Daniel Haney, better known by his bass-driven pseudonym, Kaijer, is a multi-genre electronic music producer hailing from the Dirty South. His new album, True Colors, is a wide-ranging collection of songs that have been unified into a refined listening experience driven by heavy bass drops, distorted synthesizers, guitar riffs, and orchestral arrangements. As an artist, he hopes to bring change to the electronic music scene by pushing the boundaries of both his live performances and his drawn-from-scratch compositions. In the interview below, he talks about True Colors in-depth, sharing with the world the deep and personal feelings he had to confront before transforming them into music.
How long have you been making music?
A very long time. About 11 years production-wise, but as a kid I always messed around with musical elements. I used to run around playing the harmonica, and I was that kid that would try and pull together pots and pans and make a drum set while his mom was yelling at him to stop.
When did you realize that music was what you wanted to do?
I want to say maybe around 12 or 13-years-old, because that’s when I started to develop more of a musical taste as opposed to everything that just kind of fell upon my ears at the time. I grew up listening to gospel music and country but it really wasn’t my cup of tea. Around that prepubescent age, that’s when I started hearing things on the radio on the way to school, on the bus, and developed more of my own style and that’s when I started getting into buying CDs and diving more into the musical realm.
Who were your main influences back then?
I would definitely say Linkin Park would be one of the major contenders for that, as well as anything that was Southern hip-hop at the time like Three Six Mafia, Lil’ Jon, the Eastside Boys, and a lot of techno like Darude, Alice DJ. Everything that I liked, I kind of pulled together and I just looked at those elements and fused them into my production.
Who are your influences right now?
There’s a lot of them. I would have to say Feed Me is a big inspiration because I really love his production style. Of course Deadmau5 and Skrillex will always be up there, too. Anything metalcore that I still like: Upon a Burning Body, A Day to Remember, As Blood Runs Black. And once again just Southern hip-hop, but I really like more of the old-school type stuff, like Lil’ Jon. I’ve been going back recently and getting back into music from the early 2000’s and trying to see what I can take from the past and bring into the future.
What inspired you to create your most recent album True Colors?
A lot of hurt, really. Over the years I had some ideas that were sitting on the back-burner that I didn’t feel like were ready to come out at the time of conception, so I held onto them. Through a lot of personal issues and family stuff happening in my life, it all came together and I was just like, “Hey, I think I’m ready to put together another album.” So I took all of the songs that I was making or sitting on the back-burner and grabbed them and I either restarted them or grabbed elements that I liked and ripped them apart and put them back together and came up with some new stuff along the way within about a month and a half.
Over what period of time have you been working on the songs on the album?
The oldest songs on the album are 3-years-old from the time that the ideas were originally made. But I just didn’t feel like they were going to fit on my second album, so I held onto them, and I didn’t even really touch either until I decided to make True Colors.
What song took you the longest to make?
I would probably say “Greetings From Mars” because I had originally spent about 23 hours on the initial project file and then I didn’t like the way it was anymore from 3 years ago, so I copied some MIDI things over and started from zero. At the end of it, I was about 25 hours in.
What inspired each song?
“Greetings From Mars” was more like I wanted to take a lot of the anger and aggression that has built up in my life and export it into what I believe it sounded like and release it. There’s really, maybe, 3 1/2 to 4 drops in that song, and I felt that it would be the initial attention-grabber for an audience. But also I was aggressive with each one of those drops in different styles as a way to release the stress.
“Infinite” was really me just having fun and, once again, pushing some aggression out but also having a great time with the bounce of the song. I just had a lot of fun with that one. While I was still at my last job, I had taken a vacation and got a little bit high, and [it] really just let the playful side of my mind have fun with that track.
“Hollow Desires” is a song about wanting something that you know you can’t have and longing for that feeling. So you have an empty desire to chase that, but it’s like a fantasy that you’re building up in your head.
“True Colors” is really like how “Greetings From Mars” was — just letting off a lot of steam that comes with life. You know, your aggressions and putting them into what you feel they sound like. At the time I was making that song specifically, I felt like I was really mad about where I was with my life and how I’m not where I feel like I should be, because we always reflect upon our own lives and it’s easy to feel disappointed in yourself sometimes. So I just took that anger and made it into an audio track.
