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Duck Sauce Doesn't Like to Follow the Rules

"We're following the string theory," says A-Trak in this post-Coachella interview.

by David Garber
Apr 25 2014, 9:36pm

It's pretty good to be Duck Sauce right now. Days after their (second) Sahara-tent smashing Coachella performance, the two charasmatic DJ icons are sitting pretty atop their long-awaited debut album Quack. The 12-track LP is a nostalgic joyride through the duo's many memories together and features iconic Duck Sauce jams like the viral singalong "Barbra Streisand," the 2009 homage to their beloved Big Apple, "aNYway," and a handful of new cuts like "It's You" and "NRG." The record also includes a handful of cheeky mixtape-style skits to remind you that these dudes are in it for the lulz.

Made up of Montreal-born DMC champion A-Trak and Boston native Armand Van Helden, this New York City-based DJ/producer tag-team have found themselves at the pinnacle of their collaborative career. For five years, the duck-loving duo has been making bubbly, disco-fueled house jams for smile-inducing dance parties, and at the same time holding down their own solo careers. While they're currently making selective stops at some of this season's biggest festivals, you won't see Duck Sauce breaking their own backs (or beaks) on nonstop world tours—they prefer to swoop in for the occasional gig when the time is right.

During my recent journey to Coachella, I got the chance to spend a little quality time with the Duck Sauce dudes in an air-conditioned trailer, and as expected, they were all smiles.

THUMP: How's Coachella so far?
: Great man. Every year it's just great—roaming around the fest and checking out good performances.

It's nice to be able to chill for a while and enjoy the music as fans right?
A-Trak: It's the rare festival where it's actually enjoyable. We'll make plans to actually come during our downtime. Usually it's like, "What's the latest that we can show up."

Who have some acts you guys have seen who you've liked so far?
A-Trak: Armand and I were just talking about Pharrel, he was really good. And Solange. Chromeo too. I'm so proud of my brother man. They got that main-stage look right after sundown and they just killed it with their new stage show—it was the tightest I've seen them. Skrillex and Dillon Francis were also really good.

I know you guys are big hip-hop heads. What did you think of Outkast's long awaited reunion? There's been a good amount of controversy about their performance.
A-Trak: I'm going to say... no comment. Because i'm too much of a fan.

OK—that's cool.
A-Trak: It was just fun chilling back stage with Puff Daddy. He's been hanging around for the weekend. He went into Chromeo's trailer the other day and was like "wassup yo!"

So I interviewed your brother Dave from Chromeo the other day and he told me a funny story, about how when you were a kid your voice changed completely in one day on some weekend trip. Care to expand on that?
A-Trak: Oh man. It was actually my first overseas gig in Korea. I won the DMC Championship in '97 during my pre-pubescene and then that summer got booked for my first overseas show at 15. Dave came with me as my older brother. He actually negotiated my contract. He was like only 19 at the time and was on the phone with someone in Korea like, "We need business class flights!"

So we made the trip and there was one conversation we had when my voice kept cracking and he was like, "What's wrong with you man—are you about to cry or something?" And I was just like [voice cracking] "No I'm fine!" Then we came home and Dave called up P Thugg up on the phone, like, "P check this out"—and gave him the phone and made me talk. I answered the phone with my fresh new voice and was like, "Hello?" Dave and P were laughing for about fifteen minutes nonstop. So I guess I went to Korea and came back a man.

Speaking of changes—you've watched electronic music move from the sidelines to center stage at this festival. What's that like?
A-Trak: I remember a couple of very symbolic, ear-mark moments in Coachella symbolizing a new chapter in North American electronic music. Like when Daft Punk brought the pyramid here. A lot of kids got converted.

Armand Van Helden: Indie rock kids.

A-Trak: It was like day-zero, the genesis, Adam and Eve for them and for electronic music here. When Tiësto came and played the main-stage that was also a huge statement for a traditionally more alternative-leaning festival. He came to the main-stage with pyro and no one was really doing that at the time, so to me that was another part of wave-one in the era of electronic music penetrating here.

AVH: The whole EDM thing is just more of a "fencing in" of it all, but to me nothing's changed. It just got a title and got clumped together. This has been a thing around the world for a while but was just never a Stateside thing. They've had people like The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and Richie Hawtin playing festivals forever. Back then it was like, "Oh that's techno, that's house, that's breakbeat." I think EDM is just really an American term. We gotta call it something.

A-Trak: I think it was a term that was coined when the business exploded, when all of those articles about mega-busuiness conglomerates started popping up.

So the albums finally coming out. What does this mean for you guys?
A-Trak: Yes! The egg is finally hatching. I feel like Duck Sauce is one of those "never on schedule but always on time" kind of projects.

AVH: The album and Duck Sauce in general are kind of two different dimensional states. Someone could be like, "Hey you guys have 'Barbra Streisand' out now it's time to drop the album," but at that time we're already in a different dimensional state. We're not following the rules. We dropped the album when we felt like it.

A-Trak: We're following the string theory.

If you had to both pick one track from the album, which one would you say means the most to you?
AVH: I would have to say "Barbra Streisand," because when we made that song we weren't really sure what we were doing. But post-"Barbra" it was different. It's really hard to one-up that. It's our song that got built up and then we were like, "Can we build up that vibe again?"

A-Trak: I remember after the track came out, when it really reached that level of "plays at weddings in the Ukraine" cultural penetration. Friends from overseas were sending us photos of their kids singing along to the track. It's a song that traces ages from eight to 88 and neither of us have ever had anything else like it.

AVH: If you can pull like three "Barbra Streisand"s in your lifetime you're pretty much a super musical genius

David loves ducks but his favorite water bird is the Puffin. Follow him. @DLGarber