Photos provided by UHNK
A soundscape perhaps from a science lab of the future, UHNK’s music melts down to a heavy dance style with textured bass, rhythmic beats and chopped vocals integrated throughout the grooves. Alex Saldana is the man behind UHNK, a Chicago native who creates music under the label of Producer Dojo. In honor of his new EP released January 24th, DIY Reality, we had the chance to pick Saldana’s brain about inspiration, rituals during the recording process and how his music may be of benefit to others.
Festival Squad: When did you know you were going to make this album, DIY Reality? What was your biggest challenge in the process?
UHNK: One of my personal goals last year was to write my first cohesive body of work, and I set out to do that right after Deja Voom of last year. The biggest struggle for me was, and still is, deciding when a track is “finished.” Every song to me is a continuous work in progress. Even songs that I have released I sometimes make edits to for live sets, as music to me is never something that is complete.
UHNK: Brandon (Wreckno) is a good friend of mine who I actually met on SoundCloud around two years ago. I had heard some of his mixes and asked where I could find the a capellas he was using. He sent me two, and then we didn’t really talk for a year. When I released Overpowered a while later, he messaged me and seemed excited about it. We talked some and figured out that we were both going to Deja Voom and ended up meeting there and decided to work on a song together. I wanted to make something with a trappier first drop, and then a heavier second drop to accommodate our styles and then add some sassy female vocals, which we both like. Even though we have different styles, there is a lot of overlap as far as taste goes. The rest is history. Jack (Moonsplatta) is a member of Producer Dojo, I met him at a Caspa show in Chicago. We pretty much became friends as soon as we met and hung out over the course of the next year just jamming and working on music or partying from time to time. He helped me in a lot of ways when I was starting out because I would go to him with random questions basically every time we hung out. He is a mentor at the Dojo now too. Even though we hung out a lot, we hadn’t finished a song together, and he was moving to Hawaii. So, we decided to write this one before he left. Again, we just wanted to combine our styles, and what came out was this heavy relentless bassline of a song.
FS: What are a few of your morning (or evening) rituals during the music-making process?
UHNK: Workflow wise, I generally employ something ill.Gates suggested: I split up music writing sessions and everything else (sound design, template making, sample digging, etc). The idea there is that when I have 8+ hours to write a song, I will have everything I need ahead of time so that I don’t derail myself during the writing process. It’s really easy to be an hour into a song and then get lost trying to fix a snare or design a new bass for an hour and you totally lose your train of thought. I prefer to start out songs with some type of iconic sound, or vocal that will serve as the theme of the song. Once I have that, I usually start out songs by writing a drum groove that I can loop and then work on a bassline. If the drums and bassline by themselves don’t make me want to dance, I just keep changing the groove until it does. Otherwise, it just sits in the dead pile until I am able to fix it. Everything from there is just giving the song a flow and trying to tell a story with the progression. Outside of workflow, I like to write music with the lights off and a sugar-free red bull on the desk.
FS: The “DIY Reality” album cover and many of your other visual designs are black and white, known to enhance and stimulate cognitive function. What are some other ways you would like your music to be of benefit to people beyond stimulating and enhancing brain function?
UHNK: I like to think that music is introspective for others, as it is for me. If I can get you digging inside your thoughts and exploring the deeper parts of your psyche, I think I’ve done a good job. If you’re dancing while you’re doing this, I think I’ve done an even better job. I like the idea of black and white because the art itself comes through more as there is less going on visually. And then, if you add 1 color to that it stands out much more than just being one huge rainbow that you can sometimes get lost in.
FS: Let’s play favorites for a moment. What is your favorite holiday: Grizmas, Deja Voom, Freakstyle or other?
UHNK: I can’t even choose a favorite here but top 3 for me are Basscenter, Free(eak)styles and Deja Voom for separate reasons.
FS: Where can we find your new album?
UHNK: You can find DIY Reality here.