Dead Beat! is the moniker of Christian Solsma, an electronic musician based in Iowa City. Having already rolled out several singles over the first half of the year, he’s returned recently with the pulsating, drum and bass-leaning “KTFO.” Connecting via email, Solsma explained the track’s production as a work several months in the making. During that time the piece took many forms and iterations as he sought to find the right blend of sound and emotion for it; a blend that sounds completely unlike much of what he’s dropped to date. That’s where we dove in for this edition of Singled Out, focused on his decision to switch things up stylistically, and lean in on a more aggressive sound for what would become “KTFO.”
Dead Beat!: “DWUFM” and “BACK2ME” just kind of popped into my head, the process of making them was much quicker than “KTFO.” I actually sat on this song for a couple months because I had made a few different versions of it and some versions were slower and in different genres, but I eventually decided on drum and bass. When I made the vocal chop that is used throughout the song I wasn’t sure if I liked it until I added the drone that plays along with it in the intro. Once I had that all put together the song really started to piece together in my head. I wanted it to be dark but also carry a heavy energy into the drop. I think “KTFO” will set the tone for my next few releases. I would like to get back into making dubstep and drum and bass.
villin: From its title through to the samples and rigid, driving drum and bass, “KTFO” has a much more aggressive sound than some of your other work. Was that a purposeful decision or did it just come together that way?
Dead Beat!: It was a purposeful decision to have the aggressive sound in this track. I had actually made hardstyle drop for it originally with a pumping baseline but it lacked something, and I tried for months to add different melodies and vocal chops and effects but it never sounded right. I ultimately decided to scrap that entire section and just started to piece together the bass line which is now in it. I am happy that I did that because as soon as I layered the vocals and started moving things around I knew that I had something unique and fun to listen to.
villin: In a past conversation you mentioned loving the process of making “KTFO.” What was particularly enjoyable about putting this track together?
Dead Beat!: I think the most enjoyable part of making music in general is the experimentation. With this song I tried so many new things. The vocal sample I used was actually at a much slower BPM and I sped it up and processed it over and over again until it was just a blob of sound, then I used a Tremolo plugin that I synced up to be mono instead of panning ear to ear and modulated the tempo so that it wouldn’t be at a constant rate. Then I processed it one last time with a multi-band compressor just to really make it sharp, then I added a reverb and dialed back the dry signal to make it feel more atmospheric. The basses were also so much fun to make, but if I start talking about those this will end up being pages long.
villin: From a standpoint of inspiration, are there any other artists or specific tracks that helped shape the sound you came up with for “KTFO”?
Dead Beat!: I have been a fan of drum and bass since I was in middle school. I vividly remember listening to “Snake Eyes” by Feint in the office of my childhood home, which I discovered from Pandora Radio. I was so enamored by how a song could give me such a visceral feeling. Since then I have dreamed of being able to recreate that feeling in my own music. I think I achieved that with this song, it is sometimes hard to compare my music to the music that I enjoy because I am very critical of myself but I am happy with the sound of this track and the feeling it gives me.
villin: A few weeks back, “DWUFM” received some love from Stereo Stickman, calling out how the track “brilliantly fuses sheer energy and detail to a refreshingly original level.” How important is it to you to instill a high level of energy into the music you make?
Dead Beat!: To me, music is all about the energy. I actually had an old friend who moved out to California call me after I released “DWUFM” and he told me he was having a pretty bad week because of an issue with a girl that he was talking to, but he told me that he had been listening to “DWUFM” on repeat and that it helped him. To be able to create something that can give someone energy or make someone feel better is such a crazy idea to me. Also, I have really appreciated all the kind words they wrote about my music. It is like I am getting back some of the energy I’ve put into my music.
villin: What does your workflow look like when producing a song like “KTFO”? Did you create the entire track in a DAW or do you use any other hardware or software when putting it together?
Dead Beat!: I have a few synths—a microKorg and a Korg minilogue. I use these to spitball ideas. I occasionally will actually record them but most of the synths and basses you hear in my music come from Serum, a digital synth that I have been making patches on since I was 16. I use Logic Pro X as my DAW and that is like home to me. I have spent thousands of hours staring at MIDI sequences on my laptop. It feels like the only constant in my life. I start almost every song by just writing MIDI notes until I get something that sounds cool to me. From there I just experiment until I start getting an idea of where the song is going. To me, it is more like I am just bringing the music to life, it’s not like I heard “KTFO” in my head before I made it. I just kind of let the songs make themselves with my guidance.
villin is supported by
Razzle Dazzle Cedar Rapids