Following the release of his debut EP Monstercat, Sad Robot, Crankdat took the time to chat in a candid interview. In Behind The Project, we aim to highlight the individuals behind the names we see on our screen. Too often as listeners, we condense a great amount of music into streamable commodities, hopping from one song to another. However, there’s always an individual or more working endless hours to put something out into the world for us to possibly connect with.
With that in mind, let’s get to know the person behind the project in the interview with Crankdat below.
Before releasing your ‘Sad Robot EP’ on Monstercat, going backward, in what way did ‘Dark Room’ and ‘Tell Me’ fit into the label? How does what you do now fit in too?
The answer is actually a lot less fun than anybody might hope for it to be. First of all, why do I think they fit into Monstercat? I’ve always just felt that my stuff fits into there. They teeter on the edge of energetic and heavy (for lack of a better word since I steer away from it cause I feel like it’s overused). Nonetheless, they toe-line that alongside being emotional. Beyond that as well, they’re approachable and accessible to someone. They’re more like songs as opposed to tracks. I think there’s a very distinct difference. It’s not as if one is superior to the other, but I feel like Monstercat releases songs as opposed to the other.
To jump a little bit forward, in terms of what incentivised the singles to be the first released: quite simply, I made a lot of music during the pandemic, and I shifted a lot of my focus toward the end of the year, in terms of doing other stuff. It might not be noticeable to other listernes, but mentally I had a shift in which I’m trying to do new stuff. Ironically the new sound wanted to kind of reflect my old sound, so that’s where my JT Roach collab kind of kicked off, as opposed to ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Dark Room’. I simply finished those ones earlier, and they were too spread out. It was just all about the timeline at the end of the day.
In terms of the artist and producer, they find locales in which their work finds premises to stand out, so what holds that concept for you?
Absolutely, you’re completely right! The biggest one for me is the timeline. I go through many micro phases. I produce in phases, as in I haven’t produced anything in 2 months, and that’s the way I like to do it. I like to give myself a refresh period to jump into things and take a new approach and mentality to do things differently. In the past, if I continued to produce over a long period of time, there’s no real differencitaton that ever really happened.
The real reason I say that is because the timeline creates a very distinct difference between the music that I made at the end of last year, and so far this year. Even within this year, the stuff that I was making was completely different than the stuff I made before taking this break. Because of that, I like to group all those together to keep them relatively linear. To me at least, it’s impossible to find cohesion between them, knowing they’re made in completely different time periods.
I find intent to be a good thing in terms of artistry, and I’ll get back to it later on. With what you said, you mentioned you work within phases, so what would you say looking back (Fetty Wap remixes for example), what would you say are the major differentiators as opposed to what you do right now, at least mentally speaking.
Again the answer is much less fun than you can imagine but that’s ok. Usually the biggest difference…well…there’s two. First one is trend and interest. Two words but one point. I haven’t been doing this as long as some, as I consider myself relatively new in the scene. In reality though, I’ve been publicly involved whether I wished to be or not in dance music since 2015. I’ve kind of been in the game for a little while now. Things have come and gone, as trends showed their face and disappeared. New things come up, and I don’t like all of them, but some I do actually enjoy, wanting to take my stab at it, wanting to incorporate what I can do into that micro-genre. That’s the trend right! Against trend, I have my own current inspiration. So not all my inspiration, in fact little, comes from current dance music. I’m not super inspired by stuff that’s “timely” most of the time, but can draw a bit from it.
However, most of the time, music from other genres is what inspires me, as well as music I’ve found to be prominent to me in the past. So like older Avicci, Swedish House Mafia, and all that kind of stuff. Those are what made me get into the scene in the first place. So I find myself drawing a lot of inspiration looking back at those artists and that era of music. Taking both into account is what filters through in my new stuff, the first being my current experience, as in what’s trending and working at the moment, and the inspiration on the other hand. To be specific toward my current Sad Robot EP, I’m finding a lot of inspiration when it comes to my own personal older stuff because I think there was a very distinct lack of knowledge that went into all the music I made back then. There was a very specific sort of style that I had and used. I had it because I did in fact, have a lack of knowledge.
