Tom Trago’s relationship with music is particularly intense. “I couldn’t imagine life without music,” he says. “I feel this physical need to make music every day. It’s like my body needs it as much as it needs food, water or sunshine.”
Right now, Trago’s immersion in music is almost total. An internationally renowned DJ, producer, live performer and label owner with three critically acclaimed albums to his name, the Dutchman divides his time between all-day studio sessions, DJ gigs and live shows all over the world, and a steady stream of musical collaborations with friends from Amsterdam and beyond. You sometimes wonder how he finds any time for sleep.
His dedication to the cause has been unflinching since his earliest years. He grew up in a free-spirited, artistic household, surrounded by music and encouraged to make his own. Due to suffering from juvenile chronic arthritis, he couldn’t get out of the house much, so entertained himself by recording his own home-made radio shows using the weird and wonderful albums he found in his parents’ record collection.
At the age of 15, he decided that he would devote his life to music. “I just had this realization that life is so short, you have to pursue your dreams,” he says. “My dream was music. That’s all I ever wanted to do – to listen to it, discover it, make it and play it.”
Ever since, he’s been living that dream. Success wasn’t instant, and in his early years in Amsterdam he barely eked a living DJing in coffee shops, earning just enough to afford to feed his vinyl addiction. “As long as I had enough to live and buy records, I was happy,” he recalls. “It also gave me more time to make music.”
As he still does now, Tom poured his heart and soul into making music. Early experiments with blends of experimental hip-hop, jazz, Latin influences, Afrobeat sounds and soul-flecked broken beat caught the ear of local labels and producers, before he began to apply his composition and production skills to house music.
By the time local label Rush Hour snapped up his debut single, “Live With The BBQ”, in 2006, he’d already developed a trademark style that blended the best of three decades of dance music – disco, boogie, synth funk, Detroit techno and more – with insatiable house rhythms and an intrinsic grasp of what makes dancefloors tick.
It’s this blend, no to mention his love of collaborating with musicians, vocalists and producers from Amsterdam and beyond (think Romanthony, San Proper, Awanto 3, Cinnaman, Tyree Cooper and Bok Bok), which makes his music so irresistible. Given his impressive track record, it’s perhaps unsurprising that several of his tracks – not least the rush-inducing “Use Me Again” – continue to receive club plays years after their release.
Fast forward to 2013, and Tom is a man in demand. Aside from preparing for an extended live tour in support of his new album The Light Fantastic, he continues to run his Voyage Direct label and parties (a showcase for Dutch house music, named after his 2009 debut album) and still pours his heart and soul into making new tracks. He excitedly talks about ideas for musical projects – from film soundtracks to audiovisual performances and straight-up club tracks – while preparing for DJ sets in Ibiza, London or New York.
His immersion in music may be total, but Tom Trago’s musical journey is far from complete. In fact, it’s only just begun.