Plenty of producers have initially emerged onto the electronic-music scene as remix wizards, but few talents in recent years have done it quite like Crankdat.
The Ohio native—aka Christian Smith, 20—began putting his own spin on some of music’s hottest tracks, like Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen,” and calling each effort a “re-crank,” rather than your traditional remix or bootleg. Honing his craft with each release and working his magic on cuts from heavy-hitters like San Holo, Joyryde, Porter Robinson, Mija and Zeds Dead, his electric edits would soon become secret weapons amongst his peers.
Receiving early support from JAUZ, following his debut production, “Dollars,” this promising talent would connect with the bass-house phenom for “I Hold Still” featuring Slushii.
Opening 2018 with his latest original, “Reasons to Run,” and currently closing out his North American “Outcast” tour, DJ Times caught up with the melodic mastermind.
DJ Times:When did your trademark “re-cranks” come about?
Crankdat: I think it started in 2016 when I was making a ton of remixes in the summer. I wanted to add a bit of flavor to the name. Everyone was making a remix, but only Crankdat was making a “re-crank.” I feel like I started something there. I watched some other people create their own specialized labels, too, which was kind of cool.
DJ Times: Is there anything specific you look for when deciding on reworking a track?
Crankdat: It totally depends. There are a lot of things I keep in mind when picking a track. When I started, I reworked pretty much anything I liked and thought of, but now it’s a little more particular. I’ll ask myself, “Is this a song that people want to hear remixed?” In my opinion, not everything should have a remix. Or I ask, “Is this something I can dodge the copyright strikes on?” So yes, there are specifics, but a lot of the time it’s situational.
DJ Times: After building a name with all those remixes, where you nervous about releasing original work?
Crankdat: I don’t think nerves ever really came into it; it was more so a commitment deal. Knowing that I’m only going to release a “first solo original” once, I wanted to make sure that it’s good and means something to me. I also wanted to make sure my skillset lined up. Taking a tune and flipping it takes one set of skills, writing an original tune takes another. It was something I had to work on, and that takes time.
DJ Times: You recently joined forces with JAUZ and Slushii – who else are you interested in collaborating with?
Crankdat: I’m very open to collaborating with so many people. I love Sam [Vogel, aka JAUZ] and Julian [Scanlan, aka Slushii], and I’m so glad we were able to make that track work. I’d love to work on a song with Illenium, Skrillex, Zeds Dead or Alison Wonderland. There’s a lot of guys and gals that I’d love to merge my style with. Hopefully, I get the chance to do so one day.
DJ Times: You’re a big video-game guy, playing whenever you seem to have some free time, and you even threw together a Rocket League mix on Spotify. How much does gaming influence you as a producer?
Crankdat: Ha-ha yes – though it is becoming more and more rare to find free time. I still try to make actual time for it because it’s the best stress relief for me. I am massively influenced by a lot of what gaming stands for. Games create an exclusive world accessible only through playing, and in principle that’s what I try to do with my music. I like for my work to paint a picture, to create a world, to take you somewhere where you can imagine new things and exercise your brain in a way you might not have before. That’s exactly what gaming does for me.
DJ Times: How did you start producing?
Crankdat: At the end of 2012, when I discovered FL Studio. For a vast portion of my life, I had always wanted to make beats, but I didn’t know how it was done or what was used. When I discovered those answers, I was consumed and immediately dove into 14-hour days of just creating anything and everything, especially electronic music. It was something I just wanted to get better and better at, and I just wanted to be the best. It was an amazing creative outlet for me and that was something I had never really experienced before.
DJ Times: Who inspires you, production-wise?
Crankdat: Skrillex inspires me more than anyone. He pushes the envelope and creates incredibly innovative sounds and uses them in such unique ways. He’s an extremely talented musician and I study his work more than anyone else’s.
DJ Times: What production gear do you use?
Crankdat: I don’t really use anything to produce besides my laptop. When I’m at home, I use my UA Apollo Twin for the in-box plug-ins. I have a mentality right now where I need to try to keep my set-up minimal, so it stays consistent when I work on the road. However, I’ve noticed in recent months I’m much more efficient in the studio, so I’m going to get out of that thinking and not work on the road as much.
DJ Times: How do you like to organize your workflow?
Crankdat: If we are being perfectly honest, my workflow has very little organization – ha-ha. The extent of it is that I always have my vocal track at the top of the DAW. That’s really it, I swear.
DJ Times: With your “Outcast Tour” in the rearview, what can fans expect from Crankdat for the remainder of 2018?
Crankdat: I have my first Vegas residency with Hakkasan Group. This is something I’ve dreamed of since back when I DJ’d birthday parties and high-school homecomings. I’m also stoked to have my own weekly radio show on iHeartRadio. Brian Fink, the program director over there, has been a big believer in the project and I couldn’t be more grateful for his support. Aside from that, I have a lot of original music that I’m excited to put out over the course of the year. It’s all really interesting, and every song is super different, and can’t wait to share it!