I didn’t know how to do things the way I wanted to, so I ironically fell short a little bit. In falling short though, in retrospect, I was really true to myself. I didn’t realize that at the time being a young producer then, wanting to make what everybody else is making. I wanted to make the latest and greatest, innovative s***, yet I was only doing it for 2 years. I couldn’t do that s***! The irony to that, is that currently, having been producing for almost 9-10 years, that now looks like the golden era for me personally. I really feel like the stuff I was making back then, albeit amatuer, was the most adventurous and true to myself due to the lack of knowledge resulting in the most creativity. Again, tying that into what’s trending, sort of like the way my buddy Ace Aura is pioneering the color-bass sub-genre, or melodic-riddim, whatever you want to call it. I’m really fond of it, as it’s like a new and evolved version of the stuff I’ve been talking about and doing 6 years ago. It’s very very progressed! It has that same sort of thesis and elements to it, so I wanted to infuse both of those, and see what I can do today!
That’s pretty much the entire inspiration behind my EP in terms of the creative standpoint within my head. That’s one in terms of trend and creative inspiration. The second point being very very simple…the tools I have at my disposal. As time goes on, the tools we have get better and better such as synths. Just a few years ago, I was using the basics, so, the tools that you have are greatly indicative of what you’re making. As I get new stuff to play with in terms of making music, the sound I make itself naturally evolves with it. That’s the very straightforward answer. Maybe it’s less notable to people, but it’s obvious to me. My stuff definitely changes based on what tools I’m using. For example, ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Dark Room’, the procedure behind making both of those songs is completely different than what I used to make every other single song on this EP. Whether that’s indicated sonically or not, I’m not really sure, but I can personally hear it all day.
On one end, what I heard from you is that looking at the past, you figured that’s when you were at your most creative point, I took away the notion that when your definition of progress is to exclusively lean to what entertains you as an individual including inspiration, you come out with the most creative output. This would be an opposite to gaining knowledge in the future, filtering through a “standard,” getting more particular. Therefore, it seems what you did is take the essence of what made the past so creative, and simply implemented knowledge in order to maximize the production itself as opposed to using it as a filter.
Exactly! That’s what was going through my head and still is currently. Going off of what I was previously saying, what I was making back during 2015-16, the biggest drawback I faced was actually making the sounds I wanted or aspired to do. I lacked the information to reach the professional standard such as what RL Grime or Flume were making. In its own way, that shortcoming sort of created a sound that was almost very unique to myself. As I got better over time, I lost the essence of that, and instead, started to pick up tidbits of information, and now I know exactly what I want to make and how to get there.
It results in a little bit less of naturally-born creativity, sort of random selection creativity when you don’t know what you’re doing. When you do know what you’re doing, that ceases to exist. I tried to fall back on that a little bit. Doing a lot of teaching over the course of the pandemic for a lot of upcoming producers and helping them on their personal journeys, I told them that the creativity you have right now, you’ll probably never have again. You’re inexperienced, you’re new, and your current inexperience is what can allow you to create a very unique product at this moment in time. When you do gain the experience to do exactly what you’re looking for, it might pull you back a little bit. From a technical perspective, you fail to make errors, or allow that random selection into your creative process.
Completely agree with what you said, and it’s very interesting to see that now and look back. Man, it was a very cool time, even though back then, I was like…“Damn I suck.” *laughs*
I think “sucking” at something can have an allure in retrospective means. We might hear something and think it’s bad, but it might just become a hit as a lot of people hear it. Crowds sometimes don’t care if you “suck” or not, and they just hear the output in front of them. That sense of fear for the producer can hold them back the most. It’s like, be embarrassing for a second, so that when you get good, people can see why and how you got there. A story can be told.
Exactly, especially Looking back at my own journey in retrospect. Another thing I tell my students is “pay less mind to your imperfections.” Like you said, not a lot of people notice. Not everybody is a producer with 10 years of experience that can hear every mixing mistake that you made. They’re not gonna notice when your hi-hat is like a little bit too loud at 4khz instead of turned down. Nobody f****** knows or has an idea. What people are hearing is your creative expression and what sort of message you’re sending into the world with your music. When that is unique and original, or even neither being pure in intent, that can resonate with a lot of people.
That’s exactly what happened to me in my experience. I see it all the time with other artists as well who think what they did sucks, but so many people absolutely love it. It’s a smash hit, and might be one of the biggest songs in the world. At the end of the day, there’s no textbook we can learn from like “this is what is right in music” or “this is what is wrong in music.” It’s all discretionary, and sometimes just being passionate about what you’re creating is simply the most important.
