Liquid Stranger on Finding BALANCE in Life & Music
“Music has been a part of my life ever since I was born. I’ve even been told that I was crawling to the piano as a baby, before I could really talk or sit up.”
While many artists can date their history with music back to their childhood, electronic music sensation and WAKAAN founder Martin Stääf, better known as Liquid Stranger, takes growing up on music to a whole new level.
Stääf was raised in a small town in Sweden called Varberg, a tight knit community where everybody knew each other. His mother and father introduced him early on to rock groups such as Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. Because of how secluded his town was, it encouraged him to really step out and explore his own growing interests.
Production equipment was incredibly expensive at the time, but a young Stääf would combine his Christmas and birthday presents to be able to afford the gear. When he was just seven years old, he convinced his parents to purchase his first synthesizer.
Not only did you have to be musically involved, but you had to be very technically invested as well. He began working with hardware boxes and cassette tapes, as computers weren’t evolved enough for producing and recording. Furthermore, there were no tutorials or Youtube videos on how to do it, so trial and error became his best friend.
His musical curiosity peaked when he and his father built a radio antenna in his room to pirate radio, which Stääf says is the most important thing that ever happened to him. After being exposed to electronic music through these stations, he realized that he not only wanted to listen to it — he wanted to create it.
After many years of producing, Stääf found his niche in the electronic community, creating an upbeat style of music known as psytrance. Experimenting further over time, he ultimately created a side project called Liquid Stranger, which has accelerated into his main endeavor and represented an amorphous palette of musical interests. With many singles, EPs, mixes and now eight full-length albums, Liquid Stranger’s diverse talent has paved the way for many in today’s bass music community.
Stääf recently returned from his nationwide BALANCE tour, which featured the likes of Mersiv, TVBOO, VEIL, Canabliss, Mize, Smoakland, and Redrum over 30-plus dates. When talking with Stääf, MP3 MAG asked how it was possible to even begin to choose who he wanted to invite as support.
“I had to fend a lot for myself when I started making music,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of support structure for me, so it made me determined to make sure others don’t have that same experience. We try to find focused and talented individuals that are truly making something creative that can enlighten the world.”
The tour led up to the widespread release of Liquid Strangers latest studio album, BALANCE. The album consisted of 13-tracks and heavy-hitting singles, featuring collaborations with artists such as LSDREAM, Wreckno, PIERCE, and Alexa Lusader. From classic dubstep flares to whimsical melodies, Stääf pushes the envelope of innovation with his constant ability to mend genres while continuing to add his own personal style.
Stääf has learned to incorporate ‘balance’ into his own life with activities like martial arts, yoga, and spending time in nature. One of the most prominent examples of this in Martin Stääf’s music experience consists of his record labels, WAKAAN and SSKWAN. Both are a way to offer artists the opportunity to focus more on their true expression – an aspect of Stääf’s own career outlook that has benefitted him greatly.
“I took a huge risk with this project,” he said. “Being a shy introvert, this really has been a journey for me. It has taught me that it’s okay to like what I like and dress how I want, that’s the beauty of the rave culture. Its inclusiveness has always really inspired me, and it has shown me that it is okay to be authentic and to be yourself.”
MP3 MAG and Liquid Stranger also discussed the idea behind SSKWAN, the downtempo sister label to WAKAAN, and what future plans are in store for the imprint. He first mentioned the label at 2019’s debut WAKAAN festival, following up with its first release, AU5’s Alchemy, in 2020.
While he explained that SSKWAN will still be rolling out new musical releases, bringing these adventurous sounds and artists on the road in more appealing ways is an even bigger initiative they have in store.
“What if we can have an equally vibrant community when it comes to shows, music that isn’t even just downtempo, but something that has a more mysterious, deeper, melodic meaning behind it?” Stääf said. “The music has already been here for so long, such as electronica or IDM, but now it’s time that we take that legacy and use it to reach more people.”
Like many of us, Liquid Stranger’s festival season is just getting started. With numerous festivals already on the books for the rest of 2022, fans will have the opportunity to catch him all over the country. MP3 MAG will be attending a handful of these, but are most excited to see the man himself play at Yonderville Music and Arts Festival, taking place in the scenic mountains of West Virginia from June 30th to July 3rd. He will be headlining the festival on Sunday this year, passing up a return to Lost Lands to make his debut on Marvin’s Mountaintop.
“Many of my personal friends have highly recommended Yonderville to me,” he said. “Since I have never been before, I am really looking forward to taking a different route and experiencing something new. I am in a really fortunate place where I can pick and choose which shows and festivals I want to play now, so I think Yonderville is going to give me the perfect opportunity to go back to my own roots.”
Cover photo credit: Jason Seigel