Like his Detroit peers and former LWE podcast guests Delano Smith and Patrice Scott, Big Strick was hugely passionate about music in his formative years. He was DJing and putting on parties with his friends until family life started to call for more and more of his attention. Though his focus shifted, his love of music remained and in 2009 we heard our first taste of what years of percolation had done for Leonard Strickland. The 7 Days EP, released on his cousin Omar-S’s FXHE label, showed the same raw energy and unmitigated funk of his relative’s productions, though sounded even more primal and rough-hewn. Further releases exemplified his mastery over melodies and arrangement, culminating in the launch of his own label 7 Days Ent. and his début album in April of 2011, Detroit Heat. Little White Earbuds recently quizzed Big Strick on his passion for music that never died out, the back and forth of influences between him and Omar-S, and about the special guests on his recent 7 Days Ent. compilation, Resivior Dogs [sic]. He also put together our 144th exclusive podcast, a burning hot mix of house and techno with a heavy nod to the D and his own personal late night style.
LWE Podcast 144: Big Strick (62:22)
01. Big Strick, “Alpha & Omega” [7 Days Ent.]
02. Society Of Silence, “Kulp” (Norm Talley Rmx The Boiler Room)
03. Amir Alexander, “Eyes Open Mouth Shut” [Finale Sessions]
04. Corrugated Tunnel, “unknown” [white]
05. Arthur Oskan, “Wants & Needs” (Luke Hess Remix) [Berettamusic Grey]
06. G. Marcell, “She’s Fly (Love Her Conversation Mix)” [Machining Dreams]
07. Aybee, “Underworld” [Underground Quality]
08. Gunnar Wendel, “578″ (Omar S. Berlin Mix) [FXHE Records]
09. Omar-S, “unknown” [white]
10. Big Strick feat. Omar-S, “Family Affair” [7 Days Ent.]
11. Slaughter House, “unknown” [white]
12. Rick Wade, “The D” [Laid]
13. The Regisford-Harris Project, “Astral” [Objektivity]
14. Unknown, “unknown” [white]
15. K. Alexi Shelby, “Vertigo” [Transmat]
16. Alex Attias, “Analysis” [Planet E]
17. Mike Dunn, “Deep Lat’n Soul Thoughts” [Deep Soul]
I understand that your pathway into music was similar to a lot of other Detroit producers of your age, that you were raised on the sounds of Motown and then discovered house and techno through hearing Jeff Mills (The Wizard) on the radio. How old were you when you first started listening to his shows?
Leonard Strickland: I would say I was about 11 years old, so about 1981. I didn’t discover house through Jeff, he basically brought it to the mainstream radio around 1984-85 but, Jeff Mills was definitely inspiration to be a DJ. It used to be called progressive music, and people like my older cousin Don Q (Omar-S’s big brother) would have cassette tapes that local DJs around town would make and sell or just give away at parties they would be playing at.
And were your friends into that music at the time too?
Oh yeah!! By the time I hit high school we formed clubs that used to throw parties all over the city.
So the wider public only really started to hear about you when you’re first proper EP dropped in 2009 on FXHE. But you had been DJing for a long time and putting on parties for a while too right?
Yeah, I have been making tracks for over 20 years. As a matter of fact, me and Omar did our first house track together in 1992 called, “It’s A Party Ya’ll,” and it was pretty good. We might do it over in the near future. To be honest for me it was like a hobby, ya know, just for the love.
Before you took a break from the doing the parties to focus on your family had you been doing any producing at all?
Yeah I still kept in touch with my creative side. I use to DJ/produce for a rap group called P Square in the 90s. That in a way deterred me away from house at that time.
If not, when did you first start making tracks and how long did it take before you were feeling happy with the quality of your work?
I always felt good about my music. I mean, if you don’t have confidence in yourself, who will have it in you? But, I am my own worst critic.
Did you always think that there would be a time where you would be able to focus on music again? How does it feel getting back in to it and also now getting your music out there to people around the world?
You know, I really didn’t know if music would become the forefront of my life again; however, it was always a part of my life, so I guess it was all about timing and more importantly God’s will. Yeah, it feels real good to have people here and in other countries reaching out to me, telling me how much they love my music.
Stylistically your tracks capture the same raw edge that is present in your cousin Omar-S’s productions. You guys have been influencing each other for a long though haven’t you? Can you tell us a bit about your connection through music?
Yeah, I mean, we came up in a close-knit family, therefore we spent a lot of time together. So I guess you can say we are more like brothers than cousins, so we have the same influences and so quite naturally we are going to have similar styles.
So how long were you working on music seriously before you released the 7 Days EP?
I guess you can say it was 2008. My kids were getting older and more self-sufficient; it was time to get back on the grind. Omar would always say that I had some good music, so one day I just was like, “Let’s do it!”
When did you start thinking about having your own label and why did you call it 7 Days Entertainment?
Man you know, it was like I have always been the type to do it myself, so why not a label? I have an ear for good music and I look for good and unique sounds, not the same old same. 7 Days has been my trademark for other business ventures throughout the years — it’s a way of life.
So far the label has been an outlet for your own tracks, though you had a few guests on your recent Resivior Dogs compilation. Do you plan to release other artists on the label or is it primarily a vehicle for your own work?
Most definitely, there is more to come in 2013 from 7 Days.
Speaking about Resivior Dogs, can you tell us a bit about Generation Next who contributes some incredible tracks for the album?
Thought you would never ask! Generation Next is the future! He is a Detroit-bred, 17-year-old producer full of talent. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s also my son? I am glad that his music has been appreciated in the dance community around the world. That is a blessing and let me take the time out now to say thank you. And if you liked his work on my album you can rest assured that the best is yet to come. You can look for his debut EP to drop the first of the year.
And you also got Ron Cook on there too, which seems to be his first track he’s made in a long time. How did that come about?
Reckless Ron Cook, yeah, that’s my man! Ron and I go back over 25 years; we have a lot of history together. We lost contact for a while but we ran back into each other and from there came “Night Moves.” Ron is a very talented producer, as you already know, with a lot more to come.
Furthermore, let me go on record by saying this: Ron is a very essential part of the techno movement than I believe he gets credit for. What I mean is, we know about Derrick May, Juan Atkins, [Kevin] Maurice Saunderson, Jeff Mills, et al. But you never hear Reckless Ron Cook being mentioned in that category with the elite. A lot of the old funky type techno that was made famous by others was the baby of Reckless Ron Cook, who should at the least get an honorable mention, so here it is. But he is back and with a vengeance so to speak and you can also look for him as well in the new year to come on 7 Days.
So now that your profile is rising with your releases and there is some more awareness about you, are you traveling more for gigs, doing some international dates?
Well, not as much as I would like, but I did do Concrete in Paris just this past August. It was definitely a stepping stone, and the Concrete staff and the people of Paris showed me mad love, so that was definitely a good look. Right now I am in talks with those guys to go back, so in the mean time I am going to keep putting out good music and mixes and let the music speak for itself.
Is music something that you are doing full time now or is it something that fit in around another career?
Man, that is my goal, but for now I am employed by the city of Detroit as a city bus driver. I guess you can say that is where some of my motivation comes from working with the public in Detroit: I am Detroit!
What can you tell us about the mix you put together for us?
The mix is a collaboration of some old and new music from some of my favorite producers.
And what can we expect from Big Strick over the next year?
Heat! I am trying to put together a tour for Ron and myself in 2013. Yeah man, it should be a good year for 7days ENT.