If people just create and do things for fun muscially, sort of like taking out your “inner child” in which it’s all about exploration, wanting to do, see, touch, and feel, as opposed to getting particular, there’s a mesmerizing factor to that. Based on that, it’s a bit of a tangent, but connected in a manner; Do you as Christian, known by Crankdat, the person who creates music, draw a line between entertainment and art? If so, where does it lie for you in terms of categorizing things when you see/hear them?
Hmmm…that’s a really good question. I’ll ask you to elaborate a little bit on that. So when you say “the difference between how I differentiate between entertainment and art,” can you sort of explain that a little bit deeper for me?
Let’s consider “entertainment” as things that are inherently created for the sake of what would be looked at as “entertainment value” albeit some people can derive an artistic point of view from it. On the other hand, let’s say “art” categorizes under works that within their intent are either self-expressive, or delivering a particular point. At the bare least, attempting to portray an idea for people that veers away from it being deliberately for the sake of fun.
That absolutely clears it up for me very well. That’s an interesting division and comparison, and it’s one I make all the time as well, so it’s really cool to hear you talk about that at the same time. For me personally…you know…here’s the thing. To put it very frank, I might catch a s*** ton of flack for this, but, f*** it!
I don’t think that there’s THAT much art in the overall arching electronic music scene. There certainly are some! There are people that are making what I would consider to be true artistic music that probably exceeds…so, when you’re looking at both categories and value a product as either artistically significant or significant from an entertainment value, there’s certainly some that obtain both, while some teeter on the edge of artistic as opposed to entertaining. That does certainly exist, but I do believe that’s the overwhelming minority especially in electronic music. Perhaps more so than other genres as well?
It’s really hard to say, but I do think that most of electronic music, especially when I’m looking at the genres I’m involved in (bass music, etc.), at least 97% of it is almost entirely comprised of entertainment value as opposed to artistic.. Now, when we sort of break that down further, there are artistic elements that go into some of these songs. Whenever we hear a song that has really cool sound design, you could say that the art of crafting sound design, and the art of making sounds that are appealing or enticing, that do things psychologically and emotionally, that is an artform, inherently being artistically boundary pushing really. At the end of the day I really believe that most of the stuff is entertaining…it’s entertainment value. If we’re looking back a hundred years from now and thinking; what are the most culturally significant musical pieces that came out of the early 21st century, I highly doubt that we’re gonna be like…no shade…You know what, I’m not gonna say another artist, I’m going to just use myself *laughs*.
I highly doubt that Crankdat is going to be regarded as artistically significant when we’re comparing to other artists in other genres such as Frank Ocean or something like that. I don’t necessarily think that it just has that much artistic value. However, I think that’s OK! Like you said, different things have different priorities and it is possible for both of them to coexist and be equally artistic as entertaining, but I think that for the majority of the time, electronic music is very entertaining. That’s kind of the fun of it though. It’s almost carefree…it’s music that doesn’t give a s*** about being the most important thing of our time. I don’t want to act as if art is stuck up or snobby in any way because I don’t believe that in any capacity, but it just doesn’t care about having that elitist sense to it. It’s just about having fun and experiencing cool stuff with music.
Just think about electronic shows that a lot of people love. They’re just a blast, and it’s really cool to see all the crazy visuals, the sound is awesome, sonically there’s such a range in which all the sounds are super crisp and clean, and everything is coming at you just hitting in the face. People love that, it’s cool! It doesn’t have to be artistically significant, and that’s alright, which I like. So for me personally, I want to be creatively innovative, and be as artistically innovative for myself and product, but I never think “damn I’m about to make the f****** marvel of the 21st century with my Ableton Live 11 project.” I don’t really think how that would work.
Who would you include in the list of artists that would be substantial when you look back at this timeline within electronic music. For me personally, if I project back to this time, off the top of my head, some acts that would stand out in terms of above-the-ground are maybe, Madeon, Porter Robinson, Feed Me, deadmau5, Wolfgang Gartner, Noisia. Toward the lesser-known are Matt Lange and ATTLAS.
