Times & Tunes with Tom Trago

It’s always a treat when Dutch producer Tom Trago releases a new record. This time we see him return to his roots with a new series of club-focused Eps. From Rush Hour to Voyage Direct, from TT to JNL we have watched his star continue to rise and to shine. After his soothing musical blanket release Deco last year on Antal’s Amsterdam institution label, ‘Pearls For Pleasure’ bursts onto the dancefloor so bright you can see the disco sparkles from the moon. We have the pleasure of speaking to this pioneering producer as he traverses Asia and other far-flung places on his early 2024 tour.


Where are you this moment, and how are you spending your day?
I’m on a bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo. Next to a very cute little Japanese baby sleeping. I had an amazing time playing at Circus in Osaka last night, amazing crowd, superb sound system, a night packed with interesting & intense vibrations.
Yesterday I had time to explore Osaka a bit more and jeez…I love that city! I had amazing dinners, found amazing music and was invited to educate myself more about Japanese Tea / Matcha ceremonies.

Tell us a little about the tour dates for the next few weeks?
It’s that time of the year again! Every year enjoy the Asia / Australia tours a lot. It’s an amazing way to break away from the winter in Holland. But also, to reconnect with all my friends on this side of the world. I really enjoy discovering new places in Asia. This tour is built around shows in Indonesia-Japan-New Zealand-Australia and China.

Japan is a such a wonderful place to travel. The Shinkansen… Such a pleasurable way to get from A to B.
Haha, Im on it as we ‘speak.’ I wish the world had more of this. Such an amazing way to travel.

I guess you are in food heaven in Japan.
Words cannot describe!

You visit Japan a lot, right?
I try to visit Japan of much as possible. It’s so refreshing and inspiring. I always return full of amazing inspiration and a more humble attitude towards life.

So, have friends out there you catch up with on your visit each time?
I’m very fortunate to have an amazing crew of friends that I have met over the years and try to catch up with every time I can.

How do the crowds react to your sets in Tokyo? I can imagine its wild.
So intense, a lot of cheering and body movement but also the crowds have way more patience and are not waiting for the next big drop or whatever. You can really play ‘deep’ here.
And they are very thankful and honoured that you come all the way to Japan to play for them. As for me… it feels like an honour that they come to my shows.

What is one of the tunes you’re dropping on this Asia tour that is going down well?
My new tune that’s called ‘Take a chance’ is really killing it. But also, an old favourite by Josh Wink – Jus Right is back in the front of my crate again!

Do you find new music for your gigs while you are travelling, or is your listening and research done ahead?
I honestly am constantly digging for new/old music. Wherever and whenever. It had become a way of living.

Do you tour many times in a year these days?
I do one the big Asia / Australia tour (Jan/Feb) and one big North & South America tour. The rest of the year I am also touring but mostly in Europe.

Do you like to take the opportunity to explore while you are away?
Yes absolutely, next to music I’m a big tea lover, and just graduated as official Tea Sommelier. The last weeks I worked on a plantation in Indonesia and also in Japan I visited some tea masters. Touring comes with a lot of off-time, and I love to invest that in learning more about passion for loose leaf tea.

Do you have any rituals while you travel, to keep in good shape?
I try to at least do 10 sun celebrations when I get up. But also, really enjoy grabbing some yoga classes in different countries and experience the difference in the way the classes are given worldwide. Also, I rehydrate a lot. The day after the gig :)

What is your approach to a gig while travelling? Would we find you at the afters or are you bed after your set with some lavender oil and an eye mask?
Haha! Both!
Afters first, lavender oil and eye mask second!

After you have been away, what is important for you to do first when you return home?
Be close to my beloved ones. My two daughters and my wife. Also pick up a daily yoga routine for a little while till I feel I’m lost all my frequent flyer miles again.

I guess you are back in the studio quite soon. Do you gather inspirations and ideas while you are away for your studio work?
Yes, I also write a lot of music ideas on the road that I later on finish in the studio.

Is your studio complete or are you always adding new hardware?
Never complete but I’m very happy where I am at now – a lot of analog hardware. My last piece of gear I bought was the OB-6.

What is your oldest machine, do you still use it?
The MPC2000xl, it’s still in use every week!

Upon what did make your new Pearls for Pleasure EP?
The ideas were started on the MPC mostly and then finished in Ableton.

Volume 1 comes storming out of the gates. Was this long in the making or was it one of those things that just fell out of you.
It honestly kinda fell out – it came really easy. I guess this is the kind of music / genre I’m really comfy with.

Is Volume 2 already in the wings?
Done! Just some mixing issues!

Do you feel a pressure to continue to improve upon what you do each release?
No, honestly, I just try to keep it fun and inspiring to work on.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to motivate myself to work on it.

Do you think about challenging yourself musically? How do you continue to increase the bar?
Not on purpose but I do think every beat teaches me something new, so obviously I am evolving myself just by doing it a lot.

There is something brave, wild, and super quirky about producers from the Netherlands. Yourself, Awanto 3, Frits Wentink, Nachtbraker. Perhaps the commonality is that all of you are unlike anyone anywhere else. What’s in the water?
I think there is a great work ethic in Holland and there was laid out an inspiring scene by the OGs of the scene. Like KC the Funkaholic, Dimitri, Antal etc etc

You guys have a strong history of supporting local artists. As you did on Voyage Direct. Are you still working to develop local artists?
Yes! Voyage Direct is opening up again for a whole new generation of producers from the Netherlands again, like my soul brother Willem Makez.

Who should we keep our eyes on in your opinion?
Makez. Willem Mulder

You were a pianist at a young age, right? Who were your piano icons? Classical or more Miles Davis?
Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans

How do you feel about Robert Glasper? Are into him?
110 %

Do you still play Piano now? Do you think about teaching your daughters to play?
Yes, and Yes, but only at the moments they are into it by themselves. I’m not trying to push it too hard.

When you are not touring or tinkering in the studio, what might we find you doing?
Making tea, and drinking tea, cracking jokes, listening to my friends their life story’s, spending time with my daughters and masterminding my next moves in life.

Tell us something that you think everyone could benefit from.
When you are not feeling happy or motivated in life remember… ’also this shall pass.’

Lastly, tell us something we might never know about you.
I’m a big fan of the twelve-step program designed by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith. And later on, adapted and applied by Julia Cameron for ‘THE ARTIST WAY.’

Order now, Pearls for Pleasure Vol. 1