Friday, 15 January 2010

INTERVIEW: XI [Immerse/Formant]

Sonic Router is incredibly proud to be able to present the first exclusive mix of 2010 from Candian producer, XI. With music forthcoming on a multitude of labels and a multitude of production styles, we first got wind of him through his forthcoming, ‘000’ 12” on Immerse Records. With a percussion heavy style his music has all the energy of the garage, funky hybrid perpetuating the airwaves but manages to retain some of those simple sine wave step hallmarks that first struck a chord with our ears back when.

After hearing more of his music thanks to another 12” on Formant, we reached out and touched our keypads, pinned XI down to an AIM username and shot him a few questions so we could learn ourselves a little something.

Sonic Router: Can you provide those who may not know you with a bit of background info?

XI: Sure, my name’s Christian, been producing beats since the turn of the millennium, got seriously into dubstep late in ’05. Started out doing experimental and moved to jungle early on. Always been an electronic music fan, also grew up on a lot of abstract hip-hop and metal from the 90s. Been DJing clubs since the age of 16, went to recording school at 19, and it’s been a wrap ever since.

Outside of music who are you? What do you do on the daily?

Music takes up a massive portion of my daily life, between playing shows, working on music by myself or with friends, working at local record store Slinky Music, or doing mix-downs for friend’s bands/projects; there is really only time for a few things. I like to collect comic books and trades, and was a competitive video game player for a bit, but those days are pretty well over.

How did you first get into making music? What was it that infected you to do produce?

Hearing artists like Aphex Twin, DJ Shadow, and Photek made me do a 180. I was totally captivated by the artist’s sonic palette and become obsessed with figuring out how to mimic the sounds and arrangements I was hearing. I copped a free version of Fruity Loops and started having more fun than I’d ever had doing anything. Ever.

What’s your production set up like?

I like to keep it minimal; I run a small basement studio with a Novation Xio Synth, and an MPD32 for control/performance. Aside from that I do a huge amount of my work inside Ableton Live.

How would you describe your sound to someone zoning in for the first time?

Manic depressive.

Whats the deal behind the XI moniker?

For a good while I was producing jungle under the name “35k” but was also making a good bit of experimental breaks, 2-step and hip hop. I wanted to have a different name for that project so I took the first 2 letters of my name’s short-form (“Xian”) = XI.

What first brought you to the dubstep sound? What inspires you musically?

The versatility was easily one of the biggest draws for me. Each producer in the early days of the sound came with a unique style, but no matter how they differed, they all fell under this one BPM umbrella. I personally thought it sounded like the drum & bass I loved turned into crunk (which I also loved). This fusion of UK music and hip-hop totally piqued my interest, and has definitely had an influence on how I make my beats to this day.

From the feel of your forthcoming 12”s on Immerse and Formant, you’ve got a keen interest in percussion. Is that your main focus when you start making a track...?

I almost always start with drums. I played drums in various bands though my younger days, so rhythm has always been a sticking point with me. For me a track can be little more than a complex drum pattern and bassline, with one or two other sounds accompanying it.

What’s the scene like in Toronto? Is it a healthy place musically? Who’s representing, other than yourself, the out there?

Toronto is doing its own thing, I haven’t really been to any other city like it in terms of the community. I wouldn’t say it’s the most healthy musical environment, but the tools for artists to progress are here. There is a lot of talent in T.O such as producers Bombaman, Egyptrixx, and the boys from Zed’s Dead have sent me some very impressive stuff. We have tons of talented DJs as well. The scope here among some promotional outfits seems to be a bit limited, but I’ve always been doing my own thing, I think that’s the only way to keep going around here. I’ve taken back up promotion as well, kicking off the year by bringing NYC’s Falty DL to town on the 21st of January.

Do you find it hard to keep up?

I suppose that comes down to your definition of keeping up. These days there are so many new artists, so much new music, and legions of new fans of the music. I just keep my head down and trawl around for the stuff I like. I’m finding right now to be one of the most exciting times in music ever in my life, so in keeping up with stuff that makes me excited, no, I wouldn’t say it’s hard, though it does take some effort.

I see you work with Bombaman as Loetech. How did you two hook up and what makes the project different from your tracks as XI?

Bombaman and I started producing experimental hip-hop and jungle together many years ago. We met through a mutual friend around 2002. Being that we are basically the same person it is very easy for us to throw down in the studio together. The way our collabs differ from my solo production is that Bomba’s more party and dancefloor driven attitude plays off of my braindance-y complex arrangements, forming something uniquely intelligent, energetic and groovy.

You’ve also got the Ultragamma project, which feels more hip-hop influenced, judging by a quick listen and your mix tracklist for the CC 001 mixtape. Tell us a little about that one?

Ultragamma is another solo-project I’m working on. It started a couple years back in much the same way XI did, just dabbling around with some other styles under a pseudonym. I actually love working on this kind of stuff, I never really intended for anyone to hear it so I was free to just do whatever I wanted, the main point originally being to create a more tweaky sound palette for my dubstep productions, but after a couple people heard the beats I got the notion I was on to something a little more important.

What up and coming releases have you got coming out?

I’ve got several XI plates dropping early this year, ‘000’ on Immerse Recordings out of Bristol, ‘Light FM’ on Texas label Formant Recordings, my collab with DJG, ‘Putney Says,’ on Surefire Sound out of SF and ‘The Ghost’ b/w the Headhunter remix on Orca out of London.

I haven’t started working on releasing any of the Ultragamma stuff, and am not in any particular hurry to.

Since 2010 is the most futuristic sounding date since the year 2000, have you got any future forward predictions for the year ahead?

Given the current climate I wouldn’t be surprised to see a total blurring between underground and overground styles. Not just in music, but in culture in general. People are takin’ it back this decade.

Can you tell us a little about the mix you’ve done for us and how it came together?

I wanted to do a bit of a producer showcase, to give your readers an idea of my production spectrum. As I stated earlier, I love versatility in music and try to keep my style varied and interesting, so for this I decided to start off on the lighter side of things and work my way into some of my more slammin’ work.

Have you got any words of wisdom for our readers?

You literally get out what you put in.


DOWNLOAD: XI – Sonic Router Mix


01. XI - Unfair [dub]
02. XI - The Ghost [Orca]
03. XI - 000 [Immerse]
04. XI - Drip [Surface Tension]
05. Ludwig Coenen - Green Movement (XI remix) [Thoughtless]
06. XI - Light FM [Formant]
07. Tri-Funk - 620 [dub]
08. Thrills - Go (XI & DZ remix) [dub]
09. XI - Dreaming Void [Surface Tension]
10. XI & DJG - Putney Says [Surefire]
11. XI - Zurich [dub]
12. Egyptrixx - Just Say Really (XI remix) [Idiot House]
13. Starkey - Murderous Words (XI remix) [dub]
14. XI - Vacuum [dub]
15. XI - Luck Dragon [dub]
16. Dials - SEF [dub]
17. Rustie - Bad Science [Wireblock]
18. Loetech - Base [dub]
19. XI - Genesis [dub]
20. Swarms - Shiver (Ashburner remix) [For the Win]


Photos: Kelly Koehler


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