I agree with a lot of the ones you said as well. deadmau5 is very culturally significant within the electronic music space and music as a whole. It was kind of fun to look at the way electronic music bled into mainstream music during the time when deadmau5 was first finding prominence. So I always remind myself of that era. He would be one for sure, but I honestly think that in certain capacities, Skrillex would be, and also wouldn’t be. It’s a very interesting case study because I think he did have a lot of cultural significance to electronic music as a whole in the very beginning while he was getting started, whether it was because he was artistically pioneering or not, that’s a debate that a lot of people have. Skrillex is without a doubt my all-time favorite electronic artist, so I have no care to even partake in that debate.
Regardless, simply based off of his image and popularity at that current time, the way that shifted the musical scene and the tide of art that came behind it, I think is very very significant. So I think he is one of those as well. Sorta off the same token, somebody like Calvin Harris could be debated. Is he actually making forward-thinking electronic music, or is he making pop music? A little of both, and I think that in of itself is significant. It takes a certain amount of discretion to be able to teeter that boundary well.
You were talking about Porter Robinson and Madeon, and like…holy s*** man! When you’re really talking about people that are taking the electronic music territory and shifting that, turning it on its head, turning it into something that…I almost want to say that yes they’re pushing it forward, but they’re turning it into something entirely different. Like the way Porter has gone ahead and melded a flavor of indie style with electronica, it’s intriguing and extremely significant, in the way that everybody follows suit. It’s incredible. Like you said, I agree, and that he and Madeon are at the forefront of this decade in terms of leading the pack.
If we’re jumping back, I’d say Daft Punk, absolutely without argument, they pioneered this whole movement. Nobody can deny it. With what you said, you’re interested in not only the product, but also in the brand and what goes in the whole overarching premise of the project. One of the questions we could ask is: “would Daft Punk have been as significant culturally if they didn’t have such a strong brand?” The answer is…I don’t know. Their brand, in having such a strong face to resemble their music, is part of the reason as to why they became so artistically significant in the course of their decades.
Going back to one of the first things you said, is your mentioning that Monstercat puts out “songs” and not “tracks.” Therefore, you must find a distinct differentiation. I would say so myself, but what do you think defines a “song” as opposed to a “track,” and do you think the difference is significant in terms of how you or the general public receives them?
Really good question…It’s very hard I think to sort of give definitions to those. I’ll do my best and give examples to sort of justify my reasoning here. I think a track…tracks I think….f*** It’s really hard. It’s really difficult to define that. I know in my head that you can play any song, and I can think “this is a track” or “this is a song.” It’s a little bit more difficult to define.
Let’s jump over to a song. I think there’s certain qualities of a song that are almost quantifiable and traditional. So when we’re looking at a “song,” there’s almost a certain structure, even if it’s different from what we’re accustomed to, there’s parts of it that we’re able to reflect on and identify. For example, having strong melodies. I wouldn’t say that’s critical as I’m a big fan of rap and hip-hop, and there’s so many songs in there that don’t have identifiable melodies. They’re still just as song-worthy, but where they fail on the melody, they’d have a hook. Something to really pull you in. Overall, it’s just that strong structure, and more than that, it’s structure that has purpose, intention, and journey. Furthermore, I do believe that those secondary elements that I referred to such as melody, especially within electronic music, as we can look at pieces of music that have vocals while others don’t, we can use that as means to classify it as whether it’s bordering a track or song.
So…man that’s really hard, I’m continuing to juggle this as I’m talking! *chuckles*
We have all these elements like melodies, hooks, vocals if pertinent…not even meaning full verse, chorus, bridge, or whatever because it can be anything. I think vocals add a significant amount of value as far as attachment goes when you’re hearing a song. In electronic music, when you’re looking at instrumental music, it’s at least the most currently prominent genre. There’s a severe difference between the songs that have a vocal to them, and others that don’t. Whereas most other genres, it’s a given that they have vocals, albeit maybe not in classical or jazz.
I would argue that those genres are significantly less popular, I believe due to the fact they don’t have as much vocals. We as humans attach to that, and moreover, that analogy can be taken further. Those quantifiable elements that I’m talking about aside from vocals, classical and jazz for example, tend to lack those as well in terms of direction. It does not make them worse by definition, it just makes them different. When we’re looking at electronic music which is a genre of music that is not particularly defined by exclusively being composed of songs, it also has a vast history of simply being available for people to enjoy and dance to.
