Boston dubstepper AxH has had a variety of aliases in his years in the game, but has now settled on a name and a direction. Representing the burgeoning Boston electronic music scene, he's making a name for himself on radio, live and through his releases. Here, he talks about his new album and remix projects, and offers a free track, which you can download below.
Let us know a little about your history up to now...
I started out producing tunes on a friend’s PlayStation in 1998. We used to go back and forth building tunes, and I thought it was so rewarding to hear back something you created that actually sounded kinda tight. I was hooked and did some research and was able to get my hands on Reason and Fruity Loops in 1999 when I went off to college. I started out making two-step and breaks, then hip hop and ragga jungle/d&b, and now dubstep.
I've used a variety of different DAWs throughout the years, but I’m sticking with my Mac and Logic from now on! I always obsessed over drums and drum sounds which is why I know I gravitated towards these styles. Crunchy, raw sounds just couldn’t, and still can’t, be re-created in a digital realm. You can come close, but sampling drum breaks and vocal hits straight from vinyl is sexy as hell to me. I never want to lose that!
You’ve had successes in the ragga jungle arena as Prodigal Son What happened with Prodigal Son? Are you still producing under that name?
Thanks a lot! I had a lot of fun creating ragga jungle as Prodigal Son. From 2000 – 2007 my primary focus was my jungle music and pushing that sound. I’m definitely proud of a lot of those tunes and releases and I had some of the most fun times in my life playing jungle shows. I still make a couple jungle tunes a year, but mostly for myself. I like to apply new techniques to jungle styles and see what I come up with. Most all of the rugged jungle I was known for was created while I was in the military; more specifically: on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean with a laptop.
I really feel that I channelled the negativity and stress associated with the military experience into my music at the time. As I got closer to getting out of the military and even after getting out, I didn’t have the same fire for the style. Dubstep came into my life around 2006 from a buddy in the military, and it caught me at the right time! All the elements from the genres I love are there. It was an easy transition.
Tell us more about your dubstep production project – AxH...
AxH is the alias I use now for my dubstep projects. I started out as Grizzly, but there was an over-saturation of Grizzlys and I needed something more unique and original. I started fresh with a new alias because I wanted to separate this music from the Prodigal Son music. It’s tough with a new genre and new alias. You’re nobody again and you start climbing from the bottom.
You have an album upcoming on TUBA Records. What can we expect from that?
Yeah first album. Definitely excited! TUBA co-owners Bakir and Dubsworth actually were familiar with my jungle, believe it or not, and wanted to hear more. I presented them with a full album and boom. History from there. It’s the next release on TUBA, and features remixes from 6Blocc and Knorsq, Noah D, and Prism. Also have vocal features from Junior Cat, Casey Desmond (from the US version of The Voice), and a couple others. Album on digital with a three-track vinyl as well.
There’s talk of a remix on Ninja Tune as well. Can you let the readers know about this?
Haha yeah I did a remix for Shuttle that will be featured on an upcoming release of his on Ninja Tune. More info soon as I know!
It’s interesting that you’d had experience in two distinct musical genres. Could you let us know what your approach to music is, and where it comes from? Has this affected your choice of equipment, and the way you use it?
My love for music production is an unhealthy obsession. I lose sleep and skip meals and zone out in my studio for hours. I can’t stop. My mind is always racing with ideas and I’m really thankful for that. The amount of output is unreal. I am horrible at shopping my music. I just create and create. I’m a vinyl junkie, and have had vinyl literally my whole life. I still sample off the shelves and dig for new sample records.
I have a gritty, underground element to my music as a whole, and that’s why, I’m sure. No drum sound is safe. I collect gear. I have samplers unused in the boxes and keyboards leaning on the wall. I’ll use them all someday, but my main weapons now are my KORG R3 Synth/Vocoder for FX and MIDI, and my Neumann U87. I’m recording a lot more of my own percussion now, too. I have a crate full of children’s instruments.
What’s AxH like in the studio? Where do your ideas and techniques come from?
In the studio, for me, it’s all focus. I zone out, like I said. I’m a perfectionist, too. Everything neat and lined up, etc. Colors matching. It’s easy to work when you can see everything and know how to manoeuvre through your sample folders. Trial and error has always been my story. I didn’t have a DJ/producer mentor, I just knew I wanted to do it. I was fortunate enough to go back to school for Audio Engineering after the military to tighten up what I had learned and get new techniques, etc.
Is most of what you work with samples, or live instrumentation?
I use samples, live instruments and percussion, and live vocals. It depends who’s available and when, but I have access to lots of talented people!
Boston seems likes it’s quite a happening place right now. What’s the music scene like where you are? How do you see underground dance music progressing in the US?
Boston’s music scene, more specifically its electronic music scene is thriving, and I’m happy to be right in the middle of it! I’m one of the residents for BASSIC Boston and we’ve booked everyone from Caspa to Breakage, Mala, Scuba, N-Type and too many others to name! Strong crew and we really care about the music and people that make the voyage to party with us every month. There are 4 regulars now, though. Damian Silva, C Dubs, Scotch1, and myself and we do it every month or sometimes bi-monthly.
Dance music is a lot more popular now than it was when I first started out. Everyone called it “techno” and hated hearing it. Now it’s on the radio and television. Everywhere. The core of the industry, in my eyes, will always remain true to its underground culture and the club/rave scene. There are a lot more producers and DJs now, too. That just means, to me, there’s a lot more music to go through and to pay closer attention. People will stay true to what they like, and if we can co-exist without so much negative feedback, cool.
As well as the new releases, what else are you working on?
I am constantly working on new projects and try to keep a full list at all times. I’m working on projects with Truth and J:Kenzo this year, DJ Wheez-ie, Shuttle. I did a remix for Fused Forces, EshOne. Staying busy! Collaborating as much as possible and meeting new people. Such is the life! Big up!
Where are some of the places that people can catch you, either live or on radio?
I mostly play shows close to home these days, but I am working on something on a bigger scale for the album. I can also be found on Sub.FM every Saturday night with my partners-in-crime C Dubs and Scotch1, where I hold down the mic duties, as well! 8-10pm, BASSIC Boston Radio Show. My tunes can be heard at http://www.soundcloud.com/AxHDubstep and http://www.soundcloud.com/Prodigal-Son. I’m also on http://www.mixcloud.com/AxH
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