[EDMT Interview] Getting Familiar With Liquid Stranger

Liquid Stranger

Sweden’s profoundly musically informed and deeply inspired bass export, Martin Stääf a.k.a. Liquid Stranger, has managed to cultivate a subtle, yet undeniable influence within the electronic music scene over the last decade. With the release of his first single under the Liquid Stranger moniker now 12 years in the past, Stääf currently stands as one of electronic music’s most innovative and ever-evolving bass producers with heavily nurtured musical prowess. Under his Liquid Stranger alias, Stääf has cranked out an incredibly eclectic and genre-defying output, as his experimental perspective on the art of bass music composition has left him with a growing musical resume that boasts a myriad of worldly sounds and spans an impressive range of influences that knows no sonic limits. The fusion of his artistic inventiveness together with an abundant attraction for musical exploration has led to the success of Liquid Stranger, which has manifested itself into a persistently unique, creative outlet for Stääf that is known around the globe for trailblazing, bass driven authenticity.   

After years of traveling the world living out and spreading his passion for music in quite the “nomadic” fashion, Stääf has been confronted with and adapted to a vast grab bag of inspirations, leading him to create his latest streak of releases, Liquid Stranger’s Nomad EP series. The Nomad EP series illuminates Stääf’s journey through the world and through music itself by culminating and blending various influences into one “sonic stew,” illustrated using an unexpected, melodic, chill-out bass style. We were lucky enough to catch up with the nomad himself to discuss the progression of his lifelong musical path as well as some of his lesser known, non-musical passions, all of which have attributed greatly to presenting Stääf with his current musical ventures, including, but not limited to, his Nomad series and his new Wakaan label.   

Liquid Stranger – Nomad Vol. 3 | Beatport

Whether he’s tinkering with the inner workings of piano strings or experimenting with analogue synthesizers, Stääf has always been a natural born explorer, a facet of his personality that sparked his interest in music in the first place and is now heavily translated through the diversity of his electronic productions. Although many of his fans became familiar with Liquid Stranger through his aggressive, thumping dubstep productions, he’s capable of and interested in so much more than that. He explained,  

“Dubstep is very explosive, energetic music. It’s one end of the spectrum of emotions that we feel and have a need to express. Back when I did those songs, there were very few people that did the same thing. There was a purpose for this music to come out and fill this gap. Now it has gotten quite saturated and I felt like it was time for me to move on. I don’t want to get stuck in one place because I enjoy being a very diverse producer.” “The next chapter was the Anomaly series where I tried to create another emotional experience for people. This record was based on a lot of collaborations with really good vocalists and that kind of made it into something by itself. The Nomad series is where I tried to take influences from the more chill-out, downtempo stuff that I do that’s very melodic and lush and beautiful, and kind of evokes those warmer, softer feelings and combine it with the dance floor energy, which seemed like an interesting challenge to me. I wanted the EP series on Wakaan to tie into my life, which is a very nomadic experience. I travel all the time and I see a lot of crazy things.” 

When creating the Nomad EP series, Stääf pushed the boundaries of his creativity by asking himself, “how can you take melodic content, something that’s actually quite beautiful, and still get that adrenaline rush from it?”

He expanded on this by stating,  

“That challenge in terms of incorporating melody as the driving, energetic force of the music, that was one part, and that was deliberate. But, producing a tune is never a very conscious experience for me. I don’t really analyze it, or try and put it in words.” “I can control the flow to a certain degree, but the core of making music is not a mental experience to begin with.”

Liquid Stranger – Nomad Vol. 2 | Beatport 

After owning his first synthesizer in the 80’s, to getting his foot in the electronic music industry’s door in the early 90’s, to the creation of his Liquid Stranger alias in 2003, the pacemaking Swede has managed to send shockwaves throughout the entire bass community by harnessing a lifetime’s worth of musical exposure and informed technical perspective. He shared the progression of his musical path by recalling some of his earliest memories growing up.    

“I started messing around with computers much thanks to my dad who is a veteran computer engineer. He taught me from an early age how to assemble computers, how components work, and how to code. Computers were not as self explanatory back then. Nowadays I can give an iPod to a 2 year old, and they can entertain themselves right away, but earlier you needed more skills to operate the gear.” “I worked as a sound engineer when I was 17 years old until I was 19 in a recording studio and worked with recording and engineering. I’ve been fortunate, even though I’ve never gone to school for music production I’ve been in many situations where I’ve been able to learn a lot.”

He added,

“Making music started early for me. I’ve seen photos of myself sitting by the piano as a tiny, drooling baby. I got a synth when I was 8, and then I had my whole childhood to go through those steps of trial and error. All the leg work has basically made me able to ‘talk to electronics’.”

Stääf revealed his own perspective on music production that has allowed him the ability of being able to “talk through electronics” by explicating,

“We interface with electronic equipment when we make music, and that tends to become the bottleneck unless we can understand and communicate with the gear. It’s a challenge to learn the hardware and software so well that it doesn’t hinder the creativity. The goal is to go beyond the technology and actually focus on the music.” 

