TRAX Records is widely recognised as one of the original house music labels, home to such artists as Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jefferson, Larry Heard, Jamie Principle, DJ Pierre – the list goes on. Co-founded by Screamin’ Rachael Cain in 1984, TRAX was a crucial outlet for early house music and went on to have a profound impact on dance music culture.
Now, as TRAX marks the release of TRAX Mission, a compilation that gathers new house music from around the world and brings it all back to where it all began, we asked label co-founder Screamin’ Rachael to look back and give us 5 times that TRAX Records changed the course of house music…
1 – TRAX IS THE MOTHER
I feel we could start at the very beginning, with the creation of House itself. It was all a collision of elements and timing. The foremost reason that I believe House started at Trax, was the fact that Trax owned a vinyl pressing plant. There could be those who may disagree, but ultimately people in the know all agree that House Music was born in Chicago. In the 80’s the city was extremely racially divided. Historically the 1979 Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park on the South Side heralded in the era. White kid rockers felt that the over-processed sound of disco was taking over the music scene. They felt it was rubbish that had nothing to say and at the time punk, industrial and rock had a strong footing in Chicago. From the ashes of those records a new culture quietly started brewing…
Kids had nothing to do and underground parties for all ages in the warehouse district were a place where they could meet, and listen to their music of choice. The Space Place on Fulton, which I did parties at, was considered Punk and it was right around the corner from Frankie Knuckles’ Warehouse. Pretty soon some cross pollination started. And of course, people all still wanted to dance. So when Jesse Saunders, Vince Lawrence, and I found Precision Pressing Plant this totally stripped down sound that brought music back to the basics started getting pressed on vinyl. It wasn’t disco and it wasn’t rock it was House and it was new!
It caught on and DJ’s like Farley from the Hot Mix Five were banging it on major radio. It was an explosion. Journalists from the UK came over to report on the movement and from that time on House was on its way. At the time DJ’s and vinyl went hand in hand and Trax had the manufacturing set up. We pressed up the records, and Frankie Knuckles started playing his Trax cut “Your Love”. Soon Europe was on fire with the sound! It was so different and boundary-crossing, even rockers liked it, but it was definitely HOUSE!
2 – MOVE YOUR BODY
The thing about ‘Move Your Body ‘is the first time I heard it I knew it was the complete BOMB! I got it hot off the presses took it home and couldn’t stop jackin! Of course it became the House Music Anthem! I remember being in the studio with Marshall and saying; “Marshall I think you just wrote your ‘Rock Around The Clock’! People are going to remember you forever because of that record!” Marshall’s reply was a simple but definitive “You think so Screamin?” At the time Marshall looked just as punk as me.
He had on a dog collar. No one knew Marshall then, and he was still a postal worker. That was one of the most magic nights of my life! Ron Hardy, Darryl Pandy, Harry Dennis and others were there too. Ron recorded ‘Sensation’ and we also recorded the back up vocals for ‘Children of the Night’ too. What a time we had! And very soon that song solidified things. There was a new movement called HOUSE! Unfortunately my record of that first edition was stolen from an exhibition! I can recognise it by my big graffiti style R mark. If anyone sees it by chance, give me a holla!!!!
3 – HIP HOUSE (FUN WITH BAD BOYS)
I clearly remember being in NYC, and speaking with Afrika Bambaataa. At the time NYC people still had an attitude about House, songs like ‘The Message’ and ‘Planet Rock’ had strongly established the Hip Hop movement there. I’d come to NYC signed to Streetwise records, and when they went belly up I started working at Sugarhill Records, still always keeping my hand and heart at Trax! It was Bambaataa who told the people in the Hip Hop community to give me respect, and they did.
In our conversation at the studio I said what if the two biggest street movements of Hip Hop and House came together? What if we had Mc’s on House beats. He turned to me and said yeah Hip House! We did ‘Fun With Bad Boys’ the first record of its type and Prince Ikey C of Soulsonic Force lent a verse, Farley flew in and worked with us on beats. That cut became HUGE on NYC pop radio getting mixed with LL Cool J’s ‘I’m Bad’. Then Bambaataa’s cousin, Kool Rock Steady RIP, at first reluctantly, got into it, moved to Chicago and started working at Trax. There was even a Trax imprint called Rap Trax.
Hip House was considered radical back then because we were breaking the stereotype that House was gay. Hip Hop tried to push macho, but House has always been for everyone! So though Hip House never reached peak popularity at the time, it had a great influence on today’s music. Look at Kanye recently sampling Mr. Fingers on ‘Fade’. Anyway the European documentaries never covered Hip House that I know of. I argued about that a number of times, only to fall on deaf ears for ‘Pump Up The Volume’. I count the beat poetry by Harry Dennis of Jungle Wonz also as integral to the Hip House movement. That is a chapter of House that needs to be told.
4 – LOVE CANT TURN AROUND REACHES TOP OF THE POPS IN THE UK
TRAX explodes on British TV with a big song by two big men, Farley featuring House Music’s premier vocalist Darryl Pandy on ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’! I remember the first night I got the Trax vinyl record. I was hanging out with Harry Dennis the voice of Jungle Wonz, and we didn’t stop playing it all night and into the morning on this little record player at my friend Marguerite’s boutique. It was mind altering! Something about that voice, that song, that moment. We had done Bad Boy Bill’s radio show earlier that night and then just binged out on that TRACK!
5 – ACID HOUSE
What can I say ACID is bigger than ever and without question it started at Trax! One day a new group called Phuture came into Trax. DJ Pierre, Spanky and Herb as I recall.
Now please remember this was a long time ago and this was Acid! Well anyway, I do remember that they got the Roland 303 Bass Machine. They used it in a completely different way and got this awesome bleepy sound! I also seem to remember Larry Sherman sending Marshall Jefferson to work with them.
They came back with Acid Trax! OMG ACID TRAX! Anyway Larry said it sounded like 60’s Acid music and the name stuck. The revolution was on and it would be pressed up on vinyl at Trax! By the way Roland has re-issued the 303 and I AM ABSOLUTELY IN LOVE WITH MINE! So the world has gone MAD ON ACID AGAIN!
TRAX MISSION compilation album is out now on TRAX Records. Trax will Be Celebrating Halloween on Tuesday 31st October at The Ace Hotel, Morgan Street, Chicago to benefit the 40th Anniversary of www.youthcommunicationchicago.org