Xilent Delivers All The Details About His Debut Album [Interview]
No stranger to noteworthy bass music releases, Xilent is primed to make his loudest statement to date when his debut album We Are Virtual hits stores on May 17th. The hype surrounding the production has recently soared to surreal heights, and this unexplored collection of dynamic tracks is poised to meet every single listener’s lofty expectations.
With a wealth of genres to choose from, Xilent’s trademark sound runs rampant throughout the entire album. The tempo definitely shifts from tune to tune, however the same glitchy, bouncy, screwy bass noises that he has become known for are scattered about from start to finish. We Are Virtual is not just some ordinary album, it is this musician’s most accurate self-portrait.
We had the opportunity to chat with Eryk Kowalczyk (Xilent) about his upcoming album and we made sure to bring up all the burning questions. Considering that We Are Virtual is still in its pre-release stages, treat yourself to the brief teaser video below in the meantime. It might not provide much, but it's just enough.
EDM: How did you get introduced to dance music? And was there a specific song or artist that initially got you interested in this style of music?
X: I was introduced to it all being a little kid, partially by my older brother. Paul van Dyk was his artist of choice and I took it from there - moved on to a variety of different songs and artists. I can’t remember much but what I do remember is listening to a lot of Chicane, Darude, Mauro Picotto, ATB etc. That sort of “emo”, mellow techno/trance is what was driving me at the time. Harder stuff along with the “epic” phase such as Cosmic Gate, Infected Mushroom and even Mellow Trax came later.
EDM: Your debut album is due out on May 17th. We know you can’t disclose all of the details, but what can you tell us about the release?
X: Sure, I think the cat is out of the bag anyway - I’ve seen blogs popping up with the name of the album, which is We Are Virtual. It contains 15 tracks. The concept of it is something I’ve always wanted to make, sort of an adventure which goes from connection to disconnection. A multi-genre journey which changes its pace at every other track. Ever since I finished with drum & bass as being my categorical “genre of choice”, I’ve been trying to spice things up using all sorts of techniques and styles I’ve grown to love in the past 4 years. At some point you just have to say, ‘screw genres’ and do what you enjoy most at the time. So I did it and packaged it into a neat, futuristic, energetic bundle of songs that is meant to be listened as a whole. Apart from the intro, outro and an intermission, people can expect 8 - 11 tracks that they’ve never heard before.
EDM: Having worked on this album for over the span of a few years, how did it actually all come together?
X: I was moving from country to country a lot when I was writing it. I wrote the album in about four different countries, starting in Scotland. That’s where I was most of my grown up life as of then, so I laid out the skeleton for the album, which actually contained a lot of tracks that I ended up not putting on it in the end. But I remember that I wrote four or five tracks which I sat on for about two years, which was until recently, when I decided to finally put them back on the album and refresh the sound.
Then I moved to England two years ago, wrote the next 25% of the album. Went to Spain for a year after that, which at the time must have been the happiest time of my life, because it’s where most of the positive tracks happened, such as ‘Revolution’, ‘Chemical’ and ‘Pixel Journey’, which didn’t make it to the album in the end. Then I finished the album off with moving back to my home country of Poland, which was about a year ago.
EDM: Did you run into any roadblocks during the process?
X: Throughout that time, I switched PC’s, and that was the most technically difficult time for me. It was a nightmare. Especially when you have to swap operating systems and hard drives. I lost half of the projects for the album at some point, which in turn caused a major delay in the release of the album. So I had to work with the exports of half of the album that I luckily had already exported. I remember spending countless hours fixing transient after transient of each kick and snare, just to be able to finalize this project [on time]. I definitely learned from it. Always back up.
EDM: A personal favorite of mine from the album is “Animation.” What was it like working with Diamond Eyes on this track?
X: Joshua is such a fun guy. I actually haven’t had a chance to meet him before we even did this track. I remember seeing his vocal track in my folder, which I share with my management. I hadn’t even noticed it for about three months. It was just sitting on my hard drive, and then I look at it like, ‘what is that?’ The file was actually called “Suspended Animation,” and after checking it out I knew I have to make a track with it. Upon asking Shimon - my manager - if the vocal was still good to go, I realised that I’ve heard of Diamond Eyes before, but I thought he was solely a music producer. When I got a positive response from them both I immediately started working on the track for it and building music around the vocals is pure pleasure for me.
This was already when I had moved back to Poland, which was about a year ago I think, maybe less. I had just gotten married a month before that, so was basically a really happy time for me. Originally, Joshua’s vocal track was in the minor scale, but the album definitely needed more positive vibes. I decided to switch up the melody to fit my current happy mood, so I finished it up with a cheerful melodic hook-line on top of the beat. I think by doing that, I was finally able to say “done” to the debut album project and call it a milestone.
EDM: So have you had the opportunity to meet Diamond Eyes in person yet?
X: About two months ago, I finally met him for the first time when I was playing a UKF show in London with Netsky at the O2 arena. Diamond Eyes made his way there and we actually shot a couple scenes for the video clip for that track together. He was a very, very kind fellow and I’m really hoping to do some more stuff with him in the future.
EDM: Can you please tell us a little bit about what makes your brand of bass music so unique? Also, could you please elaborate on how your sound has developed during the past few years?
