Tutorials, releases and advice with: Stranjah
Being on the forefront of Canada’s bass music for the last 20 years and making music since the mid 90’s plus having been featured on respected labels such as Metalheadz, Hospital or Crititcal make it pretty clear, Stranjah’s mission in music in general is one of a kind! He made it a quest for himself to demystify music production by providing tools and educational content so that virtually anyone can succeed in making music.
I caught up with Stranjah to talk about his new release, production and tutorials and he gives some gold advice for aspiring producers. From Drum & Bass to Dubstep, Trap to Hip-Hop Stranjah has done it all and is keen to impart the skills and knowledge he’s gained with the next generation.
Read on to find out what the production genius has to say…
Thanks for taking your time to speak with me today! Introduce yourself, who is Stranjah?
I’m Stranjah from Canada, Drum & Bass producer of 25 years. I’ve had music out on Metalheadz, Hospital Records and Critical Music to name a few. Recently, my career has evolved into educating the next generation of producers. My expertise is in electronic music and I enjoy sound design, recreating various classic sounds. Overall, I am constantly learning. I think that’s key to being a successful producer, to always learn new things.
You’ve obviously been dabbling in A LOT of different genres, what’s your favorite for producing and which one for listening?
I can’t say there is a favorite for me as there’s something to learn from every style. Generally I enjoy making beat-oriented music whether it is Drum & Bass, Dubstep, Trap or Hip-Hop. I like music with attitude and complex emotions. As the seasons and moods change I’m listening to different genres from Liquid, Hip Hop, Trap, UK Garage, UK Bass and Dubstep. I actually listen to a lot of pop music. I’m constantly studying their melodies and chord progressions, incorporating them into my music.
So, when and most importantly why, did you actually start doing tutorials?
I have been teaching since I started making music. I’ve always been the go-to guy when someone wanted to learn, so teaching has been natural for me. It became professional 10 years ago when I started teaching in-person privately and in group settings in Toronto. From there things evolved naturally. Taking things online was the next step in my career allowing me to reach a broader audience.
So you’re basically doing the total opposite of your colleagues, sharing knowledge and it seems like there’s a Stranjah tutorial for anything Bass Music-wise and there seems no stopping. Your schedule must be full right?
Yes there’s a lot of different topics and ideas I have planned for my channel. As you may have heard, my mission is to demystify music production so that anyone can succeed. My goal is to democratize this knowledge so that everyone can benefit from it. I believe that anyone who wants to make music should have access to the knowledge.
Do you have a favorite type of content to produce because I’ve seen a lot of break deconstruction videos?
I have been doing a lot of Drum & Bass videos because that is my following, however, I do plan on exploring more UK Garage as that’s a style I enjoy producing. I also plan on doing some collab videos with vocalists and other producers. I think those will be interesting for the viewers as well.
As you said, to demystify the process, right?
It’s kinda interesting to see artists who are mainly attached to a particular style or sound exploring different angles. It’s an evolutionary thing I guess, so you shouldn’t stop what you’re doing!
Something I’ve always taught my students is that there’s something to learn from every style. Don’t just stick to one style, learn from everything because you’ll learn new things from each style.
Like Techno, for instance which is more vibe orientated rather than Drum & Bass which is, like you said more beat-driven. With that being said, do you encounter difficulties like writer’s block whilst producing?
It’s common for us to encounter creative blocks. I do myself and see it like going to the gym. You have to push yourself. Some days you don’t feel like going but you just have to put in the work anyway because it’s not gonna happen if you don’t. Do it everyday until you hit gold. You may end up starting 20 ideas and only one of them is worth completing. Also, don’t be hard on yourself, sometimes you just need a break. Step back, find inspiration elsewhere like being in nature or enjoying other experiences and then bring that back into the music.
So, do you think there are other major difficulties aspiring producers should be aware of and how can they prepare for it?
Patience is key. It takes a lot of work to get your sound anywhere close to where you want it to be. It takes a lot of practice. Spend hours a day working on your craft. Don’t be hard on yourself and don’t compare yourself with others. Sometimes we feel tempted to buy every single plug-in. Start with learning the basics, master each process, technique and tool one at a time and eventually you’ll get there.
