Despite being relatively new to the scene, North London’s Xanadu has been making a lot of noise recently; making a name for himself as an exciting new talent rapidly rising in the d&b scene. Exploring the darker, more experimental side of drum and bass, the weight of Xanadu’s productions have helped him gain early support from Dispatch’s very own Ant TC1.
Such is the talent of the young producer, he has been picked up by non other than drum and bass top boy, Dom & Roland. Xanadu is currently honing his studio skills underneath Dom’s watchful eye, creating new music set to be released under Dom & Roland Productions.
We’ve been smashing his new Addictive Behavior mix, so in celebration, we thought we should sit down with Xanadu to discuss musical influences, production, and of course, Dom & Roland.
Xanadu, is that what your parents named you?
That’s what’s on the birth certificate, yeah! Seriously though, it’s in a poem I read as the name of a paradise land. That’s the sort of place music can take you in your head.
Nice! We’ve been listening to your Addictive Behavior mix. It’s sick. There are some ferocious cuts on there, just how we like it. What came first for you, DJing or producing?
Producing. I’ve been into recording stuff for a long time, but mainly band stuff when I was younger – buying microphones, mixers and bits and bobs wherever I could. I think the first sequencer I came across was Ejay, which I though was really cool at the time. A friend gave me a copy of Reason, and I eventually moved to Logic. The first time I DJd was at a school disco because nobody else knew how to work the PA. I had to play requests though, so it was chart crap and hardcore!
Who have been your main musical influences?
I started listening to D&B about seven years ago, about when Calyx & Teebee released Anatomy. Since then I’ve been into all sorts of drum and bass from heavy stuff like Audio, to minimal stuff like Data and Skeptical. I missed the earlier stuff when it came out, so now when I listen to albums like Modus Operandi, Wormhole, New Forms etc. I kick myself for not being into it at the time, but I didn’t even know D&B existed back then.
Break is definitely one of my main influences… Resistance is probably my favorite record. I must have listened to that album a million times and still love the shit out of it. I think if your making drum and bass and Break isn’t one of your influences – something’s up. Alix Perez’s 1984 is something I’ve tanned pretty hard, the production on that blew my head off.
Who are you rating in the scene at the moment?
Octane & DLR, Break (obviously), Blocks & Escher, Overlook, Mark System. Some of Fre4knc’s stuff coming out on Samurai recently has been so so good! Brain Crisis is someone who I’ve only come across not too long ago and he’s smashing it. Seba, Fearful, Mtwn and some of the Diffrent boys, got a real crisp dark sound that’s killing it. Hyroglifics has got some sick stuff on the way, I played one he’s done with Ed:t in this mix.. it’s badboy. And anything that’s really dark. There’s something really awesome about those moody, moody beats.
Agreed. In terms of making new music, you’re working under none-other than Dom & Roland, which must be amazing! How is that going?
It’s going really well. It was slow progress last year, I had a pretty full on job so I was struggling to find the time to make music, but I’ve got my head down at the moment and seen my production improve over the last few months. I take new ideas to Dom and he’ll suggest what direction I should go with them, what the tracks need and if they are generally vibing or not. It’s great getting another person’s point of view on stuff especially if you’ve heard it on loop for weeks, and for that person to have the experience Dom does, I’m pretty lucky.
There’s some hype around some tracks you’ve done which have been featured on a few mixes, notably BPD which we heard on Dom & Roland’s FABRICLIVE mix last year. When can we expect a Xanadu release?
Well, I’ve got a single ready that has been given the final nod. Dom has a couple of other projects to put out first, so he’s said it’ll probably be released at the end of the summer, September/October time, but no date set in stone yet.
How did you hook up with Dom?
A mate of mine was putting on nights with the Beats & Bass guys in Exeter, and he has a family connection with Dom so they booked him and I played a set after him. My mate introduced us and he stuck around and listened to a bit of my set. I think he liked what I was playing and said I should come check out his studio in London sometime. A few months later I did and played him some of my tunes. I didn’t think for a minute that he was actually interested in releasing any of them .. but he was! So I was quite surprised really, well chuffed! We went to the pub, and took it from there.
