Trax Records and the sound of house to come

The early sound of house and techno came from a small circle of labels. Trax Records was a pioneer with rough edges like the city it hailed from.

Trax Records and the sound of house to come

Trax Records, a name that resonates with the beats of house music and the echoes of a vibrant musical era, has left an indelible mark on the music industry. This Chicago-based record label, founded by Larry Sherman and Screamin' Rachael Cain in 1984, has been instrumental in shaping the house music genre and has been home to some of the most influential artists in the field. This is a journey through the grooves of Trax Records' history, a story that is as rhythmic and pulsating as the music it has produced.

The Birth of Trax Records

Trax Records is a legendary record label that played a crucial role in the development and popularization of house music, particularly in Chicago during the 1980s. The label was founded by Larry Sherman and Jesse Saunders in 1984 and became one of the primary platforms for showcasing the emerging house music scene.

The birth of Trax Records is closely intertwined with the evolution of house music itself. House music originated in the early 1980s in Chicago's underground club scene, primarily driven by DJs and producers experimenting with electronic music, synthesizers, drum machines, and sampled sounds. It drew influences from various genres, including disco, funk, soul, and electronic music.

Larry Sherman, the owner of Precision Record Pressing, and Jesse Saunders, a DJ and producer, recognized the potential of this new genre and decided to launch a record label dedicated to releasing and promoting house music. They formed Trax Records in 1984, with the aim of capturing and spreading the vibrant energy and sound of the Chicago house scene.

The Early Years and the Golden Era

The early years of Trax Records were characterized by a flurry of activity. The label quickly became a hub for house music, attracting artists and producers who were eager to experiment with this new sound. Among the first releases on Trax Records were "Wanna Dance" by Le Noiz and "Fantasy" by Screamin' Rachael, which set the tone for the label's distinctive style. Another oneOne of the label's notable early releases was "On and On" by Jesse Saunders, which is considered one of the first house music records ever released. It became a milestone in the genre's history and laid the foundation for the future success of both Trax Records and house music as a whole.

Trax Records continued to release seminal tracks by various Chicago artists, including Marshall Jefferson, Frankie Knuckles, Adonis, and many others. The label's output showcased a diverse range of house music styles, from soulful and vocal-driven tracks to raw and energetic Acid House and jack tracks.

Trax Records played a crucial role in spreading the popularity of house music, both in Chicago and around the world. Its releases became anthems in the emerging club scenes and influenced the growth of house music internationally. The label's impact can still be felt today, as the music it released continues to be celebrated and revered by DJs, producers, and fans of house music.

Challenges and Controversies

However, the journey was not always smooth. Despite its significant contributions to the house music genre, Trax Records faced various challenges and controversies throughout its existence. Here are some notable ones.

Financial Challenges: Trax Records encountered financial difficulties throughout its history. Larry Sherman, one of the label's founders, was known for his questionable business practices, including failing to pay artists and royalties properly. Many artists associated with Trax Records reported not receiving proper compensation for their work, leading to strained relationships and legal disputes.

Legal Battles: Trax Records was involved in several legal battles over the years. Artists, including Frankie Knuckles, Adonis, and Marshall Jefferson, filed lawsuits against the label for unpaid royalties and rights disputes. These legal disputes tarnished the reputation of the label and strained its relationships with artists and the broader music community.

Ownership Disputes: The ownership of Trax Records has been a subject of contention. Larry Sherman and his wife, Rachael Cain, had conflicting claims over the label. This led to a legal battle between them for control of the Trax Records catalog and brand. The disputes resulted in a fragmented and complicated ownership structure that impacted the label's operations and caused further financial and legal complications.

Unauthorized Releases: Trax Records faced controversies related to unauthorized releases and bootlegs of its music. The label struggled to control the distribution and licensing of its catalog, which led to numerous unauthorized copies of its releases circulating in the market. This affected the label's ability to generate revenue and protect the rights of its artists.

Distribution Issues: Trax Records faced challenges in distribution, with many of its releases facing limited availability and poor promotion. This limited the reach and exposure of its music and made it difficult for the label to compete with larger record labels.

Despite these challenges and controversies, Trax Records remained an influential label that played a crucial role in the development and popularization of house music. Its catalog continues to be celebrated for its historical significance and artistic contributions, and many of its releases are considered iconic within the genre.

The Influence of Trax Records

Trax Records' influence extended beyond Chicago and the United States. The label's music found its way to the UK, where it played a significant role in the rise of the acid house movement. Tracks like "Acid Tracks" by Phuture became anthems in the UK club scene, and Trax Records became synonymous with this new genre. It's hard to imagine the label without imagining a TB-303 squelching away somewhere.

Shaping the Sound of House Music: Trax Records played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of house music. The label's early releases, including tracks by artists like Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jefferson, and Adonis, established the blueprint for the genre. The raw, energetic, and soulful tracks released by Trax Records helped define the characteristic elements of house music, such as the four-on-the-floor beat, soulful vocals, and deep basslines.

Global Popularization of House Music: Trax Records played a crucial role in popularizing house music beyond its Chicago origins. The label's releases garnered attention and admiration from DJs, producers, and music enthusiasts around the world. Trax Records helped introduce house music to international audiences, influencing the growth of the genre across different continents and laying the groundwork for its global popularity.

Nurturing a Vibrant Music Community: Trax Records fostered a vibrant and interconnected music community. The label provided a platform for emerging artists, DJs, and producers to showcase their talent and creativity. It offered opportunities for artists to experiment with new sounds, collaborate, and push the boundaries of house music. This sense of community and collaboration helped shape the evolving sound of the genre and encouraged the exchange of ideas and techniques.

Influence on Subsequent Electronic Music Genres: Trax Records' influence extends beyond house music alone. The label's raw and stripped-down approach to music production, characterized by the use of drum machines, synthesizers, and samplers, paved the way for the development of subsequent electronic music genres. Its influence can be heard in genres like techno, acid house, and various subgenres of electronic dance music.

Preservation of House Music Legacy: Trax Records played a critical role in preserving the legacy of house music. The label's extensive catalog serves as a historical archive of the genre's early days, showcasing the creativity, diversity, and evolution of house music during its formative years. Trax Records' releases continue to be cherished and studied by music enthusiasts, DJs, and producers seeking to understand and honor the roots of the genre.

The influence of Trax Records reverberates through the history of electronic music, transcending boundaries of time and geography. Its contributions have left an indelible mark on the genre, shaping the sound, community, and global reach of house music, while also inspiring subsequent generations of artists and fueling the ongoing evolution of electronic music as a whole.