Nick Barat, 26, is a popular man with talents that capture reading eyes and dancing feet. As a DJ, Barat assumes his moniker, Catchdubs, a party conducting personality that soundtracks New York night life until wee-hours of the morning. As an editor, Barat chases stories down with a thirst for new and interesting stories to publish in The Fader Magazine. How does Barat balance his busy life, he simply says sacrifices have to be made and he’s “cool with not sleeping.”
Recently, Barat, an Elizabeth, New Jersey native, pairs with friend and DJ icon, A-Trak, to make Fool’s Gold, a record label the two will operate by sharing their passion for music. “If I hear music that I’m crazy about, I’ll call A-Trak and say, ‘You need to hear this right now!’ and if he’s into it we can move ahead and try to get it released. It’s almost instantaneous,” he says.
In July, Barat is leaving The Fader Magazine to run Fool’s Gold full-time. Kid Sister’s 12-inch with “Control” and “Damn Girl” is Fool’s Gold’s first release. Over the next few months, Fool’s Gold releases include Cool Kids, A-Trak and Sammy Bananas.
“A lot of good artists are reprehensible human beings, but it does not mean their art isn’t worth while.”
Format: Recently, you created Fool’s Gold Records with your business partner, A-Trak. Fool’s Gold has an interesting musician catalogue, especially, considering its musicians create music that is unlike the music major labels are trying to push through their musicians. What are the challenges of operating a new label and new musicians in a music industry that is downsizing?
Nick: The fact that we’re such a small company – it’s A-Trak, myself and Dust la Rock does our art work – we’re small and that’s our greatest asset, as well as the thing that holds us back from doing stuff on a large scale. To be honest, I don’t think we’re ready to do things on a large scale. We have one 12-inch out for Kid Sister that’s out digitally, too. We’re just getting started and the fact that we’re a small company, lets us do things on a micro level. We’re out at the clubs DJing and we personally know the people who are going to get into this music and the people that are going to appreciate it and support it. We can get music out on the one-to-one level. A company is a whole machine that can’t just holler at people – it’s marketing meetings and getting stuff on MTV and the radio. Obviously, we want to grow into that, but I think it’s going to happen naturally or with a partnership that is the right fit. I love the fact that it is just us. If I hear music that I’m crazy about, I’ll call A-Trak and say, ‘You need to hear this right now!’ and if he’s into it we can move ahead and try to get it released. It’s almost instantaneous.
Format: What’s the back story to how Fool’s Gold was created?
Nick: A-Trak and I met at DJing a party in New York about three years ago. Then, we went out to California to do a show at Milk Bar in San Francisco and another show in Los Angeles. We hit it off, became friends and we share a lot of the same taste in music. A-Trak is on the road constantly, so we would talk over IM and I would make him folders of new music that I was feeling. That was going on for the last couple years. A-Trak has been running a label in Canada for almost ten years, it’s called Audio Research. Audio Research releases scratch records and independent hip-hop. He had new music that he was making and there was new music, like Kid Sister, and he realized it was not going to be the right fit for Audio Research. He wanted to do something different and asked me if I wanted to do it. To me, the most creative stuff comes out of partnerships. You have one creative individual and another creative individual and it forces everyone’s ideas to be better. I already had stuff that I felt would be a good fit to bring to the label and since then we’ve been going hard trying to get our stuff on other people’s radars.
Format: Please explain how the Cool Kids and Kid Sister were discovered.
Nick: I got put on to both of them through my friend Josh, J2K of Flosstradamus. The first Kid Sister I heard was a bonus track at the end of a Floss mix tape they gave me when I first met them in Texas two years ago. With Cool Kids, we were sending mp3s back and forth over IM late last year and he was like ‘These guys come out to our parties all the time and gave me this – it’s really good!’ They both make music that’s clever and creative and has a real spark to it. Even if you’ve never met any of them, their personalities come across in the music so strongly. I love it.
Format: How did your career at The Fader materialize?
Nick: I’ve been an associate editor at Fader Magazine for three years and I never intended to get into magazines or writing. When I was at NYU I had worked at the school newspaper, but that was because the girl I was dating, at the time, was working at the newspaper and I wanted to get in and help redesign the newspaper. While I was there, they would ask me to review shows or write about an album. I did that for the last two years of college and when I graduated I was strictly doing graphic design and writing blurbs for Turn Table Lab’s online store, and DJing. The editor in chief of Fader, at the time, Knox Robinson hollered at me. I would see him at parties and we had mutual friends, and one day he asked me if I wanted to do a story on Jim Jones from Dipset. I did the interview, wrote it up and it was a fun experience. They liked what I wrote and almost immediately after they asked me if I wanted to come onboard as an editor. I’m going to be leaving the magazine to do music and run the label full-time. My last day at Fader is July 13.
Format: As a DJ, you perform and entertain. As an editor, you manage writers and write articles, too. After a stressful day in The Fader office, how does Nick Barat find the energy to make a crowd live, as DJ Catchdubs?
Nick: DJing is something I have an intense love for, it’s the greatest. It’s important to me, I have fun with it and I take it really seriously. For anyone, at any job, if it’s something they really want to do they have to make certain sacrifices for it. I’m cool with not sleeping.
Format: Your moniker, Catchdubs – how did that moniker stick you and what does it mean?
