‘If You Don’t Feel It, You Can’t Create It’ – Liz Suwandi Discusses ‘Welcome To Strangeland’ [SM Exclusive]
Thanks the Deluxe Edition of Welcome To Strangeland, fans have received yet another hit collaboration from Tech N9ne and the always popular, Liz Suwandi.
As one of Tech N9ne’s frequent collaborators, Liz Suwandi has assisted the Kansas City King on hits like “Poisonous” and “Cult Leader”. For Welcome To Strangeland, Tech N9ne called upon the sultry songstress to appear on the adrenaline pumping “The Real Thing”. We recently spoke with Liz Suwandi about her involvement on the album and the meaning behind her carefully crafted hook on “The Real Thing”. Sharing her insight on the process, she gave us a personal look at what went into the making of the popular collaboration.
Aside from your work on “The Real Thing”, how were you involved in the making of Welcome To Strangeland ?
I helped with some vocal production and I did some singing on “Who Do I Catch”. I did the lows and the mids and a couple of adlibs, but I didn’t write the hook or anything like that.
Did Tech explain the concept of the album to you before you started working on it? What were your first impressions based on what you heard ?
It’s actually really weird. As you know from the blog, as I said before, I said that one of my favorite tracks was “Strangeland” from All 6’s And 7’s. I thought that it was really crazy that the next album he was doing was called Welcome To Strangeland. It’s sort of surreal and a little ironic that that’s what was the whole new concept for the album. I got it right away because, like I said, that’s one of my favorite songs. I knew exactly what he was going for with the concept of that album and the feeling that the album has. I was just really excited to be able to add writing and add what I do to that. I thought it was a great step for him, as far as artistically, I thought it was a really good idea.
Did you hear any part of the album before it was out?
It might sound kind of weird, but I don’t really get to hear a lot of stuff when I’m working with Tech. I work on what it is that we decide that we’re going to work on, and that’s what I focus on . I don’t really get to hear a lot of stuff. I happened to hear “Overwhelming” and I thought that was a great track. I didn’t hear anything until it actually came out. It’s pretty much under wraps, nobody gets to really hear a lot of it. I heard “The Noose” before it actually came out. “The Noose” is a great song. I really like Mayday, I think Mayday is a great group of people . They do awesome work. I love the track “The Noose” just because of what it explored conceptually and artistically. It asked questions that, I think, for our generation, we ask ourselves. We’ve been at war time for how long? We all have friends that have been deployed, we understand what that is. I think it’s a very important song because of what it represents to American youth.
Did Tech have the concept and direction for “The Real Thing” ready to go or did you have input on where the song was going?
I was like, “I want to come up with the next concept for what we work on.” He was like, “Ok. Well, I have a track that I want to show you. It’s like TRT, like R2D2.” I’m like, “You’re a freaking nerd. Seriously, R2D2?” Like from Star Wars. I was like, “Alright, ok.” He said, “It’s called ‘TRT – The Real Thing’.” The funny thing is he didn’t have to tell me too much about it because I kind of get what he’s saying before he really says it. Basically he just wanted people to know that, as far as the industry goes, what he’s asking is, what’s real? As far as artists go. Asking his fans, asking people who listen to him – what is real? He had to work really hard for the recognition that he got. The industry didn’t give him any recognition. He just had to make the music and put it out there. We identify and have a very common ground on that. When you’re doing something unique and you’re doing something that’s interesting and you’re doing something that’s away from the norm, a lot of people aren’t going to instantly believe in it. That’s basically what he’s dealt with. Even after all his success, he still deals with that. I can completely identify with that because I’ve dealt with that with my own family. I’ve had people sit there and tell me, “If you haven’t made it yet, maybe you’re not suppose to make it.” You’re like, “Wow, I have this whole world in my head that I want to give people and I can give it to people, but it doesn’t happen overnight.” I’m not one of these artists that doesn’t write their own songs, that has to have all these songs written for them. They get all this money and this huge budget to put towards their videos and all this investment in them. When it comes down to it, all those people can’t actually sing live or they can’t rap live. Everything is Auto-Tuned. It’s just very fake. It’s entertainment . It’s like our society doesn’t know the difference between entertainment and real art. That’s basically the concept that I went with. I wanted to take it a step further with that song and relate it to martyrdom of what I see as modern day martyrdom. We don’t live in a society that accepts art and really nurtures art. We just don’t. Especially in the music industry, there’s a lot of fake stuff out there. People can put a lot of stuff out that’s ridiculous. It doesn’t have any real value artistically. You make a lot of money or do this, that was never what he was trying to do. He put in work and he put in work with his fans. He brought it to the people. Basically, he’s asking his fans, “How real of fans are you?” There are a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon. He’s like, “You need to decide between art that’s real and art that isn’t real.” That’s the question, that’s what I took from what he said. He was basically like, “You know, I felt kind of awkward. I didn’t really fit in.” I completely understand that. I’m not the kind of artist to really fit into anything, ever.
With the majors and the different situations that I’ve dealt with in the music industry, I’ve dealt with the same exact thing. “Ok, well you’re alternative. You’re doing something Rock. Now, you’re doing something that is considered R&B. Now, you’re doing something Pop. Now, you’re doing some Electronica music, what exactly are you doing?” So, that was the concept that I went with. Basically, I wanted to ask the fans myself and question that. “What’s real? You guys have to figure that out because we’re evolving into a new place, musically. Our generation is going to decide we’re we want art to go.” It’s like the difference to me between eating a TV dinner or having a gourmet meal. Do you want some nutrition or do you want some TV dinner? That’s basically what I was asking with that song. When I heard the beat, it reminded me of Jesus Of Nazareth, it’s a great movie. I kind of related it to the martyrs of that era. Just relating it to martyrdom and how much pain you go through just to create something that you can feel. If you don’t feel it, you can’t create it. That’s what the hook is about. This pain is mine, but I bleed for you. I’m doing this for you. I’m going to give you something that’s amazing. I want to give you something that you can feel. I want to give you something beautiful. That’s what I’m trying to do. If you don’t believe me, then I’d die for you. You have to know. As an artist you’re saying to the fans, you have to know. It would hurt me so bad if I found out the fans didn’t know.
Do you ever wish that you would dumb down your music in exchange for bigger success?
I’ve been presented with opportunities before. I can’t do it because I don’t feel it. Yeah, I’ve wished that I could do that. Right now, I work down at The Plaza. I’m a server. I went to school for music on an academic scholarship. My parents wanted me to go to law school or do something where they knew for sure that I was going to make a set amount of money. The way I look at it, if I didn’t do what society wanted me to do or do what my family wanted me to, why would I do it for some art that is not real? There’s no reason for me to do it. It’s difficult, but I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to do anything other than what I really feel. I wish I could almost. I wish I could sit around and believe it, and run around in a bikini and think that it’s awesome. Sit there and sing about cotton candy…I don’t know, whatever. I just don’t know how to do that. I like complex melodies. I like complex lyrics. I like lyrics that make people think. I like to write poetry that makes people think. That’s how I put my music together. I want to push boundaries, I just don’t know how to do it any other way. That’s where Tech and I have had a mutual agreement. Lyrically, he’s always pushing boundaries. That’s why I’ve continued to work with him.
Click here to purchase Welcome To Strangeland.
-Victor Sandoval, Assistant Editor Strange Music
Follow Victor on Twitter: @VicMSandoval