A GoPride Interview

Screamin' Rachael (2)

Screamin' Rachael (2) interview with ChicagoPride.com

Sun. December 5, 2004  by Erik Roldan

Screamin' Rachael (2)
I recently sat down with Screamin' Rachael – a long-time Trax artist and current label president – and talked with her about the label's history, house music’s ties to the gay community, and Trax's future.

Pleasant and enthusiastic, Rachael had many insightful things to say.

ER: If the original passion was for vinyl, and now you have the reissues on cd coming out, how did you decide to do that? And why cd?

Rachael: No other label in the world has existed for twenty years on nothing but vinyl. It is practically a miracle. Just thinking about that...wow. I realized that if we wanted the label to grow, and I did want the label to grow, and I wanted to reach many other people. Even though there is a big thing with dj culture, and kids want to be dj's, there are still many people that these days do not necessarily have turn tables in their home anymore. It was something where I just said, "We've got to do this." I'm friends with Jelly Bean Benitez, and he's been inspirational to me. He is the guy who started Madonna's career. He produced a lot of her early things like "Holiday," "Lucky Star," and "Borderline," and had his own hits. He helped me find the people who helped us finance taking it to the next level, which had to be cds. I'm really happy that we are doing cd's. Also I have to say, young dj's coming up are mixing cd's. I've started to talk to people like Pioneer about helping to finance and sponsor a Trax tour, because now, yes, dj's are mixing cd's. To reach people that I wanted to reach, to get the whole world to embrace the sound, we needed to make cd's and I'm happy that we are.

ER: You have Ralphi Rosario, Frankie Knuckles in there, a compilation called "Queer Trax." How is the gay community tied to house music?

Rachael: From the beginning the gay community was a really important part of it. I think that gay people are open minded. They are not so judgmental. They are into new things. When we first came across, many people were saying "This isn't even music," they didn't grasp it or understand it. From the beginning the beginning dj's that were starting to create the music, were gay themselves. Not everybody that created house music was gay, but certainly the majority of the people that created it were. Even still today the majority of the people that create house music are gay and certainly the audience that supports it. Gay people are open minded, artistic. The time when we first started coming out with these songs and this stuff, was a really bad time, a time when AIDS was starting to be the horrible blight that it is. They didn't have the medicines, and the technology that they have today. It is still a horrible blight, but today people are living longer, and suffering less. Back then, the escapism of house music was a cathartic thing and a lot of people lived for that. They lived for those moments in the clubs where they could just let go and feel good. Because of all the fear that when on with people being afraid to have sex, it was a definite release. The music was a release for so many people in the gay community. I think the gay community has always made up the majority of the base audience. I love the gay community, and everything that they have done for us. They have always been supportive and we are trying to give back as much as we can. So anything I can do--hey--Lesbian Nation, whatever you need from Screamin' Rachael, I'm down. Queer Nation--I'm there, you know? That's all good with me.

ER: Some queer musicians that create music themselves, feel like there are these disco divas and people making house music that use the gay community's money, yet they don't employ gay singers, don't employ gay producers and they feel used. What would you say to someone who said that?

Rachael: Well you sure never had that problem at Trax Records. We have a lot of gay singers and producers. Our publicist is gay. I've never been in any way, shape, or form a person that embraces any type of prejudice. Here I am a white person in the house world. When we started it, that was unusual. It was considered to be a black world, so sometimes people in th UK would say, "How can you sing house music? You're not black." From my singing, a lot of people didn't know if I was black or white, and their jaws would drop. So I know there can be ageism, racism, sexism. I don't like any kind of prejudice, I'm totally against it. Any kind of prejudice is not okay with me and it does not fly here and it never will. Its unfortunate that we live in a world where that kind of thing does go on. Still. Look at what's going on in the world of commercial advertising, people are realizing there is a big gay market out there, and they are trying to reach that. They have "Queer Eye" and now they are going are have "Queer Eye for the Girl." I saw that on TV. Four gay guys and one gay woman, to help a straight girl. It's a funny thing because people are going to be commercializing it.

ER: It's one of the few things left to be exploited.

Rachael: Right. So can you ever win, no, but can you be accepted? I hope so. I hope everyone can be accepted in the world.

ER: Any kind of press right now is good press, it all works for the same thing.

Rachael: I think you are right. Just as in house music, in the beginning people didn't realize it could be black, white, yellow, red: all people of all nations coming together. I think that it is really important, because once you expose a music, people or culture to society, you take away the stigmas, the fear. People fear the things that they don't know. That's a shame but that's just reality. By bringing your music to people and taking away the fear, by bringing the personalities to people and letting them say "These are people just like you", we take away these fears. It's just like this whole thing that's going on with politics. It is so amazing to me that people would try to stop gay unions and gay marriages. It is insane. That's like stopping women from voting or anything like that.

ER: It's insane. I can't see how anything like that could possibly be going on the world. I just can't even see it.