Nick: It’s funny, because it’s such a stupid name. I go back and forth between hating it and being sort of cool with it. At the very least, I don’t have to worry about having the same name as anyone else – there are probably a million DJ Cuts in the world. It was something we used to say in high school and I had it as my screen name. I registered a web site, because I wanted to put my portfolio online and talk about different projects I was involved with. So, when it was time to register a web site, I just registered catchdubs.com. It kind of just stuck. It’s funny, I thought people would pick up on the Nick aspect of the name, but everybody goes for the Catchdubs.
Format: There is a generation of neo-ravers or club kids – the definition is not clear. In your opinion, how did the electronic music scene shift back into popular culture and how is it different from ten years ago?
Nick: I think it’s interesting that you brought up the electronic scene from ten years ago – I vividly remember the huge hype behind acts like Orbital and Underworld as this electronica movement that was going to change the world. Obviously, it didn’t quite pan out that way, but there was a push behind it. Prodigy were all over TV and magazine covers – I got their Fat Of The Land album at Sam Goody’s in Woodbridge Mall, you reserved it a few weeks in advance and got a giant poster and those stickers with the little ant and all this other promo shit.
As big as Justice and other electronic acts are becoming now, it’s still only getting big on a niche level, and the music industry has changed so much that you’ll never see 1997 dollars put behind the new stuff to push it that hard. I don’t think that today’s electronic music has really shifted back into popular culture just yet. One thing that’s very cool, though, has been how things have snuck through on a more subtle level – Daft Punk getting sampled by Swizz Beatz and Kanye, and what seems like every major label rock band commissioning fairly out-there electronic club remixes for their singles.
Format: Your presence on the Internet is large and, by some, you’re considered a pioneer of blogging. Many old school newspaper journalists do not respect bloggers. Being that you’re a blogger, journalist and editor, what is your opinion on the place and power of a blog in 2007?
Nick: I’ve never thought of myself as a blogger. I’m just a guy that has a web site. Since I was a little kid, I’ve been involved in a lot of different things at once. I didn’t start a web site, because I wanted to blog about things. I started a web site to post different stuff I was involved in and have a home for different stuff to be stored. I never learned HTML and coding for web sites. When I was in college, this software came out called Blogger and I saw it as a way to update the site easily. It made it so easy to post that I put up links that were interesting, pictures of me and my friends out and posters I designed for an event. I feel that most sites that people call blogs, at this point, are people talking about a record they just bought or critiquing a performance of somebody on MTV. When you talk about print journalists verses online journalists, I don’t know if that is a debate I was ever part of. In my opinion, it really doesn’t matter if a person is an online journalist or print journalist. It depends on the person and their perspective. There are brilliant people and there are total assholes in both worlds. There are blogs that I love to read and there are blogs that I never read, because I can’t stand where somebody is coming from. The same thing goes for print journalists.
Format: You’re on top of several new music trends. For example, your coverage of Chicago juke music was unprecedented. What qualities in a music’s sound and a music’s culture do you look for when forecasting music trends?
Nick: With The Fader, I was very fortunate to work in a super supportive environment that predicated on new music. With that juke story, in particular, it wasn’t like we sat down and had a meeting and said, ‘A year from now, kids are going to be crazy over this juke stuff!’ It wasn’t like that at all. It was just music that I happened to hear and thought was fantastic. I researched it and talked to DJs from all sides of Chicago and found out the history behind it. It wasn’t about the sound or talking about it as a trend or a scene. It was an interesting story to tell. I don’t want to write about the same thing ten other magazines have written about. I want to do something that is going to be interesting for me to report on and will be interesting to read. The juke story was great, because I went out to Chicago for a couple days and met up with people to talk about their history in music. It was a really fun story to write and I’m glad that people have responded to it.
Format: Recently, you’ve started making a mix tape, Hundred Miles and Running, with DC rapper, Wale. How is that project turning out?
Nick: It’s shaping up awesome! I had known what Wale was up to in DC and there were some other rappers in DC that were bubbling a little bit, one of them Tabi Bonney who does a song, “The Pocket.” Wale and Tabi got to a point where they were both big deals in DC, but no one was really talking about them. So I went to DC to do a story on them and talk about what DC is like. Whenever I travel for a story it’s great. I love being an outsider in these different environments, because everything is coming off totally fresh to me and I can write honestly about my experience there. I met with Wale and Tabi, did the story and it was great. I stayed in touch with Wale and it came up that he wanted to do a mix tape and I said sure. This is my first real artist mix tape. I had done a mix tape for Saul Williams about two and a half years ago, but that was just me doing blends. For this mix tape, Wale and I sat down and went over ideas. We’ve been in the studio together, trying stuff out and doing skits. I’m super excited for it to come out.
Format: In addition to the controversial comments publicly made by Don Imus and Cam’Ron, mainstream media sources, like CNN, have began to scrutinize rappers and record labels for the content they produce, again. When you’re introducing music to the public, as a writer and an editor, do you feel a moral responsibility for the content of the music you introduce?
Nick: I think that people should know what they’re doing or talking about. It’s not something to take lightly. At the same time, what you choose to write about should not be about the content of the music or type of person the musician is. It should be whether or not the music is dope or compelling. If you look at Picasso, he was an asshole – this canonized and praised great artist in history. If you look back, all these guys were jerks and social misfits, and their lives were crazy. Right now, we’re in a moment where everything is heavily scrutinized. Somebody can be like, ‘Cam’Ron is a reprehensible human being.’ A lot of good artists are reprehensible human beings, but it does not mean their art isn’t worth while. It’s really easy to get caught up in moralizing things, but I think the end decision on whether or not to cover somebody should be whether or not the music is good or if it’s relevant to an audience.