Exclusive Interview: Queen of House and President/Owner of Trax Records Rachael Cain
Rachael Cain is widely recognized as the Queen of House Music. She is the current owner and President of Trax Records in Chicago, where house music was born. Rachael Cain was one of the artists who was on the independent label TRAX Records when it began in 1984. She worked with the DJs that began the electro beat sound that’s globally known as House Music. She was one of the key people who brought House Music to NYC and across the pond to Europe in the 80s and 90s. Today, House Music is the Mother of all electronic music, and Rachael is determined to set the record straight where House Music actually began, right in her hometown Chicago.
Rachael just released her new single “I Am House”, which is Rachael’s reaction to the increased popularity of House Music in the recent months, as her way of clarifying where House Music really came from. TRAX records continues to influence music even to date with artists like Kanye West using a sample from a classic TRAX single, “Boom Boom” on his new single “Lift Yourself”. MTV used samples from TRAX singles on their TV commercials promoting the 2018 MTV Music Awards. Rockstar Games are releasing games that use TRAX Records music.
I got the honor of interviewing this global music superstar, and one of the most iconic women in the music industry;
How did you get involved in the music scene and how did you begin with Trax Records?
I’ve been involved with music for as long as I can remember. Always singing as a child, and I actually had some classical vocal training. I used to love to listen to Opera, especially Maria Callas, and Kathleen Battle. Once I became a teen, I really loved punk music so I threw most of that training out of the window, though I’m sure the training gave me the foundation for the strong voice I have today! As far as Trax goes while singing with my band, Jesse Saunders and Vince Lawrence discovered me. They needed a vocalist to sing the cut “Fantasy” and the rest is House Music History. I was managed by Attorney Jay B. Ross RIP then who knew Vince Lawrence’s dad and so that’s where House began for me.
Where did you love for House music come from? Was there anybody who inspired it?
My love for House Music happened the day I walked into the Warehouse and heard Frankie Knuckles spin! It was all about the crowd and the freedom that people had on the dance floor. The reaction was just as strong as the Punk I loved but in a special kind of way, because of how people seemed to bond together. So I have to thank Jesse and Vince for introducing me to the recording aspect, and Frankie Knuckles who’s deejaying had a major influence on many!
Over the years since you started how do you think the music industry has changed? Do you think it’s changed for the better?
No matter how you look at things, change is always good. The ability for us to change is probably our most important gift. Once you stop changing, you’re DEAD! The world of intellectual property is changing every day. It is important for artists to keep up with that, and of course key for music industry people. As of October 11, 2018 The Music Modernization Act came into effect. It is the biggest change to copyright law in decades. If I had a chance to start over, I’m sure I would have studied law!
I have to ask, how did the name Screamin’ Rachael come about?
No Doubt I’m SCREAMIN’ – I’ve got a big presence in a petite body! I’d have to say everything about me is Screamin’ even without saying a word!
How would you say the genre of house music has evolved over the years?
House Music has been evolving from the day it began. If you think about it, there have always been many different sounds and types of House Music. I’d say it’s the Rock ‘n’ Roll of our generation. One of the most important things about House starting from the very beginning is how it is all inclusive! Unlike rap, there has always been a very strong LGBT component, as well as acceptance for all races, backgrounds and religions. The music is international, and its evolution completely supports uniting people.
You’ve had an incredible and extensive career, What’s been the most memorable moment to you and why?
I really feel the most memorable moment is TODAY! I say that because I see that the world now is very aware of what I’ve dedicated my life to. It used to be: “House Music, what’s that?” And now we are accepted as a genre and loved by many. That was my dream, so today is the day!
You’ve been called the ‘Queen Of House Music’, that must be an incredible honor?
It is an incredible honor to be called the Queen of House Music, but also I think of it as a victory for women. You see, it was a woman, Sylvia Robinson, the lady behind Sugar Hill Records who inspired me to be who I am today. Sadly, when people think of the Hip Hop genre, few remember her. In fact, when you think of a woman running a label and being an artist as well, many people discouraged me about doing that along the way. We hear about Master P, Kanye, P Diddy and others, as artists/record label executives, so now I’d like to think my story will be inspirational to women. I’m glad I did things my way. I went through lots of sexual discrimination, and I still do sometimes, but things are better. Thanks to #METOO people will no longer dare to pull the type of things that were major obstacles in the past. We have a voice now and thankfully it’s getting louder by the minute!
You had taken over as president for TRAX Records back in 2012. What have you, seen and learned from this experience?
I’ve learned a lot as President of Trax. First of all, I want to say I came from a background of strong women. My grandmother left her beloved home in Germany at 14 because she saw the writing on the wall and the evil of Hitler coming into power. I’m proud of myself but compared to her struggle, mine was small in comparison. There are many challenges and headaches in this business, but ultimately the freedom of doing things my way makes it all worth it! When you do something great or notable, you will always have haters — that comes with the territory. I’ve learned to be very strong. I let negativity roll off my back. I believe in positivity and vision. I keep my eyes on my beliefs and my beliefs strong!
Let’s talk about the new single “I Am House”, what can you tell me about it?
“I Am House” is all about making a statement. Letting people know about the House lifestyle. At the same time, it’s really fun and light. With everything happening so quickly around me I wanted to put my stamp on what it all means to me… And most importantly try to capture who the House Children really are.
You worked with Joe Smooth on the single, take us through the creative process of the song and how the idea came about?
