Xhin is a multi-faceted DJ and producer from Singapore whose reputation abroad far exceeds that in Asia. In fact, the majority of his gigs are in Europe where he’s established himself as one of the dark side’s finest. He’s also one of the very few if only Asian artists to play Europe’s most revered music meccas like they almighty Berghain and Tresor in Berlin. Meanwhile, Asia’s best-kept secret lives quietly in Singapore where the techno scene is really only beginning to emerge.
That said, Xhin has been humbly building up his discography since 1997, with his first EP ‘Xycle’ coming out in 2003 followed by his debut album ‘Supersonicstate’ in 2004. While his work often explores the brooding, intense and abstract corners of electronic music, his latest self-titled album sound more like it was influenced by his youth and is more fit for a rock concert than a rave. Oft lauded as a sound futurist, he’s also released work on Lucy’s Berlin-based label Stroboscopic Artefacts, CLR and Meerestief, which gets regular support from artists like Ben Klock.
We had the opportunity to ask Xhin a few questions about what keeps him busy in Singapore, breaking out of Asia’s tight borders and what advice he has for DJs in Asia looking to do the same. He's also sent us over an exclusive mix, check it out below.
What’s the best and worst thing about living in Singapore?
Too many rules. Other than that, everything else is great.
You have a clear affinity for techno. It’s easy to see why artists from musically saturated cities like Berlin craft styles similar to their environments but being from Singapore where there is little immersion in this music, how did you develop this sound and start getting gigs?
Well, for me, I don’t have to be in a techno city to make techno music. I mean, I draw inspiration from anywhere really. It can be from my music library, people, fashion, travels, films, my own life experience and the Internet.
To who or what do you owe breaking out of Asia and into the European music market?
How did you hook up with Lucy and Stroboscopic Artefacts and what makes the label a perfect home for you?
Back then we were making releases for a label called Meerestief. One fine day, Lucy asked me if I was interested in making some music for a new label he was setting up and I said yeah, why not. That was how it all started. SA used to be the perfect output for my techno stuff but unfortunately not anymore because I keep switching. I mean I’m very unpredictable and I get bored easily. I don’t quite like to make the same style of music again and again.
You seem to play more gigs in Europe than you do in Asia. Why is this?
I guess I have more fans in Europe than in Asia. I don’t know really.
Why do you stay in Singapore when Europe is offering you more musically? Could a permanent move ever happen?
I’m quite comfortable living in Singapore at the moment. Permanent move? I don’t know. It may or may not happen in the future.
While still small, Singapore is indeed developing a bit of a techno scene. How do you fit into that? Are there any other cities in Asia that you’ve seen the beginnings of a proper techno scene?
The scene here is definitely growing and I’ve kind of become a little bit more recognised in the scene now than in previous years, which I think it’s great. Besides Singapore, I think there is a very healthy scene in Taipei as well.
How do you mind your time in Singapore when not immersed in music? Do you have any other creative hobbies or interests?
I love photography and I take pictures sometimes. With a DSLR of course. Well, okay, most of the time with my iPhone because I’m kind of lazy to lug a brick camera around my neck.
You’re one of the few homegrown Asian talents to play at places like Concrete, Tresor and the almighty Berghain. Explain to people in Asia what the Berghain experience was like and just how different that club and community is from anything in Asia?
Awesome sound system and open-minded crowd are what I would describe about Berghain. It’s better for me not to talk more about it because I think people who haven’t been there should just go there and experience it themselves.
Your own music has been remixed by so many prolific artists. Which rework meant the most to you?
It has got be Teeth remixed by Surgeon and he killed it.
When making music, do you start with an idea or can you sit down without any inspiration until you come up something?
I always start with an idea in my head and then I start to work around with that idea on some gears.
Recently you released an album that’s very far away from the techno sound that you are mostly known for. What was your motivation behind creating this album and how do you feel it received?
I am still a guitar player and I love guitar music since the beginning, long before I got into electronic music. I have always wanted to compose guitar-centric stuff again so I just went with it. It was that simple. Also, I think it is about time to let people know that I am not a typical producer/DJ because I am a musician as well. I know the album is totally different from the electronic stuff that I have been making because to me, music is music. Be it acoustic or electronic, I embrace both. I don’t like to set any rules for myself on what kind of music I should be making. Maybe I would write some hip-hop or flamenco tunes in the future too. Who knows, right? What I am trying to say is the world is a playground and time waits for no man. Why pigeonhole yourself in one genre when you have other territories to explore?
From your personal experience in the overseas relationships you’ve made, can you offer one piece of sound and solid advice to Asian DJs and producers that are looking for recognition outside of Asia? What should they be doing more/less of?
Speaking from my experience, I think that you have to be the real deal and very unique without trying so hard to be someone that you aren’t. Or perhaps be a weirdo doing some crazy shit because the scene in Europe is so huge, all kinds of music have been done before and they don’t want to hear the same stuff from you which they have already had.
What one track will always get you out on the dance floor?
Windowlicker by Aphex Twin
What other Asian DJs and producers should we be on the lookout for?
These guys by the names of Basic Soul Unit and Tzusing. BSU is based in Canada and Tzusing is based in Taipei now. You probably have heard of them before but anyway, I like them. Cool dudes.
As a whole, how do see Asia’s music scene progressing in the next few years? Is there anything that the industry should be doing so that the progression is a positive one?
All I hope that it will grow bigger and better. And keep supporting your local talents because the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Dreams seem to have already come true for you, what’s a big one that you’re still trying to make happen in your career?
There are bigger ones for sure and I am not telling you what they are because it is a secret.
I understand you are into film. Can you give us three recommendations, your favorite for whatever reason, and why you chose them?
I am too busy with work and I hardly have the chance to watch some good films these days.
What can people look forward to seeing from you in 2016?
I am very unpredictable. Some surprises might pop up.