Rachael: One thing that I was thinking about was "Rock the Vote." This year they had hired someone that wasn't from America, and I was thinking that was curious. We can get all dj's or bands or whatever kind of music, whether your gay or straight or black or white, to work together and to realize that the power of how the world runs is in our hands. The important thing is for kids to realize that they can change the world through their music, through whatever they want to do. That power is there. The reason I can say that and not just give some kind of flowery speech is because we changed the world. When we were kids and we made this new music, people said "House music? What's that? That's dumb, that's not even music!" But hey, we influenced so many people and changed the world. If you believe in a dream, you can affect the world. A small group of people or even one person can initiate a change if you believe and take positive action.

ER: Is it possible, or have you seen any incidents of house music being political or house music reaching people politically?

Rachael: House music is a global thing. I think here in America we lose touch with how the rest of the world perceives us and what other cultures are. I see house music reaching people everywhere. I even see things like young fans in France that like house music and it gives people an idea that maybe Americans aren't so bad. And of course with the gay community really loving house music, I think that we can affect a change into what the government is doing. We've done things for rock the vote. We try to do things through the djs that we know. Through the parties we held, and through what people have been doing in hip hop. Even P. Diddy, you know, like him or don't, his idea about getting people to vote is great. I think it's important. I see a lot of what's going on with house music and changing the world and how other people in the world percieve us. With my music also, I'm trying to have an influence on people and I know others around me are too.

ER: It can be expensive to get a pair of turntables and a mixer. Are there any specific avenues that someone without money can do to get started?

Rachael: Actually yes, "Hands Across the Decks," have you heard of them? They are doing things with underprivileged kids and djing, which I think is great. We are going to be getting them some vinyl to try and help in our own way and helping them with benefits. I know for sure in various states they are starting non-profit groups that are going to be helping djs out. I have been thinking, now that Trax is up and running to maybe starting a non-profit group that can be a part of this and help kids have access to equipment. Here at Trax I always encouraged young producers to just come in and start working with our dj's and our people to learn. Very often I'll meet people and I'll try and take them under my wing and help them. I think that there are a lot of people out there who may be like me. I would say to young people that are aspiring, if you really love something, or you love a kind of music, go out there and seek out dj's that you admire and talk to them. See if they may be able to help you. If you have to start saving your money, you can go on ebay, buy used equipment. It can get you started. I just bought a book on djing because I wanted to know what they are telling people about djing. They were talking about getting some used equipment for less. I'm seeing things like dj competitions where people are winning turntables. You are seeing more of that. I would say, seek out the people that you look up to and ask for some help. I had a mentor, Dr. Richard Cook who really inspired me. He let me know that you can't be afraid. If you want something you have to ask. Ask politely but ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask poeple for help because it's out there. If you put out the right energy, and also if you are willing to intern, and help others, you will get back. It's a give and take. If you think the world owes you a living or if you think "Hey I'm great and I don't have to do anything to get anything," well forget that, that doesn't work. I, as a record company president, I look for artists that are not afraid to help me promote their work. That's important. I look for artists, dj's, mixers, producers, anybody that is willing to get down and help me promote their stuff. I know as an artist myself, I never stopped doing that. I promote myself and still do a lot of my own work. That's what you have to do. If you are lazy, don't get into the business. If you are willing to work very hard, and willing to work in your community, give back, maybe help the people that you admire, they'll help you back.

ER: What does the future hold for Trax?

Rachael: I think the thing that is going on now is that we are becoming a real label. We have always been real, but now we are dealing with actual business people and investment people. It is a learning experience for us. The future holds a lot of excitement and promise, but what we have to depend on is the people who really love the music to support it. Because ultimately that is the answer to everything. Dreams do come True. Be ready when it happens. All these things are real, but they always depend upon the love of the people to really get that music out there. Whether it's the love of a dj whose not afraid to take a chance, whose not afraid to play something new, or the people, who are embracing the classic house because they want to know what made this whole culture that they are involved in these days...what made these superstar dj's that they hear about everywhere. Go out and buy it because you love it. That is great because it will help us support our future and the new up and coming people. So I think we are learning because we are just a little company that's just now getting big, and now getting attention. It's so nice to know that the world embraces what we did and what we still do. That's the important. There is a lot of emphasis on what we did create in the past but even more so, we are hoping that people will support the new music, the compilation "Trax the Next Generation," my new album "Screamin Rachael, Extacy," they are all going to depend on people like you to play them on your shows.

I hope that all the readers will go out and support Trax Records. We are kind of like the little train that could. In a world where everything is corporate we are not. We hope you can go out and buy the product so that we can remain being us. Just love house music because it does come from the heart. We are not in any way corporate, nor do we want to be. We are on the fringes and I hope we can always be that. We are going to depend on you, the people that are going to go out and buy the record whether it's the chain stores like Virgin, or Gramaphone or Hot Jams, we need you. Support the music that you love. We did it when we were growing up, and hopefully you are going to do it these days.

Trax is back, we love you.

Interviewed by Erik Roldan