Xan Griffin unveils the story behind his conceptual ‘Zodiac’ album [Interview]
Xan Griffin has been producing music for nine years — half of his life.
When he was just 9 years old, the young music enthusiast being creating his own compositions. He loved the idea of concept-style arrangements and swore to himself that when he honed his craft, he’d work on a large-scale project based around a concept or theme. At the time, he was interested in Greek mythology and the 12 astrological zodiac signs, which led to a genius idea.
“When I was 10, I researched the zodiac signs and couldn’t find evidence that anyone had ever done an album based on the zodiac signs,” he recalls.
No one had tailored a song to each personality of each sign of the zodiac and released them at their corresponding time of the year. But Griffin didn’t want to try to put such a project together at such a young age. He decided to put the idea in his back pocket and revisit it when he thought his production skills were up to par with the concept itself.
“I told myself that when I became proficient to the point where I could create anything I can imagine, I would pick the idea back up,” he continues.
Fast forward six years to early 2016. Griffin has begun to make waves in the electronic music sphere with a successful set of remixes for the likes of Just a Gent, Botnek & I See MONSTAS, Illenium, and Bright Lights. He wanted to work on a big original side project to keep the momentum of the remixes going.
Then, “I remembered the zodiac idea,” he says. “I said to myself, ‘I’m going to spend the next two years grinding and working on this and doing as much research as I can. I’m going to try to make the best music I can to represent each one of these signs.’”
Griffin felt he finally had the skill set to execute his vision, and he got to work.
His first release came in May of last year with its corresponding zodiac symbol, Gemini (his own zodiac sign). The collaboration with WILD has since garnered nearly half a million plays on SoundCloud and served as an exceptional launching point for his zodiac series. From there, he spent the next 12 months leading up to the full release of his Zodiac album by releasing the corresponding time period’s song.
The production process for each track was different, he says. Of the album’s 14 tracks, 10 of them feature collaborators, and each of them came about in a different way. “Capricorn,” for example, “was the most unexpected thing ever.” Griffin had been hanging out with WOLFE and practicing on his CDJs for his first show. When Griffin showed the producer the original instrumental for “Capricorn,” WOLFE revealed that he was a Capricorn and wanted to lend some vocals to the concept. This led to the track in its final form and has become a fan favorite.
Overall, Griffin says went into Zodiac without a specific direction. He he dove into each piece wanting to recreate a feeling rather than a sound — a theme that carried through the entirety of his two-year production process on the album.
“In ‘Scorpio,’ for example, I wanted it to be dark and inspirational and mysterious,” he says. “Instead of focusing on the sound, I focused on melodies and how certain things could harmonize to create the character I was going for.”
As each one of the tracks was released, fans not only fell in love with the unique and varied qualities of each zodiac sign, but also the artwork that accompanied each one. Griffin had called upon the talents of Magic: The Gathering card game artist Peter Mohrbacher, who created the otherworldly designs that provided a visual representation of Griffin’s creation.
“He loved the idea of collaborating,” Griffin says. “I sent him the songs, and he based every piece of artwork on the characters in the song, along with the knowledge he had of the zodiac signs.”
Zodiac was released on Seeking Blue on May 24, 2018 — Griffin’s 18th birthday. It features a track for each of the 12 signs of the zodiac, along with a title track called “Zodiac” and an extra called “Ophiuchus,” which draws its meaning from a large constellation located around the celestial equator.
As the embodiment of his sign — the Gemini — Griffin says he’s always going to be changing. “There are so many different genres in this album,” he says. “It’s diverse, and I want to prepare people for what’s going to come in the future.”
As for the future, Griffin just graduated high school a few weeks ago and is preparing for his next steps in life. He’s already working on a second album: another conceptual-type series, filled with “some pretty big curveballs.”
“Some of my favorite music I’ve ever produced is on that album,” he admits, excitement audible in his voice. “It’s going to be a visual-focused project… think music videos, 3-D and 2-D animation. I want this to be executed to its fullest ability.”
When asked to describe his music in three words to someone who’s never heard it, Griffin immediately fires off the first two: “emotional and unpredictable.” He takes his time to come up with the third, which seems to truly sum the thoughtfulness behind his projects: “metamorphic.”
“What I represent is the epitome of a Gemini,” he says. “I always want to be changing and never get in the comfort zone of making the same kind of music.”
Featured photo: Pablo Sanchez