In the latest in our occasional series on electronic musicians that we think you should be looking out for we introduce Xaatu. Hailing from deepest Northumberland (well, Hexham), his unique sound is already causing a stir and we fully expect a major national breakthrough any time. Read on to find out more..
Welcome to Tunnel Club. Tell us a little about yourself and your music.
Hey Tunnel Club, my name is Sandy but i produce under the pseudonym Xaatu. My music tends to be heavily synth orientated, usually with a 808 bass underneath. I’ve heard it given different names before depending on who’s talking about it ranging from like Future Trap to Experimental so i’d say it’s somewhere in between.
How did you first get into making music?
Before producing i’d already been really into music, i played guitar since first school and messed around on a few other instruments. A bit later on, maybe early into high school thanks to my good friends Charlie Dancer and Max Greig, i got a copy of Reason 4. I instantly got hooked and though I’m not proud to admit it, spent every bit of spare time i had making horrible squeaky dubstep remixes of shitty chart songs.
Could you describe your musical influences?
My main electronic influences now are Sam Gellaitry, Halpe and SOPHIE. They all seem to push electronic music to its limits and come up with sounds and styles that feel fresh, which is hard to do in an industry so over-saturated with people just making the same old music over and over. Outside of electronic music I think bands like Snarky Puppy, Hiatus Kaiyote and Avishai Cohen Trio influence me the most, probably for the same reasons.
How would you describe your sound & style?
Like i said before, somewhere in between Future Trap and Experimental. There are certain sounds and synths that carry through between songs to give a bit of cohesion between pieces, but i don’t try to follow a formula or set tempo before i make a song, so i think that’s why it’s difficult for me to pin it down to one genre.
When you’re composing a piece of music, do you have a particular objective in mind?
Honestly i wouldn’t say i do have an objective at the start, i guess it depends on the direction the songs going in. Some of the songs i make never get released and just get played at shows, but that’s never something i set out to do as i’m making the song.
Would you say your sound has changed over time?
Yeah, definitely. A lot has changed since i first started, my whole style went from trying to just make the dirtiest basses with no actual understanding of what i was doing and peaking the master fader to the point of distortion, to then trying to make more ambient, chilled electronic more inspired by Bonobo just before i went to Uni. I think going down to London changed my style the most, i was shown a lot of genres that i’d never been exposed to in Newcastle, and that made me want to experiment with them.
Give us a run down of a selection of your studio and live kit.
My studio kit is just my Mac, a copy of Reason 8 and some Audio Technica ath-m50x headphones. I have other hardware; monitors, midi keyboards, Maschine etc but i’d be lying if i said i ever plug them in and use them while creating, i think they just slow down the whole process.
My live kit at the minute tends to be a Traktor S2 controller, and sometimes a Korg Kaoss Pad. I went from doing my sets on the Traktor A6 and timecoded vinyls to the controller because it was so much more flexible, and as my songs became less rigid and similar i needed to change up tempo in my sets more than the vinyl would allow me to. Also i think using the cue points to sample songs mid set is really fun.
What’s your view on the electronic scene in the north east at the moment?
I think there’s some great local electronic musicians, and some equally amazing guys at Kaneda, NEF and Generator helping build a scene for electronic music here and really giving local artists a chance to perform, which is class! I think the North East has such a crazy, diverse mix of electronic styles, which is one of its best features, but i also think that diversity makes it harder to build a “scene” in the same way North East bands are able to.
You’ve been well-supported by BBC Introducing. What tips would you give to aspiring musicians about how to get their music heard?
Yeah i really appreciate all their support, Nick Roberts played a track from my first EP back in 2014, and since then i’ve uploaded every song I’ve released to the BBC Introducing uploader. I’d recommend it to anyone trying to be heard, it’s really easy to do just go to their website.
Other than that i’d say if you want your music to be heard try local blogs, talk to local promoters or even put on a gig yourself. I think social media is useful too, especially to promote releases, or to keep listeners interested in between releases.
Which other artists are doing it for you at the moment?
Other than the guys i mentioned before i’d say Rendezvous At Two, Creepa, Sadkey, Vassh, Clairo and Sagaboi are the artists i listen to the most at the minute.
Any hidden gem releases from lesser-known artists you’ve come across that you can share?
I couldn’t say just one really, check out all the artists i’ve mentioned cause they’re all so consistent with their release quality.
We’re looking forward to you joining us at Northern Exposure on September 30th. Tell us a little about what people can expect.
Me too, can’t wait! I think i’ll make my set a fairly heavy one as the venue is nice and cosy so it would be good to get everyone up and dancing. So expect a lot of bass, loud obnoxious synths and my socially awkward self staring down at my laptop/controller and not making eye contact with the crowd (sorry in advance for that).
Where else can we see you play over the coming months?
I’ll be at Lindisfarne Festival on on the 2nd of September, Think Tank Underground on the 15th supporting POLO alongside Kay Greyson and then Tunnel Club, again at Think Tank Underground. I’ve not got any gigs planned for for new year yet, so there’ll be more dates announced at some point, but i’m really looking forward to the ones i’ve got coming up.
And finally, where can people find out more about you?
I mainly use SoundCloud, but my music is on pretty much every other streaming service, i also sometimes use Twitter and Facebook so you can follow me on there if you’re into dull people.
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/xaatu
Twitter – https://twitter.com/xaatumusic
Facebook – https://facebook.com/xaatumusic