This week I had the very special opportunity to hang out with one of Berlin’s most innovative DJ and producer – the name is Xenon DnB. Behind this emblematic label, making reference to well – established musicians like Halogenix, hides a young man in his twenties. He moved to Berlin a few years ago to push through with his Drum and Bass music, but what he found in the German capital was the exact opposite of an expressive, self – conscious scene. Berlin was and is still dominated by Techno – Music and this conflict between the two scenes now directly takes place within Xenon’s heart. But before we can speak of how he is dealing with this struggle, let’s skip back to Tuesday.
Back then, Xenon picked me up in Mannheim, in the south west of Germany, to take me with him to Berlin. There we wanted to meet again a few times to get some interviews and shootings done. At the moment, he was returning from Saarbrücken, located in the very southwest of Germany, where he was born and raised. There he had the chance to buy several hundreds of Darktechno vinyls and he didn’t hesitate for a second. Still he is now based in Berlin, he has some very good and vital connections to the scene in Saarbrücken. He knows well record store owners, resident DJs and of course many ravers. For him, it is also the place where he could make his first experiences with rave culture and Drum and Bass music. Why Saarbrücken’s local Drum and Bass scene is that big remains a secret, but when Xenon started to visit clubs and rave parties there, most of all the club Mauerpfeiffer, offering a party series named Tiefklang, he had already the chance to already see DJs like DLR, DOSE or Disphonia. For him, it was more the personal level, where he found approval and a source of inspiration, than the music itself. The music they played was at time far away from his personal preferences. But he was mainly attracted by the scene itself, which showed him new horizons. Whether it was the feeling of sharing an experience, an evening or the feeling of belonging somewhere, he felt comfortable in between of the fog, the lasers, the ravers and the sound system. Also the social values transmitted between the people were appealing to him. It was not about being the best, having the best dance moves or tracks, it was about being there together, with no difference between DJs and Ravers. It was this small Utopia, where he got to know, like the most of us, a different model of how a society can work and which will never stop to exist in our minds.
On the other hand there was the local DJ scene of Saarbrücken, that always tried to keep up with the international DJ’s level. They played the warm – up sets in the evenings and built a framework for every party as important as the headliner itself. But Xenon realised quickly that he wouldn’t be able to reach this level while dreaming of better humans. So he quickly developed a vital interest in the music and his focus shifted from the whole event to a very particular aspect. It didn’t take him too long to get in touch with resident DJs and to start an exchange over the music. But also he had to realise that staying in Saarbrücken wouldn’t bring him to far and so he decided to go big. After he finished his school he spend another year to educate himself in composition and piano, before he moved to Berlin Lichtenberg to start there his studies on a well – respected high school for sound engineering, taking with him two things: the idea of Drum and Bass as a mainstream in the musical underground and the conviction that the dance floor is the place, where music is valued the most.
Now he is living in Friedrichshain, right in the center of Berlin’s avant-garde youth culture. He shares his flat with another DJ and Producer – the name is Mython. The two not only share a place for living but also the drive to create a new sound. For Xenon, one of Berlin’s most striking qualities is the city’s ability to innovate, to reinvent itself and to find practicable solutions to every problem. Those abilities can be found easily in his neighbourhood. People living there are not satisfied with already established products, styles and forms of living. Instead they are constantly trying to be different, to think differently and to act different. So it is evident, that Xenon is not satisfied with the existing Drum and Bass music. He doesn’t want to copy an already existing sound but to recreate it, while shaping it after his own idea. He told me, that he is somehow missing the leading attitude from the 90’s, or at least what he is dreaming it to be. Back then, music styles and producers were more open minded and always tried to combine different genres. The boarders in between were not to strict and in general Xenon imagines it to be a time of musical development and experiments.
