On deck with EDX: the house taste maker reflects on his storied career from atop his NO XCUSES boat party [Q&A]
The capricious New York weather looked favorably upon EDX‘s NO XCUSES boat party: a crisp breeze offset the warmth of the sun, as ticket-holders gathered on the multistory Hornblower Infinity yacht for a day soaked in house music. Produced in conjunction with Crust Nation as a part of the metropolitan event brand’s 2019 summer concert series, the NO XCUSES affair attracted Tom Staar and Antonia Giacca, both of which provided ample and animated support behind the decks.
The NO XCUSES cruise, hosted on June 15, afforded attendees an upbeat sonic release from routine, but for EDX, the event as more than just an afternoon well spent; rather, it was a culmination of decades of hard work in and outside of the studio, a live emblem of passion and industrious drive to chase a dream. Dancing Astronaut caught up with EDX after his vivifying set on board the Hornblower, to discuss the conception of the NO XCUSES party series, his Grammy nomination, his latest single, “Ubuntu,” and that’s just scratching the surface.
We are here for the 2019 installment of what has become an annual event, your NO XCUSES boat party. Can you tell me how the cruise has become a summer staple in the New York event circuit?
[My team and I] started doing [these kinds of] events a couple of years back. The first event actually was in Switzerland, in Zurich which is my home city, and we used that for a kick off of my first album, which was called On The Edge. It carried over to Miami for Miami Music Week about seven years ago, we went from Miami to Australia to São Paulo to Zurich to Vegas during EDC. I really love to play on a boat, which I’ve done in New York since 2009, always in the summer, so I wanted to do a NO XCUSES boat party. We did NO XCUSES bus tour, we did NO XCUSES at Webster Hall, across the nation, but I like the feeling of being on a boat: the wind, the water, everyone is happy with a good vibe, and that’s what my music is for.
[The event] is the second one this year. We have a bigger boat and more talent.
You were recently nominated for a Grammy for your remix of Charlie Puth’s “How Long.” Where were you when you found out about the nomination, how were you feeling at the time, tell me that story…
In 2009 I had a really big remix–which helped pave the career for Kaskade–[it was of] his track, “Angel On My Shoulder.” That was the moment when I started to step into the US market. The door was open and I was like ‘We really need to focus on the US, because one day the US is really going to blow,” which happened a couple of years later with the whole EDM movement, [when] raves went next level. We worked really hard picking the right songs, the right artists, and mixing them, with always having the idea, or let’s even call it the dream, of one day being a Grammy-nominated artist. It took us about 10 years.
I was on a flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Atlanta. I was connecting to play a show in the US, and I started to get all of these text messages from my friends: ‘Hey congratulations, congratulations.’ I actually slept the whole flight so the last hour before I was landing I turned on my phone and connected to the WiFi and I got this great news, and it was amazing because my partner Christian and myself worked really hard, over 10 years to achieve that goal. We went all together to the Grammys, it was like a family thing, because all of this happened because of teamwork. It was a really, really cool experience.
You’re very well known for crafting animated house remixes of original productions. What, specifically, attracted you to Puth’s “How Long”?
The reason why I picked “How Long” was because my niece–she just turned 18, back then she was 16–kept saying ‘You have to remix Charlie Puth, I really love him, please Uncle, please please.’ And I was like okay, I’m going to do it for her, and the good thing is, when I got that vocal sent over from the team at Atlantic and laid it into my set in the studio, everything went really quick, it was just the perfect vocal for an EDX record.
Generally speaking, what are the hallmarks of a song that you would go on to remix? What does an original production need to have in order to catch your eye as a track that would lend itself well to an EDX revamp?
I’m always looking either for the right melody, right chord progression, or just an amazing song, and if not an amazing song, then a vocal chop or small snips, a mini chorus. I’m always looking to a different edge, something alternative, something that I feel can make a difference when combined with my music.
Your radio show, No Xcuses, recently wrapped up its 432nd episode: do you have any big plans in store for the milestone 500th episode?
We’ll still keep going with the radio show; [we’ve been doing it] for eight years, every week, and it started just because I felt that I got all this love from my fans and a lot of support for my music in the US. And I was like ‘Hey, what can I do to give something back, to give something to my fans once a week for free?’ This started, and became part of my week, part of my month, and part of my life. We turned it into a radio brand to an event brand with a lot of satellites all over the world. It’s a great thing.
From now to #500, there will be a lot of music, a lot of touring. Once I wanted to do an event in the mountains, like NO XCUSES snow 500, 400, 300, something special, something out of the box to connect where I’m from with the music and the crowd, make a live stream and invite people to come over, fly people in. Maybe it will be #500, who knows, but we will make it creative. Maybe also it will be time to say goodbye, and start something new.
So switching gears a bit, but still thinking with the future in mind, specifically with respect to your label, you just released “Ubuntu” on June 21. Can you say anything about the making of the single?
I’ve been releasing so many songs, I did so many remixes and it’s been ongoing: a great journey for me. It’s always something special to have a new release. I still remember when I released my first CD in 1997 back in the day. It was such an exciting thing to hold your own CD in your hands. You went to the store, you turn it, and you read your name, and it’s very special. The whole digital era has changed a little bit, [because you don’t get that]. But every release is [still] so special, because when it pops up on Spotify, on Beatport, it still touches me. In that case I’m just a kid with a dream, and that was to make music and share music with the world. I started this journey over two decades ago.
On the production side, I’ve been releasing a lot of vocal tracks [including remixes]. So last year, I decided let’s go a little more club, and go back to the roots of where everything started. It’s now time for Ibiza, it’s summer, and everyone goes to the Mediterranean islands. Everyone wants to dance outside on a rooftop, or on a boat like we’re dancing today for NO XCUSES. And I wanted to give a diverse side of EDX to the world. So this was my new track, “Ubuntu,” which combines a little bit of old-fashioned drums and beats with a very chill vocal chop. It’s something more ethnic, more tribal, which is–I think–the kind of music that makes people dance the most. I was like let me do something that I feel is EDX, but is also right for right now, and for tomorrow.
How long did it take you to make “Ubuntu”?
In this we had four versions. So I started with old progressive beats, four-to-the-floor bass lines straight, kind of old in the untz untz untz sound. And then I was like ‘Come on,’ the melody with the steel drums is really cool. I produced the track last year for the summer, and then I decided to wait until summer the next year, because summer had already started. And I went back to the studio this year [to work on it]. The melody really stuck in my head, and everyone in my team’s heads, and we were like ‘Ok, we need to make it more fresh, more roomy.’ We had four versions.
How did you decide on a version?
I [went for] the less obvious version, the one that wasn’t [a version that was solely driven to] produce a hit. I just wanted a good club record, because I think that club records are somehow missing or not making it big to an audience.
Finally, Sirup Music: what can listeners expect from your imprint as 2019 winds down? Are there any new artists whom you might be bringing on board, or any noteworthy releases that may be in the pipeline?
We have a lot of records and different labels. It’s a huge team working on the label side. What I feel is very important, and what I tell my team all the time is to sign new kids who make music that touches. Don’t sign people who sound like someone else; who sound like the next FISHER or the next Gorgon City–I don’t want that. I want someone who sounds new, fresh, unique. [There’s a lot] to come.
Stream EDX’s latest single, “Ubuntu,” below