Stratøs: More to the Story
Taylor Harrington 9/27/2021 4:01pm EST
Stratøs is a talented saxophonist, composer, and producer, whose many years playing his saxophone have led him to create a sound that is in a world of it’s own. Three time winner of the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award, Stratøs went on to create Lushh, an electronic jazz ensemble in 2019, that has since opened for Grammy nominated artist Boney James. Planets, Stratøs’ current project, is set to release on October 1st and you won’t want to miss it as the music transcends space and time and has you feeling as if you are walking among unexplored planets.
Thank you so much for being here today, Stratøs!
Thanks for having me!
Stratøs is an amazing composer, saxophone player, and producer that really does it all. He has an amazing record coming out on October 1st that I am so stoked to talk about and it’s called Planets. Before we get into that, I want to start back at the beginning. So Stratøs, when did you first get started in the music world?
I started playing saxophone in elementary school. In fifth grade everyone got to pick their instruments. They originally wanted me to play violin, but I I just wholeheartedly decided no. I wanted to be a saxophone player for as long as I can remember. So I kind of went in like, “I’m gonna try to suck at the flute and the clarinet and be good at the saxophone.” I started when I was 10 years old, and I’ve just been in bands and ensembles ever since then. I started playing jazz pretty much immediately. I think the first person I ever heard play a saxophone was Sonny Rollins. I was very young, maybe seven or eight, so I kind of knew that jazz saxophone was going to be my thing. So I was playing jazz saxophone for quite some time, I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, so I was in a lot of jazz ensembles there. I traveled to Detroit frequently to play in some of the student ensembles there, and I’ve just been been playing ever since. I started composing, I think during my sophomore year in college. I went to Western Michigan University for jazz, and started writing then and when I graduated from my undergrad, I started messing around with production a little bit. After I graduated from my master’s program, also from Western, I started film photography, so everything’s kind of just been building up from there.
Amazing! What can you tell us about the last EP that you put out?
My last EP I released on the same day as this record, on October 1, my birthday, and it was called Die. Pretty much, you know, the pandemic happened right as I graduated with my Masters, right as it was time for me to start my career. I was like, “Okay, well now there’s nothing to do.” I basically just sat in my house all day and worked on this record. I was kind of like learning as I went, as I had just started production. I was like, ‘okay, you know, let me just like put out this track on Facebook, Instagram, whatever.’ By the end of the summer I had enough for an EP, and the record focuses a lot on isolation, as well as I think a lot of things did. It has a lot of different elements. There are a lot of maybe happy-sounding things or, you know, more uplifting things because that’s kind of who I am. I’m in my own head and even though the pandemic was happening, I was still happy because I could still make music, so that was reflected in the record. It’s kind of like an experiment, I only put it on on Bandcamp and was able to get a really supportive community going on and basically, sort of like trained myself for my next release Planets, which is going to be available everywhere.
Yes. So let’s get into Planets. You sent us a link and we were able to listen to it already, and I was seriously sitting there in a trance while listening. You walk us through actual planets throughout this record. Each song is a different planet– Mercury, Venus, Earth. I felt like I was in science class, almost, like there was some way you were able to translate the music in such a beautiful way that you felt like you were actually walking on these planets. How much research went into Planets?
Each tune not necessarily embodies a planet, but embodies an idea. So, for example, Neptune is sort of very eerie and isolated. Pluto is included on the record even though it’s not a planet. I included Pluto because it’s an elegy. It’s a song written for someone who’s passed away. It’s for the person who gave me my saxophone. My saxophone was gifted to me by an older gentleman who passed away shortly after he gave it to me. So Pluto, even though it’s not a planet, it’s sort of like, tied to this person that isn’t here anymore, and neither is the planet.
That’s beautiful. Do you mind sharing a little bit about your story of Who gave you the saxophone? That’s, that’s so nice.
Absolutely. When I was 19, I was in school, and I was looking for a saxophone. My teacher was like, “Hey, you know, you’re sounding great and everything, but I think your current saxophone is holding you back.” I had sort of an older saxophone, and technically I couldn’t really do what I wanted to do. I didn’t have very much money. My parents don’t come from money and that sort of thing, so I kind of just looked around. I was like, ‘Hey, people, I’m looking for a saxophone.’ There was this gentleman who lived in Detroit, and he had a bunch of very famous iconic saxophones that were made from 1954 to 1974. They’re kind of like the Stradivarius of the saxophone and very sought after. This gentleman, he had like nine or ten of them just in his house. I knew that there was a saxophone shop that was looking to buy these specific saxophones, so I called it the saxophone shop. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m meeting with this guy. He’s got a bunch of saxophones, and I think if I can get him to sell them to you, I think I can maybe get one for a reduced price, that sort of thing. I had a little plan going, and so then I went to his house, we met and he let me play a bunch of the saxophones. He looked at me when I was done, and he was like, “So which one do you like?” I was like, “I mean, I like that one”, and he’s like, “It’s yours.” I was like, “What do you mean, it’s mine?!” He just said, “Take it” and that was pretty much it. He let me have the saxophone for free. It changed my life. We exchanged letters from then on until the day he passed.