Yeah, I hear that! You kinda get overwhelmed by the sheer endless possibilities of plug-ins in any form!
In the beginning stage it’s tempting to dive deep, however, you can get lost when you do. I recommend to new producers to learn the basics, one thing at a time. Take one synth and learn it inside out. Once you master it, it becomes easier to learn all the others. With consistent practice you’ll get there.
Then there’s these tutorials and obviously the possibility to dive deep. I think tutorials are the perfect fit in that case!
We’re in a new age of music production where there’s a surplus of information. In one way that is a good thing for new producers because they can learn one thing at a time. However I could also see it become overwhelming with the sheer amount of things available to learn. But as mentioned – patience and persistence is key.
That’s the deal with learning something from scratch, to be patient and persistent, to reach certain goals. Otherwise you’d just be fiddling around and going nowhere, right?
You can learn new things everyday. The culmination of knowledge gets you to this tipping point where you’re like – oh, I finally get it and I can put it all together to create a piece of work.
Connecting the dots!
You have an upcoming release on the US-based label Worst Behavior which features vocalists Fox and TT The Artist, how did those collabs come about?
It’s funny how it worked out. I sent Worst Behavior a number of instrumentals and they wanted vocals for two tracks. I’ve wanted to work with MC Fox for a while now as I enjoy and appreciate his music. They sent him the tracks and he sent back vocals, however, I didn’t like how my instrumentals sounded over them and I had lost the original projects after my harddrive died. So I took the vocals and re-created the beat so it worked better. That’s how we came up with ‘Inya’.
I’m really happy with the result of the track! Same thing with the track featuring TT the Artist. She’s a rapper from the United States. I was not familiar with her work but she is good friends with Worst Behavior so they sent her one of my tracks and just like ‘Inya’, I reworked the beat to better represent the vocals. Excited for everyone to hear these tracks!
That’s actually amazing, I’ve been rinsing the hell out of these tunes in my bedroom as well as at some rare gigs! You simply adapted to what they laid down?
I definitely wanted the beat and the vocals to be represented the right way so when I got the vocals back I informed Anna of Worst Behavior that I wanted to recreate the beats. I’m much happier with the results now and I’m glad they were open to let me reinterpret the beats for the vocals.
I mean it has been that way sometimes, especially in Hip Hop, where the producer needs to work around given vocals.
Yeah, I’m happy with it! It represents where I’m at in terms of production and I think it shows the vocals in a better light so it’s a win-win for everyone.
I can agree with that! Also the remixes on the EP are pretty wild! DJ Madd with a mad Garage flip and then OAKK whose intro brings back fond memories of teenage me watching Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, you remember that one?
I know what you mean about Tokyo Drift. It’s that theme song everyone loves to dance to on TikTok. It has a similar melody. I’m really happy to have OAKK and DJ Madd on the EP. I really enjoy and respect their work! I really like the Trap and Future Hip-Hop sounds that OAKK brings. I have been a fan of Madd’s music for a while now, from his slower tempos and Footwork-influenced stuff so I’m glad to see that he got the remix duties for ‘Inya’. He did a great job with the UK Garage-influenced rhythm.
And besides your “normal“ stuff the new EP is pretty Hip-Hop. Less breaks, more beats!
I think the EP has a little bit of everything and shows where I am as a producer. I have always produced Hip-Hop so that side of myself comes out on this EP. There’s also ‘Monk Fruit’, the title track, which is a Drum & Bass / Footwork roller. Really proud of that one. And the tune with Fox is a dubstep-influenced Halftime 170 BPM track. I made sure there’s plenty of different styles for everyone out there.Monkfruit by Stranjah
You certainly did, it’s a round EP! How is Deviant Audio doing? What’s to come in the future?
We have some exciting releases for Deviant Audio in the next 6-12 months. A full-length album is slated for Tyr Kohout and as well as an exciting vocal project with Anastasia who is a popular Drum & Bass vocalist. She’s done work with a number of big names including Enei and GLXY. More exciting plans that I can’t mention yet, but keep posted on our social media at Deviant Audio!
