Meet Preslav Lefterov, Thomas Cox and Adam Ratana, collectively Pittsburgh Track Authority. And remember their names, because these three guys from Pittsburgh will restore your faith in the American dance music scene.
So how did all three of your meet each other?
Tom: We all started out with a similar background in the ’90s DJing Drum’N’Bass. And we met at record stores – specifically at Hyper Vinyl Records here in Pittsburgh.
Adam: People have asked this question a lot, so let me throw in a bit that no one else has. One of my first DJ gigs ever was playing at a house party and Tom managed to get himself on the line-up tag-teaming with me. We knew each other but he was like, Yo, that gig that you have that’s your first gig – I’m tag teaming with you now. And I’m going to play those records that are really difficult to mix, too.
Are you all originally from Pittsburgh?
Tom: I’m the only original Pittsburgher among the three of us, but they’ve all lived here for a long time.
Is that the name for a native? “Pittsburgher”?
Tom: I guess? I think the colloquial term is “yinzer”.
Adam: As in, “Yinz goin’ to the game.”
Preslav: Okay, that shit drives me nuts. I’ve been in Pittsburgh for 19 years now and I can do a really good Pittsburgh accent but I refuse to do that for an interview and I don’t like to say the word “yinz” very much.
Adam: I’m originally from New York. I came here for school in ’96 and basically have been here since then except for a couple of years after school.
How long have you been making music together?
Adam: I think it’s been almost four years now.
Pittsburgh Track Authority’s Enter The Machine Age
Pittsburgh, Again: Detour 001 Featuring Pittsburgh Track Authority, Mirko, Gusto, Naeem
Pittsburgh Track Authority: Strenf (Work Them)
Your debut album, Enter The Machine Age, dropped in the Spring, and had tracks ranging from Broken Beat to Techno to Disco and so on. How & why did you come up with the concept to gather together so many different styles on your first album?
Tom: I think that has a lot to do with Pittsburgh too. Pittsburgh was the type of town where none of the individual scenes were really big enough to have their own dedicated crowds. You could not go and hear five Techno DJs playing Techno all night. You’d go and hear guys playing some House, mixing in some Disco and maybe playing some old Giorgio Moroder or Blondie, and then you’d hear some other guy playing Broken Beat and 2step and House and Techno. You had guys basically mixing it up and not being purists about any one style or sound or trend.
That’s still really the DJing style for Pittsburgh House and Techno DJs to this day. I think how we make music reflects that too.
Do you think people understood the concept?
Preslav: I guess I personally don’t care much if they got it. If DJs found one or two tracks that they personally could play, that’s good.
[quote align=”right” color=”#999999″] “We rep Pittsburgh to the fullest and we want to talk about it. We all live here. We’re not going anywhere.” [/quote]
But I wouldn’t say we went in with a grand concept behind it. It wasn’t that we tried to show range and do so many different genres. It was more or less something that’s just part of how we do things anyway.
Tom: I think we use our skills as DJs and how we would mix them to sequence the album. I think it works well to listen to as they are and hopefully DJs will also find tracks on there that they want to beat up a party with.
There was a really broad selection (sorry) of people charting “Broader Disco”. I know I had friends asking about it after I wrote a review, and these were people that I never would have pegged as PTA fans.
Tom: There are a lot of producers out there who make music that adheres to what they and their friends play. And it’s like… one thing. Just because we do such a wide variety of things, I always find myself surprised by who is playing our tracks and which ones they pick. Ben Sims charted the remix of the Todd Edwards track that we did. I’m sitting here trying to imagine Ben Sims playing that. It doesn’t make sense to me but I’m glad he liked it. Cool.
Adam: That’s something we learned when we were doing Drum’N’Bass production together. You never know what people are going to like so the most important thing is to make stuff that makes you happy and just put it out there. You never know. It could be that the thing you consider a throwaway is the one that everyone likes. And the one you labor on and rewrite and rearrange is the one people don’t care about at all.
Preslav: “Broader Disco” is a good example actually. That track specifically was done in – I don’t know, an hour? two hours? And from a sample from a record that you would be disgusted by. It’s not a very good record. I think Tom and I picked it up at a record store here in Pittsburgh and it’s horrible. But it turned into a track that some people like. I agree with Adam, though, and it took me a long time personally to get over it and not really think about who’s going to like it or not like it. Just finish it, get it out there and not worry too much.
Tell me about this new record, “Raw Ten”?
Tom: That’s another example of someone we never expected to like our music giving us some love. That’s Nic Offer, the singer from !!!. We were in New York playing a gig almost two years ago and ended up hanging out with him after the show and crashed at his place. After that we were like, if you ever want to work on something we’re down, and he was with it and wanted to try something new.