For example, the house music scene that came out of the 80’s, I would consider a lot of that to be “tracks.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad or lesser in any way, but I think that’s a sort of descriptor to assign within the genre to classify those pieces of work. It’s a track…it’s there for you to dance to, to enjoy, and not necessarily banking on the emotional connection that you might get from a “song.”
I think ILLENIUM makes “songs” that have deep emotional resonance to connect to. That’s probably the best sort of quantifiable measure I can find to separate the two. Almost like the amount of emotion that can be derived from that piece, but that’s discretionary. Somebody might get more emotional fulfillment from something I’m classifying as a track.
So I said all that, but at the end of the day, I have no f****** clue…I really don’t know! *laughs*
Let me try to relay back to you what I heard, and let me know how it sounds. So what I got in terms of “track” vs “song,” is that whether it’s in terms of artistry or entertainment, in form, whether if fits the bill for what you think attracts the human ear generally, is that if it resonates emotionally or attempts to go toward emotivity trying to achieve a connection, it’s more of a “song” whether it has lyrics or not. On the other hand, if it’s a “track,” it’s more catered toward the setting or mood on a general scale. While it remains subjective, it’s a categorization method as opposed to “good” vs. “bad.”
Having you say that back to me, I think it’s really close, but one thing occurred to me. Based on that set of standards for the definition, let’s look at some products of hip-hop like 2000’s Lil Jon or Usher and stuff like that. The thing is, I would classify that as “song,” not “track!” However, based on the standard that we just established to create our definition, that would be defined as a track. However, I would still think of that as a song. I think it comes down to the pieces that we can quantify and assign memorability from. That’s a big one that we haven’t talked about.
Memorability. Yes there is emotional resonance, but that is on a spectrum. It doesn’t have to be the most heartfelt s*** of all time in order for it to be a “song,” as something can stir you emotionally by making you f****** start throwing elbows in the club. That’s just as valid! Both of those are emotionally significant, so achieving a level of emotional resonance as well as having a memorability degree is where that line is evidently completely subjective. That I think is what we can use as our best definition.
To a degree, do you think that we as people like to hear or sense a physical and tactile touch that draws back to organic human sounds in terms of the physicality of voice or even knocking on wood? By any capacity, could that have influenced as to why electronic music took so long to rise, especially since synthesizers were available for a long time as bands continuously used them in modern ages? In other terms, generally people seemed to look at electronic producers as well…”producers” as opposed to artists.
I think you make a really good point, and it’s almost like a Catch 22. I think as humans, we are creatures of habit, and to a certain degree, we take a very large stock in seeking out familiarity. Sort of like what you said, the organics of the human voice is something that we hear and draw familiarity from, like it’s something we can hold on to and retain very easily. However, at the same time, we also get sick of the same thing when it’s going on for too long, always searching for something new. That’s why I say it’s like a Catch 22 right…where is the line? What’s too new and fresh, and what is too stale and familiar.
I think it’s the unique combination of those two elements that makes something really perhaps “extra memorable” for lack of a better classification there. What pushes these boundaries like we were talking about, like electronic music taking forever to resonate…How long have we had synthesizer and synthesized music? All things considered, I would say synthesized music really took off in the 80’s which is obviously debatable as we had them far before that. Although, how long did it really take for people to get familiar with that and get used to it, to the point it was familiar enough to be enjoyed by many, but also fresh and cutting-edge enough to be considered innovative.
So yeah, I feel like vocals and stuff can provide a blanket of familiarity and that’s one of the cool things about electronic music. I personally have 2 tracks in particular on my ‘Sad Robot EP’ that are very vocal driven. I take a liking to that stuff, but also to the polar opposite. In fact, if I’m being completely transparent, I like it a little bit more in general. The exception I can make is when it comes to my own music, but when listening to stuff on my own, especially in electronic music, I like when a vocal is an accessory that provides that familiarity, while also leaving the bulk of work to be done by more innovative and expressive sounds or pieces within the song itself.
If you’re listening to something on your own based on what you said, would you steer toward the preference of vocal work?
That is correct in general, but I think I misspoke because what I was saying is that within electronic music, I prefer it when it’s vocally “accessorized,” not vocally dependent. For example, something like ‘Higher Ground’ by TNGHT. It has that really cool vocal sample in there, giving you something to attach to without depending on it. It’s a production-based song with the big brass and the drop, even with something as old and iconic as that.
