Xtrah’s unhurried, selective attention to Cyberfunk detail is ticking all the right boxes. Taking time, refusing to saturate an already bulging tech D&B market, each release has dealt in both premium sonics and a strong presence of tomorrow’s talent with each EP featuring established and future prospects.
The label’s first release of 2016 sees Xtrah back up this statement with the first solo artist fronted EP: Phentix – Pitch Black. Five tracks of slinky, purring, pneumatic tech funk D&B, it’s another bold manoeuvre from the young Linz resident who was last featured on this site in our extensive guide to Austria’s thriving D&B scene. Stealthily punctuating the genre with low-key cuts since 2011, Pitch Black is a clear-levelling up exercise with support from the likes of Noisia and has already dented the number one spot in the Beatport D&B chart.
We called him to find out more. Turns out music runs in his DNA – his family runs Linz’s longest running record store. A family business since it began as a book shop over 150 years ago. Up-keeping the family tradition, he just sells units in a different way…
You must have grown up around a lot of vinyl?
Oh for sure, I love it. I never learnt to mix it but I dig the actual product – the physicality of it. I might be new generation but I love and research the old stuff as much as I can.
So last time we featured you was a guide to Austrian D&B. Loads going on over there right now!
It’s a very exciting place right now. Alongside Czech Republic and The Netherlands we’ve got one of the healthiest scenes in mainland Europe. Vienna’s got some of the country’s oldest, most prestigious venues like Flex and there are more opening up all the time.
UK could take a leaf out of Austria’s books at the moment…
Yes, sadly. In fact just this month there’s been a change in the Vergnügungssteuer, which is an entertainment tax. It has been dropped from musicians and venues which gives anyone involved in parties a little more freedom and room to actually make a living in Vienna and across all of Austria
So you’re based in Linz which most D&B heads will know for one thing…
Mefjus! He’s a proper dude. I met Xtrah through him actually. Xtrah was hosting a Cyberfunk party with Bass Invaderz and Martin hooked us up. I played him some tracks and he signed Hoax to the Matriarch EP. It was a very humbling situation – having Martin invite me down to his studio and play tracks to Xtrah was incredible. You sit there in your studio, working hard and not really knowing you’ll ever get it to the big guys you want to hear playing it then cool shit like that happens.
Did you already have the EP racked up to follow Hoax or is it all fresh produce?
I had sketches but it’s my first EP for Cyberfunk and a chance to express myself so I went in deep with the fresh produce! I love Cyberfunk’s insistence on funk so I really wanted to focus on that. We started with Afterlife and it’s ended up as five tracks with two collaborations. I’m really happy with it.
So this isn’t a brand new hype – you’ve been on this for five or so years now haven’t you?
Yeah but that old stuff is really old man! Very simple sample-based easy drum & bass. It wasn’t very technical, I just wanted to make music that’s nice to me. Five years ago that seemed okay but the longer you producer drum & bass you find yourself in your sounds. I’ve taken a long time to really study the techniques and really get inside my sound.
You’re kinda sounding a bit like Xtrah with that description!
He’s super deep into the technical details! But, as I said, the one thing I’ve loved about him is the funk. It’s always there in every tune he does. I love funk – like proper raw traditional funk – and disco is one of the best genres ever made. Soul and emotions – you can’t lose it.
Easy to do in the more technical side of D&B…
Yes – you realise that fact the most when you’ve been working on a single bass sound for hours on end. You have to step back and ask yourself if the vibe is there. If it is, don’t push it. If it isn’t then move on. I always go back to Break’s old tracks for inspiration in that way. The gritty, rough soul and vibe. That’s so much more important than the cleanest mixdown ever. It’s coming back the other way… In Sun & Bass I heard a lot of vibey tracks out there and the mixdown wasn’t the main focus. That’s not to say shitty mixdowns are okay… But vibe should always come first – whether it’s liquid, neuro, the hardest or the funkiest.
Is that a hint at what’s to expect next?
Who knows? I know I’ll never limit myself to on particular style. I’ve grown up around a lot of incredible music and love so many styles. If it feels right and it’s got the soul and funk then I’ll make it.