Nice, so the Anastasia one will be featuring different producers or is it co-produced?
I can’t say too much other than it’s going to be very exciting. There’s gonna be some sick collaborations. I’ll just leave it at that, we’ll release more information as we get there in 2021!
Can you tell us about the Tyr Kohout release?
Tyr Kohout is a very talented and technical producer. His album is very exciting, ranging across various styles from techy Neuro / Dancefloor rollers to melodic Liquid-sounding styles. He goes deep into the technical side of production and has a really great grasp of sound design. He’s relatively early in his career and I’m excited for his future! Some of his bass sounds really blow my mind. His sound design is on another level and he’s up there in the ranks with the top Neuro sound designers. People should keep an ear out for Tyr Kohout!
Interested to hear his future stuff! He seems to be one of the many talents from US or Canadian soil that you keep supporting through Deviant Audio!
We keep a close knit of producers. Another EP that’s coming out next month is Johney’s ‘The Bees EP’. He’s from Eastern Europe and he’s got four tracks with some Dubstep, Halftime and Jungle. There’s also Groves who’s done some work with Exit Records. Another very talented producer and I’m very excited for his future as well. There’s Captivate who’s from the west coast of Canada and he has some fresh Halftime / Footwork influenced Jungle stuff. Then there’s my old friend David Louis who’s done some work with Repertoire Recordings. He’s a very great Drum & Bass producer and DJ.
We keep a handful of producers that we represent and our goal is to invest in and develop the careers of our artists. We try to keep it to a couple who we can really push. There’s also this guy, Jomari, from my city, he’s got some really hot tracks that people should hear!
I think I’ve heard a track by Groves before, it was a collaboration with Kabuki which came out on Beat Excursions. Anyways, thanks for the input!
Nice!Beat Excursions #5 by Kabuki
Is there more Stranjah stuff forthcoming as well besides the EP on Worst Behavior?
Yeah, I’ll be self-releasing an EP, looking forward to that. I’m planning to release music consistently and frequently. In the next 12 months I’d like to put out music every month ideally. Aside from that I’m releasing a Serum preset pack later this year. There’s also some other collabs in the works in terms of YouTube videos and music. Stay connected on my social media for more information!
Was it difficult to break through into the UK / European scene for a Canadian?
In hindsight, it wasn’t difficult once the music got into the right hands. I mean, it still required years of hard work to refine my skills to be good enough to be signed. However, back then we had the benefit in that there were fewer of us in North America doing it. In that sense, it was easier. These days it’s a lot more competitive as there’s a plethora of music out there. It’s hard to get a label to be interested in you. However, don’t be discouraged. Keep working on your craft and sending music out. Be consistent with your production and learn the business side such as marketing, networking and building relationships, so you can meet the right people in the industry.
Yeah, as it’s overwhelming for producers in terms of plug-ins I think it can be the same way for labels too, as you mentioned, there’s so much music out there. Labels often tend to stick, like in your case as well, to their tight-knit crew and aren’t that open for the new stuff or breaking boundaries anymore!
Yes it’s a challenge with the amount of music out there. My advice, don’t just count on getting on a label to get your career off the ground. Of course, keep trying if that’s what you want but in this day and age it’s a lot easier for an independent artist to make it. You have all these tools available to market, collaborate, and distribute your music independently. In essence, you don’t really need a label these days if you can build your own network and audience. You can do it all by yourself! To new producers out there invest in their own careers and don’t just rely on a label.
A label can be quite limiting too. I mean if you release on Metalheadz you probably release a Headz tune, nothing else. It also can be quite exhausting for aspiring producers to get thrown into this melting pot of social media and self-marketing. There’s this small line between joy and really hard work.
A lot of things that are rewarding aren’t easy so if you want it you have to put in the work. That’s my stance in terms of vouching for yourself as an artist. There are a lot of opportunities out there for independent artists if you’re willing to work hard and build it!
Yeah, you totally can’t say that there aren’t any possibilities for newcomers to be seen and heard!
Thank you so much for the insight, really appreciate it!
You’re welcome Umut, I enjoyed speaking with you, too!