Longstanding Swiss DJ, Producer and respected tastemaker Lexx drops by to talk about his latest album and the current state of play
Hailing from Zurich in Switzerland, a resident at the infamous Club Zukunft for over 14 years, co-founder of Phantom Island Records and head honco at Lexx Music – he has an interesting backstory to say the least.
In the late 90s, he first cut his teeth as a producer come rapper and was a well-known figure in Swiss hip-hop scene. However, it was his side forays into electronic dance music that led to him becoming a much respected Digger, DJ and Producer, earning him a reputation among dance music aficionados that few can match – all the while remaining true to his roots. Not one for embracing the jet set phenomenon that has characterised much of today’s scene, he very much believes and lives a closer to home philosophy that is all too often downplayed and overlooked. Thankfully, his celebrated tastes continue to reach wider audiences and ears – having helped launch Phantom Island with friends Kejeblos, Ron & Tobi in Zürich, he likes to keeps his output consistent through his own label Lexx Music.
His soaring productions and edits have a distinct yearning for harmony: music with a certain shimmering quality, he likes to cavort between disco, dub, house and electro, forever weaving intricate narratives that are full of surprise. We’re pleased to say Lexx’s latest album “New Affinity” is no exception either, which is why we reached out to catch up and find out how things we’re going…
This has been a crazy year to say the least, how have things been going for you?
“I’m doing well, I can’t complain. When all my gigs got cancelled early March, I needed a week or so to adjust and got used to the new situation. Luckily enough, I had started working a regular job just two weeks prior to the lockdown starting here in Switzerland. All in all, I enjoyed it when things slowed down.”
What’s the feeling about the current situation in the Swiss creative community?
“I can’t speak for an entire community obviously but the people I’m friends with and see on a regular basis here in Zürich are trying to keep things moving, and are finding new ways of doing things. At the same time, it’s difficult of course. I think people are largely facing the same kind of problems as anywhere else.”
Is there much in the way of support for musicians/artists?
“You mean from the government? If you are self-employed, you got a certain amount of support but that stopped at the end of September. Things seem to change daily. They put out a set of new rules last week, that make it impossible for clubs to operate. Because it isn’t an official lockdown (like the one we’ve had in March) they’re now avoiding making any payments. Let’s see what happens next.”
You’ve been brilliantly consistent with your production and releases the last few years – would you say it’s more accident or design?
Thank you. It’s a bit of both I guess. I’m more confident with what I’m doing and don’t over –analyse things like I used to in the past. Instead of focusing on the skills that I lack, I started to concentrate on what I’m good at.”
Although you’re very much known for being a DJ, do you see yourself evolving more into a “live” performance artist, or are you happy being a studio producer?
“There was a point last year when I thought about the possibilities of performing my album “Cosmic Shift” with a band. The production would have been too laborious and expensive though, so I chose not to do it. I’m happy beeing a studio producer. Let’s see what the future brings.”
There’s been an incredible resurgence of deep house and techno the last few years – how do you see it?
“Deep House, the way I like it, is not particularly fashionable in Zürich at the moment. In the past few years, it’s more been about Techno, especially amongst younger people. Harder, darker and faster: Drum’n’bass, UK Garage, Bleep, anything goes (again) I guess.”
Moving on to your new album, how has the making of ‘New Affinity’ come about / evolved?
“Cosmic Shift”, the album I released in 2019, took me quite a long time to make. After it was released, I felt very libarated. I started to make tunes without putting too much thought into it, just messing around, having fun. After the first LX72 12”, I just continued to produce more and more tunes, which ended up becoming this album. Things came together very naturally.”
What’s your general studio set up these days?
“I have a Mac, MPC 1000, Juno 60, and some other bits but that’s basically it. I like to keep it simple and squeeze the most out of it. I learned that back in the 90’s when the SP 1200 was my main tool and no, I don’t own it anymore.”
In what ways has the making of this one differed to your previous album?
“There’s not been any participation of guest musicians and singers on New Affinity. It’s mainly built around samples that I’ve chopped up, played and altered to create something new. The previous album contained very little samples and much more live instrumentation. And, as I mentioned, I didn’t plan to make an album in the beginning. There was no pressure this time.”
Tell us a bit more about the music we’ll find on it:
“There are nine tunes, ranging from 95 bpm to 120 bpm. I used influences and techiques from US Hip-Hop and Deep House music from the past 30 years. (There’s a list of peole who influenced me on the back of the vinyl sleeve). I wanted to emulate the feeling I used to get from listening to albums by people like ‘A Tribe Called Quest’ for example. I enjoyed the process of creating it a lot and I think, me being in good spirits, that translated into the music.”