Liquid Stranger – Nomad Vol. 1 | Beatport

Stääf recently created his very own imprint, Wakaanwhich means “great mystery” in ancient Maya; a word that greatly personifies his label’s philosophy of free form expression. The cultivation of Wakaan has granted Liquid Stranger a limitless musical home for his unpredictable and genre transcending crossover tracks, and in turn, gives other artists the opportunity to develop and exercise their own, unique sounds without boundaries. He imparted,

“I should have done this a long time ago, but I’ve never really been very business minded until a few years ago. Before then I didn’t really have a strong focus or vision. I was just happy I got to travel and play some music. Then I started seeing the impact my music had on people’s life, and I thought to myself, what would happen if I really applied myself fully to the art.” “I never really fit in anywhere because I’m very unpredictable as an artist in terms of my output. Wakaan becomes a place where I can be totally authentic and do whatever I want.”

He continued,

“More importantly, it’s about building a legacy and leaving behind something of value. It’s easy to get seduced by fame and glory, and then start marking decisions about your art based on business goals. In the record industry, this easily leads to the ‘shotgun approach’ where you sign up ton of artists and let them sink or swim. Instead, I want to focus on a few colorful artists that have thrown strong vision, and support them fully in what they do.”

Stääf then revealed some of what he envisions for the expansive future of his label.

“I’m working with Nicholas Chamberlain, who is a comic art mastermind, and we have created this vast, post apocalyptic, science fiction world for Wakaan. We have plans to make it into a comic book at some point where the artists become the leading characters.” “I think the most important thing for me is to explore and learn. I’m a musician right now, but there are a lot of other ventures that I’m interested in. Music primarily interacts with hearing and I’ve done a lot within this field. I would be interested in working with more visuals and other types of multimedia. When you tap into more senses, you can deliver a stronger experience to the audience.”

He then called on the most important contributors to his success, his fans, to help transform and grow Wakaan from his newest and biggest creation into a long lasting musical reality by explaining,

“Over the years I’ve built a strong audience with diverse taste and now it’s time to introduce my fans to a series of new and exciting artists. We are going to build a huge database of amazing art, and it’s my hope that people will spread the word, keep listening to the music, and come out and celebrate with us at our shows.”

In between touring, making music, and founding his own label, Stääf has spent his life immersing himself in other equally impressive passions, like practicing multiple styles of martial arts, running his own dojo, studying Native American medicine and involving himself in many of its ceremonies and excursions, becoming a yoga instructor, and spending four years living in an ashram. He divulged,

“I started judo when I was really young, I don’t exactly remember the age, but it was really young. Somewhere around the same age when I got my first synth. And that really sparked my interest because I started with judo, and that’s actually an Olympic sport and not a martial art, but it has its roots in jiu jitsu, which they trained in the same room and I saw them train really cool stuff that we didn’t get to do, like knives and gun defense. And that kind of sparked it, and then jiu jitsu became a big thing for me. That’s why I moved to America, I got a scholarship to train.” “I moved to Arizona and started training and started running my own dojo there and went to a lot of training, I trained like 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, and totally took a break from the music thing. I was training like an idiot and progressed really quickly through the ranks and I trained myself up in a bunch of systems.” “I also did a lot of yoga, lived in an ashram for a while, did tantric yoga, which is like a lifestyle, and now it feels like people think you do some work out but it’s a whole lifestyle that’s hygiene, breathing exercises, meditation, and a kind of work ethic within.”  

Stääf attributed the philosophies behind his martial arts practices to how he conducts his movements through life and his career. He conceded,

“That’s how I live my life, in a moral, ethical way. I surround myself with people who think the same, they are also the ones that make up my team and Wakaan; just consciously aware human beings that are somewhat balanced and have some form of loyalty and just this whole passion for what we’re doing so they want to make it the best they can, and so that’s how I operate, too.” “It’s the only way, in any relationship, if it’s business, if it’s an intimate relationship, if you don’t have a very strong core of friendship, where there’s good will, loyalty, the willingness to do the best you can in any given situation, you know, then it’s not gonna work. So that’s the same with business, you can’t forget why you’re doing this in the first place, and if you can’t answer that question then you shouldn’t probably be doing it.”

He rightfully admitted,

“Work is my calling, it’s something I’m very passionate about and something that gives me purpose. And I think purpose is a key word. Everyone needs that, whatever you want to do, if you have purpose, that gives you some type of life quality in itself I think.” “The bottom line is: you gotta try and figure out somewhere, based on who you are and why you’re here, what is it that I’m actually doing, not just on the surface.”

Throughout his entire music career both under and outside of his Liquid Stranger alias, Stääf has indisputably proven himself as a gifted artist with a knack for natural evolution, a thirst for uncovering the creative unknown, and the uncanny ability to transform and condense boundless amounts of personal inspiration into unconventional and cohesive packages.

That being said, during our time together he also proved himself to be something much greater: a deeply informed and insightful person who is extremely aware of his own humanity, one who cares as much about nurturing his own self progression as he does his profession, all of which radiate through his extreme solidarity of character. In short, Stääf’s livelihood and musicianship are inseparable, as his individuality and attentiveness to fostering his personal well being mixed with his artistic curiosity and tireless push towards self-expression has granted him unbounded freedom to pursue any and all of his creative quests. Whether he’s cranking out bass bangers or taking listeners on an etherial and transcendent sonic journey, Stääf always carries with him an underlying philosophy about the utility and power of music. He declared, 

“Music is a language to express emotion, and so it’s just a way for me to communicate through my filter somehow, all the stuff that I go through. I guess pretty much, if you boil it down, music is just frequency, really, from a technical aspect, but more so, when you listen to music, it breaks down all boundaries of gender, race, and culture. Anyone can get moved emotionally by music.”