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In conversation with Tom Trago

Celebrating the launch of Patta X Tom Trago: “Patta has been family, even before it was, you know — ‘Patta’”

A pioneer of the underground Dutch electronic scene, Tom Trago has many titles under his belt: DJ, Producer, and Label Owner. Known for his fresh finds and seeking “overlooked gems”, Trago has committed his life and work to the exceptional depths of sound. So, as you can imagine — it was a total dream when earlier this month we learnt of the collaboration between Trago, and our favourite Amsterdam streetwear brand; the iconic, PATTA. In a coming together for the ages’ PATTA and Tom Trago have officially launched their collaboration; a capsule collection and vinyl release which aims toward, “taking a fresh gander through the vast expanses of his yet unreleased material”. Featuring works of new and old, this is a celebration of hip-hop and a coming-of-age collection aptly titled, 18. 

Hi, Tom. How are you doing this morning?
Great. A bit of a rough one getting the kids to school, but it all worked out. The ladies are in the class.

That’s a challenge in itself. Well, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today, especially with it being released day. How does it feel?
It does feel like a relief. We have been working on this project for ages! Not daily, but of course, the idea was initiated quite some years ago and we went through so many phases in the creation of this album. 

How did this project begin with Patta begin?
I started with myself and Victor Crezée (musical director at Patta) digging through my archives reflecting on my work together, and essentially, finding what was worth using. Once we had decided the direction, then came the sequence…. Essentially, creating an order that made sense. It was then about approaching all the artists we wanted to work with. It was important for me not to go through the creative process via the internet or online but in person. So that took quite a while. And then, of course, mixing down such a diverse album, which is made during so many moments in life, on different equipment, and with different machines and different circumstances. I mean, there were sounds that were made at different times in my musical career. 

Did this ultimately feel quite nostalgic going back through the archive?
Definitely. Not only because it took so long, but as I said, it’s music that I made a long time ago! With this, it became a kind of a hip-hop album. Mainly because that is what I was listening to when I was a teenager. 

Hence the title!
Yeah, so that’s also referring to the title: 18. It’s a coming-of-age album. And yeah, hip hop was the soundtrack of my youth and I wanted to recreate a soundtrack for young kids now. My daughter is 14 and it actually perfectly fits her. It feels a bit weird because I’m hitting 40 now and I’m making this coming-of-age album that actually should fit a boy of 16. But I made it with the enthusiasm of a young kid because that feeling never left me. But I hope I was able to put some of the professionality of a fourty year old man in there!

Even though we have used the word ‘nostalgic’ quite a bit, and how it references back to your youth, the music really doesn’t feel ‘nostalgic’, it feels very contemporary.
Yeah, that’s what I was aiming for. Also, at some point, there was a choice of direction and me and Victor really wanted to hit that future note.

I mean, you could’ve gone FULL throwback ha-ha.
Yeah, totally. And we use a lot more samples or like software Beats and stuff. That option – of doing a full throwback – actually went through our minds, but then we both decided rather create something that has a futuristic touch to it, something for today. 

The Amsterdam scene is rife with creative talent and this project really feels like a celebration of this. Why was this important to you and Patta?
We worked on this project with our friends and fellow artists. But actually, most of the people on there are people I hang out with in a bar and go to the club with. These are the people of my age also! I really want to use what is happening or what’s living right now in the city. All these people are really artists that are working on their craft. I really was like, okay, who is really putting effort in and manifesting nowadays? Let’s reach out. 


Why does it feel like such a match for you and Patta to be collaborating together? This isn’t your first time, in fact, there’s a long history there!
Patta has been family even before it was, you know — ‘Patta’. Mainly because the owners, Gee and Edson, have always been really involved in the hip-hop scene, which I also grew up in. They mentored me over the years. In my younger years as a DJ, myself and Gee travelled a lot under Moniker Parra Soundsystem. We certainly had some flight hours together.

And probably endless delayed airport hours.
Yes, and party hours, hangovers hours… especially at the start of Patta when it was just a shoe store. I’ve seen this flourish and grow into part of what it is now since day one. But at the same time, I had my own career flourishing and travelling around the world as an international DJ. Yeah, we kind of supported each other all along the way and this feels like the crown of our friendship and our family.

Alongside the vinyl release is also the capsule collection. Did you have a creative process in the design?
Honestly – No. I remember one meeting, I was, like, giving some input on the design and they started to laugh and they were like, listen, we’re not telling you where to put this hi-hat or whatever. So let us do our thing! That was more like a little joke because in the end, I mean, I choose colours, the colourways and we choose the items together, but then again, I respect them for what they do and they respect me for what I do. I do the music.

I love the frog.
It kind of reminds me of me stoned as a young kid.

So it’s perfect for 18.
Yes, I think so.


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Words by Grace Powell