Kev Obrien – professional dreamweaver, self-made survivor and founder of Stranjjur, a NYC based record label, artist discovery and management agency. The imprint focuses solely on the dreamers of the world of music in the path of making their dreams become their realities.
His name first made tiny ripples in the international ‘scene’ around 2010 and 2011, as his raw and imperfect debut productions, releases and remixes were already being championed by many of the world’s most respected DJs. Artists like John Digweed, Ben Watt, Jamie Jones, Laurent Garnier, Nic Fanciulli, Solomun and many others have frequently charted, playlisted and supported his music.
His mind has since shifted toward a much greater vision other than his own mere success. In Feb 2011 he began a collaboration with the young but highly gifted Chris Luzz. The pairing was an instant success after the duo’s first remixes were charted and caned all summer by 2011’s DJ of the Year, Jamie Jones and many others.
The Stranjjur Imprint ( co-owned with Chris Luzz ) has already seen a storm of growth and success after it’s debut release, from Lula Circus ( backed by remixes from Pezzner and MANIK ), topped the decks.de house chart at #2 and rapidly sold out of stock in 3 weeks. One year after it’s inception the label was lauded as one of the most forward-thinking in the business, with hits such as Fabo’s ‘Where I Stand’ topping charts and generating over 300,000 youtube plays in a matter of weeks. Then there was H.O.S.H. & HearThuG’s one-of-a-kind smash, ‘Technicolour’, which topped DJ MAG’s ‘Essential Killers of the Month’ list in Sept 2011 and continues to gain support from all corners of the globe.
Stranjjur’s roster now includes artists such as H.O.S.H & HearThuG, Sasse ( Freestyle Man ), Lula Circus, Pezzner, Kris Wadsworth, Inxec, Marcin Czubala and Audio Soul Project. Then of course there’s the new breed of future stars, such as Gab Rhome, Havens+Hart, Art in Motion, Nhan Solo and many more. The label continues to gain momentum in 2014 and this year saw the release of Sasse presents Freestyle Man – ‘Long Nights EP’ with remixes by Baunz and label boss Kev Obrien. We caught up with Kev for a brief chat and he kindly agreed to present us with an exclusive mix for our 16th podcast.
Welcome to The Lost and Found. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My names Kev Obrien. I’m a guy who loves music. I make it, play it and release it on my label. I was born in New York, and currently reside here.
Why choose a career in the Music industry?
Why’s the sky blue? Some things defy explanation. I don’t have one of those stories about learning to play some instrument at 5 years old, or working in a grocery store when I was 12 to buy my first set of decks. It’s a natural progression that slowly evolved over 33 years and has led me here; to a place in my life where I have essentially made my involvement in the music industry my sole life direction.
Your first experience with dance music culture was in the mid 90’s. The scene has grown exponentially since. In your opinion how has it improved and how has it declined?
Electronic music is now becoming a billion dollar industry, it’s really not much of a fair comparison because whether or not things have improved or declined is completely objective and that answer is going to differ no matter who you ask. Personally, it’s no longer just about the parties for me. I am in the scene now solely because I live and breathe the music that it’s based upon. My opinion of any scene is irrelevant because I am not a part of any scene, I just make and play music that I love and I really choose not to make it about anything other than that. When I play somewhere or go out, I’m there for the music , not the scene or to go rub elbows with anyone.
Name 3 artists that have changed the way you think about Music and tell us why?
These 3 guys literally shaped my entire love and eventual course of direction into this industry. Hearing music mixed in a manner that took you places, on a journey into another space, time and dimension; completely unique based on the listener’s experience.. has and will always be the driving force behind what I do.
Tell us about the Stranjjur imprint. How was the name derived and what inspired you to start the label?
The origins of the label came about after a few years of extremely costly financial losses throwing events in NYC. It simply made more sense to dedicate my life toward making a lasting impact with a label focused on the same ideals as the parties were; which is to mainly work exclusively with newer artists and help them cement their names in the industry. The name Stranjjur was something an original founding member of Stranjjur thought of after watching Heath Ledger depict the Joker in Batman; where the line was used, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you stranger.’ From there, the word Stranjur was contrived, and eventually the second J was added to give it a bit more of a unique characteristic.
What do you look and listen for when considering Music to sign to the label?
Timelessness. Heart. Soul. Passion. Love. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Joy, and pain. Sunshine and rain.
You proudly represent Brooklyn, NYC. Tell us about the Music scene in your hometown.
The music scene in Brooklyn has been and will continue to be rich. Since coming back from Berlin, to be quite frank, I have not really re-immersed myself within the confines of ‘the scene’. I’ve been completely focused on productions and the label.
What inspires Kev Obrien?
Life. Love. Passion. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Joy, and pain. Sunshine and rain.
The Music industry can be unforgiving. What’s been key to your success thus far?
Dedication and an uncompromising faith in what you’re doing that makes it the single most important thing in your life. Once you’ve found that, everything else falls into place. It’s no walk in the park. There’s going to be high times and low times, despite what you may portray to the public… its important that you simply KNOW deep down inside that you’ve chosen the correct direction for your life; and this comes with ultimate sacrifices that will cause an equal amount of pain and frustration as it will joy and excitement. If you have one shred of doubt in your own mind, how can you expect to convince anyone else of helping you along the way to your vision?
What are your future plans for Stranjjur? any forthcoming releases or collaborations you’d like to share?
Stranjjur is undergoing a bit of a renaissance return back to the roots right now. 2012 saw us head down a bit more of a commercial path centered in nu-disco; those days are behind us and 2014 will be strictly about underground, quality house music and even techno. Artists you’ll hear on the label in coming months include Sasse, who we just released an EP from; The Black 80s (Hollis P Monroe & Overnite), Carlos Sanchez, Baunz, Ataxia and many more; as well as an EP from myself later this year and some big remixes I’ve done for H.O.S.H. & HearThuG, Baunz, Lula Circus and more.
When are we going to see a Stranjjur showcase in South Africa?
Late 2014. The specifics are in development so I won’t go into detail as of yet, but I’m excited to be returning!
We wish you every success with the label. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us and for your valued contribution to the Music we love.