The sound of Strangeulation Vol. II is largely due to a soft-spoken badass behind the boards.
We chopped it up with producer Seven, as he discusses what differentiates this album from the other Collabos, how Strange Music evolves and has evolved, and how darker, industrial undertones are taking hold of mainstream music.
What kind of precedent was set by Strangeulation I? What kind of standard was set that had to carry over into the next one?f
When we did Strangeulation I, it was a totally different kind of Collabos than what we’ve done before. We tried different things. Just when it came to the production, everything was just bigger. The style of production that you hear on Special Effects, Strangulation I was my warm up to that. Strangulation I was the best reception that we’d had so far off of a Collabos album. I feel like [the reception] was like that because of the care that we took in the production of the songs.
The project overall was just really thought out. That was also the first project we put together here at the studios, altogether. I wasn’t just sending tracks over. We were making it hands on – together. With Strangeulation II, we just tried to continue that. It’s just a continuation of the exact same thing. Between now and then, music has changed. The sound has changed and evolved a little bit. What we did was try our best to stick with the same level of production, but let the sound evolve a little bit.
Did you and Tech have any discussions on this go around, as far as the sonic direction? Or is it pretty intuitive by now?
Honestly, this one, not too much. We just got done with Special Effects, and we had to jump into this right away. And I think we both didn’t know exactly where to go, but just had to do it. So the first track that I made, when we didn’t have really much of a direction at all, was “PBSA”. When I made that beat, we hadn’t made anything at that point. We didn’t know what the sound would be. I wasn’t even sure. But I made that track, brought Tech into the studio, played it for him and I was like, “This is what I think the sound should be.”
I take it he was pretty receptive?
Yeah, for sure. We went a lot of places since then, and actually that was one of the songs we recorded later on. In fact, for a while, I didn’t even know we would use that song. I thought it was a jump starter, like, “Okay, I can see we’re going, but we may not use that one. Let’s just see where we go after that.” So I thought that might be one we wouldn’t use. But every time I brought it up to Tech, he was like, “Oh yeah, we gotta do that one.”
I had an idea for that track originally, called “Rebels”. It was sort of a scratch idea for Tech. But Tech wanted to go a different place with it. From the beginning we thought CES should go on it. He asked me who I heard on it, and I was like, “CES should be on it.” And he’s like, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.” So, that was the beginning of it.
That’s a kick ass track. It seems that from some of the tracks that have come out, there is kind of an industrial tone to the production. Did “PBSA” kind of kick that off?
Yeah, I’ve kind of been on that since Strangeulation I.
That’s kind of when it started to emerge a little bit.
When I did the “American Horror Story” beat, I was like, man, I’ve been wanting to do that kind of thing for a while but couldn’t find the right platform for it. It had to be on something Tech related. If I didn’t do it on a Collabos album, the only other place to do it would be Tech’s album, which I did a lot of it on – on Special Effects. But that industrial element of where we’re going with the sound now has just become a big part of it.
Do you have any influences as far as that goes? Any acts that you look to or producers that maybe spark that idea? Anyone you’re a fan of?
Outside of Trent Reznor doing it a long time ago, I wasn’t a big fan of it really. But there’s something that’s been going on with music now, even with super mainstream pop, that is this industrial undertone. I hear it all the time now with all kinds of super big mainstream records. I’ve been really in tune with that a lot lately. I like where mainstream music is now, because it doesn’t feel like popcorn and bubbly. It feels dark and industrial. There are all of those elements going on with mainstream now. So I just connect to it a lot more. So, just paying attention to that, and I’ve been figuring out a way to incorporate that into what we do.
I hear it all the time. Everyone from Imagine Dragons to Halsey to Rihanna even.
I’m just thinking of people that have influenced me. Rihanna has totally taken it there, with all the new material she’s putting out. Some of the stuff that they’re doing, I feel like I was on that style of production. I feel like I was one step ahead of them, not that they were influenced by something I did or anything like that, but it’s good to know that I was thinking like that before this took that turn.
