(Atlanta, GA)– From viral “recranks” to massive collaborations with some of the biggest names in the game, Christian Smith aka Crankdat, doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The Ohio native has been showing off his incredible producing skills to the world since day one. This extremely talented and humble producer has been grinding and achieving the heights all the young producers are dreaming of. From the residency at Hakkasan on the Vegas Strip (while still underage), to the stages of EDCLV and TomorrowLand, his unique and distinctive sound won the hearts of thousands of fans all across the globe. When it comes to mixing happy and heavy, Crankdat sure knows how to wow the most demanding crowd. Dropping the filthiest edits with his fun “recranks” and bass house-y originals, he is not afraid of double or even triple drops. But is the crowd ready? Well, you better go see him on tour to find out for yourself!
We were able to catch Crankdat before his show in Atlanta at Believe Music Hall. Crankdat told us how he came up with the name (for the first time!), how he makes his own visuals and high praise for Slander and Eptic.
RC: So tell us a little bit about yourself, how did your relationship with the music start?
Crankdat: My name is Christian Smith, and I’m from Northeast Ohio. I started playing piano when I was seven. That went on for a couple years. I did trumpet in middle school, and then I kind of stopped doing music until I discovered producing electronic music when I was about 15. My parents got me the production suite called Fruity Loops for Christmas. And I kind of just geeked out on it for a couple years and had a lot of fun with it. Then somehow wound up doing it as a career, and now we’re here.
RC: We want to know how you came up with the name, Crankdat? So we watched recent Q&A, and you said there is a hint in Jack U’s 2014 Ultra set. We watched that and still don’t know!
Crankdat: It’s a really bad hint; but, well, since you did your homework, I guess I owe you the answer for that one. So in that Jack U set they have an ID that they play… It was an idea at the time. It was a remix by an artist called D-Bass, and the pre-drop vocal said, “drop that bass.” I had really shitty car speakers and I would play that on the way to the gym every day. And it sounded to me like it said, “Crank that bass,” and I was just listening and I thought, “Huh? Crankdat, that’s cool!” That’s literally exactly how I got my name. That is also probably the worst story of all time.
RC: I think this is actually the first time you told the story.
Crankdat: Yeah, I don’t talk about it very often. So this is probably the first time. Because normally I’d just give a hint, and I would say to media outlets that next time we do an interview I’ll tell you the whole thing; but you guys already got the hint, so I can’t back out now
RC: What made you choose music over perhaps an academic or athletic career? Was there a pivotal point where you realized that you wanted to pursue music full-time?
Crankdat: Was there a defining point? I mean, I always kind of wanted to do music full-time. I don’t want to say that was the goal going into it. At first I was just having fun, but I’d say it was probably when I saw Martin Garrix doing it at a super young age and I was like, “Okay, I don’t need to be in my mid 20’s to actually do this shit! I can just do it whenever I’m good enough essentially. So there really was no defining point, but the why instead of doing academics or athletics was just because I really didn’t care for either of those. I really like music. So yeah, I really just didn’t have that much interest in doing either of those things where my passion was, which was in music. So I just kind of said, “F*ck it, I want to do music, this is where I’m happy. I don’t care. I can do the other things later or another time, whatever.”
RC: This is awesome! You have this unique distinctive Crankdat sound, which is very rare these days. How did you find that?
Crankdat: I absolutely did not. *laughs* Thank you for saying that. That’s that’s really cool that you think so! I have no idea what my sound is, I think the only kind of sound I have is from just making music the same way for a very long time. But I tried to use a lot of different sounds, so I appreciate you saying that. That’s really cool. I didn’t think I had a sound I’m just out here winging it.
RC: Trust me, you do! I don’t Shazam to be able to tell it’s your track playing!
Crankdat: Thank you. Thank you.
RC: How do you choose the tracks to ‘recrank’?
Crankdat: So the landscape has kind of changed over time. Back in the SoundCloud era, I tried to just do one every other week. So I was picking whatever song was popular, whatever song I liked, etc. Nowadays, I really only pick songs that I like. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big song or a small song; if I like it and I think that I can do something with it to make it unique, not better, just unique.
RC: How do you think your style has evolved since you first started producing?
