Born and raised Singaporean Lee Xhin may be better known to you as just ‘Xhin’ for producing some of the darkest, deepest techno soundscapes out there. Having earned his stripes with debut releases on ‘Meerestief Records’, Xhin is now firmly rooted in the Stroboscopic Artefacts crew, having released a slew of EP’s as well as the stunning Sword album. Along with label owner and co-producer Lucy, Xhin has also been rapidly growing his name playing sets all across the globe.
He has also managed to gain the attention of some big names, brandishing support from the likes of Ben Klock, Silent Servant, Speedy J and Luke Slater. If this wasn’t enough Xhin also has a well established relationship with Resident Advisor, providing their 286th RA mix and playing their stage at the short lived Bloc festival.
A few weeks ago we were given the privilege of having a chat with Xhin about his work, life in Singapore and his increasingly busy DJ schedule.
Not that I’m an expert on the island’s music scene, but I imagine being brought up in Singapore Techno wasn’t the most obvious musical pathway open to you. What was it that drew you towards the sound, and how did you first gain recognition in the scene?
I remember the very first time I was introduced to Techno, those hypnotic dissonances, alienated soundscapes, 909s and 808s had got me going “this is the future, Techno music is the future. I want to be a part of it.” First recognition, back in 2006 or 07 I think, came from a remix I did for this guy from Dublin by the name of Five Green Circle and that remix went into Loco Dice’s Timewarp Mix Compilation. Bizarre.
STo what extent has growing up in Singapore influenced your style? Do you think being signed to German Record labels has affected your approach to making music?
It doesn’t really matter where I grew up or am I living. I have always been living in my own little world where I just do my thing without too much concern about what’s going on here in this city. I know it’s unhealthy but I think it’s kind of great actually. You know, the more you don’t care about it the more you want to take risks and make it happen. And I’ve always believed one’s style is all about individuality and dignity. Whereas music labels are just music labels. No matter which one your signed to, you need to sound like yourself.
Whats it like working with Stroboscopic Artefacts? I saw some of the label showcase in Berlin, and it seems like a very tight knit group.
It never gets any more fun than working together with a group of good friends.
Your work seems to stand up to the album format incredibly well, where many dance music producers fall down. When you write an album is it a preconceived idea or do you tie together tracks of similar styles after writing them?
For sure a certain idea or a concept has to be thought out thoroughly and uncompromisingly before I start working on an album or say, any releases. For the album format, I want people to enjoy electronic music not only at the club but also at home. It’s that kind of balance you know. I know Techno producers typically would rather release albums that only contain DJ friendly tracks. By doing that, it’s much safer so to speak. Where more DJ’s would eventually play and chart up the tracks. But that’s not my point and it’s something that I’m not really keen to do.
Your music has some quite distinct sound design elements to it, is this something you’ve studied academically or something you’ve learnt yourself over time?
I started to have an obsession of studying manuals from every synthesizer I purchased in the early days. That was pretty much where it all begun.
Techno is the obvious tag for your music, but I can also distinct IDM & ambient influence in some of your work. Which artists would ****you say have been the biggest influence on your productions?
There are too many to name, really. So I’m just going to randomly select a few out of the loads: Jeff Mills, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Aphex Twin, early works from Ken Ishii and Dead Can Dance.
And which artist’s are you particularly feeling at the moment?
I have gone back to listening to Kritical Audio lately. And some Holy Other.
Could you tell us a little bit about your live shows? I’ve read that you have a fairly interesting setup, and like to experiment with different controllers.
I used to perform with Traktor, moved on to Ableton for some fun and now I’m back on Traktor, and mix with a mixer again together with Allen & Heath Xone K2 as the main MIDI controller. Recently I just got the Traktor F1, another controller of cos, for sample triggering on the Remix Deck built inside Traktor to enhance my DJ sets. Been experimenting with the F1 quite a bit and almost ready for use at upcoming shows. It’s going to be fun.
How do you like to begin your live sets at the moment?
It depends where I play really. Different place, different mood, different vibe.
People have been calling Bloc the worst festival they’ve ever been to. How was it for you?
Chaotic. However, besides all that madness we went through and come to think about it, it wasn’t that bad after all. At the RA Hub I unexpectedly played a 2 hour set instead of the hour set it had been scheduled for. For me, that was totally cool and hopefully for the people who stayed, they were happier having me play a bit longer. And also, I had fun playing for Boiler Room on the ship as well.
What can we expect to hear from you in the near future?
Hopefully a new Xhin sound in the near future? Maybe…
You can catch Xhin finishing off his latest European tour on September 7th at The Rhythm Factory, London.