We had the pleasure of attending the first-ever Wakaan Music Festival, in Ozark, Arkansas. Not only did the lineup boast a plethora of talented, unique Bass producers, but the energy between the attendees and performers was infectious. I’ve never personally seen such a community feel from a festival.
Dare we say we have a new favorite fest? Everything was extremely well run.
Every festival and their mother focuses on “togetherness” and that “Everybody Love Everybody” mentality, but when it comes down to it that’s hardly ever the reality on their festival grounds. We were happy to say that Wakaan Festival did a great job establishing that vibe. It truly felt like one big, seven thousand-person family.
With their festival motto, “#IAMWAKAAN”, attendees were reminded right when they entered the festival and of course, throughout the weekend, that Wakaan is much more than just the artists who release through the label. It’s the community that’s built around the music. We are all Wakaan. All the fans, artists, and everyone and anyone in between.
Heard It Here First has only been around about a year and a half. Throughout the site’s whole journey, Wakaan has been coordinating with us so we don’t miss any of their releases. They hold a special place in everyone here at HIHF’s hearts and we cannot wait to return to Arkansas again next year!
During the inaugural festival last weekend, we had the pleasure of speaking with one of the most consistent hit-makers to grace the lineup. G-REX has released two EPs through the Wakaan imprint and threw down one of the heaviest sets of the weekend. Check out our conversation below!
H: Wakaan has been riding with us since the beginning. That’s why we’re here. They’ve been sending us their releases since day one of HIHF and obviously, you’ve put out a ton of music with them.
G: It’s been a good year with Wakaan, it’s honestly been so awesome, such an awesome family.
What do you think of Wakaan Fest so far?
It’s been absolutely amazing, they absolutely killed everything. It’s been running very smoothly. It’s been perfect. They’re really doing a great job with their inaugural festival this year.
I’m also loving it, honestly one of the best festivals I’ve ever attended. I’ll definitely be back. I’m sure you will too?
I definitely will be.
Yesterday, during your set, you premiered your new collab with Liquid Stranger. What can you tell us about that? Any other collabs coming out? So, we started that collab on the Infinity Australia tour. We had a week off in Brisbane. We just sat there and worked on it. The first half of it is done, still gotta finish the second half, we’re planning on getting together when things slow down on his end, just with the festival and everything whatnot. I’m really excited, It will probably come out next year.
I feel like that’s the case a lot of times with these tracks that artists play out in their sets, they’re not always finished.
No no no, we usually just like – a lot of the stuff I’ve been playing out recently isn’t completely finished to the entirety. I’ve been so busy touring that I have to get it wrapped when I do have the opportunity
What can you tell us about the Infinity Tour? Earlier on in 2019 opening up for Liquid Stranger.
For a lot of us that was our first time on a bus tour – my first bus tour – awesome crew, super chill. Artist wise it was Lucii, me, LSDream, Champagne Drip, and Liquid – going on that tour it was ninety-eight percent sold out for the entirety of the tour. The room was filled from the beginning when Lucii started until Martin finished. People showed out and really enjoyed the experience and the ride of those different artists and where their visions go.
I feel like that’s a big appeal about Wakaan and Wakaan festival, its a real connection between the artists and the fans. Liquid does an awesome job with that.
Oh yeah. He’s really good at handpicking people for Wakaan… like Wakaan doesn’t take demos, he handpicks everyone. He really cares about their music but he also cares about the people, which is something that’s really special. I think the fans really gravitate to that sincerity.
People are bringing blowup couches into the festival grounds, air mattresses and such. The vibe is insanely chill, that’s not the case at other big festivals.
Yeah, this is much more relaxed.
Let’s talk about you for a little bit. How’d you get started?
The first time I was exposed to the Electronic music scene was in 2011, I went to the first Electric Forest, saw Excision play, he was the first artist I walked in and saw and was just like “Wow, this is insane. I wanna do that”, now coming full circle and doing an official remix and him playing my tracks all the time and speaking with him… It’s just crazy how that escalates. He actually played a couple unreleased tracks of mine during his Detox Set at Lost Lands.
Dream collaborator — doesn’t have to be EDM, could be rock or hip-hop but just one collaborator, who’s it gonna be?
