Original Interview on Ministry of Sound
I jumped on a phone call with rising label boss Xtrah to talk us through the launch plans for his cutting-edge new imprint Cyberfunk
After cementing his standing in the drum and bass world with a number of notable releases on some of the scenes biggest labels, Xtrah real name Yasin, steps into 2015 with a brand new EP of his own.
The London based producer and DJ is proud to introduce Cyberfunk, and kicks things off with a landmark four track release due out later this year and a launch night that looks set to make an illimitable impression.
So first things first, why the name Cyberfunk?
Xtrah: I was looking into types of art and stuff that I like. I found cyberpunk art; it’s kind of futuristic, high-tech, knowledge-y, low life, sort of humans now but with all the technology of the future and living the same sort of way… films like Terminator. I just turned it from cyberpunk to cyberfunk basically.
What are your reasons for starting Cyberfunk? What prompted you to do it?
I just want to build something that I can look back on. The label is a place to put out music and build something for myself rather than giving it away to various different labels. It’s a way of being able to release music without any sort of boundaries really.
So tell us about the first release The Existence EP. Absolutely loving it by the way! What made you pick those 4 tracks for the debut EP and how did it come about?
We’ve got the release coming out on April 20th. The A side “Operator” that’s the newest one out of all of them. That’s probably only about 4 months old. I just really wanted it to be part of it, that kind of represents what I want to do with Cyberfunk. I want to hold on to what drum and bass is about. I want to bring the newer techniques and things like that, so I thought that tune would be a good representation of how I want the whole label to be. Keeping hold of the foundations but moving with the times at the same time. For me that’s what that tune represented.
The AA side “We Exist” I initially made about a year ago. I’ve been playing and tweaking it for a year, maybe even longer. That’s definitely another one where I’m like ‘OK I can bring a bit of funk and a bit of new stuff, a bit of everything.’ When I made that tune I knew that I was the one putting it out the whole time.
“Cold Steppin” is a song by my good friends Simple Technique. They are young guys and are making wicked music. They represent what I like, they are young and fresh and know what they are doing. I’ve been playing it for a year and we’ve been tweaking it, going backwards and forwards. That was another one where I was like I’m putting that out, standard. It was getting wheeled up every time I played it basically. They’ve got another couple of bits that are so good so big up to those guys for being on board. We’re going to be pushing them out… well as much as this label can.
The final track on the EP is a Break collab we started about 14 months ago when I first moved into the other studio. That came about in one session, we had a rough idea and I just kept tweaking it.
It’s good to see you bringing through new talent!
X: I don’t see anyone else doing that and I don’t see why. There’s loads of brilliant producers who all have a massive following and just sign away.
Some of the new guys get held back by not waiting. I used to turn down money and people would be like ‘here’s £500, do a remix’ or ‘here’s a grand do a 12 inch’ and I was like no all I’m going to do is get a grand and spend it, but my career is worth more than a grand. I’d rather build, wait and hold back, waiting for the right release for the right label. Too many artists just jump straight into it.
So will you be releasing on other labels as well?
I’ve got other things planned for this year already. I don’t know how much of that I can say to be honest, it’s a bit of a tricky one as I’ve been told not to say anything…
I’m working on something for Noisia’s label let’s put it like that for the moment. Also doing some stuff for Dispatch but I don’t know if I can tell you what it’s going to be yet.
Can’t wait to hear it! Will we see any releases away from drum and bass?
With this label it’s only drum and bass but I’d never rule it out. If it’s good and it strikes me then I’ll put it out. I haven’t been sent anything yet that’s not 170 upwards though.
How about your own writing?
I write all sorts of stuff. I’ve got another project that I work on with someone else which is all sorts of weird shit! I don’t know what’s going to be happening with it. It’s just weird sort of electronic madness. Some of it is a bit Arctic Monkeys influenced and has a bit more weight to it. It’s just music that we’re influenced by that we’ve mixed together. We haven’t pitched it to anyone yet, we are still playing around with it and trying to find our feet with it. It’s something we believe in though.
Are you going to be pressing on vinyl or are you going be to strictly digital?
I’m definitely doing vinyl man, I would never start a label without doing vinyl! I’ve grown up on that stuff so I’ll be pressing it until I can’t do it. It’s still doable at the moment. It might not make a lot of money but it’s still doable. I don’t know if it’s coming back or not I’m just doing it because I know I can. I love that, I’d rather be able to hold something that I’ve designed.
Are there any labels in particular that you’re looking at for inspiration?
I think this is the whole thing with our genre, there’s some amazing record labels but everyone who starts to make good music, instead of starting a label they sign to a label. If everyone does the same thing then there’s going to be no more than 10 labels or however many there is. Not that I’ve got anything against the labels, I just want to build something for myself. Whether it turns out to be like any of those labels or if I end up signing for one of those labels, I still want to try out.
Personally, I feel a lot of these bigger labels are slowly selling themselves out these days. What’s your thoughts on that?
I’m not really watching what anyone is doing. This is just purely for me. I think I’ve got pretty good taste in drum and bass. I like drum and bass. I want to put out drum and bass. I’m not saying that I don’t love anything else. All I’m trying to aim for is people understanding that I want to push the sound that I love and certain labels aren’t doing that for me at the moment. At the same time there are labels that are doing it for me. Labels like Symmetry who are definitely doing it, Dispatch, Vision and Invisible. They are all consistently putting out drum and bass and repping drum and bass without trying to follow trends. All the label bosses put out music that they like. Exit as well that’s another one….
Moving onto the launch party night at Fire on 28th March. Mad, mad lineup mate! Can’t wait for that. What made you pick those DJs for your night?
Exactly the same as what has made me pick the music for the EP. Dillinja has influenced me massively. He’s someone who represents what I want the label to be about. He’s so futuristic. He’s still getting his tunes dropped 14 years later. So that’s what I’m trying to do, not that I think I can do it, but I would like to try and do it. I hope I can but I don’t think it’s for me to say if I can.
Break is a really good friend of mine and an amazing producer and he’s on the first release so there’s no doubt he had to be there. Skeptical is another one that I believe is a truly amazing artist and he’s gonna be around for a long time. The rest of the guys I feel the same way about. Hybris and Fre4knc are gonna be massive I think. Then Mako is a head, he’s all about the music.
Another thing I find that people don’t do enough of these days is booking good MC’s so I just thought I’d try and get everyone there!
It’s a shame there’s no Codebreaker making a return though!
I did try! I have been trying!
Speaking of Codebreaker, are your Protocol boat parties still going to be going on?
That was a way for me to do a test and see what my potential of getting people to come to things. We are definitely going to be doing another boat party!
I know Dispatch have one coming up on the Thames…
Well you know you see, they are all following trends aren’t they (Ant)!
So with these nights at Fire it’s almost like it’s the next test. If it does really well will you be doing them regularly?
There’s thoughts about doing more but it depends on how far the reach has got. It’s definitely possible but if no-one turns up then no! I played at Fire not so long ago and they’ve redone all the system. It was literally one of the best systems I’ve played on in a long time and that was in room 2! Now room 1 has been all re-done with funktion ones. It’s got big LED panels where the DJs are, so it’s absolutely sick!
I can’t wait for the night. I’m actually playing at Noisia Invites in Amsterdam the night before, that’s gonna be a hectic weekend! Wouldn’t have it any other way though!
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