T.H.E Interview – X-Change [ADE 2016]

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X-Change is a producer, DJ and artist who has produced original music, uptempo bass remixes and DJ mixes since he started his musical career DJ’ing college parties around the Metro Detroit area.

His passion for music grew as he listened to everything from Electronic Dance Music, Pop/Rock, Hip-Hop/RnB and Miami Bass Music. He quickly got into the production side of music, where his ability to produce and structure whole songs from a killer bass line, melody, lyric or drum beat gave him an advantage.

We caught up with the man at ADE 2016 and spoke about how ADE 2016 is shaping up for him, his views on the DJ Mag results, his plans for 2017 and some of the biggest challenges faced by DJs. Have a read.

Akshay – Hey, man, how is it going? How is ADE shaping up for you?

X-Change – Good, good. ADE has been nuts. It has been nonstop since I landed on Monday and went straight to meetings.

Akshay – What sort of meetings have you actually set up? Are there any labels that you actually ended up meeting?

X-Change – So I met with a lot of the Revealed Recordings guys. I met with Mixmash to talk about some songs; got some good feedback on the tracks from guys like Holl & Rush, Maddix and more.

Akshay – So what are the next steps on those tracks? I’m assuming you want to go back to the drawing mode, make some changes yeah?

X-Change – So based on some of the feedback, I’m going to go back and rework some of the different parts and then follow up, and just keep improving. I feel like music is a constant evolution, and a song is just a snapshot in time of where you were at. Right now, the demos are there. I like going to Europe and getting feedback because being based in Los Angeles, it is a different scene and a different vibe, so it’s cool to mix everything all together, you know? To help create that unique sound that is truly yourself.

Akshay – You talk about music constantly evolving. Obviously the process has to start somewhere. So for those of us who wouldn’t know how your process starts, could you give us a description?

X-Change – So it always depends on the song. For more of my vocal progressive house stuff, for example, when I was working with Kylie Odetta, last year we did a song called “Weight of Your Love.” We met at my buddy, Jeff’s studio in Nashville where we wrote the piano progression first, based on what I thought she might vibe to, then we all wrote the vocal together. This year she called me this summer and she said “Hey, I’ve got a new vocal concept that I think might work. What do you think?” She pitched it to me over Skype I was like “Oh, that’s cool! Send it over to me.” Then, I built the track around that and it was crazy! I found she was going to be again in Nashville, and I just booked the flight instantly. Then we built the rest of the whole track off her vocal. This track is called “Leaving You (In The End)”, and it will be coming out later this year.

With vocal progressive house it can go both ways, and then some more of my high energy like Melbourne bounce stuff and electro-house stuff: usually I just start with the drops, and I just try to get a vibe of what I think will make people go nuts. Based on my experiences in DJing, I try to get that high energy and then build a melodic break that reconnects the whole track.

Akshay – You just mentioned a lot of different styles. How do you usually find the inspiration to write a new track?

X-Change – So, I guess for me it is, usually, inspiration wise, catching a vibe when I am doing something random. I’ll hear like an idea, or a melody in my head, then record it into my phone and then use that to start building once I get into the studio. Usually, by the time I sit down on the studio there’s already something in my head that I’ll get on to the paper and then change 800 times. Then it becomes a ‘song’.

Akshay – Your latest release “Lingers When You’re Gone”, featuring DionLeon and Jessica Louise was released. How did that come up?

 

X-Change – Okay, so Curium is actually a co-label that a friend and myself started for some releases. DionLeon, I met in LA, and Jessica is also a singer based in LA, from Long Beach. Jessica was on an earlier track of my last year called “Stronger”, and we actually met via Facebook. Dion and I met at a listening meetup party. We built an instrumental track and we thought Jessica’s voice would fit really cool. Then Jessica came to the studio and wrote the vocals together. That’s my preferred method, I like to sit down with the vocalist and actually co-write, to keep it stylistically where I am going with everything. What’s funny about that song is that we had an initial drop concept, but we were in Miami for Miami Music week, and based on some of the feedback we actually scrapped the whole drop concept and redid a whole new drop to give more of a bouncing energy. So that song was actually a process for 6 or 7 months and now it came out.

Akshay – How have fans responded to it?

X-Change – So far it has been great. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. It was available as a free download and through the service of Hypeddit it actually reached #1 on the Progressive House tracks the week it came out.

Akshay – Are there any particular vocalists you would definitely like to work with?

X-Change – There’s so many. A guy who is super awesome right now is The Weeknd. The new track he just did with Daft Punk is super cool. I’ve always been a great fan of Vassy, her work is amazing. And a classic is Chris Willis.

Akshay – You also mentioned the ‘Curium’ record label which you and your friend Rob run it together? Could you tell us a bit more about what genres it adheres to?

X-Change – We, my friend Rob and I run it together. We put a mixture of progressive house, electro and then Melbourne bounce type influences. We’re really just looking for tracks that have a good positive vibe to them that will work well at the club.

Akshay – You’ve been a DJ at several big events like Detroit’s Movement Festival, and you continuously tour a lot. If you have to identify the biggest challenges faced by DJs, especially in the US, which ones would they be?

X-Change – I started off DJing before I ever produced. So I came from a strong DJ background and actually learned on vinyl and turntables and still got 5 Technics SL-1200 at the studio and stuff like that, and then I evolved to CDJs. I think the hardest for a lot of DJs right now is just getting experience in front of a crowd, because there is still something about being able to read the crowd and play live and be able to MC and beat match and do everything, almost like you’re riding a bike, and because it seems so flawless, it looks like you’re not even trying, but it’s because you practiced so much. When I first started DJing in bigger shows, I was nervous, it was harder to get crowd participation because I was so focused on everything you’re doing on the stage VS now, that I’ve mixed for so long that I can do it on my sleep almost, so I focus more on the interaction with the crowd and getting them in the whole vibe.

