The ever shifting musical landscape of today lends itself to short memories and drastic overstatements. Albums are placed in the upper echelons shortly after their debuts, and claims of dominance fly constantly, portraying musicians as the literal godfathers of their respective genres. Part of the blame is shouldered by writers; an over reactive bunch who tend to go a bit overboard in backing their favorite artists. “Godfather” might be a bit of an embellishment, but in the case of Dutch producer Jordy Saamena, it would not be entirely hyperbolic to claim that he spawned an entirely new production style two years ago – one that has sparked a new wave of artists emulating his early success.

Saamena, who has situated himself as a internationally known producer under his stage name GANZ (pronounced gans), took the attention of the electronic music world through the release of his unique remixes – coined as “flips” – dating back to February of last year. While at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco on the first of an 8-stop North American tour, Jordy and manager Dennis Saamena (his older brother) were gracious enough to take some time after his performance and give The Music Ninja a run down on what the past two years have been like, the release of his label, and what he sees for the future of GANZ.


It takes but a few moments in his presence to realize the 25 year old Saamena is not wired like other producers. After starting a movement of sorts into the song flipping spectrum, Saamena has rejected his brainchild entirely and left that realm firmly in the past.

Regarding his decision Saamena explains the urge to expand his music, “Everybody was just waiting for the same sound of the Hyperparadise [flip] or the I Want U [flip], and I didn’t want to put out the same stuff. I was feeling like an EDM robot. I stepped away from it and now only do stuff I want.” For Saamena to turn his back on what many listeners associate as a “GANZ-inspired sound” was clearly a conflicted decision; he shows a level of pride, stubbornness, and artistic integrity in trying to evolve his sound and keep pushing forward. It is most certainly an unconventional decision to detour from the path of success via replication, but one that the music world is better off with. In agreement, his manager added, “If you stick to that blueprint, you aren’t actually creating new music, you’re following a formula. Basically what he does is constantly evolving and looking for new sounds. That’s what keeps him fresh and that’s what works.”

One of the ways Saamena has kept that progression fresh is through concerted efforts with other musicians, but also by forming alliances in more unorthodox places – such as the instrumental engineering world. In an smart move to embolden his live performances and set himself further apart, GANZ is one part of an international partnership with Pieter-Jan Pieters, the Belgian creator behind the OWOW project:

Cold Fire (feat. Gia Koka)(Out Now on 'The Hard Headed')

The OWOW is a groundbreaking kickstarter project, allowing for the creation of digital music with the same intuition and passion as traditional instruments, while incorporating the benefits of working with a computer – the OWOW focuses on the creative side of music making, rather then the technical side of it. Saamena delves into his involvement with the project over the dull thuds of Djemba Djemba’s performance next door, “They [Pieter] asked me to work with them and try out the projects and see if we can use it in live sets. The technology is good and every DAW (digital audio workstation) will connect to it.” When pressed on its status and incorporating it into his current tour, Saamena spoke openly on eagerly awaiting its completion. He says, “My ideal live set up would be my laptop, a few controllers, Ableton Push, the Akai MPD32, and the OWOW project. I will be using it a lot.”

Although he did not incorporate the OWOW in his most recent performance, Saamena did include his latest single “Cold Fire” mid-set. Cold Fire, which features rising Dutch vocalist Gia Koka, masterfully encapsulates some of the early trap elements from songs like Push and Shoulda Known. Bundled with the heavier energetic buildups of these early works is a subtlety shown on original tracks like The New Era from the recently released Dino War EP. It serves as another reminder that GANZ intends to diversify his style from the trademark synth lines and powerful beats that brought him early notoriety. “Cold Fire” is a dynamic release that toes the line between creating a heavy, energetic production without seeming noisy for the sake of noise. Outside of the technical aspects however, Gia Koka’s melodies take the song to the next level. On seeking out Gia early in the process, GANZ speaks candidly on the entire scouting process,

 We [Dennis and I] discussed a lot, we can’t put out solely instrumental stuff, we need to make it bigger and look bigger. From the start, we had the same vision, [Gia Koka] is on an independent label putting out stuff on her own… we feel each other and we wanted to put out a track together.

He continues, “Basically Gia is a vocalist who just does what she feels… we had her on the radar already because she was on a track that was recently worked on. I checked her out and was like, fuck she needs to be on that upcoming single.”