Presumably you’re learning a few invaluable lessons?
Everything he says is useful. My production has come on a load since we’ve been going through stuff together. He can pick out what’s wrong with a mix straight away, where I’ve been scratching my head for hours. He’s good at helping with the structure of the tracks too, the way I make tracks in loops doesn’t help me when I’m trying to plan out structures, everything tends to get far too complicated on screen and it only takes a word from Dom to let me know – this should happen now etc. He’s a good mentor, pointing me in the right direction.
We’re also hearing good things about your new label mate Terror Hubis, also recently picked up to release under D&R productions. Tell us more…
Terror Hubris is one of my best mates from uni. He’s bloody good at making music, but for some reason he thinks that all of his stuff isn’t good enough and just hides it! He makes a range of music from absolutely vibing hip hop, to pumping techno, to grimy stuff, to future garage ‘I don’t know what you call it’ stuff. I showed Dom some of his d&b and he said straight away that he wanted to sign it. Terror Hubris probably taught me most of what I know about music production. When I met him in uni, he had been using logic a lot longer than me, so I sat and watched him on it for hours. I’d contribute musically, but his work pace meant he rocked the controls pretty hard. It’s quite a good combo, because when he gets frustrated with something and would normally go onto the next thing, I can take the track and see it through to a final thing.
Is there a Xanadu album en route? What can we expect?
Yup! Expect dark, atmospheric, technical, slamming beats! There will be a few collabs on there, I’m doing one with Dom for it at the moment, and Dom’s sorting a couple of remixes for it which will be sweet, not telling who yet though. There’s a nice selection of vibes for it so far… we’ll see what the next few months bring.
Your tune Abstrakt won Outlook Festivals 2012 Producer Competition. It must have felt incredible to gain so much support from Outlooks loyal followers, and the respect of the judges. How was the trip to Outlook Festival?
Absolutely! Especially to have Ant Tc1 on the panel, it felt wicked. I’ve been to Outlook four times in a row now and every time it’s a blast, but 2012 was something special – eh Louis??!! (my mate was hospitalised for a repetitive strain injury from dancing too much.. the full story’s pretty good)! The guys at Outlook treated me really well – free trip and a load of freebies, they even pressed some plates of the tune, and I got to meet all the Dispatch and Critical guys while I was there. Obviously winning the competition got me a lot of exposure, so I was stoked! Since then I’ve done a global friends mix for them which again is great exposure, but I’m still waiting on a booking!!
What advice would you give to aspiring artists out there who are in the position you were in only a few years ago?
If you really want to make an impact, don’t just churn out stuff that’s got your standard sample pack beats, a few fx drops and some sub. The tunes that are memorable are the ones that build a real atmosphere, the type you notice as soon as the DJ starts mixing them in! Really critically listen to artists you like and figuring out what it is that’s good about the music. You’ve got to really love it to stick at it, be patient, and don’t settle for anything less than perfection! With so many bods having a crack at it, anything less and you won’t get noticed. Also, don’t be afraid to go in and completely change something that you’ve had on screen for a while, it’s when you do that, unexpectedly you could end up with an amazing hook. I’ve moved things around by accident and ended up with much better hooks than I had previously.
We finished up with a quick quick fire round to find out a few of Xanadu’s preferences:
MC or no MC? If they can host, and know which ones to leave alone, MC!
Club or festival? Festival
Playing or raving? Raving, but playing for the free drinks, 5 quid a bottle is a joke
Producer or DJ? Producer
Grime or hip hop? Hip hop (sorry grime, you are jokes though)
Garage or house? Temperature dependent
Tea or coffee? One after the other, both quality drinks
Red sauce or brown? Brown
Bread or toast? Toast and Pâté is a monster
North or south? South
Biggie or Tupac?‘I got seven Mac 11’s!’ – Biggie!
Driver or passenger? Driver… dnb drives are the one