Miami's Stryke to EDM Producers: Don't Settle for Mediocrity, Our Fans Deserve More!
Since the mid-'90s, the Jamaican-born Chin has had a prolific recording career, with his ever-evolving body of work spread across renowned labels like Ovum, Nervous and Plastic City. A consummate music professional, he also pushes the possibilities of sound by helping to develop cutting-edge music technology for various companies. He's even the President of the Recording Academy's Florida Chapter.
Ahead of a rare DJ set this Saturday at the Electric Pickle alongside Inxec, Miami's mad genius of electronic music talked to Crossfade about his roots, the Miami EDM scene, and his advice for other producers.
Crossfade: Jamaica is the birthplace of dub, and by extension the remix. How did growing up there inform you as an electronic dance music artist?
Stryke: Growing up in Jamaica is an extremely important part of my personal and creative makeup. Dub, dancehall, and reggae are in my blood. The subsonic basslines, the role of delay and reverb as instruments, the importance of rhythm -- all of these come into play with what I do present day.
It spoke to me in such a way, especially after leaving my homeland, to make my new home in the United States. That music transformed a young, classically-trained pianist in so many ways. It helped to open my mind and allow me to stretch music by placing importance of elements of music that most people think secondary. Absolutely essential to me.
When did you move to Miami and how has living here shaped you musically? Which locals artists and music styles do you consider most influential?
I moved to Miami in 1979. Looking back, I'm really glad that it's here that we settled. It was less of a shock than if we moved to, say, the Midwest. Miami feels like a tropical island, so I found comfort in that. I found comfort in music immediately. My palette widened.
When I was in junior high and high school, I got deep into DJing and creating my first attempts at electronic music, thanks to bands like Depeche Mode and New Order. Of course, I'm 305 for life, so I really dug Miami bass (who doesn't love some good quad dropping?) and freestyle. I loved artists like Secret Society, Erotic Exotic, 2 Live Crew -- you name it.
As I got older, and discovered techno and house, I was always so proud that Miami had artists like Murk representing Miami. That's something I carry with me wherever I am in the world. I feel like a representative of Miami.
So how has your sound evolved over the years, do you find that you've changed styles as trends in the global scene have changed?
My sound continually evolves. I suppose I do hear and listen to changing trends. But I have always followed my own path. As a DJ, I think the basis of my sound has always been firmly rooted in providing really good energy on the dancefloor. But, I also love creating really lush soundscapes that can be listened to away from the dark rooms. That's where my classical roots come in, as a producer and recording artist. Of course, I'm a technology nut, so I love using technology, both old and new, in different ways -- both on stage and in the studio.
You've had a long-standing collaborative relationship with Oscar G. How did guys first hook up and what has he imparted to you as an artist?
As I mentioned earlier, Oscar and Ralph [Falcon] are two of my musical idols. I first met them around 1994, when I became the record store manager and buyer for the beloved Yesterday & Today dance music record store. I was tasked by the owner, Todd [Saunders] with picking out records for both Oscar and Ralph. We built a friendship at the store, and they supported my early recording career.
Oscar reached out to me sometime in the late '90s, because he needed some digital editing done to some music he was working on. Both he and Ralph kept calling me for work after that, [and] It just grew from there. Oscar found out I could sing, and invited me to sing on the last Murk album. I sang two cuts there. Oscar and I ended up producing together as well.
I now help out with his current output in whatever capacity he needs. I love his work ethic. He taught me to just work. He's always pushed me to continue being creative, not worry about getting paid, or worry about what others will think -- just create. I'll always be thankful for that. Even now that we're related, he's still someone I admire. I also think he could quit producing and DJing and become a comedian. The dude's amazingly funny and witty.
As a long-standing Miami DJ, how do you feel the EDM scene has changed in the last decade? Do you think we have the potential of becoming a true dance music mecca, and not just during WMC?
Well, it's obviously become more commercial. But that forces us who love this music to continue to push the boundaries and not settle for less than true creativity. I have always thought that Miami has the potential of becoming a mecca of dance music. On the outside, people may see all this glitz and glamour, and that does exist. However, we have some of the most open-minded and hungry people who love and support this music.
You've been in the game for going on two decades. What advice do you have for other budding young producers? What are the dos and dont's?
For me, it's all about the golden rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. It's that simple. Also, work on your craft. With all this technology available to us now, it's so easy for so many people to just push the play and sync button, or throw a few loops in the timeline and call it a day. Think beyond. Don't settle for mediocrity. Our fans and listeners deserve so much more.
So what has been going on with you on the DJ and production front this year so far? And what do you have going on for the rest of the year?
The past couple of years has found me working deep in the trenches of music technology. I have been playing a lot less and producing a bit less as well. I wanted to take some time to give back to my music community. I work with Avid Technology, building a better Pro Tools for everyone. I want everyone to have the best tools possible.
I've also been very involved with the Recording Academy (The Grammys). I actually just became the President of the Florida Chapter, and am now on the board of the Grammy Foundation. I am the teacher/instructor for the Electronic Music Production class for the yearly Grammy Camps that take place during the summer. I'm really happy of the work we do there. However, I can't stay away from production and DJing for too long.
I'm working on my next album for Plastic City, the follow-up to 2008's The Narrowest of Paths. I just appeared as a guest and remixer on Oscar G's last album, with our "Hypnotized" redo, and just shot a video for that. Expect a ton more releases-wise from me shortly! DJ-wise, I'm really happy to be playing for SAFE at the Electric Pickle this Saturday. It's one of my favourite venues!
So What can Miami expect on Saturday? Do you have any special tricks up your sleeve for this gig?
I never like to just do the standard DJ thing. I'll be rocking 4 digital decks, live remixing/looping, and live drum programming. I'm going to play a few new edits, featuring music from my students at this year's Grammy Camp in Los Angeles. They really created some amazing work and I can't wait to share it with everyone!
Stryke. Alongside Inxec, presented by SAFE. Saturday, July 26. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.
Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.