Crankdat: I started off really bad, and then I got a little bit better. And now I’m really bad again. *laughs* Really, I think my style has evolved by just… I take a lot less time making music now and I work a lot faster, so I think I get more ideas out quickly. I know that doesn’t really answer the question, but I think that my sound has kind of been encapsulated by how quickly I make songs, and I think my sound is kind of defined by the habits I have rather than the sounds I use. So I think really, for me, was just developing those habits and figuring out those patterns of like what I liked and didn’t like in the music making process.
RC: Your mixes and set production are very clean and spotless. Tell us about your creative process, and how do you choose those tracks that are going to create a double or even a triple drop?
Crankdat: Okay, so I kind of have an answer. It’s pretty tricky. Triples can be messy. So we’ll start with doubles. All right, for a double, the way that I like to do my doubles is using lot of songs that kind of have a melody that goes on top. So what I’ll do is I’ll take those songs and I’ll play them, and then I’ll play another song that has like kind of a really grungy, sort of like bass sound to it. For example, I have a double that I do, which is my song called “Welcome to the jungle” with a song by Bandlez called “Mr Yoi,” and I’ll play “Mr Yoi” underneath “Welcome to the jungle.” What I do is I just cut out the low end to “Welcome to the jungle,” and then it sounds pretty nice. That’s just the way that I like to do mine. I like to pick a song that has a melody, or like a sound that is pretty upfront and then just play something that’s really grimy in the background.
RC: That was awesome and very informative. It’s becoming more common lately for younger artists to stray away from writing complete songs, and focusing more on the initial drop, where you always tend to compose complete well rounded tracks. What advice do you have for newer artists who think they just need a decent buiild and a banger for a drop?
Crankdat: You know, 50% of me wants to say, “Hey, just keep doing what you’re doing.” And the other 50% believes there’s more to a song than just a drop. If the only part of the song was the buildup and the drop, then all of the songs in electronic music would just be, you know, a minute and fifteen seconds. You make the rest of the song for those who are actually willing to listen. Not everybody’s wanting to listen, and that’s totally fine. But in the way that I like to make my songs and the way that I like to make anything that isn’t the buildup with the drop is, you know, if somebody is paying attention to this and listening to this, I want them to really like it. I want it to help make the rest of the song enjoyable for them.
RC: So I’ve got a question about your amazing visuals. How did you learn how to create your own visuals? How long does it take to create that kind of animation?
Crankdat: I have a couple different answers to that question. I use a program called Blender and it’s free, it’s open source, and I am a big Blender supporter because a lot of the other 3D animation programs are not free and open source. So because of that Blender has kind of taken the 3D world by storm over the past 10 years. I have not been present for these 10 years. I’ve been present for the past roughly 1.5 years. I started doing my visuals in the summer of 2018. I was on a tour in Europe, and we had a couple of days off. My videographer that I took with me had a little bit of experience with Blender, and he showed it to me and I was like, “Okay, I could maybe do something with this.” I just started messing around with it and I had a lot of fun with it. I thought, “Okay, I could have full creative control here instead of, you know, paying somebody else an absolutely obscene amount of money to make some visuals for me that might not even be what I need or what I want.” I could maybe just try to do these myself and ideally, over time, make this process totally in-house.
To answer the actual question you gave me, I did a tour in 2019 last year around this time actually called the Gear World tour. I had the tour set up to be totally time-coded, which means that all of the visuals were perfectly synced to the music and it was super complicated and an absolute disaster if anything went wrong, which it hardly did, praise God. But there were a couple of times that it did, and when I’m making the actual animations, it can usually take about a day or two, then programming them to work in time-code is probably another day or two. So in reality, you’re looking at about a week per song and it can take a really, really long time, which is why I’m currently not using that system. I’m testing new visuals for when I do that system again, ideally later this year.
RC: Wow! I think you covered everything. I did some stuff with Maya in college. Have you heard of that? It’s a nightmare!
Crankdat: I have, actually. Autodesk? I’ve heard that Autodesk is literally the most outrageous software ever.
RC: It was so difficult. My computer was also really bad, and it was crashing all of the time. It was just so nerve wracking.
Crankdat: I don’t think there are any computers that are good computers for Maya. *laughing* Cool, though, props to you for doing it! I tried cinema 4D actually when I started, which was when I first had an interest in doing my visuals, was top of 2018 I started Blender that summer, top of 2018 I tried cinema 4D with my lovely girlfriend and she quit like two days in, and I quit one week in. I was like, I have no idea what’s going on!
