This week’s appointment with Global Vibe Radio showcases the high-energy and rave-inspired techno sounds of Xiorro, an American DJ, producer, and Whirlwind Trax label head based in Brooklyn.
Xiorro is undoubtedly one of the brightest stars emitting from an invigorated American techno scene. Having co-founded ALKHEMY, a collective whose genesis is dedicated to spreading diversity in techno and giving space for the marginalized, people of color and women to play, their Black Hole parties over four years have helped redefine the landscape of New York’s emerging underground.
With his Puerto Rican heritage and namesake taking reference from the African revolutionary Marcus Xiorro, he now finds himself an American abroad after impressing with debut sets at Tresor’s New Faces and Berlin party Staub in 2018, which a single season later led him to become Griessmuehle’s first international resident DJ.
Touted by DJ Mag as a one to watch and landing in Magnetic Magazine’s 15 Best Techno Tracks of June 2020, DJ sets and live recordings have made it over to Boiler Room, United We Stream and Beatport, as well as the DSNT, Lobster Theremin and Monasterio Moscow Podcasts. Xiorro’s DJ style and sound are inherently found in rave, with all roads leading to a self-released mix he emerged within 2018 called ‘techno used to be a tool used to abolish a form of slavery, now it’s just gentrified’. Something Xiorro is here to change.
Booked for headlining sets in his home city’s Basement club to gigs further afield at Jaded in London, Copenhagen’s Ved Siden Af, Tresor West and Basis in Utrecht, Xiorro continues to co-host nights with the likes of Discwoman and ARTS at both sides of the Atlantic.
Xiorro’s own ravey and brazen sound is highlighted on his label, Whirlwind Trax, as well as in his appearances on labels like Voxnox, Gomboc, WarinD Records, Voight-Kampff and Haus of Altr.
Enjoy Xiorro’s exclusive mix for Global Vibe Radio below and read on for our in-depth chat with this exciting and taleted American techno artist.
Hello mate, thanks for chatting with us and for the mix, it’s a pleasure to have you on the GVR family! Let’s talk about the mix first. Can you tell us a little bit about where you put it together, what was going on through your mind and the general message you want to communicate with it?
Well, let me first start off with thanking you for the invitation. I’m honored to now be a part of the GVR family! I recorded the mix in my home-studio, which is where I get all of my creative work done, especially these days. When I recorded the mix, I thought the same thing that I usually think, “these tracks are gonna make people wild out”. That’s the same message that I typically try to convey with my sets and mixes, I like to get the party rocking. I’m an energetic person and I think it shows through my selections.
Are there any particular standout tracks in the mix you’d like us to keep an ear open for?
Not in particular, I think as my mixes and sets as orchestral sessions where every track plays an important role and complement each other with each beat of the way, so I’d say keep an open ear as well as an open mind throughout the whole mix.
How about any of your own originals or remixes?
I didn’t get the opportunity to include any originals or remixes of mine in this mix. Being that I’m a purveyor of high energy, I wanted to focus on interpreting as such through a different style of tracks.
Would you say this is the type sound that dancers would experience in a live set of yours these days, lockdowns aside?
This is only a selected and concentrated style of my library that I decided to focus on, but they can definitely expect the energy and level of excitement that you can hear throughout the mix.
Lockdowns have complicated all our lives in 2020 but it’s safe to say that artists like yourself and nightlife workers have been hit pretty hard, and are still going to be one of the last to fully recover and go back to any kind of “normalcy.” How has COVID affected you and your music career?
It’s quite unfortunate what has happened to the industry this year and will continue to happen for the foreseeable future. Nightlife brings in billions of dollars worldwide, but it seems to be the same government response throughout the world in terms of not caring for it and instead focusing on all other industries, which they deem purposeful to the economy. You’d think they care a little more given the revenue brought in by nightlife, but we’re treated as if our art, contribution to society and investments don’t matter.
I was fortunate enough to have squeezed in a tour right before lockdown. Like, literally landed back in New York a day before everything shuttered. I, like many other artists, have had multiple gigs, both domestic and international, cancelled. As you already know, I’m a resident at Griessmuehle and I was unfortunately unable to perform at the opening of the new location due to the pandemic as well.
On the flip side, I have heard from a lot of artists that they’ve found some positives from this situation. Have you? Mind sharing any?
