Tag Archives: Trax Records

Was this a smart move? Old Mr Fingers music was amongst Trax Records re-releases put out quietly over the New Year period – right in the middle of a court case brought by Larry Heard and Robert Owens against the label…

I speak frequently on this blog about how a fair few people in dance music are unable to see the wood for the trees. They’re so deeply immersed in their own little worlds that they have almost no concept at all of how anyone from the outside looking in might perceive things.

This is something true of several generations of producers. Those who are doing it now have to immerse themselves – you’re now a DJ, music producer, engineer, social media content creator, promoter and more in one. And too many of those who were doing it decades ago are convinced they’re worthy of “respect” because they had a hit record decades ago.

Several record labels also seem to have a complete inability to see how their actions look to the world. The latest example of this comes from Trax Records. No stranger to rinsing their own archives – mostly because next to nothing of what they put out today compares to it – they re-released a huge quantity of their early releases back on January 1st.

Was this date deliberately chosen because next to no one would be online buying music on that day? The question has to be asked – and my email putting it to Trax Records remains unanswered at the time of publication. But whilst labels reissuing past releases isn’t unusual, one aspect of this seems questionable.

The big batch of releases contained early songs from Robert Owens – such as “Bring Down The Walls” from 1986 – or numerous Larry Heard productions, including numerous mixes of “Can You Feel It” under his Mr Fingers alias. Trax Records are currently embroiled in a long-running legal case against Robert Owens and Larry Heard.

This blog posted an update on August 18th last year on the case, and I’m not aware of any other developments. So exactly why these were included remains unknown…

So what happened to Larry Sherman’s “special royalty fund” for Trax Records artists out of work due to Covid-19? Trax remains silent on founder’s “final wish” for over 18 months…

Larry Sherman was the founder of Trax Records in 1985. He’s a man who has a huge, immeasurable legacy in house music – having led a label which released many of itsĺ earliest records. He’s also well known for having engaged in highly dubious business practices – such as using recycled vinyl to keep pressing costs down.

During the first wave of Covid-19 last year – when much of the Western world was under various stay at home orders – news came in from his native Chicago on April 8th that he had died. He was 70 years old, and it was heart failure which led to his sad departure.

Soon afterwards, Trax Records released a statement on their website about the passing of their founder – which included this segment at the end…

“Sherman was acutely aware of the plight of his artists due to the fact that they could not work because of Covid-19. Larry was planning a special royalty fund for TRAX artists before his death and his final wish will be carried out in his name by the label under the guidance of Rights Incorporated.”

No details of this royalty fund have ever been made public. And despite a number of press outlets – dance music and otherwise – reporting on it at the time, no one ever seems to have followed it up. So I thought I’d email Trax Records to ask them about it.

I posed two questions. How many artists have benefitted from this fund? And roughly how much money has been paid out? I didn’t ask for specifics on who got what – partly because I don’t care. That’s between the fund and the beneficiary.

So, what did Trax Records say in response? Absolutely nothing is the answer. Despite the email being sent last Monday – and a reminder ahead of publication sent out on Friday – stony silence is the response the label has chosen.

It looks like, for now, the mystery goes on…

So what’s happening in the Larry Heard v Trax Records case? A legal ruling from the upper echelons of Chicago’s courts tells us the latest…

Last year, Larry Heard and Robert Owens filed a legal action against Trax Records, accusing them of a number of different things – failing to pay out any royalties for decades, breach of contract, copyright infringement and a few other things. The case was first filed in June 2020 and has slowly been making it through the legal system.

Now up on the Casetext website is a memordandum opinion and order by Sharon Johnson Coleman, a judge of the United States District Court representing the northern district of Illinois. Soon after the case was filed, Trax Records responded by trying to get the entire thing thrown out before it got into a courtroom. The legal ruling has now come back.

I’m no lawyer, so you can make what you will of what I’m about to say. But it looks to me like Judge Coleman has basically used Trax’s retort as a way of simplifying the case. Much of the case put forward by Heard and Owens remains intact. And Counts 5 – “Warranty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing” – as well as 6, 7 and 8 have all been dismissed without prejudice.

This is a legal term that means the case won’t be dealt with by that court. However, if plaintiffs Heard and Owens were successful against defendants Trax Records with what remains of the current case, it means they could come back in the future with the other counts.

Trax had 21 days to appeal this ruling – I haven’t been able to establish yet whether they did. It looks like this case has still got a long way to run…

This blog deals with all the important topics! The story of Derrick Carter’s visit to the Trax offices – and just where did he throw his ham sandwich?

On Tuesday, I made your morning just that little bit more rubbish by showing you the latest from the Trax Records stable – a cover of “You Used To Hold Me” as sung by label boss “Screamin” Rachael Cain. However, one or two of you got in touch to ask me what I was talking about in regards to Derrick Carter’s ham sandwich. So I thought I’d explain.

Now, I was hoping to simply be able to bring up the original story, as told by Derrick Carter himself. Unfortunately, several searches online have brought up no results – so I’ll try and narrate the story as best as I remember it.

In the early 90s, Carter paid a visit to the Trax Records headquarters, which also doubled up as a vinyl recycling and pressing plant. He had taken some tapes with him in the hope that then label boss Larry Sherman would be interested and offer him a deal.

Whilst heading up the building into Sherman’s office, he got to see the vinyl plant with his own eyes. The stories about how Trax operated had circulated for years, but little was know about what was true. And he distinctly remembered old vinyl records being broken up, but not particularly precisely – bits of paper were still left stuck onto the vinyl that was put into these large bins.

Anyway, Carter eventually made it up to Sherman’s office. The two reportedly got on pretty well. Sherman did like what Carter played him, but didn’t sign up any of his records. He did, however, tell him to keep producing and to try again in the future.

After leaving the office, Carter was feeling a little hungry and took a ham sandwich out of his pocket. Not being particularly enamoured with the flavour of the sandwich, he chucked a large potion of it inside the aforementioned bins full of vinyl due for recycling.

Hence why I said someone, somewhere, probably has a Trax vinyl out there with the remnants of Derrick Carter’s ham sandwich in it…

From the label with Derrick Carter’s ham sandwich in one of its records – another tune that’ll have you reaching for the earplugs in no time…

Trax Records has never exactly been a label brimming with integrity in everything it did. Its early days are filled with stories about how founder Larry Sherman ripped people off, got credits on releases wrong – not to mention the notorious claims about the label’s business practices.

It was well known Trax used recycled vinyl in order to reduce running costs. It wasn’t unusual for DJs to purchase a Trax release and hear part of the record previously on the vinyl in a past life. Bits of paper sticking out of the vinyl were also reported – and at least one record contained scraps from a ham sandwich eaten by Derrick Carter…

And now we have what appears to be a crime against audio being committed by the label who previously brought us atrocities such as “Wash Your Hands”. Trax have done their own version of “You Used To Hold Me”. Because obviously, all the mixes that already exist of the Ralphi Rosario and Xaviera Gold sing aren’t enough. So, what does this version with label boss Screamin’ Rachael warbling over it sound like?

Er, like this.

Dreadful…