To round out 2023, I caught up with Xantrax, co-founder of Ecke Records and Inner Ear Studio, on the creative process behind his new digital release and the various roles he undertakes in the industry
Krystal: Hey Xantrax, thank you for joining me for a quick catch-up.. I’m going to jump right in and say congrats on your latest release ‘Music Prescribed Vol.1’, can you tell me more about the EP, and the creative journey behind it?
Xantrax: Hi Krystal, thank you. Yeah so it’s an EP that includes two tracks I wrote 10 years ago that never got released so I guess this one merges between old and new. The idea behind this new series is that music can improve mental health so hopefully these releases can help appease a troubled mind.
Krystal: Very nice. The EP closes with L&F remixing Space flips, how did that come together and who would you like to work with next?
Xantrax: Exactly, so I wanted to round the EP off with something crafted especially for the club, as the EP could be seen as more left-field in general. L&F is not only a good friend of mine, but also a sick artist that I knew could deliver exactly that; so it was an honour to work with him on this one. He managed to capture the jagged and trippy essence of the original whilst also taking it on an energetic & beautiful journey for the ravers.
For the next one, I would like to ask Bakläxa to remix a track as I recently remixed one of hers and enjoyed that very much so it would be nice to see what happens the other way round.
Krystal: What other new music are you currently working on and when will we get ‘Music prescribed Vol.2’?
Xantrax: Currently, there is music being finalised for a new series of releases with Liar Bird called “Trash Bin”. These will be a series of VAs with members of the Liar Bird crew releasing under their solo aliases. There are four of those lined up for 2024 so a lot of music to come.
With Ecke records the next release we are putting out is a 6 track EP from Hedchef, the Melbourne-based electro maestro. This EP includes a collab with Dr Jeep and remixes from Hermeth and Squallfront (which is the duo that is Suno Soniason and myself).
Last but definitely not least I am working with Paddy Ladd, a deaf composer who not only writes lyrics but also composes the musical journey for his tracks. He has written a whole musical as well as a big book of countless songs, the guy is a genius and has not let his situation get in the way of his passion for music – he is a top musician who’s ideas I respect highly and has a different approach which is always going to create something interesting! Alongside Poppy Krivine and Jonathan Nash, who are also part of this project, we work closely together on a few of his compositions to translate them into “hearing” music.
Other than that in the new year I’ll be working on new ideas as always, maybe one of them might be released in 10 years time, who knows..! Oh and yes Music Prescribed volume 2 will come sometime around the first half of 2024 if all goes to plan.
Krystal: Can’t wait for all this new music! Ok, so lets jump into your music space, what is your current studio set-up and do you have a favourite synth hardware or plugin?
Xantrax: This will vary greatly depending on the mood I’m in. If I’m feeling hands on and need to build sounds in a tactile way I will jump straight into the hardware. My favourite is the Octatrack which is just ridiculously powerful for sampling and then twisting these sounds in all sorts of directions. Then, when it comes to hardware synths I like to switch it up regularly as I will get bored of the direction I go in with just one synth.
So recently I’ve used the Casio CZ5000 and the Virus, but currently I’m experimenting with the Volca Keys which is a very basic synth from Korg, but I’m finding some mad futuristic and nasty sounds nonetheless – sometimes less is more.
Surprisingly though, my favourite thing for synthesis is the software Reason – there are so many very unique sounds that can be created in so many ways and it never ceases to be fun for me. As a result, I reckon most of my signature synth sounds have come from messing around in Reason. I think a combination of different methods alongside regularly trying new things is the key to keeping music creation exciting and original.
Krystal: As well as being a producer, you DJ, co-run Ecke records and are a mastering engineer, which came first and how do you balance your time – any tips?
Xantrax: Music production came first, I started on a cracked version of Reason 5 when I was 15 and haven’t stopped since. I soon learnt to DJ on a terrible setup which meant when I came to mixing on pioneer and technics it was a lot easier!
Later on, I studied sound engineering as a result of my passion in music and then worked in a mastering studio. I now work as a self-employed mastering engineer and have built a beautiful mastering chain that I am very proud of.
At the moment I prioritise mastering work as the rest fits in very naturally around that. I like to get the technical work done with a very fresh and well rested ear so I can work properly and accurately.
My tip to anyone interested in sound and music is to just go for it, if it excites you! With very little you can learn a lot so do not let the fact that you don’t have the best equipment etc hold you back. I’ve seen people focus on getting more and more in their setup over actually creating and working – this is a waste of time & money unless you want to just be a collector and have cool things that you never truly make use of. Get experimenting and have fun!
Krystal: What is the plan for 2024, are you currently open for new mastering projects?
Xantrax: The plan is more of the same, business as usual! Yes, I am open if people are interested in characteristic analog mastering definitely get in touch, my mastering studio is called Inner Ear Mastering – I will, as always, work hard to find their unique defining sound!