A-Trak Signee Madeaux Looks to Stop Dance Music Stagnation With 'New Wav' EP

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Fool's Gold's rising talent talks working with A-Trak and EDM alienation.

Madeaux’s “Kill For Me” is a transmission from the darker side of dance music. The simple vocals -- “kill for me, die for me” -- are manipulated to sound ghostly, as if they’re seeping into this world from beyond the grave. When the gurgling beat kicks in, the song races forward, ready-made to soundtrack a grim, climactic showdown.

“Kill For Me” is the lead single from Madeaux’s New Wav EP, recently released on A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold label. The track's title evokes RL Grime's "Die 4 Me," and like Grime, who rocketed to fame several years ago, Madeaux works at the intersection of hip-hop and dance. But other currents drift through New Wav as well: the title track, for instance, grafts the thunderous rush and full vocals common in ‘90s house onto a modern rhythmic framework, veering between decades with ease.

Billboard caught up with the man behind Madeaux, Andrew Berman, to talk about how he got into dance music, his Aaliyah-inspired single, and what he hopes to accomplish with New Wav.

Independent Study: Fool's Gold Records

How did you get into dance music?

I started playing guitar in high school, mostly to get girls. I was playing with a drummer friend of mine, and it was getting a little too late. We were recording stuff on garage band, but it was probably 10 or 11 and his dad wasn’t really with it. So we decided to make a techno song. Writing stuff I could never play on guitar was so fun I just got deeper and deeper into it and eventually I got into Logic. That was the beginning for me. I’m from Miami originally. My sister was younger than me but she was more with it in regards to what was actually going on in the clubs. She put me on to Mark Knight and Toolroom Records and all the house music that was all over South Beach. I was super into it.

And how did the Madeaux project come about?

I was getting jaded with dance music. I wanted to see what else was possible with the electronic medium, and that’s when I started Madeaux. It started off being mostly sampled based and I was making pretty ambient tunes. As time’s gone on, I’ve progressed back to dance music with a new perspective on it.

What’s different now?

I feel like there’s a pressure to make everything very anthemic or fit this certain mold. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that. Obviously everyone knows that, but I was new and it’s a learning process.

How did A-Trak get in touch with you?

I was scrolling through SoundCloud like usual and I saw that he had followed me. I thought it was the craziest thing ever so I screenshotted it immediately in case he did it by accident. Then obviously posted it on Twitter, and a couple minutes later I see he follows me on Twitter, and then he DMs me. It was the coolest thing ever. To make it even cooler, he said he thought it would be cool to work together on a song sometime. Eventually he ended up coming over to my apartment and we had a session. I don’t know if he had a specific intention of signing me to Fool’s Gold, but we were looking through a bunch of beats and stuff I was working on to see where he wanted to go with the collaboration. After we were working for several hours, I was like, "Remember those beats from before? Would you be interested in releasing that as an EP?" And that conversation just developed.

What was the inspiration for “Kill For Me”?

I had played a show around Coachella. I was doing a bunch of the after-parties and stayed up all night and drove back to L.A. at nine in the morning. In order to stay awake and not die somewhere in Southern California, we started playing these really old bangers -- J.Lo, Aaliyah, Amerie. We were listening to Aaliyah and DMX’s “Come Home In One Piece,” and there’s a point where she’s saying, "I know you’d kill for me and you’d die for me, but just come home in one piece." For whatever reason I really felt the emotion of that and I ended up recording the vocals for the track as soon as I got back.

Why do you think the combination of hip-hop and electronic music has become so popular?

It’s interesting because I feel like it’s really hard to combine the two styles without alienating one side. Whoever manages to really hit that is going to kill it in a big way. It’s a big focus of mine, and I actually already finished my next EP with another Fool’s Gold signee, Man Man Savage. He’s a rapper from Atlanta. It’s a really fertile ground for a lot of new sounds.

There’s something I always want to say but I’m not quite sure how to say it. I feel like in releasing something like this where it’s a reinvention of the pop dance stuff, I wanted to make a critique of EDM without being called EDM. It’s such a fine line.

What aspects of EDM are you looking to critique?

I’m getting alienated by the uniformity. Everything is getting kind of stagnant creatively. But I’m really excited about it because I feel like despite the bad word that EDM is and all the negative connotations around it, I think it’s really taken the entire world by storm. Seeing that develop I think is really important. With the New Wav EP, I tried to take elements of that and build on it and see where it could go. I feel like the train has kind of stopped. People are not pushing the envelope in the way I’d like to see with regards to the mainstream sound.