It’s been an odd paradox with this year, while it’s unfortunate to have seen so much crumble right before our very eyes, I’ve been finally able to give producing and my artistry as a whole the focus that I’ve always wanted to. I’ve been able to dive deeper into the hardware and live world, as well as pick up video editing, photoshop and learned how to build websites. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on our collective’s website as we speak!
Who are some of today’s producers that excite you the most?
Kind of hard to say being that there’s so many great producers out there that excite me for different reasons. For example, my good friend, Buzzi, he excites me for his rolling and percussive approach. Then on the other hand, someone like, AceMo, excites me for his musical, raw and stripped down approach. They both deliver their message very differently, but still super effectively.
By the way, congratulations on signing up with Surefire Agency for representation in North America. How much are you looking forward to being back on the road?
Thank you! The signing has given me some hope. It’s nice to see people wanting to continue keeping fans engaged and work towards continuing to push the genre, so that we have something to return to when this is all over. Being on the road has its ups and downs, but I’ve been suffering from the travel bug these last months and missing visiting new locations and having new experiences.
Coronavirus aside, 2020 has also been the year that we as a society are finally confronting the injustices and inequality issues that are still very present in the United States but also in our very own nightlife industry and scene. In early June you posted a deep and important statement in support of Black Lives Matter which also included some statement that I wholeheartedly agree with concerning our very own “scene,” for lack of a better encompassing term.
You specifically pointed out that for “people of the community the (inequality) issues of Black people don’t matter as much as vinyl vs CDJ, sync vs no sync, hard vs slow, techno vs trance, queer rights, women’s rights, Isreal’s occupation of Palestine or Notre Dame.” I found that to be powerful statement. Do you feel we have made any positive headway towards fighting these inequality issues within our community?
There was a lot of actual personal experience behind that statement. I’ve seen how hard white people go for the vinyl vs CDJ and techno vs trance arguments. Also, I once posted about sync vs no sync in 2018 not knowing the shitstorm that it would cause and fragile white people, specifically ones that had their feelings hurt, tried to come for me that week. It was pretty hilarious, especially the next day when I posted how it was interesting to see how hard they went for that post, but when I had posted about systemic racism in techno, it was full-on crickets.
Another interesting point was that, the previous year, a white DJ in Brooklyn posted about sync, and received a total different reaction from people in the community. A clear cut example of white privilege in techno. To be frank, time will only tell if we’ve made any positive headway towards fighting race inequality within our community being that the industry is not fully able to operate at the moment. I’d say let’s circle back in a year or so and we’ll be able to assess whether or not a lot of what was said and done was performative and if the industry went back to its old habits. Systemic racism can also be un-intentional, so keeping an eye on representation is key in continuing the fight. The same way that orgs these days keep an eye on the amount of women in lineups, we need that same energy towards Black representation.
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i think many of us are still trying to understand how to cope with what’s going on. we went from 0 to 100 real quick without a chance to fully process yet another senseless death at the hands of american police brutality which operates under a racist system. it hurts to see another image of a black man’s death circulated so much. a constant reminder of what can happen to us during an unlucky encounter with a cop feeling himself. what’s also painful is the amount of silent DJs and organizations. as the chief of minneapolis police stated about the other officers involved, silence is being complicit. what that shows us Black people of the community is that our issues don’t matter to you as much as vinyl vs cdj, sync vs no sync, hard vs slow, techno vs trance, queer rights, women’s rights, israel’s occupation of palestine or notre-dame. to those who can, please consider donating to a bail-out fund. those soldiers on the ground need to be financed somehow. & to those who don’t understand why the riots are happening, remember that we’ve tried other forms of protesting and those have not worked either. there is no right or wrong way of protesting. capitalistic organizations will tell you it’s wrong to riot and loot because they want to upkeep the status quo and it disrupts the system, but the real looters are corporations and the american government. (bail-out fund link in my bio).
You have used your platform on social media to keep your friends, fans and audience updated with what is going on in America and Black America. You also posted a poignant letter on the Griessmuehle platform that not only told an important piece of your story, but opened a window of what it is like to be a Black artist, a Black person, in America. What has been the response to this and are you satisfied with it?
The response was surprisingly positive. I received messages from so many unexpected people thanking me for sharing my experiences, which gave me the affirmation that people had actually read it. It’s a nice feeling to know that you’re finally (hopefully it wasn’t just a moment in time) being heard. However, this came as a bit of a shocker, given that I have been speaking about systemic racism in techno for so many years and white people would ignore and keep scrolling. Systemic racism and micro-aggressions weren’t topics that they could be bothered with and/or wanted to come to terms with. Overall, I’d say that I’m happy to know that white people read it, but I hope that they also walked away wanting to make a permanent change in the scene and that my words didn’t go away with the wind.
