Yasin Xtrah has been a little quiet on the release-front in the last year or two.
Sure, his label Cyberfunk has been rolling out gold, pretty much on the monthly. They cooked up a particularly powerful V/A album last summer, for example, in the form of the new talent-stacked Integration project with the likes of Wingz, Sam Harris, Koax and Simple Technique as well as bringing through exciting newcomers Genic.
But as for an Xtrah release? Not a sausage since his New Perspective EP in February 2018.
Now he can explain why; he’s been working on his debut album. It’s called X, it symbolises 10 years of hard graft honing his sound and it’s due out before the summer. From what he’s told us, he’s gone IN on it. What else would you expect from a man who spent three months on a snare? Snare-tweaking has never been Yasin’s only occupation, though. Among other life events he’s also been on extensive tours of the US and ended up with a unique, and thought-provoking visual concept that launches with the first single from X – Dispossessed.
Dark sounds, stark sights. You can check the video here. Dispossessed will be followed by two more singles over the coming months before then X marks the spot late spring. We rang the desert hotline and snared the Cyberfunkateer for more details.
Take us back to the desert and where this project first took seed…
Man it feels like forever since this project started but I’ll do my best to recall. I’d been touring in America a couple of times before the trip out when we made this video, I met somebody who is now a close friend of mine, Brian. I met him on the west coast previously in San Diego, California. As I had been flying alone on the previous tours I thought I’d try and make this trip unique and experience it with friends. We decided we’d drive up the whole west coast and back as I had gigs in San Francisco, L.A and San Diego.
Yes it was, I thought it would be a great idea to film it, too. Just as a personal memoir and maybe create some content for, say, socials. I asked if Brian knew anyone he might be able to capture the journey and boy did it end up being so much more than what I expected! I was introduced to Max Manning, a videographer/cinematographer from San Diego. We got on so well on our first call I just knew it was going to be something special. Max was an inspiration; his energy and passion for film and his craft was incredible. He had locations, camera gear and ideas ready to fire, it was kind of mind-blowing really. He created a whole pitch with pictures of the places he wanted us to visit on the way and all sorts, I was so impressed with that. He’s a true artist. I look forward to working with him on future projects.
So what happened?
I met up with the guys at around 7:30am in downtown L.A and we set off on our adventure to San Fran as the gig was that night. We stopped at this particular location along the way, we shot for a couple of hours and headed up the coast. That’s all there was to it at that point.
When did you realise it was going to be a video for a tune… Let alone launch an album?
I left it quite a while before I started going through the footage we’d captured. Maybe close to a year after I got back I sat down and started going through the footage while playing Dispossessed and the desert footage at the same time, a story started to appear. I had to learn how to edit but fortunately I know some great editors who helped out massively. I asked them to all have a pop at making a video out of the footage, I then took their edits and did the final cut myself.
I also sampled the speech from an old documentary about surrealism, which we also used in the video. I love having messages in my music. I’ve always felt like I have a lot to say but never had the confidence to say it myself. Maybe one day… But in terms of Dispossessed, it’s a start. It’s also been interesting on another creative level because with this tune in particular it’s not just about sampling audio, it’s about sampling video and incorporating it with something up to date and creating a juxtaposition.
It’s a trippy watch for sure.
I really like that kind of thing and the symbolism behind being in the desert for me is what represents being dispossessed or looking for something that you’ve lost or has been taken. I also warmed to the idea of being seen as a person in the video. I feel like being known within the drum & bass scene, more often than not, you get known for being more of a DJ character and not so much as an artist or just as a person. It took some getting used to, seeing myself from this new perspective. I realised that it makes a difference to the usual videos of crowds or me DJing in places. It was something completely different to anything I’d done before. I’m happy with the results, I hope people are feeling it too.
So the video spawned the album…
Well I’d been working on music regardless but it definitely broadened my horizons as to what the album could become. That was the first tune that I put visuals to and it triggered a lot of ideas. I’d been working on several tunes around the same time. A lot of the sounds and ideas for the album came from a track called Hurt and another tune called I Feel You, which will also be on the album. That’s where lots of themes and ideas came from. While making those tracks I started to make a lot of emotive pads and soundscapes and I started to create ideas that fit around that same feel and theme. I’ve also been getting into synthesising my drumkits for a long tome but really going in and learning how to mix them like they’re real drums – trying to replicate old drum breaks and spaces without using real drum hits. In Dispossessed, for example, there are no samples besides the documentary sample. It’s all synthetic. Every sound.
That’s interesting because it has that raw 90s, sample-driven edge…
I’m happy to hear you say that. I was aiming for all the things I love about drum and bass and wanted it to have that dark vibe, almost like you’ve heard it before. Like it’s familiar but it’s fresh. That’s the feeling I wanted to create throughout the album to be honest. I hope others feel it too…
Sounds like you’ve gone in!
I’d say I have gone pretty deep. It’s a concept album and I’d love for people to just sit down and have a proper listen through. Phone off, no distractions – just soak it up and see what you think. There are things you won’t expect, there are things you’ll know me for and probably some things you might not understand but everything has a meaning to me.
X has been my biggest project to date. It’s been challenging to complete a project of this size, very challenging, I’ve learnt a lot along the way, but you should do with something like this shouldn’t you? Nothing’s worth doing by halves, so if you’re going to do it, do it properly.
The way an album should be!
I agree. You know me man. I take my time. I like to do things meticulously, as you know. Like spending three months on a flipping snare. FFS.
Ha! I was going to ask about that!
NEVER AGAIN! It takes minutes now, but you have to spend the time on things to understand what you’re doing.
But yeah, I’ve been documenting everything, taking photos, filming things, meeting people and just really diving as deep as I can into this project. I can’t wait to show you some more and get it out into the world. For now though I hope people enjoy the sound of Dispossessed until the next tune and video drops…
Dispossessed is out now. Expect singles every 4-6 weeks and X to drop before summer 2020 on Cyberfunk.