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Interview: Xtrah (HTF Exclusive Interview)

Xtrah divulges about his inspirations, time wasters & Outlook festival!


Xtrah turned his hand to producing a few years ago after what seems to be a lifetime of DJ’ing. He is well known in the scene and has records out on the infamous RAM Records, Symmetry Recordings & Subtitles UK! Although a relatively fresh face to  the Drum & Bass scene, has been been rising through the ranks working with the likes of DRS, Basher & Foreign Concept. He is a Fabric staple, an Outlook favourite & luckily for you is working on some top secret new material! We caught up with him to chat about his Outlook blues, bank vaults & his latest inspirations.

HTF: So, how was outlook?

Yeah it was really good thanks! Not much, just been finishing music ‘n’ that since I’ve been back. Outlook was mental, was really good out there. Just been finishing music really, starting on a new few bits with some other labels.

HTF: How are you feeling about your new EP ‘Lost Time’, has it been well received?

Yeah it’s had a lot of love really a lot more than I thought it would. So yeah i’m really happy with that to be honest. I’m happy to do my first tune with Break. Got a lot of love.

HTF: Where did the title come from? Is it about alcohol induced memory loss, or is it about something a little bit deeper?

I had this sample, and it was about how it was in an original tune that I got Codebreaker to be on and it was about how people felt like they have lost time and stuff. I kind of felt the same dealing with certain people and that kind of vibe. It was to do with just wasting time with people I shouldn’t of & doing things I shouldn’t of.  It all seemed to fit when Codebreaker ripped the new vocals as well so that’s kind of where the concept for that tune came from.

HTF: Is that about wasting time with people musically & from a production point of view? Or just generally people that are long in life?

A bit of everything really just anyone. From now on I’m not really looking to waste anymore time. Lets just put it that way.

HTF: That’s a good way to be. You’ve got DRS on ‘Always New’. How did that come about?

Dells & me were sort of speaking about doing a tune for a long time. And Break made this sort of half-step tune and I was really into it so I sort of took the parts off him. I made the drums & processed the basses and stuff like that and sent it to Dell. He was up for doing it so luckily it just fell together really.

HTF: You were saying that you have known him for a long time then?

Yeah probably about 2-3 years now I think. Met him at Fabric ages and ages ago. When I was working with Bo Thomas who does mastering & he has known him for a long time and he just introduced us. Obviously Del had heard of me & I had obviously heard of Dells because he was doing tunes with Enei at the time. We even spoke about it that night. So literally from the first night we met, we spoke about doing the tune & we always spoke on Twitter about doing the tune so we finally got to doing it on this one!

HTF: You are from London, but the Drum & Bass scene is pretty strong in Manchester at the moment. I have seen that you have been tweeting Chimpo etc. How do you think the two scenes compare?

 I think their scene is so strong because the whole of Manchester stand together. If London acted the way Manchester did I think the scene would be a lot stronger in general, not just in London. I think the amount of artists that are in London if we done what Manchester does in the way they stick together & everyone helping each other out I think the whole scene, especially the whole underground scene would be a lot bigger and a lot better. But I think egos get in the way and I think because London is so big its certain areas of London stuck together so you know that’s fine & that’s how it is. I cant complain. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I think if everyone did help each other out and everyone pulled in links from allover the place the way that Manchester does it would be nuts down here

HTF: I got that feel from outlook seeing Strategy and Skittles going to see Dub Phizix, the whole vibe was completely different, it was such a family vibe whereas sometimes with other London based stages it felt a bit disbanded.

Yeah I mean it’s just Manchester is such a small city compared to London, so everyone lives round the corner from each other in Manchester. Whereas you have to travel for and hour and a half to get to some areas of London

HTF: You featured on Goldie’s ‘FabricLive58’ in 2011, if you were approached to do a FabricLive, what tracks would you like on it?