I am not sure if this has happened to you personally yet, but if a white techno fan genuinely asked you for ways they can be involved in levelling the playing field and ridding the techno scene from racial inequality, what direction would you point them toward? What about a white promoter/booker? This is a personal question, but one I think also applies to many others who work in a similar role to mine.
This has happened to me more times than I could count, to be honest. My inbox was flooded with messages in June and still to this day they trickle in asking the same question. It can be overwhelming at times. I don’t have all of the answers and I don’t speak for all Black people. It can at times even come across as white people not being able to do the work on their own and depending on Black people to once again bail them out. I’m happy to provide insight when possible, but this is overall distracting to the creative process when you’re trying to focus on making music. I think that even this highlights the privilege that white artists have. The ability to go about their day, trap themselves in the studio and just focus on the music and not have to worry about people hitting them up for advice on how to showcase equity. I’ve spent countless hours trying to discuss these matters and noticed that it was eating away at my time to make music.
However, I’ll let you know what I’ve told others this year. Take a look at your past lineups, features, residents and even your staff. What’s the amount of support that you’ve provided white people with (white Latinos included) versus Black people? It’s going to be a tough look because often we don’t want to face the hard truth, but it’s what’s really going to help battle the inequalities. Once you’ve assessed the lack of Black artists represented and Black people employed, ask yourself, why is it that I’ve only worked with this small percentage of Black people? Is it that I haven’t searched hard enough and only working with what I see in plain sight? Often times white people mainly only have white friends, which then leads to an automatic bias, whether intentional or not and also leads to only working with other white people.
Thank you for the candid answer here, I really appreciate it. How do you feel about the role of magazines and online news sites in the perpetuation of systemic racism in our scene? What do you think needs to be improved from this aspect of our industry?
I think that magazines and online news play a big role in the perpetuation of systemic racism. For so long white artists have been covered on a greater scale and when you look at previous years top DJ lists, features, reviews and interviews, they’re overwhelmingly white. I mean, I think the problem starts on the inside. Having an all-white staff will more often than not lead to a bias on the covering and selecting of DJs. Tackling race issues doesn’t come easy to white people, if it did, then we wouldn’t be here right now. This easily translates into the music world as well because when you put on your headphones and listen to the music, the bias just doesn’t magically disappear. Some white editors will easily cover their friends, who more often than not tend to be white as well.
I think that magazines and online news sites need to hire more Black editors as well as take a deep look at the amount of white artists they’re covering versus Black. This doesn’t just stop there, though. I think that they need to also consider looking outside the same 10 Black people that they usually have on rotation just to meet their quotas. There’s more Black talent out there to shine light on. I also find it rather weird to have an all-white staff judge whether or not a Black artist’s music is worth featuring and writing about. Something about it just gives me an all-white jury with a Black person being sentenced in a court kind of vibe. White people don’t often tend to understand why we approach something the way we do and don’t take our unique input into certain things into consideration because they haven’t grown up in an environment like ours.
There is still a lot to be done to fix the issues of systemic racism in our country but also within our industry and yet there has, I believe, been some positive headway as a result of the dialogues, protests and other activism we have seen this year. Do you agree and if so, what are some of the positive initiatives and actions been that you have yourself witnessed? I am asking in the hope that these can be of further inspiration to anyone reading this!
I agree to the point that it has forced the conversation to finally happen. It’s made many of our colleagues look around and be like, wait, that’s right! Where are all the Black people? It made some white people take a look at their line ups, mix series, releases on their labels and clubs look at their staff and residents. I’m speaking for myself on this, but I’m sure there are other Black artists that would agree. The amount of support shown was great, and at times overwhelming, because the phone wouldn’t stop ringing for mix and track requests. In a way, it was kind of sad because it was like, where have you been this whole time that it took the murdering of a Black man to finally acknowledge the lack of Black representation. I’m just hoping that this way of thinking persists and isn’t just performative. White people need to continue doing the work and remain anti-racist.
