"Inspiration is always there": A conversation with Liquid Stranger | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

"Inspiration is always there": A conversation with Liquid Stranger

click to enlarge Liquid Stranger
Liquid Stranger
After a prolific 2019 marked by a new album (INFINITY) and tour, a summer spent on the festival circuit, and the launching of the first-ever Wakaan Music Festival  dubbed after the record label of the same name Liquid Stranger is gearing up for another jammed packed year. On Wed., Feb. 5, the Swedish electronic musician kicks off his ASCENSION Tour in Pittsburgh at the Roxian Theatre.

"I believe that what you put in is what you get out," says Liquid Stranger, born Martin Stääf. "So I work as hard as I possibly can to curate the best sets and opportunities for my friends and artists on WAKAAN."

WAKAAN is the record label
Stääf runs when he's not slaying fans with out-of-this-world sonic compositions that effortlessly blends downtempo dubstep, drum and bass, and jazz-like ambiance. The label includes other hard to classify spacey electronic acts such as LSDREAM, LUZCID, PEEKABOO, Space Jesus, Lucii, and Mersiv, to name a few.

The WAKAAN schedule is packed with the freshest tunes in music and is about to start rolling out releases on [record label] SSKWAN," says Stääf. "There is so much going on!"

Stääf announced his plans to start a second record label, SSKWAN, which will focus exclusively on downtempo releases, during last year's Wakaan Festival.

Ahead of Stääf's Pittsburgh show, and the release of ASCENSION, his newest EP out Fri., Feb. 14 via WAKAAN, Pittsburgh City Paper chatted with Stääf over email about the tour, Wakaan Music Festival, and what's in store for WAKAAN in 2020.

2019 was a huge year for you. You dropped INFINITY, which has a staggering 30 tracks on it, played at major festivals like Electric Zoo, Camp Bisco, Lost Lands, and more, and even organized and hosted the first-ever Wakaan Music Festival. How did that affect your emotional and physical well-being? What would you do to detox from the workload?
I’d be lying if I said it was exhausting. 2019 was absolutely great and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I believe that what you put in is what you get out, so I work as hard as I possibly can to curate the best sets and opportunities for my friends and artists on WAKAAN. My refuge is and always has been producing.

What did you learn from hosting a festival for the first time, and is there anything you would do differently this year?
I loved every single minute. The energy was something extremely special and something I can’t put into words. It was inspiring to me that there were so many people that would take the time out of their lives [and] save their money to come to our little festival out in the woods. It’s sometimes hard to see the effect of what we do on a day-to-day level, but it came shining through at the festival. Running a festival is extremely difficult. Luckily enough, I have a great team of people around me who share my vision. While there were many special moments - there are definitely things we are going to change next year. It’s actually pretty simple, listen to what the fans say. If you get it wrong, they will sing your praises. If you misstep, they’ll let you know. There is always more room for growth and to retool making everything that much better.

Were there any acts that surprised you for the better at Wakaan Music Festival?
Every single act that was booked was selected for a reason. They provided exactly what we were looking for in that moment and I will forever be grateful. They all took a risk to be there, and I hope they realize how instrumental they truly are. Without them, the festival would’ve simply not been possible.

You mostly play your own tunes when performing. Is there anything you got tired of playing last year? And how do you keep your sets fresh?
I used to only play my own tunes, but have veered away from that. I play all sorts of stuff and am always trying my best to keep it as fresh as possible. Most of my sets now are pretty much all unreleased music these days.

In an interview with Chillbase, you mentioned that you receive much of your inspiration from things like movie soundtracks, dreams, and everyday life. What has inspired you most recently?
There are so many things! It can be as simple as having a meaningful conversation with a random person while I’m in line to get coffee. I think most of this is actually perspective, it's how we look at things. Inspiration is always there, we just have to be willing to slow down and take it in.

Where do you see WAKAAN and yourself going in 2020?

I actually fly out for my ASCENSION Tour tomorrow. It starts Feb. 5 and runs through April 12. We then are taking over some festival stages (which I’m sure you will start seeing popping up), we just announced a 2 day massive in Charlotte, N.C. The WAKAAN schedule is packed with the freshest tunes in music and are about to start rolling out releases on [record label] SSKWAN. There is so much going on!

For Pittsburgh fans that saw you perform last year, what can this expect at your upcoming show at the Roxian?
New music, new production, NEW WAKAAN family members, NEW MERCH. I try to make every night I play the best it can be.

Anything else you would like people to know?
My new EP ASCENSION drops on February 14 via WAKAAN - I want everyone to go Download / Stream / Purchase whatever …  just listen and let me know what you think as I’d love to hear.


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