 I would definitely get the new Dub Phizix thing, Georges new thing called ‘Doberman’ I cant remember who the feature is. It features a vocalist who I can’t remember his name, some Jamaican guy.

I like that new Mefjus & Icicle tune called ‘contemporary’. Obviously something from Calibre, something from Break, he is killing it. Him & DRS have got a sick new thing called  ‘New Design’ which is wicked. Probably one of my favorite tunes from the past 2 or 3 years to be honest. That’s probably it to be honest of the top of my head, something from those guys really.

HTF: Enough about the future, lets take it back, what can you tell me about your first ever gig as Xtrah. As I have read that you started collecting white labels at 11?

Yeah that was crazy man, I got my first set of decks when I was really young. My first gig was probably like house parties and shit I DJ’d at school when I was 12. So yeah I started pretty young there, wasn’t a raver that’s for sure. It was probably pretty gash and I was probably not dropping the music that the people there wanted.

HTF: What made you make the transition from playing other peoples records to making your own?

 Listening to Dilinjah, I just wanted to know how he was doing what he was doing. The only way to do that was to try and make tunes so I started getting on fruity loops and messing around when I was about 15/16 and I didn’t have my own computer. That was just messing around on my mate’s computer. I wasn’t really taking it seriously or anything like that. When I got to 21 I bought a Mac and logic then started properly go at it. I think I might have been a bit younger, maybe 20. Things just started working. I kind of actually started making tunes that were not that bad they weren’t the best tunes ever but at the time they were sounding as good as some of the stuff that was floating around so I just stuck at it for the next couple of years then I ended up singing lots of tunes to RAM with Asher, signed my first 12” with Teebee and then it all just started snowballing. 

HTF: Now where do you get the most excited about playing?

 Outlook is definitely that one for me every year now. I’m already going back next year now so I just think that’s my favorite place to play to be honest.

HTF: What stands out about it as a festival and as a booking?

I think it is just the location and the scenery the sort of rockiness and jumping off the big I don’t know what to call them…

HTF: Broken bits of fort?

Yeah! Just all that! Its mental it’s a castle init. I DJ’d in a Moat! I got to big up one place though. I did DJ in Cardiff and it was in a bank vault. Literally a huge bank was above us & it was in a serious bank vault. It had all the doors & bars and everything it was crazy.

HTF: Apart from playing in Forts and Bank Vaults, where do you feel most at home?

Fabric. Every time I play there, there are so many faces I know I seem to be playing Vauxhall quite a lot so I don’t know what’s going on there but that’s another place that I feel quite at home. That’s the only two really, obviously if I ever play Repeater in Kingston that’s my local record stores night that’s just round the corner from my hometown.

HTF: Do you ever step out of the dark bubble of Drum & Bass? & If so what has the pleasure of gracing your ears?

All the time, I don’t really listen to Drum & Bass. I listen to all sorts! I listen to classical music sometimes I have been trying to get into it to get the melodies as I am kind of done with doing the whole atmospheric intro, with one dirty bass note and then into sort of sub-by tune. I want to start actually writing pieces of music. So yeah I listen to Bonobo, Mob Deep, mad classical pieces. I don’t get much time to listen to music! But when I do that’s what I listen to and hip-hop and weird ambient music as well like TrentemØller, people like that.

HTF: What does 2014 hold for you?

Looks like it’s going to be good, but I can’t really talk much about what I know and those sort of things. I have got some good music coming out in 2014, that’s for sure. Its going to be in places I haven’t released before so I will leave that to the reader to make their mind up about what’s that going to be!

HTF: Do you mean Geographic or do you mean label wise?

 Label wise.

HTF: I didn’t know if you were going to be big in Korea or something?

Yeah, I just made the next Gagman style! Nah, it’s just on labels I haven’t released on yet.

HTF: That’s exciting! 

Yeah definitely for me as well!

Keep up to date with Xtrah over at his Facebook  &  SoundCloud!


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