The vocals are just really catchy, drawing you in the whole time, but if you took that out, the song would be completely lacking. Now that being said, I don’t think the song is dependent on that vocal, I just think that it’s such a strong accessory. That’s the type I really like. Outside of electronic music, I like to listen to more vocally driven s*** like rap and hip-hop which I’m big on. I’m also into pop and stuff with vocals in general.
Just to specify further, just think of ‘I Can’t Stop’ by Flux Pavilion. Flux had a couple that are very vocally accessorized, but I’d still say the production is the leading factor there. It just brings an entirely different life by having that small vocal piece in there. Would it still be the same song that it is without the sample? Absolutely not. It still would be exceptional and like a s*** ton in my personal opinion, but when we’re looking at how many people f*** with that song, that’s what really pulls it all together. The raw emotion captured by the production of the song is encapsulated within the vocals.
I want to ask you a question I did earlier with Tisoki when we talked about branding. That being the difference between an “artist” or an “artist project.” I think there’s a differentiating aspect. To me, an artist simply presents themselves, and that is continuous over time, while a project projects something or an aspect of the individual toward people. I would say Porter Robinson is a bit of both in some manner since it all feels very earnest and individual, but it’s all just so nit-picky, branded, and well done to the point it project-ish.
To add more to your point, Virtual Self is something I think you could define as an outright artist project.
Absolutely! In that sense, for you, as Christian, what does Crankdat represent to you when it comes to that spectrum, and why do you take one approach as opposed to the other? In some sense, why branding over individuality?
Tremendously good question. For me, it depends on what period of time you’re looking at. I definitely started Crankdat as…first and foremost it was a sh**** alias. I came up with it when I was 14. I didn’t know any better! If I was actually crafting an artist project at the time, I would have definitely shot myself in the foot, but that’s fine, I’ve rebounded, f*** we’re doing it with no complaints. *laughs*
When I initially got started, I didn’t know any of that stuff. I didn’t really understand it. My music world brain was way too small to fully be able to predict and understand what could possibly be coming my way, and what the long-term implications of what I was doing would hold.
Towards the very beginning of my artistic career, in terms of starting Crankdat as an alias in late 2014, picked up steam in 2015 when ‘Trap Queen’ dropped which as the hail mary cause who was going to know it would do some stupid s*** like that. Right so, it very much began and progressed over the next 2-3 years as just like an artist. I was literally just making whatever I wanted and did not have any sort of conciseness to my work. I did not have any understanding of the implication of failing to do so which I’ll talk about more in a second. It was more just me, Christian, while Crankdat was the name being used at that point in time.
As time has gone on, I think it sort of transformed, getting to a point it’s approaching an absolute “artist project.” I personally am…I don’t want to say I’m less invested in the music because that would be completely incorrect, but I’m much more precise and selective of what I will and won’t do under the Crankdat alias.
For example, I’ll just tell you right now who f****** cares, and you can even put it into the interview if you want to, as I probably have to do some promotion for it at some point in time or it’ll bite me in the ass.
I have a 6-track house EP that is just existing on my hard drive, being there for an entire year while I haven’t done a single thing with it. My manager is like: “bro these songs are so good you need to release them right now!” I’m like…
*points forward* F*** YOU! NO!
It’s not for this! We’re not putting this out at Crankdat since I’ve finally figured out what I want to do and how I sort of want it to evolve. That’s just not it. From multiple perspectives, for one, the perspective of I want to do something “cool,” and that is something identifiable and concise in a certain way, at least under the definition I’m working with. I want to do something memorable overall with my career.
I want to look back when I’m 40 and think “yo that was sick, I did that, and that’s dope!” That is definitely not the mentality that I had when I got into it, doing literally whatever the f*** I wanted and throw my name on it, cause it was not a project, and was simply what I used to identify myself as.
So, getting toward where my headspace is at now, I sort of took the step away from that, and got more into getting particular and precise with my music, how I want to portray myself and my image. This really comes from a sense of discipline because I think that’s what it takes to make the cool things that I can look back on when I’m in my 40’s.