That drops this week I think?
Preslav: Yeah, this week or next week. You know, summertime always delays things with the pressing plants and the plating plants and we’re doing everything ourselves. But it’ll come out in the next two weeks.
I was talking with Tom about this earlier. You do practically everything yourselves, and unlike many people who’d like us to believe they’re millionaire rock star DJs with a posse of handlers around them handling important things, you’re not being phony about it.
Tom: We have help with our bookings but really aside from that, all of our marketing and PR or whatever you want to call it is just us contacting people we know, sending them our music and talking to them about what we’re about.
Preslav: We don’t have a P&D, though Crosstalk and Phil Hertz have been extremely helpful. But even down to the shipping of every order that we get – that’s us. That’s just how it is. There are a few people coming up that are interns and have helped out but for the most part it’s just us.
Tom: We didn’t have anyone to show us what to do so we just try things until they work. And for my part, having written for a bunch of electronic music publications of various types, at least a bunch of other writers knew who I was. So that helped, if there was some guy we didn’t know so well, he might have heard of me from some of the shit I was talking.
So let’s talk about Pittsburgh in particular. How often do you play locally?
Preslav: Right now we have our Hot Mass residency which is every 3rd Saturday, so we play once a month in Pittsburgh at a minimum, guaranteed. There’s another (much smaller) monthly as well and there are usually a couple of other things that pop up. Locally, just Pittsburgh-wise that’s probably it but we’ve tried to develop relationships with a couple of promoters in New York and Detroit and Philly so we’re trying to keep more and more gigs in the regional area and do as much of that as possible. We probably play 3 to 4 gigs a month.
[quote align=”right” color=”#999999″] “At our Hot Mass night, maybe we’re playing and people are going nuts or the headliner’s playing and people are going nuts or the young guy who no one has ever heard before is playing and everyone’s going nuts. I think this is the thing that we’ve been waiting our entire youth to see. And it’s finally here and it’s really awesome.” [/quote]
Tom: There are guys from other cities – I know in Chicago this is true – who are out touring Europe all the time but they hardly ever play in their hometown. We don’t have that in Pittsburgh. People see us doing well elsewhere and that makes them happy. They support us here, they buy our records here, all the record stores here stock it and they’re always selling out. We see people and we have no idea who they are and they’re wearing our t-shirts. We do mail order for local people we’ve never met before. It’s incredible.
Adam: When we were coming up, people just didn’t care about locals. The way things are now, though, people are really into it. It doesn’t matter who you are – the crowd is not going to ignore you because you’re not a big name. It’s been so fantastic to see that happen here. At our Hot Mass night, maybe we’re playing and people are going nuts or the headliner’s playing and people are going nuts or the young guy who no one has ever heard before is playing and everyone’s going nuts. I think this is the thing that we’ve been waiting our entire youth to see. And it’s finally here and it’s really awesome.
There are people throughout the world right now who want to jump start the scene in their town the way it’s going off in Pittsburgh now. What was the catalyst for it?
Tom: I think there have been a lot of little catalysts, but I don’t think it was any one specific thing that made it happen. Maybe it’s as simple as there being a lot of people working separately for a long time and eventually they get closer and closer to a similar ideal. This has also happened at the exact same time that Pittsburgh has become perceived as “the next Austin” or “the next Portland” or whatever nonsense. But I think it’s true younger people are cool with coming here to go to school and staying. Or they stay instead of leaving for somewhere else when they turn 18.
Adam: There are probably 100+ people from Pittsburgh that go to Detroit every year for Movement and that number’s still growing. Every year, I see some younger kid I just met in Pittsburgh at Movement.
Right now I feel like a European journalist that’s never heard of Pittsburgh and interrogates you about why you live in Pittsburgh rather than Brooklyn. Sorry about that.
Tom: No way. We rep it to the fullest and we want to talk about it. We all live here. We’re not going anywhere, we all own houses, we’re all married, etc. etc. We’re here and we love it here.
We were talking about your LP and “Raw Ten” but you also run another label, Love What You Feel.
Tom: With that label we try to stay open to people we know and people we encounter who make good music and try to work with them. The next thing that’s going to come out is by this French cat we met when we played in Bordeaux, France. It’s a beautiful city, we were chilling after a long night of no sleep and he played some beautiful music for us. He said he sent it to other labels and they told him it was “too R&B”. We were like yeah, definitely send us that.
We have some other stuff – varying styles just like we are with our own music and what we DJ. We just put out what we like. We have a backlog and we’re going to be working for the next year on getting some of that out.