CRNKN is a 20-year-old DJ from New Hampshire who rose to fame when he started producing electronic music around the time Trap was taking off a couple years ago. However, since then he has distanced himself from Trap music and expanded to include other styles. Trap is genre of music that blends dubstep, southern rap instrumentals, and synth fills and rap lyrics, which has been popular at music festivals in America in 2013. CRNKN music includes original productions, and remixes for artists like Die Artwoord and Major Lazer.
The LA-based DJ will be playing at Arkham on Friday, September 20. Support from DJs Conrank, Mau Mau, Heatwolves, Shanghai In The Trap, [email protected], and Boris Redwall.
Shanghai’s DJ Heatwolves (also performing at Arkham) interviewed CRNKN before his flight into Shanghai.
When: Friday, 20 September, 10pm to late
Where: Arkham, 1 Wulumuqi Nan Lu, near Hengshan Lu
Tickets: Doors 100RMB; buy one get one drinks before midnight
DJ Heatwolves: Who are you, to people who don’t you?
CRNKN: I’m Gabe Baer, also known as CRNKN (“crankin”), from a little town on the East Coast in New Hampshire and I relocated to Los Angeles about a year ago.
HW: I saw you went backpacking and then you went broke, and that’s when you started producing music because you were broke?
CRNKN: Yes, I quit school and went on this really long backpacking trip and came back, didn’t have a job or any money. I wasn’t going to school so I had a lot of free time and I started producing when I wasn’t working a boring retail job.
HW: Are you an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) artist?
CRNKN: I make electronic music, I don’t know if EDM is the best way to describe it, because that’s beginning to stand for repetitive music that isn’t very creative.
HW: What are you playing in your sets?
CRNKN: I play a lot of different stuff in my sets; everything from ASAP Ferg, Mr. Karmac, Gesaffelstein, a lot of Bromance stuff…these dudes from Australia “Peking Duck”.
HW: Have you been to Asia before?
CRNKN: No, but China and Japan have been on my top go-to list since I was a little kid, and I’ve been slowly knocking countries off that list.
HW: I guess Japan is higher on that list because you’re an anime fan? What are your top three anime?
CRNKN: I am a big fan of Japan, but like I said China’s always been in the works too. Top three anime – since I grew up watching it, I’d have to go Dragon Ball Z for number one since I’ve been watching it since I was five years old. I take that back, anything by Studio Ghibli, Spirited Away/Princess Mononoke, those would go in number one, then Dragon Ball Z second, then Rurouni Kenshin for number three. All classics.
HW: I see you have a track out called “Akira,” classic anime.
CRNKN: Fantastic movie. I wish I didn’t have to put that song out cause I really liked it and I wanted to finish it and use it for something, but I lost the project file and I had that version saved so I just put it out otherwise it would have just sat on my computer forever.
HW: Interesting track, it’s kind of different from your other music.
CRNKN: Pretty much everything I’m making right now is really different. The other stuff was fun when I was making it, but I was following a path everyone else was going in. And I realized I was doing that because it was cool and what people wanted to hear, and then I realized – that’s not why I started making music. So I went back to making what I want to hear and what I like listening to. And if people want to listen to it that’s cool, and if not then that’s also cool. It’s still going to be dancey but not necessarily going to be the same thing every time.
HW: I saw a fan comment on the Akira track, “if I paid to see you played this, I’d be mad.”
CRNKN: Yeah, and the thing is a lot of people have been mad at my sets lately because I stopped playing Trap. I play a big mix of things and a lot of older fans have been pissed. But for every Trap fan I lose I gain one fan that’s really into what I’m doing now and excited about my other stuff.
HW: For people who don’t know, what is Trap?
CRNKN: Trap is the white-kid amalgamation of electronic music and southern drug rap, like Gucci Mane/Juicy J.
HW: So that’s what’s popular in the States right now?
CRNKN: It’s really popular. That and big room house.
HW: Are there nights in LA where it’s all Trap, all night?
CRNKN: There were, but LA is one of those fashion-forward places, so people get over stuff really quick here. Most of the people here are really in tune with what’s going on with electronic music, so it was really big here, but it’s tapering off because people have heard that a hundred times. There are a lot of deeper nights here now, like Dirtybird and those kinds of vibes. New York is the same way.
HW: So house/deep house nights are popular now?
CRNKN: Well, for the people that are in-tune with what’s going on. Many DJs are getting tired of trap. Not to say that it’s a bad thing, but no one’s doing anything fresh, so people are hesitant to align themselves with it because they don’t want to go down with the ship when people stop being creative, which is sort of happening. That’s why I don’t want to align myself with it because I don’t want to align myself with things that is not creative or pushing the envelope.
HW: I saw you DJed with Oneman (British DJ), how was that?
CRNKN: It was actually a really cool party, in Chinatown in NYC, in this Dim Sum restaurant, and it was this random location and I was like “oh man this show isn’t going to be great, it’s in the weirdest spot ever” but it was tight, super fun. It was sort of an underground show; really fun cause I don’t get to play stuff like that very often.
HW: How was Oneman’s set? What are the big differences between US DJs and UK DJs?
CRNKN: His set was good, a lot of hip-hop. US DJs, we’re all about playing hits, and the UK DJs are a little less about that and more about cultivating a vibe. We’re about playing hit after hit until people are super tired and they go home. Not to say that it’s just us that want that, but that’s just the thing right now.
HW: How long are you going to be in Shanghai and what are you expecting?
CRNKN: Just the weekend, really quick four-day thing, really only two days in Shanghai. I’m not expecting anything. In the US, I know a lot of the clubs…but when I went to Australia and Russia, I had no idea. It’s always different and it’s interesting to see how shows go.
HW: Anything else you want to say to the audience in Shanghai, what can we expect?
CRNKN: I guarantee I’ll play something you’ll like at some point in the set, so there’s a little something for everybody and I’m super stoked to see what China’s all about.