Secondly, when looking at it from the business perspective, I’m not afraid to talk about that side of the story as well since it’s important…well it’s like…the art and the music is only as good as the business that allows it to exist. It is unfortunately a necessary part of the machine. When you’re looking at it from a business perspective, and that kind of coincides with the artistic perspective interestingly enough…the more integrity a project has, the better it does. Again, the better it does from both a business and artistic perspective. I think they both move in tandem. You can really see that with some other artists like a few I really appreciate such as Porter’s Virtual Self. When we’re looking at the artistic phenomenon that it provided us with, it’s just extremely concise and identifiable/definable. In being that from a business perspective, it gave it the platform and stage to be that X10! It is what it is, but the scaling makes it so much more impactful, again, due to it being so concise.
I want to grow my career and business, but realized over the course of time is to have integrity, vision, and direction. That was the way I started things at the forefront, but over time, I’ve realized and learned to appreciate the novelty in that as well. That’s more so not necessarily what I’ve achieved, it’s something I’m working towards. I want to take it to that direction where it’s no longer at all, me as an artist, but it’s an artist project. We’re on our way doing our best.
When you want to present 5 songs to an audience as you did on ‘Sad Robot EP’, what goes through your head in order to make that work?
I’m going to detour your question a little bit because it’s not as black-and-white, even though I wish it was. Sometimes it can be, but…I’ll be frank here and don’t need to disguise anything. I never actually capitalized on this or sought it out because of circumstance, but I wanted the EP itself to be a bit bigger than it was. I was maybe looking for an LP type scenario, but a handful of the tracks, Monstercat and I did not see eye-to-eye on. They were not on board with a handful of those, so really what ended up happening, is that there were a number of tracks that we can come to an agreement on, as to songs that we would work together on.
That is kind of what ultimately comprised the EP. I would say that I got in retrospect…well an album would have been a different story because I would have put a lot of different stuff into that, but when it comes to the songs I write, I probably missed out on 1-2, maybe 3 to preferentially have with these tracks that weren’t able to make it. Really though, it is ok, and that’s how it goes 90% of the time. I’m ultimately happy enough with what I have now. For true full transparency, that wasn’t the original full vision, acting as king of the 75% vision. That’s just important to express when it comes to how I went into composing a body, as we do have that industrial lag going on, stunting the full picture which is ok.
When picking the songs and organizing them, and as I said previously, having been made within the same time period, I believe all but one of these were made within the second quarter of this year, maybe giving a little of slack to the front end can slack toward the latest parts of the first. The only one that doesn’t apply is the first track, ‘Wish You Were Here’ that was made in November, maybe a little bit earlier. That’s generally why I wanted them to go together, since the timeline in which I create is what forms the most cohesion. When it comes to actually organizing them within the body, that’s working with what we have, and creating as much of a journey as possible.
In terms of forming your own visuals, cover art, and just having your hands all over your release, that’s per se business-wise attention grabbing without spoiling the music or showcasing it heavily. One of the main aspects it seems is a humorous sense.
It’s a really good point that I’m glad you brought up. While Crankdat is my project in which we talked about already, I’m still me, and ultimately just having fun with what I’m doing. I try not to put too much stock into what I do, and try to take it as minimally serious as possible while also maintaining as much composure and conciseness. So when I do my visuals and skits, I’m just trying to have a good time. Just generally have pieces of the artistic stuff I’m trying to do with my visuals and music that they can identify. Simultaneously, portraying parts of myself as “yo this is me, I don’t really f****** care I’m just here to have a good time.” *laughs*
So that’s the goal when it comes to the arts and stuff. Me doing my art is just a journey of wanting to venture into other artistic mediums aside from just music, as well as being unsatisfied with the lack of control I had in those departments in the past. I had a lot of issues with my projects in having my visions relayed to artists and designers, while not getting back something I’ve been very happy with. I always had an interest prior, but it led me to the pursuit of that. I just thought: “If I actually got good at this (which is a work in progress BTW), I can do some really cool stuff in terms of connecting my music with visuals. That’s sort of the ideology that went into that.
With this EP in particular, I was very specific last year with the color palette, and with everything I did, while this year I decided to be a little bit more forgiving with that. I wanted to showcase some cooler pieces of art, and be less exclusive to my overall project identity while maintaining it and pushing the art aspect of it. Last year, all the artworks, at least the ones I did, were black and orange, but this year I decided to stay away from that for the sake of having the artwork speak for me less, and for themselves a little bit more.
