiration date.
What are you most excited about this year and in the years to come?
A: This year I’m really excited to celebrate our anniversary, which also feels like a big reunion after the pandemic that we can stretch out over many months and many cities. There’s also a few releases that we’ve been prepping for a couple years that should finally see the light of day. And for the years to come… Fool’s Gold has really become a platform where we’re able to have fun with all these amazing friendships that we’ve made over the years and encourage new talent. I’m perfectly happy just keeping that going.
N: I like that our mascot Mr Goldbar has new poses — check the 3D animations for the FG DJ mix series on Apple Music. Any dance moves are cause for celebration!