I have always enjoyed working with Joe Smooth because it’s not really work. When you do something creative, some people just gel and that has always been the case with us. The process was simple…in fact, I would not call it a process at all. When I think of creativity, I always believe in a natural flow. So in this case, Joe presented me with a banging track. We agreed to tell our story, and that’s what we did. I believe that the track makes people feel good and when it comes to music, it’s all about how you feel and in the case of House, it’s got to make you feel like dancing!
TRAX music is still being used on MTV, Rockstar Games, and even Kanye West used a sample on his single “Lift Yourself”. Did you think so many years on TRAX would still continue to have such an impact on today’s music world?
I knew from the very beginning that Trax music was special. Maybe it was intuition but I believed in something that others did not understand or believe. It is no surprise to me that our music is having such a strong impact today. And it’s great to see that major fashion brands like Maison Kitsune and Gucci are treating the classics as though they are brand new. What’s even more exciting is that though many people said EDM would erase House history, that has not been the case! In fact, a lot of huge successful EDM artists like Kygo are calling themselves House!
Your career has taken you all around the world, but would you still call the city of Chicago home?
Chicago will always be my home. I’m very proud of my city. It’s very important to me that people around the world will understand that House was born in Chicago. Right now I’m speaking to the Chicago History Museum about donating my archives. There is no permanent display of our genre yet. Hip Hop has its own museum and is also represented in The Smithsonian and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. House needs its forever home and certainly I believe its heart should remain in Chicago. I have been working with Youth Communication Chicago (www.youthcommunicationchicago.org) for many years and I’m hoping that we can raise funds for the students to study our background while learning about the archival process. I have been very blessed so it means a lot to me to give back to my community.
I’ve always had a love for record labels, and the insides of the business, from songwriters, to producers, to A&R, something I’ve always dreamed about getting into. What do you love about running a record label?
The thing I love about running a label is the fact that I get to work on all aspects. It’s never dull or boring because there is always something new to learn about. I also love working with other creative people. The business of music is very challenging but being resilient and continuing to succeed gives me a great sense of happiness and pride. You have to stay sharp and be able to go with the flow and the constant industry changes. In a way, you must be remain a lifelong student and always stay young at heart. It would be easy to let challenges make you become jaded but that would be the end of you! You’ve got to keep your ear fresh and to the street. You must be open to anything new and believe in dreams and miracles. Music keeps my soul pure and the business never affects my bottom line which is being true to myself.
What I love about EDM music at the moment, and what I think has brought more attention to it as of recent is how DJ’s are doing crossovers with other artists. Martin Garrix and Khalid, Kelly Rowland and David Guetta, Benny Blanco and Khalid and Halsey, Justin Bieber and Skrillex the list goes on. Do you think this mainstream approach has been a positive thing for the genre?
I think collaborations are always a good thing! When talent comes together in harmony, it can lead to explosive genius. What you’re asking me about relating to EDM DJ’s takes me back to the beginning of Trax. We were the first label to put the DJ’s name as the feature on the label. The reason for that is the fact that a great DJ knows how to move the crowd. EDM is a child of House and as far as I’m concerned, House Music is the mother of all dance music as we know it today.
What’s been the most challenging part of your career?
The most challenging part of my career is shutting out negative people who try to be discouraging. NEVER let anyone get into your head! It’s also a challenge to remain independent when there are always major machines who would like to gobble you up. I have to work twice as hard and smart as a woman! I do a lot of reading self-help books like The Secret, The Yes Attitude, etc. Whatever a mind can conceive, it can achieve. These words keep me going!
Who are some current artists you’d love to work with?
I’d like to work with Kaskade and Daft Punk. But I would really love to work with Grace Jones! She’s amazing and timeless. We have signed her brother Chris Jones whose new single “STRONG” is burning up the charts! I knew their mother Marjorie who recently passed, RIP. I think of them as FAMILY and Grace is one of the strongest women I know!
What artists are you currently listening to?
I’ve got to say that I am always listening to what’s going on at Trax. I’m always hearing new music that comes my way. I’m really busy creating my own music too and deejaying cuts that intrigue me, new and classic…
What does this up coming year have in store for you?
This year is very special as it is the Trax 35th Anniversary! I’ve branched out in many ways including the movies with a very talented NYC Director, Eric Rivas, and last year we finished The Vamp Bikers Trilogy distributed by Sony Orchard which is available everywhere digitally. This year, we are looking forward to finishing our fourth film, Japanese Borsch. I love acting, so besides working on the soundtracks, I’m fulfilling my lifelong dream as an actress. My new album is in the works, and I have projects with the amazing Michael Musto and Daniel DiCriscio for Trax in the works. Our first new release of the year is called, “Common Ground” featuring Sam Stevens and mixed by Tony Moran. That project and the upcoming collaboration with Doctor Dre of Yo MTV Raps was brought to me by the female dynamo, Eileen Shapiro! I’m looking forward to TOURING, and you can catch me in NYC for the “Meals on Heels” Benefit on February 10th. Saying that I’m busy is an understatement!
What advice can you give to the millions of up and coming artists out there looking for their big break?
The advice I’d give anyone up and coming is don’t look for your big break, create it! Make it happen! Your life is in your own hands and honestly, it is truly what you make it. Believe in yourself and don’t ever waiver. Dreams do come true. BELIEVE THAT! Stay positive at all times and remember to spread love and be grateful.
For more info: http://www.traxrecords.net/