So your EP is titled ‘Sad Robot’, and for me, it works nicely beyond the teasers you’ve put out in terms of the emotional support truck. It’s incredibly entertaining and grabbing. It’s an extension of the person in their own quirky way, highlighting the person behind the view. Nonetheless, in terms of your name, Crankdat, was there ever a conscious decision of thinking: Crankdat – cranking cogs – cogs in terms of machinery – machinery to robots, then implementing all these things together to finalize the overall sense.
Yes, I’m actually glad you picked up on that! I can give you the whole backstory on that. To be as transparent as possible, I was 100% against this idea, exactly everything that you just said came to fruition, and I F****** hated it. It’s ok though, I’m glad it ended up happening.
Actually one of my former managers whose name is Kevin, gave me that idea back when we were still working together years ago. He was like “ya man, we’re just trying to give you a persona to go with your music, so how do you feel about a gear?” My response was simple…”ew, yuck, that’s stupid!” Eventually I grew into it and thought it was something to adopt. So we did so early on, and will give him full credit for that as I did not come up with that 100% on my own, and I’m very grateful he subjected me to that. Especially in recent years, I’ve been able to take that, and do some really cool stuff with it.
From there, what can we do beyond that gear end? I just like sci-fi and robots. It’s really not that deep. I don’t really like Transformers that much, but anything else is great. Car, f*** it, just give me the robot, I don’t really care. It was just a part of me I’m able to put into the brand and identity.
When we’re looking forward at the ‘Sad Robot’ character, well I just made it completely for fun random b***s***. I made these mixes around Christmas time, and wanted a character, and so the sad robot was made! I really liked the character and wanted to do more with him, so it was honestly part of that, and when we first started putting out the JT Roach track for May, I was pressed for time, and I made a relatively passively lazy decision to use something I already have. I just thought, “f*** I spent 9 hours making that robot, I can use him.” I did, and it worked really well! Let me tell you why.
What I really liked about the sad robot character especially for this EP is that almost all of these songs, at least on the surface level, come across as sad songs. No pertinence to me whatsoever in any capacity, but they came out as that which I enjoyed working on. On the surface level, the character came out as an embodiment of those songs being that way, and I think it worked really well in terms of cohesion as the character feels like they’ve been subjected to these experiences being presented. It’s a fun thing that naturally came into existence.
Personally, to you, would you say that constantly looking forward or pushing toward that area is a toxic manner of thought? To what degree do you think that is positive or negative?
That’s a really good question. For me, I think it’s a negatively toxic trait. It doesn’t really come from a place of sensibility, and if anything, it comes from a place I come from individually and my niche, feeling like I need to give everything I do a large amount of effort, all the way to an unhealthy amount. When I’m making an art work or something, I think “s***,” if I’m reworking a bunch of elements. Am I able to really give it my 100%.
It was as if when I’m not being original, I’m being lazy. Although, over time, it’s been completely wrong. I’ve recently adopted the same thing in my music as well, where I would exclusively try to use completely different sounds. I would start every song from scratch, and do everything completely unique.
Nowadays in terms of both art and music, I don’t do that at all, not one single bit. What I do now, I’m reusing as much as I possibly can like all of my drums and synth in music. So now, if I make something, I’m for sure going to use it again to establish continuity. I think that’s way better than someone thinking they’ll do something new each time.
From your artistic journey, what would you say is the most valuable thing that you learned over time?
F***! I’ve learned a lot of things that are very very valuable! Let’s list off a few. For one, I would say going back with an artist project. There’s a difference between you and a project. If there’s not, that’s fine, but be aware of that and the implications of it. What that is going to mean for you right now and 5 years in the future matters.
Secondly, re-using things is not a bad thing, it’s actually rather healthy, and a great way for making life easier for you. I also think it’s beneficial to your art. How many great artists do you know that do something completely new every single time? Very very few, as most great artists have identifiable traits, so you have to ask yourself how they’re made. It’ll take time to know what that means.
Aside from that, don’t sign any contracts. *laughs*
Obviously there are some that are necessary, but do not sign yourself to some binding contracts. There are some in which I’ve had dilemmas with in the past, either which have cost me artistic integrity or a lot of money. So, don’t sign the contracts.
`F*** the contracts! Those two things are artistically pertinent, and yeah…don’t sign contracts.
I’d like to take a moment to thank Crankdat for the great and candid chat. His magnificent debut Monstercat EP, Sad Robot, is out now! Stream it below!