Right now what would be really fun would be GHOSTMANE — I think he would be revolutionary all of his sounds and that would be very fun. Big fan of his stuff.
Inspirations? Again, doesn’t have to be music, art, authors, whoever inspires you?
Super inspired by Hip Hop. I grew up on Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, ATL rap, all that stuff. Outside of music, I’d say horror movies, cinematic sounds. All that those creepy sounds everything from American Horror Story to like Hereditary to all those horrors in general, 80s slashers to modern-day horrors. Rob Zombie is a legend to me.
I feel like there’s a little love affair between DJs and horror films.
You see it a lot. I know I hear other artists who have similar aesthetics like Rezz, Svdden Death, Ghastly all preach and love horror movies.
What have you been listening to?
Denzel Curry, SkiMask, Lil Keed, Night Lovell, Key Glock, Lil Skies, Travis Scott– Love Travis, GHOSTMANE like I mentioned. Juice WRLD.
What was your initial reaction to Babatunde and it blowing up as much as it did?
I don’t know if we thought about how big it would be at the time. When we wrote that song Matt was working at guitar center and I was doing landscaping and construction shit. We’re both from MI, did the ATLiens’ “Witch Doctor” remix, did that in two days, then we were like “This is really cool and all but now let’s go make an original song” and then started “Babatunde” and the rest is history.
It really was crazy. What really gave it the giant push is when Liquid played it at Bass Canyon and there was like a viral video that surfaced. Everyone there was like “WTF is that song?” Then it came out officially and then getting support like from Skrillex every set – that’s when we were like “Woah”.
How does it feel that the biggest names in Dubstep are playing your tracks (and not just “Babatunde“) Skrillex, Excision, Bassnectar, of course, Liquid?
It is super surreal, to be honest. Some days I wake up and I feel like it’s not even real life. Just shit I’m making on my computers just like to see it on such a big stage with these influential artists being big supporters of it is just unbelievable.
Well, you should be really proud.
Hell yeah, thanks man.
Got any new music coming out with Matt (Peekaboo)?
Well since “Babatunde“’s going so strong we both said we’re gonna do our own things for now, but give it some time and we’ll do something. But we’re both touring, he’s touring with Rezz. I have my Purple Haze tour with Zeke Beats. But we’ll get something down the road for sure.
Any other collabs you can tell us about?
Probably the newest collab that’s coming out is a collab with Sully, who’s here, fellow Michigan producer, went to Western Michigan U with us. Michigan’s been strong in the game lately, the scene’s awesome there.
Michigan is a really special place because Michigan people love Michigan artists, and a lot of Michigan artists don’t really leave Michigan. Eminem still lives in Michigan, Kid rock still lives in Michigan.
Also, Electric Forest being there. So many local artists crush that.
Yeah, between forest and just that love of art I think it really keeps the MI scene thriving. Grand rapids scene is insane, Detroit scene is insane. All the shows sell out, the fans love it. Electric Forest has also just pushed it to the next level.
Okay, “Purple Haze”, your collab with Zeke Beats — absolute slapper of a track–you just hit the road with Zeke Beats. What do you wanna tell your fans about the tour?
It’s gonna be exciting. Zeke and I both bring our different flavors to the table, I think the track is a good representation of both our styles coming together, both on some experimental shit but still keeping it high energy and exciting and whatnot. We both have our different DJ styles. He’s obviously like one of the most AMAZING turntablists in the world. It’s so cool. The first show was awesome, the energy through the roof, so I’m really excited for the rest of the tour.
I’m sure your fans are equally excited, what can you tell us about Lost Lands last week? The Wakaan takeover and your Wompy Woods Set? It was absolutely unreal. So I went the first year to Lost Lands with Kompany whos a good friend of mine, just to support him and he played.
He’s a three year Lost Lands vet.
So shout out to him. Kompany’s killing it. And then last year I was supposed to play the sound camps but, because of weather, it was the last day, and a bunch of people had to shift schedules, but this year was so great, very special.