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i’m glad to see so many friends starting to acknowledge racism and wanting to tackle it head on (i see the ones that haven’t posted and best believe we’re gonna talk at some point because you can’t hide behind the “uncomfortable” wall anymore 🙂) i don’t know about y’all, but after seeing that there are protests in all 50 states against racism, Illinois and Chicago calling for police reform, Birmingham taking down a 115-year confederate statue, Minnesota filing civil rights charges against the Minneapolis police department to root out systemic racism, and the international support…this is how i’m feeling already 😍
As you said in your letter, techno is the language of the world, and your techno in particular is a powerful statement as I am sure anyone listening to this mix or your tracks can agree with. Have the events of 2020 influenced what you listen to? How about your own music productions in the studio?
Techno is the language of the world! It’s amazing how it works. You can have someone from Africa, Latin America and Europe vibing in the same room to the same music because for the most part, techno doesn’t have any words. It speaks to us through frequencies and unites us through wavelengths. I can’t say that 2020 has influenced my productions too much, I had already been speaking about racial injustice prior to this year. It just so happens that all of the events this year have aligned with my message.
I noticed that after a lot of personal activism on your part via your social media you also took a break.
Why was that and what benefits did you get from it?
I believe that you’ve only recently started following me on Insta, but I don’t usually post too much on Facebook. I typically tend to post more on my instagram stories on a daily basis and I tend to have private conversations with white friends about some of my posts that for them could be thought-provoking. I have, however, cut back on the information that I had been previously providing because, as many other Black folk would agree, it’s exhausting to continue doing the work for white people, especially when it’s continued free labor.
By this point, I’ve said what I’ve needed to say and I’m an artist before I’m an activist. It’s a privilege for white people to be able to just focus on the music and not have to worry about all of the extra baggage that comes with being a Black artist. Black Lives will always Matter, however, I need to focus on what I’m here for first and foremost, which is the music. I feel like by having my presence be felt through my music in itself can help make a change and my voice heard. Talking through my music and making a statement with it will show that I’m about this life and can walk the walk as well. I hope that our white allies will continue to push for more Black representation and educate other white people with the consistent knowledge that I’ve dropped over the last 5 months on my Insta stories.
(Note: the interview took place the week leading up to the U.S. Election) The elections in the States are looming and unfortunately (I say so because frankly we ought to be past this!) a lot of basic social issues and human right issues are at stake here. Do you have a message for Americans, specifically techno fans and anyone reading this, concerning this?
We should be past this! My only message to anyone reading this is one that’s been repeated throughout the last 4 years. Resist. Resist racism, resist homophobia, resist sexism, resist xenophobia. Simply resist anything that restricts a human being from being…a human being. It’s absurd that society has been programmed to have issues with these things, but it’s up to us to fight against it all.
By the way, any particular U.S. cities you’re looking forward to playing, once lockdowns are over of course?
I think the US has its own unique charm when it comes to techno and it really varies city by city when you look at it holistically and I’m looking forward to playing and re-playing them all. However, I’m particularly looking forward to playing in Minneapolis when this is all over. They have a super sick scene. I really appreciate their enthusiasm, passion and commitment to the genre as well as sound-systems!
While we are talking about the future of parties, how do you see your own Black Hole parties coming back? Have you and the ALKHEMY crew discussed this?
It’s kind of hard thinking about that right now. If we’re going to do it, we want to do it right or we just won’t do them at all. We want to be sure that we’ll be able to keep our ravers, artists, staff and ourselves safe without the risk of losing our dance floor energy that our parties are so well-known for. I think anyone you ask that’s attended our parties would describe it as a proper rave. Sweaty, foggy, intimate…all of the things that can’t really happen while following covid restrictions. We think it’s best to cherish beautiful memories of the good nights that turned into great mornings versus having restricted fun.
And finally, can you give us a sneak peek of what fans can expect in terms of releases for the end of 2020 and 2021?
I think this might be the toughest question of them all! There’s several projects that I currently have in the works for 2021 that I wish that I could give you all a sneak peek of. I think I’ve produced some of my best work during these past recent months, so I can’t wait to share them with you all. We started our label, Whirlwind Trax, last year and had plans to expand it this year, but had to put those plans on ice for a bit given the circumstances this year. We’ll be “relaunching”, if you will, the label with a slamming two-part compilation in celebration of the 4 year anniversary of our party, The Black Hole. That compilation will kick off a series of releases on the label, so expect a lot of music from us! Just as important it is to have Black representation on the artist side, it is also important to have Black representation on the label side, so we’re looking forward to going hard on our label.
Thank you mate, once again really appreciate the banging mix! Can’t wait to see you here in Los Angeles once events are back and safe for everyone!