This week’s Artist of the Week is an extremely talented up-and-coming producer you may have heard of before; Ekstra. A resident of Santa Barbara, and a student at UCSB, this guy has a great head on his shoulders, with a very classic approach to his music production and sound: he believes that the music he puts out should be his own. I really enjoyed talking to Kevin (Ekstra) about his influences, his music, and what he enjoys in his spare time. We’ve included a few of his original tracks for your listening pleasure, so check them out below, and be sure to read the entire interview as well! Enjoy!
What has it been like developing your music career in Santa Barbara? What’s the scene like there?
Well I go to UCSB, and I live in the college town Isla Vista bordering it. There is a good amount of EDM lovers there so I have made some new friends doing what I do that support me and keep me going so I’m grateful. I haven’t started playing in the clubs downtown yet, but in Isla Vista, people like to party and dance to EDM every weekend. More people my age though are really into the hard electro, dubstep, complextro, house with top 40 vocals, or hip hop, which is not the type of stuff I do (I’ll have a hard bass line in a couple songs). It’s also who has the most sound here and who’s willing to play that type of music. I guess I can’t expect too much from a college setting like that with people who are in it just to party, but of the UC schools I think it’s one of (if not the best) schools for an aspiring producer like me.
Where did the name Ekstra come from?
Well, I was in Denmark one summer with my family and I saw EKSTRA on windows while shopping, and it’s the Danish word for “extra”. I thought it was aesthetically appealing. I imagined it like my name was on all the windows there. I liked how it was spelled, it was simple, it was Danish (I’m half Danish), and I figured I could use it in witty ways to have double meanings/puns with my tracks. For example, Ekstra – Voltage, or adding a little bit “Ekstra” to your mix.
The quality of your productions is superb; where did you learn to produce tracks like that? Who has helped you along the way?
Thank you! I was recording since I was 12, first it was with Metal bands I was in. I was obsessed with trying to get studio quality without going to a studio since all the recording was up to me, so since that age I was reading articles about eq, compression, mixing, and everything production related. I knew it was possible so I never gave up. The Internet has been my biggest resource, but what I think helped the most though was A/B testing. I will try certain eq/compression or mastering settings on my plugins, tweak them a little and see which settings sound the best. I save the better settings and continue from there little by little. Any knob that can turn has a direction that is closer to the sound you want. Who’s helped me the most though is my Father. He’s helped me get gear and studio equipment for all my birthdays and Christmases since that age, which kept me excited about producing and achieving a studio sound. It’s an on going process. No matter how much the productions improve, especially with mastering and mixing, you’ll just keep improving I’ve found. I also believe you have to train your ear which takes years. Things I made a year ago don’t sound as good now as I thought they did back then. That’s because my ear has improved and is always improving.
Where do you find inspiration for your tracks?
I get inspired by trying to develop a certain vibe in my music. I really like dark tracks that move you and driving percussive tracks. But mainly a nice fat kick drum can be really inspiring, because you can throw so many different sounds over a nice kick drum and it will sound nice. Also older tracks that give me nostalgia really inspire me to create something that can bring up the same feeling in myself or others.
What are your goals with your music career?
My main goal is to just get my music heard and to try and move people, either emotionally or on the dance floor. I also just want to make music I’m proud of, and that will always be an ongoing process. I’m on a constant quest to produce smarter, faster, and better.
What interests you outside of music?
Photography really interests me. It’s been one of my hobbies for about 4 years. I also like video editing and graphic design. I am really into the multimedia arts and they all kind of relate to each other. I guess it’s my love for creating things! I’ve alway been a DIY kind of guy. I enjoy being the only person that does all the artwork, photos, videos, and music for this project I call Ekstra because it’s a reflection of all my interests and makes me proud to be that independent.
What has been your favorite live performance you’ve seen to date?
EDC 2010 for sure. The Swedish House Mafia set blew me away. I took this picture with my phone from that night. It was the perfect balance of techy/percussive house and big anthem tracks. It was super high energy and it really moved me, a lot of emotion. I think it was one of their best sets in my opinion next to their 2011 Masquerade Motel set. There was a certain vibe in 2010 that I try to capture in my productions. The people at EDC that year I felt were really there for the music. The coliseum in L.A. was completely filled with people dancing to these techier tracks that I’m sure they were unfamiliar with, but hey enjoyed it anyway and it was just amazing. It was really about the love for house music. I haven’t been to another event with music played like that. It got me producing music with a little bit of an Ibiza and Miami progressive vibe to it. I’m also half Colombian so I always say that’s where the percussive latin influence comes from. No other Rave I went to after that has topped it and it has been the biggest inspiration to my music. I’m sad L.A. has banned raves after that! I loved the productions released at the time and it’s something I try to capture in my productions. 2010 was the golden year for me.
Who are your greatest influences?
Daft Punk, Swedish House Mafia, Sander van Doorn, 2000 and One, Marco V, Michael Woods, Erick Morillo, Thomas Gold, Nicky Romero, Eric Prydz, Funkagenda, Norman Doray, Swanky Tunes, Chuckie, Laidback Luke, John Dahlbäck, Bingo Players, David Tort, AN21 & Max Vangeli, Arno Cost, Albin Myers, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, and more.
What is one thing people should know about you?
All my songs are made from scratch! I stay away from the loops and premade synths and melodies and all that stuff. I like the satisfaction of making new sounds, after all that’s what “producing” is about right?
When you’re not making music, who are you listening to?
Funny question as I don’t listen to house music as exclusively as I used to because I think new releases from my favorite artists are starting to drone into the same kind of sound. Lately I’ve been listening to Pink Floyd (mainly older), The Growlers, and Soma FM’s “Groove Salad” the most. It’s a nice break from house too. When I do listen to house it is usually Daft Punk, Sensation White Podcasts, or my favorite song of all time, “Music Sounds Better with You” by Stardust, which was the first house song I ever heard when I was about 6 (my mother used to play it in the car).
What’s next for Ekstra?
Right now I’m working on a Rave Visual graphics video for my track Voltage to put on YouTube. This is me taking some past multimedia hobbies and trying to make something fun with them and something interesting for the viewer to see. It will be like a Rave Visualizer custom made for the track. I’m excited to finish it and maybe I’ll make more for my other tracks!
Anything else you’d like to mention?
Thanks to everyone who listens to my music! Liking my Facebook page motivates me to keep producing and interact with listeners. Share anything you like with your friends, word of mouth is important to a small underground producer like me! Thanks to MusicYouNeed for all the support!
~Kevin Suhr (Ekstra)