How was the b2b with Tynan? Always awesome, we don’t ever really plan anything ever. It’s almost just a free for all. We just go track track track track, and just like playing lowkey stuff, both sitting having so much fun just like “Oh my god, what is that?” It’s a fun interaction back and forth and always becomes a very special set.
I definitely group you, Tynan and Peekaboo as the big boundary pushers of this experimental trappy/bass scene.
Someone else who’s in the same boat, we believe, but a bit more underground. Let’s talk about STUCA.
What can you tell us about him? We’re big fans.
Super, super nice dude, he played LL too, played the asteroid stage. Dude, he came out absolutely fucking swinging. One of the hardest sets of the weekend. People were mind blown by it. I was just like “Wow”. It was actually my first time seeing him throw down. We’ve spoken and worked together. But this was something special, people should definitely be on the lookout for him because he’s definitely on the boundary-pushing category but on another level.
We definitely see him cranking out the bangers and cover his stuff. Let’s talk Horror, Halloweens coming up.
Halloween is coming up. The new American horror story just started.
Yessss. I’m two episodes in, the two killers are coming right at them, in separate rooms. That’s how that ends. Nuts. I’m really excited to see the next episode.
Yes! Me too. Can’t wait to watch. I wanna see how that progressive. The last season – Apocolypse – I loved that too. They killed that season.
I loved it too! Know what I loved, the season before, Cult.
Yeah. Cult was awesome.
I think the past couple before that were iffy.
They came a bit stronger with Cult and Apocalypse. I’m hoping this one picks up though. This season is a little slow, cool theme, but interested to see what they do with it.
It’s going a little too quick in my opinion.
Still entertaining, but we’ll see. It’s October so AMC Fearfest, all the throwbacks. Obviously Halloween Friday, Hellraiser, all those 80s movies love those,
I love Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween, absolutely amazing, I would love for him to do a Friday the 13th remake, would be absolutely amazing.
What about modern Horror movies?
Hereditary was awesome.
To be honest, I did not like Hereditary. The music was great, but it just didn’t do it for me. May have been too overhyped.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that. I really enjoyed it. I think I liked it better than Midsommar, same director.
I need to see that still.
Midsommar was fucked. Really uncomfortable shit.
I need to see IT Pt. 2.
I have not seen IT Pt. 2 either.
Loved Pt. 1.
Me too. I wanna see 3 from Hell, Rob Zombie’s new movie, it’s part three of the House of 1000 Corpses, Devils Rejects series. I watch that every Halloween, it’s a go-to, one of my favorites.
I gotta check those out, I haven’t seen them.
Definitely watch. It’s really cool to see a musician’s – obviously Rob is a musician – perspective of horror and how he curates the sound and everything is really something special.
Suspense, sound, horror — they’re all the same thing.
Yes, exactly, and that’s something I’ve thought about with my music and what not is horror movies are so based around sound if you take the sound away from it, it’s not scary. Sound is such an important point in that, that’s always something I’ve done is take those sounds and create that tension.
You do a great job with that — crafting that super eerie sound.
What about one more show you really like? I talked with Matt about Euphoria.
We actually binged that whole show together in LA haha. Loved Euphoria, great music. Right now, a show that I really love that I just wrapped up was the second season of Mindhunter. Through the roof.
Ooh. Loved that too. They did such a good job. All the actors that played the killer did such great jobs. What about any podcasts?
Podcasts. I love No Jumper. Love hip-hop so, some of the interviews there are a little slow. But once they get going, I love ’em. I love hearing about the hip hop world, it’s a different world and so interesting.
One day I’ll have you on my No Jumper-type podcast.
I would love to dude. A podcast would be fun.
Anything else you want to tell your fans before we wrap this up?
The next release is a collab with Sully, out early December through Wakaan. Then from there on, I’m working on finishing up my next Wakaan EP. I’m gonna try and get some more good rap features for the next EP. I really wanna make it something a little different than what I did with my last two EPs. Instead of four bangers, four bangers but with like rap and like one melodic track, just to show off a little bit of something different.
To be able to do that is so sick, switch it up from time to time.
We’ve got some really cool rap features coming up. I honestly can’t wait.
I really appreciate this Jake, thanks for sitting down with us! Be sure to show G-Rex some love on socials below!