Classical Trax has been one of the biggest success stories in club music over the past couple of years. The community's only existed for two years and yet what originally started life as a small Facebook group, has grown exponentially into a record label, website with editorial, a compilation series, and a series of live events with its expansion showing no signs of slowing. And why is that? It was built on positivity and inclusiveness with elitism and snobbery strictly prohibited. With negativity running unabated both in music and the wider world, something like Classical Trax is incredibly refreshing.
We caught up with the community's founder Matt Lutz, who, besides DJing as DJ Rueckert (pronounced: rook-ert), manages every facet of Classical Trax which includes the Facebook group, editorial, record label, a line of t-shirts sold on their website, live events and probably a few more things he's keeping close to his chest. There isn't even much of a team behind him. He has some help with artwork and readily accepts ideas from some of the more active members, many of whom seem as invested in the group as him. For the most part, however, one man has done pretty much all of this himself.
Interview by James Keith
There are plenty of online groups out there, but nothing quite like this. What did you want to achieve with Classical Trax when you first started out?
I wanted to allow people to have a space, but I wanted it to be positive. I feel like a lot of places online are extremely negative—they put out this competition vibe and that's what I didn't want. I've noticed certain labels—and I won't mention any names—that try to monopolise an idea. If you have more community and you have more people working together, you can give a positive outlet to underground artists who don't have that avenue. That was lacking. I feel like there was this label, and this label, and that collective. And that was it. I also wanted to get away from this idea of EDM, which has really become popular in the States. I don't feel like it's part of club music. I feel like EDM and club music are two different things.
You shouldn't have to worry about your religious beliefs, political beliefs, or your sexuality.
Classical Trax seems to provide a really welcoming space for the LGBT community. Was this something you also aimed for, or has it just evolved naturally?
I didn't think about it in that way, actually. I just wanted everybody to be able to come to Classical Trax and be accepted, no matter where they were from, what background, what gender—you know? I wanted it to be inclusive to everybody because music is music. You shouldn't have to worry about your religious beliefs, political beliefs, or your sexuality.
How much do you have to guide the group? Did you have to put rules in place or tweak certain aspects?
Yeah, I definitely had a set of rules. One of the big things I noticed in a lot of groups, or a lot of forums, was self-promotion. You obviously need self-promotion to be an artist/producer/DJ, but I wanted to balance it out where people were pushing music that they loved that wasn't their own or wasn't from their own label. If everybody's just self-promoting then they're not really taking the time out to look and see different genres. Also, no clips, because I feel like forums get bogged down with people posting up their own clips which are 15 seconds long. They should be full tracks if you're going to put them in the group.
What was your musical upbringing like?
My and my friends were really into Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and then late '90s hip-hop like Cash Money, Bad Boy, No Limit—I really got into that kind of music. Then in seventh, eighth grade, I started listening to this local rap station in Baltimore called 92Q. They would play Baltimore club at night, so that was when I really got into Baltimore club. At the time, I didn't know what it was called 'cause they would just call it "club music" on-air. So that's how I was introduced to that.
There seems to be a lot of scenes and sounds rejecting attempts to assign genre names or tags. Is that something that's important to music?
That's tough to say because, on the one hand, it has value because you can give credit. I think credit's important. Because Philly club music was Philly party music or just party music. I feel like it's tough because that way you can play a lot of stuff. I see club music as an umbrella of different sounds but I've seen articles written—I think it was on Thump or Noisey, written by someone in the group—where they basically said you have to be specific: club music is Baltimore, Jersey or Philly. That's not the way I see it. I see different perspectives. I was talking to somebody from Spain who's in Classical Trax and he said he was introduced to club music by Night Slugs. So for him, club music is a bunch of different stuff because Night Slugs play grime and a lot of bass-fueled music.
EDM and club music are two different things.
Classical Trax seems to be constantly evolving—is there a grand plan?
To be honest, I'm kind of surprised that it's grown so quickly. I did always have this idea of creating a website where people can go to and they can read articles, interviews, and so on. That was always in the back of my mind. As far as releasing some of the compilations, stuff like that, that was never really my intent. The only thing I really wanted to do with Classical Trax was keep the group going so it could give people a forum to talk about things, but on the side have a website where we can interview people, post up premieres from people's labels, and stuff like that. A few people are upset because they feel people are stealing the group, but I'm all for people starting up labels and releasing other people's music in the group. I think that's great.
It's almost autonomous, in a way. You're happy for it to go in its own direction, and you're not too controlling.
Right. I do have my ideas of how I want it go but you have to have that balance. I want to have control over it, but I also want to allow people in the group to sign with labels if they so choose. I don't want to control their music but if we can put their music out as a non-label release platform, that'd be perfect too.
Before you started Classical Trax, you were running Paradise Rhythm and you also DJ'd as DJ Rueckert. Was that your way in to meeting people and bringing them into Classical Trax?
Yeah, it was actually from Paradise Rhythm. That's on hiatus now. I've been talking about bringing it back and releasing some vinyl but it's so expensive right now. Before that, I actually ran my own hip-hop blog called Underground Bullets. I did that for a while, but I was just doing that for fun. From that, I got about three writing offers to write about different stuff. Mishka had contacted me after I emailed them about writing about hip-hop, but they were actually looking for somebody to write about electronica. So they hit me up and I did a column for them called Auditory for over a year. Then I got a job with Truants and that was how the whole thing took off and I was also working on Paradise Rhythm at the same time. It all kinda just came together, and that's how I started Classical Trax.
What does the future hold for the community?
We're going to be doing a few more of the Gallery EPs—still free and digital, but we're working with a few more artists now too. The next one's going to be from grime producer Jeb1. That should be out November 11. Then we've got about three more coming—one at the end of November, one in the middle of December and then one that'll be out in 2016, which we recently started working on. Then we're also going to do—I haven't told anybody this yet—we're going to do Jamz! 2 in December as well as a surprise. We're actually working with a label to do a physical release for Jamz! 1 and Jamz! 2. We're still working out the details for that. It'll be through their label but under our name, so I am very excited about that one. Then there's also another compilation coming out on a real established label. I can't release the details of that yet, but I think everybody's going to be very happy with that when it comes out.