His latest efforts in producing aim to unite Techno and Drum and Bass. What first sounds like a joke or a riddle is in fact nothing to smile about, because it is a young man’s passion. For Xenon the ultimate perfection lies in the synthesis of the two genres, that were, are and always will be in a battle over the hegemony in the electronic music scene. But he is not an illusionary man and he therefore is completely aware that this perfection can hardly be reached. Like a modern Dr. Faustus he has two souls in living inside of his heart and his music is the product of their battle. Whether it will finally be considered as a development of Techno or Drum and Bass remains unclear and it will be the audience who decides.
It was in Berlin where he had the first deeper contact with Techno music and the scene around it. Until he started an internship at the world famous Tresor Club, he was not really convinced by House or Minimal and he always felt a bit strange when other tunes than Drum and Bass were played. But in Tresor Club he got to know new people who were as open and as friendly as the people from the Drum and Bass scene. Also he developed a better understanding of Techno, which is, according to him more hypnotic and longer drawn then Drum and Bass. The music he discovered had a more driving sound, was harder and deeper than the one he knew from Saarbrücken. It’s aim is to tie the audience to the dance floor as long as possible, while Drum and Bass tries to create short moments of ecstasy. For him Techno has always a hidden meaning which points to the sadness and the awareness of the self destruction that most of the ravers necessarily have. And it is also the awareness that everything has to come to an end, no matter how good it was. The DJ has to express those emotions in his set and then must offer a way out for the audience.
After Xenon took those important lessons and tried himself in producing Techno, he realised that his home still is Drum and Bass music. The broken drum patterns are more fascinating to him than the stricter patterns in Techno. But still there is a fascination about it and so he tried to combine the two genres in the Track Berlin Techno at 170 together with his friend PRTCL. The positive responses gave him the motivation to follow this idea and when he then discovered Acid Techno he tried to convert the more aggressive, thrilling elements into Drum and Bass.
You can listen to the latest result of the transformation from Acid Techno to Drum and Bass on Xenon’s new EP Raving in Kreuzberg on the track I disobey therefore I am. The title itself already is a hint to the expectations that are put on a DJ to follow the giving qualities of a genre. In disobeying what people expect Drum and Bass to be, Xenon can truly discover himself.
Sometimes a coincidence seems fated, and so it’s not really a surprise that Xenon’s flatmate Mython has very similar ideas when it comes to Techno music. They both unite in the collective Humanoid, founded already in 2018, where they can channel their ideas when it comes to partying. Last year they could organise several parties, the first one in Humboldthain Club before they then moved to Fiese Remise. During my stay I was really lucky to meet up with Xenon and his fellas from Humanoid Dominika and Joe aka PRTCL. Dominika is the founder and head of Humanoid and the driving power behind the parties. She is responsible for the sculptures and artworks, giving the collective it’s recognition value. Joe, who is born and raised in London and lives in Berlin for a few years now, brings with him an uncompromising attitude towards being a musician. His actions clearly express a big self confidence towards this profession: We are artist, we do what we love and we do it now! So what is the problem?
Xenon definitely is a restless man. Right after the release of the EP Raving in Kreuzberg, he already thinks of his next publication, which will already appear online in a few weeks. He gave me a teaser of the new track, a very dirty breakbeat, which made me immediately think of a sweaty crowd going wild. After occupying himself with Drum and Bass for quite a long time, Xenon now feels interested in discovering other genres and music styles, laying right next to Drum and Bass. In the autumn there will then be some more releases, also on international labels.
So what was my final impression after this one week I spend with Xenon right in the centre of Berlin’s musical avant-garde? That he creates a futuristic sound? Yes, of course! That he is trying to deliver his sound directly to the people whenever it is possible? Yes, of course! That he is one of the truest musicians out there? Yes, of course! Or, how the vocals in the track This is my life are saying: “Basically I play my part in playing the records for the people. This is my life. I wake up in the morning, I eat, I sleep, I shit; Techno, House, the culture whatever it is, but I never shut it off for five minutes.” They could as well be directly recorded by Xenon himself.