X: I’m honestly still just doing my best to be honest, this is how I would describe it, I’ve basically always tried to do something different from the norm or “rules” of a genre. When I started with neurofunk, which was my first drum & bass sub-genre of passion, I always tried to make it more melodic and energetic, more shiny. At the time, everything that was neurofunk would always be so dark and gritty. You could barely find any sort of harmonics in there. This is what I really wanted to change up.
Growing up with a musical family, my mom and dad would tend to feed me all different kinds of positive tunes, which at the time was funk, pop, fusion, soul, etc. Finding out about techno and electronic music as a whole when I was 9 was a major jump-away from that. I think the trance influence from my childhood has the biggest influence on the style that I have currently. Supersaw synths, bass stabs and euphoric arpeggios combined with angelic female vocals with lots of emotion and… reverb - it’s ideas like that, that I always keep up my sleeve these days. Combine it with the 8- and 16-bit retro gaming phase I went through as I grew up and you’ve got yourself a pretty weird mix.
When I started Xilent, my PC was pretty crappy. It was actually a laptop and it couldn’t handle anymore than about 12 instruments at one time. So the way I’d make tracks back then involved a lot of resampling, exporting and re-importing. This lack of resources is the reason for my current mindset when it comes to making tracks. I generally stick to audio - not MIDI - even now, when I have probably one of the most powerful PCs on the market, hehe. By habit, I still export tracks right after I’ve only implemented around 15 instruments into a project and then import it back to add more layers of ideas. Halfway through that process, I don’t even realize that I’ve added about 20 different chords and short, tiny harmonic note or vocal stabs of sorts into a track.
EDM: You’ve dabbled in a variety of different genres over the years. Dubstep, drum & bass, and electro house, just to name a few. Is there a certain genre you enjoy producing more than the others?
X: This has definitely varied throughout the years, or rather changed like six or seven times for me. Initially, of course, it was drum & bass, because this was what people knew me for when I had just started. They really wanted to listen to more of that “ultrafunk,” which some thought was some kind of sub- sub- sub-genre of neurofunk. It’s always been fun for me to see online, even though it was just the name of my EP and nothing more. Nonetheless, that was probably why I really enjoyed making it when I was 19 and 20.
Then it changed to dubstep as soon as I released “Choose Me EP,” because the response I had for my first ever try at that genre was just insane. It stayed on Beatport’s top charts for months and that resonated with me enough to turn dubstep from my most disliked genre to one of my top favourites. That was one of the reasons. I guess the other one was that by making Choose Me - my brain just fixed the initial flaws I hated in the genre at the time by providing it with what I think it lacked - melody and energy.
The following years went like this: the better the response on a genre, the more I appreciated it and the more I felt enticed to stick to that specific one for a while. Now though, I choose to say ‘screw genres’ again. It’s still my brain, my hands and ears - the ideas and style I make music in doesn’t change. The only thing that changes is the tempo. I managed to get to this point thanks to amazing fans who seem to support me no matter which BPM direction I go.
EDM: Have you ever considered constructing a Pt. III of “Choose Me?” I know it’s been awhile, but I’d regret it if I never asked.
X: Of course! People have asked me that countless times. I came very close to doing it once, but realised it has to wait a bit. Now when I listen to “Choose Me” I realise I could’ve done the sound design better nowadays. The fact that it was featured in a commercial in Indonesia and they actually remastered the track just to feature it in it meant for me that ‘oh yeah, I probably should’ve done a better job of that.’ Doing a Pt. III would definitely be a quest for me, since I can’t decide on a tempo. Maybe I’ll put it to a vote one day, haha.
EDM: Who are some of your favorite producers at the moment? Anybody in particular we should keep an eye out for?
X: There’s plenty of them. A lot of people should know about Au5, Fractal, and Prismatic. It’s only a matter of time until these guys become huge, because their style is just so unique. There’s also a couple more artists I’ve just discovered recently, one of which is Ramzoid, to whom I’ve been introduced via an Q&A I did on Reddit. I’m also really into a lot of material from a producer called Corporate along with a very talented guy named Isqa who I had the pleasure of meeting on my last tour in USA.
Lastly, I might be sounding like a broken record to some of the other people who have interviewed me, but… Mr. Bill and Bobby Tank. Mr. Bill’s Collaborative Endeavors I listen to on a daily basis, just like Bobby Tank’s rad happiness inducing retro vibes. He also does an amazing job on the drums during live sets, which I hope to see live one day. You’ve got to check all of them out if you haven’t!
EDM: After the album is officially released, I assume you might have some free time on your hands. Do you have any big plans in order?
X: To be honest, the album has been done for about five months, so I’ve already been kicking back. What I’m doing now is working on a collaboration with Razihel, which is hopefully going to be out soon. I’m also working on a collaboration with Au5, one more with BT and I’m suppose to jump back on a collab with Bassnectar. I haven’t talked to him for a long time now, but we still have this ongoing project that we still haven’t wrapped up.
Currently, I’m just thinking ahead, about what’s next. The next album, you know? I’ve always wanted to make a trilogy when it comes to albums, so that they make coherent sense as a whole. We Are Virtual might just be the start of something bigger.