When The Fresh Blood Drips – An Interview With Xanadu

One of my favourite things about drum and bass raves, well, the scene as a whole actually, is the “drum and bass grapevine” as I like to call it.  What I mean is, when you go to a well established event, Critical Music at Fabric for instance, and hear an artist such as Mefjus drop an absolute monster of a tune.  You spend the next few minutes trying to remember how it went so you can ask someone who hasn’t got scrambled eggs for brains but leave none the wiser.  You hear it on rotation for a few months until it finally reaches your producer friends who can then successfully ID it for you – Finally! Thank the lord!  Normally the response I get is “It’s the next release on Dispatch” or “The latest bit on Headz” but the most refreshing thing is when you find out that, that tune with the dutty “when the fresh blood drips” vocal is actually by an unknown producer called Xanadu and it’s been signed to head honcho Dom & Roland’s label DRP – Great success!

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ow, anyone worth their salt will know that DRP has never been a label to churn out releases regardless of quality, in actual fact their releases are few and far between and generally so monumental that they’re one of the only labels still able to press to vinyl.  It gives me great pleasure to announce that this release is no exception, Xanadu’s hotly anticipated debut album ‘Through The Oort Clouds’ was released yesterday and certainly got some gums flapping and beards’a scratchin’. 

I think it’s fair to say that (the aforementioned track) ‘Ventricle’ is something of an anomaly in regards to the album as the rest of the tracks seem to deviate from the quintessential roller and venture into a world of insanely tight, stripped breaks and dark bass.  In fact, i’d say the only club moody enough to do ‘Through The Oort Clouds’ justice would have to be The End, back in the day.  Xanadu’s album certainly isn’t something you’ll hear at your average drum and bass event, each track draws you in with a fierce intensity, so much so that at points, tracks such as ‘Circulation’ have made me stop what i’m doing just so I can pay full attention.  Sheer brilliance and a real testament to such a young producer that has managed to capture in his first release what many producers try their whole careers to achieve – big up Xanadu!

With such a raw talent emerging we’d be fools not to grab him for an interview, right?  Time to find out about the man behind the music . . .

For those that might be unfamiliar, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I come from South Wales, I now live in London working as a sound technician/engineer and I produce Drum & Bass music whenever I can.  I’ve never had a release before but I’ve been getting some great support from other artists in the scene including Dom & Roland, who will be putting out my first release on his imprint Dom & Roland Productions.  This will be a 12 track LP and it’s getting a full pressing onto 2x vinyl and comes with the CD as well!  Dom’s friend Daniel Brusatin has done the artwork for it and its sick!  Check out his work.

Now, you’re obviously making quite a name for yourself within the drum and bass scene but is this the first time you’ve experimented with production or have you always had a keen interest in music?

I’ve always been interested in music and all throughout school I always knew I would work in the music industry in some way or another. I’ve recorded bands, worked on sound design for documentaries, all sorts!  But making drum and bass is obviously the thing I enjoy the most out of all those haha.

Casting your mind back, can you remember the very first time you sat in front of your computer and messed around on your DAW of choice?

Well . . . My parents got their first computer when I was in primary school, I borrowed a program called Dance eJay off a mate, which you could arrange 8 tracks worth of loops with.  I guess that was the first time I used a DAW haha, it was great fun!  I don’t think I knew how to bounce anything out though, so there’s no evidence of it which is a shame.  I can’t even imagine what they sounded like . . .

What would you say inspired you the most to start producing?

I was genuinely interested in sound technology in school, so when I was playing in bands, I would always be the one to crack out the computer and try to record stuff and mix it on the computer.  So when I discovered Reason through another friend at school it was only a matter of time until I’d had a mess around and made a beat with it.  Though it was a long time between that beat and when I really started to take producing my own beats more seriously.  I think discovering the club scene had a lot to do with making me focus on producing electronic music!

With that in mind, can you tell us a bit about your musical journey and how you happened upon drum and bass?