Outside of his newest single & his involvement with technical projects, GANZ announced the release of his own record label, The Hard Headed, this past week. Based around his slogan, “The Hard Headed Grind Harder”, Jordy speaks at length on the inspiration behind starting the label as well as initiating more joint projects with artists –

 What inspired me… a lot of cool guys who put out stuff aren’t on labels. I feel like I wanted to put out my own stuff – just other projects – really quick. So, we started [The Hard Headed] to release stuff and also to sign people who only like to put out stuff they want and don’t have to wait for labels to agree.

Following up on his brother’s point, Dennis cites the comical origin of the label’s name, “Basically The Hard Headed came from his vision – we were thinking about a slogan, he needed a slogan. He said “grind harder” because he’s going quite hard at the moment. And I said “thats not really you” I started thinking, you’re so fucking stubborn, and you’re so fucking hard headed!… So why not let it be “the hard headed grind harder”? It should be a movement with like minded artists who know what they want to do.”


In creating The Hard Headed, Saamena takes pride in seeking out new independent artists who are energetic, visionary, and match the intensity that he radiates. Regarding potential artists he hopes to sign to the label, GANZ states, “I have a few Dutch guys who I like a lot… I work with a few rappers now and they are getting big in the Netherlands, but I want to bring them bigger. If they sound good on my stuff I will help them, they just have to have the right mindset.”

Regarding the vision for his label he continues, “Even guys like Djemba [Djemba] and Carmack are big inspirations. I work with them but I still want them on my label because they seem to have the same vision… I’m too picky about working with people, thats why I work with those guys – What So Not, too – because they’re inspiring. They have vision even if they’re not big. They don’t put out stuff on the biggest labels, but they put out stuff for free… more independent than independent labels, because a lot of people will sign with [independent labels] – they still get forced to put out a certain number of songs anyways.”

Dealing with the red tape and diplomacy behind record labels is certainly one of the main gripes of artists; in many cases, major labels tend to prioritize deadlines and content releases over finished creations. Concerning the label, he makes intentions clear, “We aren’t necessarily looking for record deals. It needs to feel like family. If we feel the music, its good. It’s all about the passion.” followed quickly by remarks on finding the right sound, “I want to make only the stuff I want to play and not to follow the hype… not to follow what everyone wants.”


The back and forth on “feeling the music” and “the right sound” led us to the topic of categorizing the type of music Saamena specializes in. “It’s a bridge between electronica and hip hop” he clarifies, “a lot of my new stuff is electronica and I want to be between those two genres and not put in a box. A lot of people call it chill trap but I don’t think thats really a genre.” Speaking to the point of amorphous genres, the new wave of artists grouped under the term “future” have done producers as a whole no favors in trying to distinguish themselves in today’s music world. “Future is not the right name for it, its too broad” says Saamena. In trying to break from the growing reach of that categorization, GANZ is getting more revolutionary in his ventures, trying his hand at strings and orchestras recently in the studio.

Taken aback at the thought of a former trap artist turned Mozart, we pressed further on influences and who GANZ has his collaborative targets locked on. Without hesitation, almost as if he were expecting this question next, Saamena expounds a laundry list of artists. “Rustie and HudMo (Hudson Mohawke). We spoke about getting them on new projects. They agreed but HudMo is the biggest dude in the world, even the biggest tracks, nobody knows he made them.” Asked for clarification he continues, “Kanye’s song Clique? Hudson made that. Everyone knows him for his projects, but a lot of people don’t know him for collaborations. He’s like the main dude behind Drake and Kanye West… The best thing is, they know my stuff, Rustie knows my stuff.

 It’s the best thing you can get – to get recognition from your biggest influences.
 Besides those two, Lapalux and Djemba and Carmack are my influences. Smaller, but even as much of an influence.”


Coming to understand the thought process and the journey of an artist is an insightful experience – like stepping backstage and seeing a magician reveal your favorite trick. Mysticism aside, Jordy Saamena is set on achieving goals that are as inspiring as they are lofty. “I’m playing Denver, Miami, Salt Lake City, Shambhala… we have a studio starting after that and I want to focus on making new music and meeting a lot of new people. I’m working on finishing some tracks and I have a new EP coming out soon.” Speaking more to his stance of quality and staying true to his artistic integrity, Jordy says, “Even if people don’t like it, I like playing for 500 people who are dedicated and like the stuff than for 30,000 people who don’t know any tracks.” For now, listeners can catch Jordy on the tail end of his North American tour; if our conversation was any indication, new music will be on the way soon after its conclusion in late August.


(pictured: Carmada & friends backstage)

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