Big Dub Festival 2015
Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary Artemas, PA
Once in a Blue Moon, Liquid Stranger travels from his homeland of Sweden to play on a sacred mountaintop in Pennsylvania. The forest is thick with fog and lasers and kids of all ages, creeds, and races sway together, hypnotized by bass. We join him in a trailer afterwards to chat about the evolution of electronic music culture as he chugs coconut water.
What got you excited to play at Big Dub?
Well, I played for the promoter [Badass Raves] before. I played for the Nightmare festival twice, which is the same promoters basically. This is a little bit bigger and also it’s in an extremely cool setting, I don’t know if you saw the stone circle, this is apparently some pagan farm where they sacrifice virgins…
That’s what they told you to get you to come, huh?
But really what makes this place special?
Well, it’s a little bit more back to how it started for me because I got into the rave scene really early. And back in the day it was just about people meeting up and sharing their love for music and exploring new music. You know, very free and expressive, which is kind of different from what you see at a big city at a night club where it’s more about how you look and meeting girls or being in the VIP. This is more down to Earth for sure.
I really like that because you get the values back to where they belong in this culture.
It started off as just people with an immense love for sharing new sounds and we also fought against the authorities a lot back in the nineties. Where I’m from, you know, in Sweden, in Europe there was a law against playing repetitive dance music at clubs and on the radio. It was literally illegal to perform with our music.
So the battle looked very different. So the community became very tight knit because of it. The focus was very much on the music and on the community as opposed to glorifying an artist or all the money. You know, the very superficial things. Today, its become maybe more like that but also more legitimized and a way bigger community. So I feel very blessed with that. But this party took me back a little bit to the old school, underground raves. It’s got a little bit of that energy.
Since electronic music is becoming more lucrative we see other players entering the market who might not have their love for the music be their first and foremost focus. It’s more so can I make some bank roll off of this, can I get some status off of this. You know, all those things have never been important to me its just about exploring new sounds. Its also something I notice when I play out, because I only play my only material. Most DJs today they play a variety of different artists, which is cool. It makes it so you expose yourself to a lot of different music and you expose the crowd.
I only play my own stuff. It’s one of my greatest strengths and also one of my biggest flaws you know. Because human nature is a little bit like this, people like the familiar and it’s a little bit similar to how when a child grows up they want to watch the same movie over and over again because its familiar, its safe, they can sing along or they feel a part of it you know. It’s become more like that, where you have hits on the radio being played a lot. I want to be an alternative to that.
Cool, so going back to when you first started going to raves, what was the music you were hearing, at those events and how did it impact your sound?
Yea, I’m older than most people think. This happened, I went to my first party in 1989 so it’s a long time ago, and back then there wasn’t that much music. There was something called acid house and from there came techno and something that every in the beginning called breakbeat, that then became jungle and later drum and bass. It’s become way more, like a tree now, and it’s a lot of different genres and stuff.
Back then you didn’t have that much to choose to be honest from which was also the driving force to like go, oh what happens if I put like a bagpipe in this or a flute there?
All those things happen kind of for the first time and there was this counter clash with society that was very prevalent during that time, very important. Kind of comparable to the energy, maybe not the magnitude, but the energy of how people now are fighting for equal sexual rights now. It was kind of the same. We fought to be able to like live our culture and live our passion. So that was very important. And also, you know, when you went out to clubs the DJs were trying, deliberately, to create unknown music and even scratched out names on the white labels so nobody could copy and play the same tunes. And today its gone almost 180 where everyone plays almost the same tunes but there is also more to choose from. It’s been a very interesting ride. I think we’re very well-off today. I’m happy its become more mainstream because I think this culture is for everyone. I think most people can find some joy in at least part of this expression. Find an artist or find a venue where they can discover something about themselves, you know. So I hope to bring back a little more of that edge, you know, the unknown, the mysterious.
So you said that people discover something about themselves, can you articulate what you discovered about yourself when you stepped into that scene?
A lot. Because you know, I grew up in a rural area in Sweden. Sweden to begin with has 9.5 million people total in an area about the size of California so it’s also very underpopulated. And I grew up in a very small, hillbilly village basically so obviously there wasn’t many people who shared my interests or my love for electronic music. This started very early for me. I got my first synth when I was like eight years old. I started fiddling around. This was like five years before I went to my first party. And I didn’t have an ambition to live off of music or anything in particular it was just a good way to express myself. Music is a language so I feel personally that I can express myself better through music than I can through the English language or even Swedish language. Because music is an emotional language, it displays emotion it carries over this feeling. That’s why it’s so infectious and that’s why you can turn on a horror movie and if you turn down the music it wouldn’t even be scary. Music changes your emotions, it’s an emotional catalyst. So I think that’s what I discovered.
I discovered like minded people. I discovered a music that really spoke to me. This exploration that I’m talking about that’s really important to me in terms of finding new sounds and finding new ways of expressing yourself emotionally. It’s ongoing today. I mean, I haven’t even started touching anything that resembles a bottom. It just goes deeper, you know? I learn new things about myself and music every single day.
That’s a beautiful story. I totally feel the same way. Electronic music brought me faith that people could get along and totally changed my life.
True and have you also noticed how you go to these parties and you are never alone… I’m always by myself. I have a crew behind me but for some reason I am the lone wolf and I travel solo. So I go out there and I meet all these people. The most unlikely people, but still they always have something profound to say and some love to share. The parties are very much like that. It’s an amazing platform to meet likeminded people from totally different walks of life. That excites me. And it’s more like that today.
Before, people were… they were ravers. Today it’s everyone. Today you can meet a sixty year old man, or a family. I love that part, you know. It means a lot. That’s what I’m here for.
And if we’re gonna just go crazy – pick any artist alive or dead who you’d like to collaborate with – who would it be?
It would be something outside of music. It would be probably like a director or someone who puts together an experience where my music can enhance their product or their vision. Because it’s cool to work with other musicians, I’ve done it a lot and I’m going to continue doing it but it’s also we’re the same guy kind of. I think it’s great when you can involve more senses, you know. Like we’re working with the ears, so where are the guys working with the eyes, vision, the visual media, or tactility, like you can feel stuff. And bass doesn’t get taken up by your ears, it’s spine, it’s skeletal. So there is this new invention called the Sub Pac which is a backpack you can strap on yourself and it sends sub-bass into your spine.
I gotta get one of those!
Yea! One of the coolest things that has come out. Let’s say you combine that with some really cool visuals and music. Now you have a multi-sensory experience that would go beyond what only music could do. Right? It’s like watching a movie, it’s very powerful because you get a story, you get human interactions, you get this visually entertaining firework display, and you have the audio. That’s the future.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Yea! I just started my own label. It’s called Wakaan and it’s been a long time coming. The only reason I haven’t done it is probably because I’ve always had a good support system of people who wanted to release my stuff. But I’m finding that it’s a new chapter, it’s very exciting. So now is when everyone is going to see the real Liquid Stranger come out, not just a little part of it but actually see what am I really in this for. How crazy can we get? Plus I have a bunch of other artists who I am really excited to release too, you know. It’s just a great feeling of being able to do this with my own music, but even more so, to actually be able to start putting back into the scene and helping people. So what I’m doing for some people now is I’m really trying to build them. I’m not a manager, I’m not an agent really, but I have picked up a lot of stuff during my years in the scene. So I’m just trying to mentor and guide people the right way and give people a space to express themselves. It’s a really beautiful thing. I’m really excited about it.