KC Film Spotlight: Strange Music
We are so excited to bring to you this month’s spotlight on Strange Music! Strange Music Inc. is an independent record label founded by Tech N9ne & Travis O’Guin. Since 1999, they have built it into the #1 Independent Record Label in the world. They house an internal video department, at this time, consisting of: Cameron Logan Cox, Creative Director, Joe Disciacca, Producer & Production Manager, Vic Dominguez, Lighting & Grip, & Colby Stempel, Camera & Photography. We were lucky enough to chat with them all about business, community, and what’s next – right here in KC!
Tell us about Strange Music!
CAM: Strange has become an amazing creative outlet for Kansas City filmmakers looking to break up the commercial and corporate work that our local market has historically been driven by. It draws in artists seeking a collaborative space where we can conjure ideas that may be outside the norm of what is traditionally shot in Kansas City. Not only are we collaborating within our department, but with local filmmakers hired on as well as the artists on the label and the outside feature talent they bring in to support their songs. I’ve been fortunate to create with artists like Jelly Roll, RMR, King ISO & of course, the KC legend himself, Tech N9ne.
JOE: The label has sustained constant growth, even through a pandemic. Their headquarter facilities – located in Lee’s Summit – include headquarters, a construction workshop, a merchandise shop & printing press, as well as Strangeland Studios, where the video department works. The studio houses two recording studios as well as our soundstage with a large cyc wall, LED walls and equipment all available for rent by outside productions.
COLBY: We have a pretty robust inventory of equipment that grows each year. Right now, we mainly utilize an Arri Alexa Mini and a RED Komodo. Our lens collection includes some beautiful Cooke Anamorphics we like to use a lot. If anybody is curious, they can always reach out for a full inventory list.
What are your favorite types of projects?
CAM: I think everyone here at Strange Music is a storyteller, be it through song or otherwise; so when we get to portray a narrative through our lenses we are ecstatic. A typical song length is around three minutes which usually forces us to be economical with the weaving of narrative & performances. When we can successfully strike that balance of music video and short film is when it’s really rewarding for me, personally. The story based videos I’ve done that are near & dear to my heart are ‘Nothing Left At All’ by Jelly Roll and ‘Overstay’ by HU$H.
VIC: However, doing a creative performance video is always fun because we get to be experimental with our rigging, lighting set-ups & post-production. Recently, I directed ‘Nightmare’ by King ISO. It was a performance video where we got to play with a 360 degree rig never used before until then. Also, Joe directed ‘Still Breathin’ by Jehry Robinson featuring Tech N9ne & Rittz, and if you’re a fan of video games, there’s some really cool editing in there that elevated it to somewhere I didn’t know it was going to go!
JOE: In addition to the music videos, we also get to do promotional videos for tours, merchandise and special events. One of the most recent spots we did were promotional pieces for the Kansas City Chiefs and Strange Music collaboration with apparel company Pro Standard. They made two jackets and a tee shirt only available at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Filming at the stadium is always a good time, and the studio shots we got of the jacket details blew us away! Check it out here.
How is it to work in the creative arts in the Greater Kansas City region?
CAM: I’ve absolutely loved getting to know and collaborate with so many talented people in the Kansas City community. If I sat here and listed names, this article would get a little too long but everyone we’ve gotten to create things with has been extraordinary. It is a close, tight-knit circle when it comes to those working in our industry that, in my experience, tries to raise one another up. Rising tides lift all ships, so to speak. Our city is so full of engaged, caring filmmakers and I think they just need more opportunities to showcase their distinctive viewpoints.
What role has mentorship/menteeship played in your lives and at Strange?
VIC: Strange hired me out a lot before I came in-house full time, but before me James Cerven worked there & he and I became really good friends. He’s taught me a lot and we have brainstormed ideas together on several occasions. It’s definitely something I try to have with my crews as well. I believe through some of our shoots we’ve been able to see various people come up from being production assistants to grips and electrics.
JOE: Mentoring is a huge part of what we do here. Starting off as a production assistant myself I was very lucky to work under great producers like Jon Davis, Mike Savage and Mike Neu who taught me all the ins and outs on how to produce and manage a set. For a lot of our production assistants it is their first time working on a production so we are able to help them break into the business and also provide them with some insight of what department they would like to pursue as a career.
CAM: Mentorship is what I was seeking out when I started at Strange Music. I’ve been an artist as long as I can remember so to be able to work with someone like Tech N9ne has been a privilege. He has been consistently creating at a high level for a long time and to be around that everyday has given me insight into processes and perspectives I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s also given me experience on how the business side of things get handled when I am in meetings with Travis & the headquarters team. Gleaning insights from someone who built this label from the ground up with Tech is something that I don’t take for granted.
I also have to mention that I worked closely with Chris Stempel who taught me personally so much about honing our craft and ensuring we are always trying to do the best work we can. I credit him for lifting me up & championing a lot of out-of-the-box ideas while he was here. He still comes back and works with us on various projects sometimes. It’s like a family member visiting back home when he’s with us.
What’s next for Strange Music?
VIC: We just did a video for a new artist on the distribution side of our label, It Goes Up. It’s called ‘7 Years’ by SkyDxddy, and that was a great change of pace for us. She is a really talented singer/songwriter and her style of music isn’t something we’ve done in the past. Look forward to seeing another video featuring her soon.
JOE: Tech’s coming off a big 2023 too, and has even more ready to go for 2024. I can’t say too much about it just yet, but be on the lookout for some new music featuring some artists that die-hard Strange Music fans will love, as well as a unique show experience unlike any Tech N9ne show you’ve ever seen. That’s all I can really say for now.
CAM: One project that would be remiss of me not to mention is ‘Face Off’ – by far our biggest video to date. Chris Stempel & I were presented with the opportunity to co-direct Tech N9ne, King ISO, Joey Cool and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson all together on one song in one video. We filmed our Strange artist scenes here in Kansas City & miraculously found time in Dwayne’s schedule in order to get out to Los Angeles so we could film the final portion of the video. We strived to get Dwayne here in Kansas City to bolster the look with all four of them together in the same room, but it wasn’t possible. I’m hopeful that can change quickly in the near future with the introduction of production tax breaks that would draw those kinds of larger productions into our state.
CAM: Expect more music videos, that’s a guarantee, ha! Joe touched on a little bit of what’s in store for this new year, and we’ll be ready to shoot it all. Everyone here at Strange has been pretty pumped up about all the cool stuff that happened last year – performing in front of a million people at the Super Bowl parade, the Plaza Christmas Lighting, the Chiefs clothing collaboration, and Tech getting commemorated by not only the city but the state! Getting to be on the ride and capturing these moments through our cameras has been pretty memorable & incredibly gratifying.
Thank you for sharing with us this month. We are so happy to have you as part of our regional filmmaking community, and are excited to continue to follow along and support you in your journey!