What a beautiful story. Do you mind sharing his name with us?
Yeah, his name was Richard Lozon. He was actually the grandfather of a student who was a senior when I was a freshman in high school back in Ann Arbor.
That’s the marker of the pure beauty of music. Music can really connect people.
When it comes to the saxophone, I’ve decided that whoever gets it next, it has to be given to that person for free. When it’s time for me to go, my only requirement for whoever gets it is that they have to give it away as well.
Pay it forward. You are also a three-year winner of the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award?
Yeah, I’m a winner of his young jazz composer award. Let’s see, I won in 2019 and 2020, and then this year was the last time I won.
Congratulations! Can you tell us a little bit about Herb Alpert’s legacy?
Herb Alpert is a trumpet player and composer. He is very, very prolific, and very successful. He has this very competitive national award that is a part of the ASCAP Foundation. Every year they choose 10 or 15 composers under the age of 30 who win this award. Everyone who wins is just an incredibly skilled composer. They feature our music along with the winnings, and I always check out who was also won and it’s mind-blowing. I feel so lucky to even be in the same sentence.
Going back to your album Planets, we were left speechless during “Earth”. The quote “Never realizing we’re all brothers in the end” left us with chills to our core. Rapper Santino Jones joined you for this track, and it really hits home.
I’m glad you think that. I actually haven’t met Santino in person yet. He’s a young rapper based here in Kalamazoo and I got to work with him on a little project prior to Planets and I just really loved his style and his and his lyrics and everything, so I asked him to be on this. For this track I gave him a prompt– I wanted him to rap as if he was an alien who was observing Earth from an outside perspective. He’s really talking about how strange it is that we have such a disparity in wealth, how strange it is that we are fighting with each other, and that sort of thing. I wanted to use natural-sounding organic, earthly instruments for this one. I had my friend Alex Mansour, who’s an incredible pianist, send me just five minutes of him just playing. He’s such an incredible pianist, so I tried to chop it up a little bit. I wanted to use organic-sounding instruments to really sort of bring it back to this planetary space for that track, so that’s kind of where my head was at.
We are so excited for people to be able to listen to this album! How can our readers find Planets on October 1?
On October 1st the album goes live you can find it on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play, and all the streaming services. You can also support me by buying it on Bandcamp. Bandcamp is an incredible service because for artists like me, we don’t really get paid by Spotify streams. I think you have to be getting maybe hundreds of thousands of plays to make minimum wage, so we don’t really get paid that way, but Bandcamp is an incredible service because you can stream the music and buy it and the money goes directly to us. The interface is beautiful and they do blog write-ups and that sort of thing. The record is also going to be on vinyl, but I think there’s only like 40 or 50 left.
Sign us up for one! So, where do you see yourself both personally and professionally in five years?
I ask myself that question a lot. I’m actually moving to LA next summer with my girlfriend and yeah, I think professionally I would like to be playing with a lot of the people that I listen to now and sort of look up to now. I’m a huge fan of the record label Brainfeeder which is owned by Flying Lotus. He’s been a huge inspiration, so I would love to be involved with that label and him in some way. I’m a huge fan of saxophone player whose name is Donny McCaslin. His band was actually the final band to play on David Bowie’s last album. There all of these people out in LA, so I’m hoping to just go out there and see what what I can do so,
Amen. Honestly, this is just the beginning. Just to be able to watch your journey from the sideline is going to be very exciting. Follow @Statostones on Instagram and Bandcamp to keep up with the story! Planets is coming out on October 1st, so be sure to share it! Nothing connects people more than music!
Originally from Edison, New Jersey, Taylor won the 2005 “Middlesex County Caring Award”, and hasn’t stopped caring since. When she is not writing or hosting More to the Story, Taylor can be found chasing her two mutts around Athens, Ohio where she currently resides with her husband. Moving to Appalachia has made a huge impact on her life, and she can’t wait to share some of her stories, laughs, and (mis)adventures with you!
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