In all genres there are artists that find their lane and stay within it and there are others who evolve with every project. Pulling from a wide range of sounds throughout his career, bass music leading light Liquid Stranger is firmly in the latter category.
The Swedish DJ/producer has been making music for decades now, but first gained widespread notoriety for his bombastic, otherworldly sonic creations during the big dubstep boom of the late 00s. Since then he has even further expanded his scope, mining psychedelic, trap, ambient and beyond to create a sound that is his own. It also doesn't hurt that he is one of the best live acts in the bass scene.
With a headlining set at this year's Gem & Jam coming up in less than month, we caught up with Liquid Stranger to discuss everything from his evolving sound to how he crafts a set to what to expect from him in 2022.
Here's what he had to say.
There is a really strong connection between artists and fans in electronic music, especially in bass music. Why do you think that is?
Speaking for myself, I'm also a huge fan - so I don't feel there is much separation. We have something beautiful in common - our passion for bass music! I've always loved the rave scene for how inclusive it is. I guess in the beginning our scene was built by outcasts, and therefore we don't tend to segregate.
Some artists pick a sound and stick with it and others, like you, are constantly moving into new sonic areas. What is it that drives you to keep changing up your sound?
It happens naturally. It's something I just need to do to stay interested and true to myself. Music is an emotional language, and that internal landscape of feelings is ever-changing. I don't want it to sound too pretentious, because a lot of my ideas are quite silly and humorous, but it's more about a feeling or jolt of inspiration, rather than something planned.
Your label Waakan is one of the most respected in the bass music world. As a label boss how do you balance maintaining the label's artistic integrity with commercial viability?
For us it's all about the artists and the art they create. We simply aim to be a vessel and help add value and shine to the acts we sign. We try our very best to find artists that will allow us to help in arenas we feel like we excel in such as A&R, touring, and merchandise. We believe that the best form of commercial viability is being true to one's self. If people think what our acts are doing is cool, that's amazing - if someone doesn't connect with it, that's totally fine too. It feels good that people like what we're doing, but our goal is less about finding something that "sells" and more about working with cool acts we appreciate and are making good tunes.
Do you have a go to opening song in your set? If so, what is it? If not, what is your process for choosing the first song of your set?
I try to switch up my sets as much as possible between shows, including the first song. The beginning of a set is very important though, in order to set the tone and immediately capture the interest of the crowd. Nowadays I make a custom intro / soundscape for each show, and after that I try to mix in something striking - ideally unreleased, and for sure something with a strong theme.
Is what you play in your set influenced by the environment you're in (audience size/reaction, venue, previous DJs, etc) or do you at least mostly stick to a preset plan?
I always come well prepared. Usually I have around 90-100 songs planned for an hour long set. How I play them, and in which order isn't decided. I just rather have as many options as possible. I'm also trying to include more different types of music in my sets nowadays since my fans love to hear my old songs (throwbacks) and also the downtempo music I make. Therefore the plan is always changing and expanding.
As far as I can tell you haven’t played Gem & Jam Festival before. What have you heard about the festival and its atmosphere and what are you looking forward to?
I have heard great things, and besides it's in my beloved state of Arizona so I'm very grateful to play there. I lived in Phoenix / Scottsdale for over 10 years. I'm also a collector of gems, so maybe there is also some of that to look at? Playing a new festival is always very exciting for me!
As we're at the start of a new year, what does 2022 have in store for Liquid Stranger? Any releases or announcements you can let us in on?
I've just finished a full length album for Wakaan. It's called Balance and features 13 songs, a chunk of which is dance floor bangers and the rest is more left field creations. I've tried to write a positive album with humor and an uplifting message. I'm also laying the final touches on the mixdowns for an EP called Unity on my new label Sskwan, where we focus on downtempo / chill / melodic / trippy music.
A lot of DJs don't release a lot of studio albums but you have released 7 full length albums (along with many EPs and singles). What do you like about the album format and why do you think other DJs shy away from it?
It's definitely a much bigger challenge than writing a shorter EP, due to the sheer workload. But I prefer albums since it gives me a chance to express myself more fully, and explore further from the beaten path. It has more room for shenanigans, alongside the bread and butter songs that the fans expect.
Do you have a favorite mineral by any chance?
I like diversity here as well, I have a small collection. I think my favorite piece I own is a carved quartz crystal skull.
Catch Liquid Stranger at Gem & Jam Festival 2022, taking place February 4-6 in Tucson, Arizona. Find more info on our Gem & Jam 2022 guide and book your Gem & Jam 2022 tickets and packages here.