TRAXX at Matrixx (425 Adelaide), tonight (Thursday, July 31). $5 before midnight, more after. 416-861-9722. Rating: NNNNN
Talking to Traxx, aka Malvin Oliphant, is a surreal and intense experience. The articulate Chicago-based "artist of sound" - don't dare call him a DJ ("That's sooo not what I'm about" ) - speaks in his own personal dialect that's oddly poetic yet difficult to decipher until you get a handle on the rhythm of his flow. "A lot of people are scared to book me because, well, I'm crazy, too crazy to play," he explains from New York City, where he's meeting with Helmut Lang to discuss designing a line of clothing for them.
"When I play, I play from me to you. People talk about my antics, but it's not really me doing that. If people see me in a moment and I'm all feisty, that's not me - I'm not trying to give people a show. I understand entertainment, but that's not what I'm doing. My identity is to orchestrate the greatest musical documentation I can for the given time."
The other reason he doesn't always get his due is that his approach to dance music is so far away from what is currently considered house that most would never guess how steeped in the tradition he really is.
Known for mixing in absolutely everything, Traxx's rapid-fire approach has been an important influence on an amazing number of big- and small-name DJs, even though he remains relatively obscure. During one of his "sessions" you could hear house next to industrial next to techno next to punk next to new wave - chopped up and blended until it sounds like everything all at once.
"House is dead. The real house exists in the past, and it's time to go back to the past but to think of the future and live in the present. What I do is still house but is beyond the house level. There's this word that I don't want you to take wrong; it's a dark-level energy that people who really believe in this music and who totally lose themselves call Jack - one word, Jack."
This idea of rediscovering the past in order to understand the present and the future comes up over and over in his long, rambling speeches, spoken in a tone that makes it seem like he's trying to convey a message received from a higher intelligence. Traxx speaks often about duality - black and white, heaven and hell, etc. He wants to scare you, take you to hell, then pick you up and bring you to heaven again. There's a secret code that he wants to transmit, and a meaning he hopes we'll understand.
"You must submit yourself, but people aren't ready to submit themselves, because they think they know what's up with music.
"What are you afraid of? It's like saying country music ain't shit. You know what? I thought that, too, until I heard some country stuff that slapped me in the face!"