Akshay – For any upcoming DJ, obviously skills matter a lot, but now it’s also a matter of marketing. How do they tackle it, since not every DJ starts off with a good management agency?

X-Change- I think it’s all about the original productions, your songs. To me it all starts in the studio with the songs now and that’s really what it is. Your live shows are a platform for you to showcase your musical productions. I think that’s what changed over the last 10 years of me being involved. You used to be able to be just a DJ, per se, and not produce; while now it has totally changed and it’s all about being a producer. For me the hardest part for up comers is building their original music portfolio, which obviously takes a lot of time and effort and also getting that to the right channels and marketing that, to get gigs.

Akshay – Talking about DJing, we recently heard that you will be headed to Trinidad in 2017! What’s that all about?

X-Change – My good friends, The Ultimate Rejects and I have got a new collaboration coming up called “Kings in Town”. I don’t know when it will be released. I was actually in Trinidad last year and I met them at Miami Music Week, then we went to their studio, we vibed and made a track, called ‘Thunderstorm’ and we became good friends over the year, so they were like, ‘Hey man, you should come to the carnival’. I looked it up and said “Cool, it’s like two days” so I was like “Yeah, I’ll come for like 5 days or something”. Then they said “No! You’ve got to come for the whole month of February, because it’s a whole month long of parties!” So we’ll be playing at some different parties, they’re on the radio down there, so I’m doing some guest interviews and guest sets on the radio and stuff like that. So yeah, I’m excited to experience the carnival for 3 or 4 weeks in Trinidad, so it will be awesome.

Akshay – Can we expect a new collaboration while you are there?

X-Change – Yes, we are working right now remotely but I love working in the studio with them. Basically, for that 3 or 4 weeks, we will just be DJing and in the studio, work on a bunch of new tracks and take it from there!

Akshay – You’ve grown in 2016 as an artist. What are your plans for 2017? What is it that you want to achieve in order to continue growing further?

X-Change – I really want to keep on developing my own unique sound. I feel like to develop a unique sound, it takes time and releasing a bunch of different tracks. I like a lot of different styles: I like progressive house, Melbourne bounce, electro house. So it’s trying to mold all of those into a unique X-Change sound and keep developing that sound. And I want to get a million plays on Spotify on a track, it will be awesome. I want to get that million!

Akshay – How would you know that you have developed your sound?

X-Change – I think it’s when people start listening to the first 3 to 5 seconds of a track and be like “That’s an X Change track”. They start knowing instantly, based on what it is, they realize that, it’s you. That is what I think it takes time for you to develop, having those signature sounds.

Akshay – Do you think that’s a lot tougher now, consider a lot of tracks have a similar vibe?

X-Change – I think Hardwell does it really great as an example. You can really tell with his drops and buildups and the way his stuff is done. I also believe that it’s on the mix and master side. I like an aggressive and in-your-face type of sound. I do all of my mixing and have been told that by a lot of people, that there is something about the way that I push my sound that it is almost to the edge of distortion, but that it is a good distortion which is really loud and aggressive, like in your face! For me, it is just pushing that envelope again to keep getting that type of sound to all of the different genres I like, so that you say, “That’s an X-Change sound, it has got that sonic structure.”

Akshay – Mention 3 artists that you definitely want to collaborate with.

X-Change – I would say Hardwell, for sure; Nicky Romero and Major Lazer, I really dig what they are doing and it’s super cool. If I could add a fourth I would say The Chainsmokers too.

What I am playing with a lot right now is a lot of tempo changes in the breaks and stuff like that for my upcoming tracks, so I am playing a lot of different stuff to try and do something different, like for example the ‘Kings In Town’ track, it has a Moombahton part in the breakdown, you know something which is totally different and then bring it back up to the big-room 128 bpm type of sound.

Akshay – Last question, you obviously must have heard of the DJ Mag results! What are your views on it?

X-Change – I think the DJ Mag Top 100 list is kind of an interesting thing. I don’t really know what it is anymore, it feels like a high school popularity contest, and, you know, I think that to each his own and what he wants to do with it, but I get a little confused cause there’s a lot of people on there I haven’t heard of! I think that, obviously, Martin Garrix totally deserves number 1. I am a big Martin Garrix fan and should add him to the list of people I wanted to collaborate with, like he’s awesome! But it is a confusing poll that a lot of people don’t really know what it stands for anymore. To the outside EDM world, if you just look at that and don’t really know anything about dance music, it’s not an accurate representation of what’s going on. I think that’s what the problem is, what does this poll represent? It is like what happens with the college rankings. I think they should redefine it. Dillon Francis was spot on with it on Snapchat. He got me cracking up this morning with it.

Akshay – What are your current top 5 tracks at the moment?

X-Change – OH! Top 5 tracks, I’ll have to look at my X-Change Theory Radio playlist, that’s my podcast that is released every two weeks!

Zedds’s new one ‘Ignite’ is sick.

Starboy by Daft Punk and The Weeknd.

The Chainsmokers ‘Closer’ Jauz remix, that’s a super cool remix!

Hardwell & Blasterjaxx – Going Crazy

An older track but still works, ‘Bomb A Drop’ by Garmiani, that song still works! I was in Nashville actually, at a country club and they were playing this and I was like, ‘Woah, it still works!’.

Connect with X-Change here.

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