Having said all that, what do you think are the main differences between Strangeulation I and II? How do you think this one differentiates the most from the first one?
I think it’s a lighter album. It’s more lighthearted. Tech didn’t really do many sexual songs on the first one. We did a lot more of that on the second one. It’s more about just where Tech is at right now.
We paid a lot of attention to putting people on tracks they wouldn’t normally be on. Taking artists out of their comfort zone. We really did that a lot on this album. Even starting with just the Cyphers. That was a whole thing in itself, like who do we put on what? It was kind of like, “Let’s just see you spit for real, over anything, to prove yourself.”
Putting Godemis on “Chilly Rub” – that’s an interesting thing to hear him on something like that. Putting Rittz on “We Just Wanna Party” – that was really interesting. He had to switch up his flow, which was really dope. I don’t know if it was a challenge for him, but it sounded like he had to sit back and be like, “Alright, let me come up with something different.”
Do you have any personal production highlights from the record?
Well my favorite song, production wise, is “Praise K.O.D.”. That song is like the definition of what I do with production. “PBSA”, “Slow To Me“, “Real With Yourself”: those songs are all my favorites. Those are all what I do, as a producer. “Praise K.O.D.” was the one that I felt like we were making something that we would make for Tech’s album.
Yeah, that shit’s amazing.
Thanks man. My favorite song is “PBSA” and my favorite beat is “Praise K.O.D.”
What do you like about “PBSA” so much?
Well, when I finished the beat, I knew, with the right verses on it, that would be the craziest song. It’s got the right energy. It’s one of those songs that fulfills all these different areas. I knew the fans would like a song like that. I knew it was something that Tech could just kill. And with CES on it, they would kill it too, lyrically. The beat is something I would do for a lot of different projects. That’s something I would give CES Cru, or something I would give Tech or Krizz.
Everything came together on it. The hook was perfect. I remember when we recorded that hook, and we were paying attention things like, “Should we pull back on the verse a little bit? How big should we make it? Does it need to sound like there are more people in the crowd? Is it the right energy?”
We’re envisioning all the different places that it would be played and how they would perform it. And then the verses are just crazy on it. Everything was just spot on. They killed it. The last part where the beat flips and goes to half time, Godemis just kills it. I walked in when Godemis was recording that, and I had to stop him and be like, “Dude, you’re killing shit.”
That verse is incredible. This year’s “Cyphers”, can you tell us about those contributions from people? They’re pretty amazing.
A lot of interesting things happened while we were doing those “Cyphers”. I had to talk to almost everybody. They were kind of unsure about it. But I think me and Tech were like, “Man, you gotta just kill that shit.” Well not everyone. Some of them came and just murdered it.
I feel like these “Cypher” verses are better than the “Cypher” verses on Strangeulation I for whatever reason. I don’t know what it is, but I feel like you can definitely hear the growth in everyone. Everyone is definitely not regressing. We’re definitely evolving and getting better on that front.
There’s a lot of crazy shit going on in these verses. How do you think the fans are going to respond to the record, once they get it digested?
I think that they’re going to like it a lot. The thing that’s interesting about this record as a whole, is that, and I think everyone will pick up on this, there’s a lot of old Tech in this. Even though there’s still the new mainstream shit, like “We Just Wanna Party”, there are a lot of elements of the old Tech.
When we were doing this album, I kept thinking, man, this is like your old style. Which is a good thing. I told Tech that too. And he agreed. But I hear all of these patterns that he would do with Anghellic and Absolute Power sprinkled throughout this. If people pick up on that, I think they’ll really dig it. Even though there’s material on this that is mainstream and not as dark, there is plenty of dark shit on it. I think it’s just a big collection of the best of everything, with all the different styles and sounds.
Anything you want to say about the record before we close out?
Just that I’m proud of the album. I’m really happy that Strangeulation II turned out like this. It’s a really good preview into what’s coming next year and I hope everyone really digs it.
Let us know in the comments.