“Cosmic Flux” is a song about just having fun. It’s really playful and I feel like it just has to do with sounding universal. I guess how you could say music is a universal language between everybody and that’s what I was going for on that. I feel like anybody can listen to that track, even if they don’t like electronic music, and they can vibe to it.
“Muladhara”: for anybody who doesn’t know what that means, that’s the root chakra, and the root chakra has a lot to do with your survival in life. That song has a lot to do with the vibe, at least, that I kind of envision as trying to survive the struggles and hardships through life. That’s also one track that I held onto for about three years and reconstructed from scratch. It sounded completely different, but it originally had a sexual feel to it and the root chakra also has to do with that. So I took the survivability and the sexual vibe and put them together in one track. It’s survival, then playful, then survival, then playful, and then shit hits the fan and it’s kill or be killed near the end of it.
“The Call of Azrael” is actually one track that was made during bringing everything together for the album. It was not preconceived at all and I started it from scratch. Really, the second half of it I started to make as an intro to “Pueblo” and I started to write it backwards. The reason it’s called “The Call of Azreal” is because Azrael is the angel of death and anybody that knows me knows that I have been around a lot of death in the past couple years, so what I did was really give that song a lot of feeling. That’s the most meaningful song on the album to me at least because of how much loss I’ve been around. This song is really representing envisioning angelic figures that I kind of lost around me. Honestly, the entire time that I wrote that track I was crying.
“Pueblo” was a song that I started to make when I took a trip to Colorado and hung out with some people. They were great people, took care of me out there, and they made me feel like home even though I was so far away from my actual home. That song is really just about being playful and enjoying your time in life, that is so short, with great people.
“Ride Out” is one of those tracks that’s really just about having a lot of fun and bringing together all of the elements that inspired me to write that style of music. It’s one of those “feel good cruising down the highway” types of tracks.
“Light Years Apart” is a track that has to do with feeling very barren in your life and how you could be longing for someone close to you. Like how you look up in the sky and see a star, but really that star is light years away — it’s like how you can be in the same room as somebody but you can feel light years apart from them.
“Hotbox the Time Machine” is the last track on the album. That song is a super personal song for me, because I started to write that track after the loss of my dad and that whole week just sucked because I had some friends that also lost their parents. And so I was very angry and sad at the same time, and I started to take it out on a song. I had written that track a couple of years ago when that happened and I didn’t touch it for the longest time until I decided to make this album. I actually panicked the last couple of days before the album release — three days to be exact. I remember I was totally not happy with the direction of that song, so I took the elements that I did like and I started over from scratch copying the notes and some of the MIDI and switched it from this synthesized pseudo-bass sound to guitar and then the sub bass following it with very heavy, stereo-widened guitar backing as rhythm. I just sat there literally for two days and didn’t do anything but work on that track, and the whole time I was like, “I’m not gonna finish this track, oh my God!” And when I finally did I was like, “YES! I’m done!”
But the track has a lot to do with the loss of my father and my friend’s parents as well. I named it “Hotbox the Time Machine” because if you’re hotboxing and you’re super stoned, time feels so stretched out and you feel like time is going so slow around you but your mind is moving fast and you can appreciate those moments. If you’re hotboxing a time machine, then you can go back in time and appreciate the moments you had before you lost that person. The reason that the song is the way it sounds is because my dad always said, “Don’t ever play sad music at my funeral,” so I wrote it to be really awesome-sounding in his respect.
How do you feel about the EDM scene in Atlanta right now?
It’s really cool. I’ve been meeting a lot more people that are on the same mindset as me and they have similar goals. [It’s] been really phenomenal to just go out and meet people who are also producers that make everything from scratch and are still in the learning process. You can really teach each other along the way and it’s a really great thing to see. It’s fun as well to see everybody come together to a show and go all out and rage and have fun and forget about things that bother us in our everyday life.
What are your future plans/goals with your music?
To make another album. Right now I’ve been dedicating most of my free time to working towards my live performance to change it up from the standard beat-matching that you see a lot of other DJs do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I personally feel like I could do a lot more in a live setting, so I wanted to go back and make live versions of my songs just to do it and have fun. As far as future plans go, I have a couple of new tracks I’ve been working on, and I’m thinking about dropping an EP some time before the end of this year and shoot some music videos. And if not an EP, it might just be another full-length album.
True Colors by Kaijer is available on all digital retailers and streaming services.