Melvin Oliphant III is the outspoken DJ, producer and boundary pusher who goes by the musical moniker TRAXX. With a list of collaborations stretching into the hazy distance, he has produced and released music with some of the world’s foremost underground artists, such as James T Cotton and Legowelt, under a clutch of different aliases. The confrontational man behind the ace new-jack house single “In A Daze” is also responsible for pushing and developing sounds associated with the golden era of Chicago, Detroit, EBM, no wave and early house. Now the time’s come for him to release his first album as TRAXX, although pity the writer who tries to interpret it.
You have been sharing your music for over twenty years, but you’ve only now released an album. What were your reasons for waiting so long?
To be honest you’ve not been paying attention to me because if you did then you would realise that I’ve dropped two albums before with my partners Hieroglyphic Being, James T Cotton, Deecoy on Gigolo Records as the Dirty Criminals, in 2004 with ‘Organized Confusion’ and then in 2006 with ‘Collision Between Us And The Damned’. There is no reason for waiting this long… I simply believe that everything in life happens for a reason. [I was aware of Traxx’s previous collaborations, but this interview was focused on Traxx’s solo releases – this is Traxx’s first album under his own moniker]
At what point did you decide you wanted to produce an album? Was there a catalyst, or was it something you always wanted to do?
I wanted to create something of an album, but I felt it would take an eternity to do it because I have a very large admiration for many genres of sound. In my world it’s difficult to say or even express how many different ideas that come to mind when a certain idea of desire or relation or substance pops into the mind at any given moment.
Do you feel that there is something different with the expression you make on an album compared to on single releases?
On this album and every single piece of music I do alone, or with my collaborators, it’s always different. It has to be. My point is why make the same thing all the time? Why not allow yourself to indulge in as many directions with your abilities? In regards of “Faith” this was something I planned for but not until later; I created this album especially for people of a certain genre that’s more or less been forgotten. It’s also about the significance of creating something relevant and hopefully timeless beyond the press or buzz or desired hit.
Your output in the past three years has been quite prolific. Was there a reason for this?
Yes — because I became bored with the many different styles of music that have been coming recently. I’ve always been a vinylist but, as the society is today, you just can’t make it as simply a disc jockey anymore. So I decided to create detailed blueprints of the music with a deeper and more vivid approach to not just only “house”, “EBM”, “techno”, “acid” or what have you, but to music without boundaries overall.
What does “Faith” mean to you?
Where I am today. It’s a continuing story in my life and the life of others that are involved around me. The emotions of my heart and soul, through emancipation. Where you are today. Where the world is at currently.
How long did the recording process for “Faith” take? Was it difficult?
“Faith” took basically seven months to complete. The thing is all the tracks were done at different times over a longer period of time, which is much different than actually preparing to start an album from beginning to end. Near the end of the year it became a little bit difficult because I had just finished creating the musical production, with my partner D’Marc Cantu (of X2), of the track “My Soul” and felt it needed something more. I needed someone diverse, willing to be poetic and who could fill the role of the song. I wanted a woman so I asked Nancy Fortune from Paris if she was interested. She told me no, she couldn’t because she was busy with other projects. Then, all of a sudden she mailed me back and told me she had a dream that told her to work with me. I believed and sent her the track straight away. She really enjoyed the mood and rhythmic groove and wrote and sang vocals. I arranged everything together to make the final version you hear on this album, which I hope gives a reflection of what is needed most: love and care of one another.
You recently released a single on Discos Capabanca here in Berlin. How did the Mutant Beat Dance collaboration with Eric D Clark come about?
Hugo is very good friend of mine. I pretty much helped him get his label going…I asked if he had a second release for his label yet and he told me he did not, so I offered him a track I did here in Chicago with a label mate of mine named Bea Wanzer and he immediately loved it. The original version was all music, no vocals. About a month and a half later he mailed me back saying he had something for me to hear. I played it and heard a voice over our track and asked Hugo “what is this?’ He asked if I liked it and I said yes but who is it? He told me it was Eric D Clark. I instantly knew who it was and was surprised he would do this. Another month goes by and he asks me to play a party in Berlin with Eric so I borrowed a 707 drum machine and brought to the club Cookies and created drum patterns that Eric would sing over live. The night was actually really good. I thought it would have been shitty. A lot of people’s reactions were positive. Finally this June the record is out, and from I’m told, it’s receiving great feedback.
There are a number of collaborations on the album. Are collaborations important to you?
To be honest there’s not as much collaboration as you say [there are three different collaborators on the album]. It is important for me to have collaborators because we’ve been working together for years both together and individually. I also want to help those on my album because I believe in their abilities and their ideas on music and in not being stuck in the same thing all the time. In addition, it’s fun to do shared music collaborations.
Do you ever think you’ll move away from Chicago?
No. At this time, that’s for sure. I have too much history here. Especially my entire family — but who knows what the future holds.
What is coming up for you next?
New material from Saturn V X2. A Jakbeat essential album from D’Marc Cantu. A Creep Acid album from JTC. An album from Charles Manier. All coming on Nation.