RC: Yeah, this could be super complicated. So you used to go to festivals as a fan, which is more fun to be in the crowd or on the stage?
Crankdat: I’m a stage guy. I mean I just like performing, but I really like seeing shows, especially now, now that I’ve like been behind the decks. Sometimes you can lose the appreciation for what it’s like to experience a set in the crowd. So I try to do one at least every half year. Just recently I went to Slander’s show. They came through Pittsburgh.
RC: Dylan Matthew is…
Crankdat: A God! *laughs* I was very pleased. I thought they did a great job, and I’m very proud of those guys. It gave me a lot of really good insight as to, you know, how the crowd feels during set. Because no matter how much you practice, no matter how good you think you are doing at your job, you don’t really know what the crowd is experiencing unless you put yourself in those shoes.
RC: That is very true. Well that brings me up to my next question. Are there any artists you are most looking forward to catching at Tomorrowland?
Crankdat: Oh man! I’d have to look at the full lineup. I think Eptic is there, if I am correct. Eptic is probably… It’s between Eptic and Troyboi for a tie, my two favorite DJs, aside from like Skrillex and all that; but they don’t even count, those are Gods. Not that Eptic and Troyboi aren’t because they totally are, but they’re my favorite DJs that I want to see. So Eptic is probably number one on the list. I don’t know if Troyboi is there. I don’t think so. I wish!
RC: It’s Eptic’s first TomorrwLand! And it’s his home country!
Crankdat: Dude just had a crazy year. I remember talking to him, I know this isn’t part of the interview, but I remember talking to him at a festival in Germany two years ago and he was just kind of bummed. And I told him, “Dude, you have some of the best music in the game, no argument. Please keep going. Please do not stop. You are my favorite DJ hands down”, and a year and a half later and he’s doing better than he’s ever done with his career and I’m really happy for him. He’s a really nice guy too. I have a lot of respect for him as well because he does his own artwork and visuals. Very inspiring.
RC: So I’ve got one last thing for you. We’re going to name 8 artists that you’ve either collabed with or play in your mixes and you give us the first word that comes to mind for each.
Crankdat: Okay. All right. I might have some stories behind it depending on who…
Crankdat: Great producer.
RC: Okay. That was two words.
Crankdat: We’ll make it one word. Because if I just said ‘producer’, that’s just like, “Ah Duh!” *laughs*
Crankdat: Uncle… *long pause*
RC: Okay. Any explanation to that, or are we moving on? *laughs*
Crankdat: The first time we met, I shouldn’t say the first time we met, the first time we worked together, Scott actually self proclaimed himself to be my uncle.
RC: Uncle Slander, that’s so sweet.
Crankdat: Yup. Uncle Slander.
RC: We did our First Dance to “Superhuman”.
Crankdat: No way?
RC: Yup. They reposted it on Twitter. But we still haven’t had a chance to meet them.
Crankdat: Oh, that’s so cool. They are the nicest dudes I’ve ever met. They’re the best.
RC: All right. Moving on. Adventure Club.
RC: *All laughing* That Okay. We did an interview with them and we came up with a name Crankdat AC for y’alls collab
Crankdat: I like it. I’m all for it.
Crankdat: Brostep Strikes Back. *laughs* I can’t think of anything other than that! If you name a track “Brostep Strikes Back”, you’re asking to never be labeled as anything other than Brostep. I love Matt though, I should say nice. Very nice. Sweet man.
RC: Okay, Marshmello. Go!
Crankdat: Head! *All laughing*
RC: This is on point so far.
Crankdat: I’m a very straightforward guy!
RC: All right. Eliminate.
Crankdat: Ooh. Okay. I have to actually think of a word because I just got sounds.
RC: Weeble Wobble?
Crankdat: Yeah! I could say wobble! Laser. High pitch. That’s two words. We’re going with laser.
RC: Yookie. *whispers, “Sucks”*
Crankdat: Sucks! *laughing* I was going to say edit but sucks is just as good!
RC: Okay. One more, Crankdat.
Crankdat: Oh, trash. *laughing*
New Speaker: Omg, no!
Crankdat: So Yookie sucks, Crankdat Trash. Very good. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Trash.
RC: That was amazing. Thank you so much.
Crankdat: Thank you.