I loved metal in school.  Its pretty much all I would listen to for a long time, I played guitar all the time and honestly thought I’d always be in metal bands.  But then a friend showed me some Calyx & Teebee stuff and that was a bit of an eyeopener!  The first proper club night I went to was a Chase & Status gig at the Jailhouse, Hereford, in 2008.  Then throughout uni I listened to a lot of dubstep and drum and bass in Liverpool.  There were some sick nights up there!  If anyones around Liverpool at any point, try and get to an ‘Eat your Greens’ night! Personal favourite.  I’ll listen to anything really as long as its had some thought put into it, but I find most of the time, it’s drum and bass coming out of my speakers.

So take us through an average day in the life of Xanadu, what time would you hit the studio and how do you begin starting a tune?

Well, when I’m not working, I’d probably drag myself out of bed and get straight on the computer really.  It takes a while for me to actually get anything good done though. I’m quite slow at working on stuff, I tend to get sidetracked very easily haha.  But I normally start by finding a nice break and chopping it up.  Then get about 10 nice kicks and millions of snares and various bits of percussion and get layering stuff.  Then I make a few different beats with the drum kit I’ve made until something is giving me ideas for other sounds.

And what would you say is your ultimate creativity fuel/studio snack?

Hmm most recently it’s chilli noodles.  But the thing is that studio snacks for me tend to bring on procrastination . . . i.e. an episode of Adventure Time, or 2 . . . I love Adventure Time.

Getting back to the music, your debut album is about to drop on Dom & Roland’s label DRP, it must have been a mind blowing experience for you to have been picked up by one of the most influential and long standing producers our scene has to offer!  Can you tell us how this came to be?

Yea for sure! A friend of mine was putting Dom & Roland on in Exeter and he has a family connection with Dom, so he introduced us.  I played a slot after Dom and he stuck around for a bit to hear what I was playing, before he left said to get in touch after the gig and come to his studio in London.  I thought he was just saying it to be nice at first, but I emailed eventually and went to his studio a few months after the gig.  We were just listening to tunes really and I brought some of mine to show him.  When Dom said that he wanted to sign my stuff, it took me totally by surprise, I thought I was just going round to pump some tunes and get a beer and a burger haha.  For the whole tube ride home I couldn’t get the grin off my face. I was thinking, I must be the happiest person on the underground right now!

As I’ve mentioned to just about anyone that will listen, my favourite track from your album has to be ‘Ventricle’.  Which would you say is your favourite track and why?

Thats a hard one to choose!  I think each track has its own qualities and I feel attached to all of them.  I love how sinister Helix and Cygnus are, I love the way Photon switches up, I really like the drums in Hattusa.  The atmospheric sounds and samples in Luna are really nice, but after hearing Dom play The Void at Fabric, I think thats the one I look forward to playing out the most, the percussion is pretty gnarly!  Its made out of lots of planks of wood being hit really hard.

What does the future have in store you? Any more releases lined up or is it back to the studio?

I’m working on stuff for the next release already, no finished tracks yet, but a whole bunch of ideas.  I’ve got a remix I’ve done for an old friend from Uni.  His music is totally not drum and bass, it’s a pretty bizarre sound!  Sort of orchestral slash electronic . . . I really went to town with processing his sounds to make totally new stuff, trying out lots of new plugins, so it became a real production exercise and I learned some new tricks. I think it’s going to be a free download at the end of January: Line Conductor – Supplice (Xanadu Remix).

I’ve also got a track that I made with Hyroglifics and Terror.Hubris coming out at some point, but not sure where or how.

And lastly, who’s smashing it for you at the moment?

Amoss, Cern, DLR, Skeptical, Gerra & Stone, Survey, Fre4knc . . . There’s a lot of people smashing it at the moment!  Really stoked for Hyroglifics and his Critical signing, big up Matt! Interline is a new guy who gave me a sore neck when I heard his Mentality EP, really dark and minimal stuff.  Oh, and I came across a guy called Insect recently, check out his track Cryptonite, i’ll be playing that quite a lot!

As mentioned earlier, Xanadu’s debut album ‘Through The Oort Clouds LP’ dropped yesterday on Dom & Roland Productions and really isn’t one to miss.  Available on wax and CD, head over to your favourite record or download store to bag your copy.