In 2017 there isn’t a whole lot of ground left for EDM artists to cover, but X-Change managed to find a patch of uncharted territory. The Los Angeles DJ and producer’s friendship with Trinidad group Ultimate Rejects has yielded a unique fusion between big room house and Caribbean dance music.
X-Change met members of the four-piece group during the 2016 edition of Miami Music Week, and in the year since they worked on a multitude of different music together. This year, for instance, they kicked off their visit to Miami with a brand new collaboration titled “Kings In Town.”
Shortly afterwards, X-Change spoke with djbios about how the track came together. In addition, he talked about his rise to fame, and even teased details about upcoming releases.
Welcome to Miami! How’s your stay been so far?
X-Change: It’s been great so far. We’ve been over at the Sirius XM Lounge catching up with people. I ran into my buddies DubVision and Jay Hardway; we saw Axwell /\ Ingrosso there; Deorro was there; last night we were at Steve Aoki’s party. It’s been a busy couple of days.
Well you started MMW off with a bang releasing “Kings In Town.” How has the response been so far?
X-Change: It’s been great, and “Kings In Town” has been doing really well. We tried to push the envelope and do something really different with the track. We were trying to make a new festival-type sound, with the drop having that big room feel, but still having the different drum pattern in the second part and then the moombahton break part.
That’s the fun part for me when I play the song for people because they don’t expect it. When it goes into the breakdown and then MX [Prime from Ultimate Rejects] starts doing the vocals on it with the chant, it just flips people. They’re probably not used to that vocal style in a big room song.
How did you come into contact with the Ultimate Rejects in the first place?
X-Change: We actually met last year here at Miami Music Week, and I was on my way to Trinidad for a friend’s wedding. It just seemed like fate, so we decided that we needed to hop in the studio. Last year while I was in Trinidad we recorded a song called “Thunderstorm” in the two days that I was there.
We sat down, we had a vibe, and we made the whole track. Then we became friends over the year, and I spent the last five weeks with them at Carnival and chilled with them down there.
When it comes to Caribbean/EDM crossovers Major Lazer comes to mind, and while they started out as traditional dancehall they’ve gotten a lot more mainstream. Would you say that you’re moving in the opposite of that?
X-Change: Well, yeah, I didn’t realize how much I loved the Caribbean-type stuff until I was in Trinidad. I sat in the studio with Johann [Seaton], who is also part of the Ultimate Rejects, and I was programming some of the kick patterns and snare patterns. He told me, “You have the Caribbean bounce already.” They called me “the Trinidad brother” (Laughs). I didn’t even realize it, I was just making the patterns.
We keep trying to push the boundaries to yield something different, and we’ve got a bunch of new collaborations coming up, too. We are pushing the envelope by infusing more of the Carribean stuff; for example, we just worked on a remix of John Legend’s “Love Me Now” together. That just came out this week as well, and in the drop part of it you’ll hear that there’s more movement. It’s not just a straight four-four kick. We added a bounce to it.
I love it – we work really well together and we have a great time. “Excess” came out during the Carnival season, and we actually recorded that and made that while I was in Trinidad as well. Even during all the shows, we still found time to make it in the studio and finish a track. We’re always working, always making new music, coming up with tons of new concepts, and if we don’t think it’s good enough to release then it doesn’t come out. We make a lot of tracks, but obviously we don’t release everything.
So you guys met in Miami last year, but three years ago was when you hit the ground running at MMW with “Geronimo” and “Get Crazy.” Put yourself back there and tell me what that week was like.
X-Change: Well, to take it all the way back to 2012, actually, I was down here for Miami Music Week and I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go next with music. I’ll never forget, I was at the Shelborne Hotel when it was pouring rain, and “Epic” [by Sandro & Silva] came on. I had never heard the song, didn’t know what big room was, and I said, “What is this?” I saw everyone dancing in the rain and I just loved the vibe of it, so I came back to L.A. and went to Coachella straight away.
I spent the next two years learning everything there was to know about dance music – studying electro house, progressive house – and I made those first two tracks, “Get Crazy” and “Geronimo” in that big room style. A lot of it was the sonics of it, because I mix and master everything myself. It took a lot of experimentation to get the right kick drums and stuff. You hear Hardwell’s stuff and you’re like, “How does he sound so good,” and it really inspired me to get good at doing the mixing and mastering. I think that on top of melodies, it’s really important how that translates through a speaker system.
If I had to be honest, your music still sounds kind of 2015. Are you afraid of being phased out at all?
X-Change: I’m a melody guy, so to me it’s all about the melodies, and I think you can do that with a softer sound. I think Spotify has had a lot of influence on that too, with people just listening to stuff on Spotify and going that direction. I feel like you have to do what you love. Make the music you love – but I’m always open to listening to different music of all genres, and some of the stuff I’m working on does have a softer sound but it’s not intentional. It’s just that with the chords I came up with in the melody, it went that way. The thing we’re really trying to do is blend in these Caribbean influences.
What else do you have in the works?
X-Change: I’m releasing a new song in approximately four to six weeks. I have another song I’m working on with my good friend, Nicci that we just started recording in Los Angeles, and that one’s titled “The Last Time.” Other than that, we have a bunch of instrumentals – just IDs, no titles yet.