After hearing Xonic (local Chicago DJ) for the first time at Electric Forest 2014, we have been tracking his moves. He has made a huge splash within in the Chicago scene, especially in the last 6 months. After bumping into him after his sets at shows and getting a chance to know him and his positive attitude, we knew we would like to feature him on our blog. On January 31st, WhySoChi met with DJ Xonic, at his home studio, before his opening set for Borgeous at Concord Music Hall. He was nice enough to answer a couple of questions while putting together his track list for the night. From his transition out of professional football, to his outlook on the EDM scene and everything in-between, check out the exclusive interview below.
WhySoChi : Your profile information on social media (Facebook, sound cloud etc..) reveals you are a former NFL player, that being said how did you transition from Football to music production/djing?
Xonic: “Well, I went from professional football, which I worked my whole life to achieve the highest level of success in a certain arena, and ended my career with an untimely injury in 2006. **(Xonic blew out his elbow and Shoulder in NFL Europe- while playing for the Amsterdam Admirals in 2006)**I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life because everything has always been focused on making it to the NFL. In-between the NFL and DJing, I did some other career stuff like commercial real-estate, industrial real-estate, and stock trading at the Board of Trade right when the financial markets collapsed in 2007 and 2008. I was used to trying to find some sort of career where you can rise up fast since I don’t really see obstacles in my path. If someone can do it in a year, I want to do it in 6 months. So, just trying to find a purpose or passion along the way that allowed me to still wake up every day and love my life, and also be able to do something that I had a talent in. I stumbled on DJing and EDM when I went to a Deadmau5 concert at Soldier Field in 2010. That was the start of my love for electronic music”.
WhySoChi: That being said when and where did you play your first djing gig?
Xonic: “After I decided that I want to make dance music and become a DJ, and after seeing Deadmau5- he really blew my mind with his production and was so far ahead of everyone else which is why he is noted as one of the kings now, he really inspired me to not only take the DJ route but production too so I needed to play catchup. I had some audio engineering background and work in management and artist management, some behind the scenes stuff in the music industry so I wanted to make a segway as well as learn a new skill. A lot of DJs and producers are not willing to share their hard fought accumulated years of knowledge and wisdom. At the same time, their livelihood is their knowledge. I was very fortunate to find someone (my “mentor” D2A) that took me under their wing and taught me everything he knew about DJing and got me my first DJ gig at the basement of Fedora (Lounge) Clark St in Downtown Chicago in October of 2011. I screwed up about 4 times and the music stopped a few times. I don’t think anyone noticed though”.
WhySoChi :Does the name XONIC have any meaning behind it?
Xonic: “I wanted to play off of the word sonic, like the sound. I like the brand ability of the X, it makes for a good logo. It was finding something that nobody is using because internet search ability is huge. When someone wants to find an artist, it is easier. No joke, Urban Dictionary recently defined it as a state of euphoria. I mean if someone has a great name for example, Max Strong or something, they can use that. My name isn’t like that since people mispronounce my last name”.
WhySoChi: You are very active on social media, talking to your fans and contributing to discussions on several topics regarding Chicago’s scene. In your opinion what is the best thing about Chicago’s scene and the worse thing?
Xonic: “First of all, Chicago is the birthplace of house music and EDM is just an evolution of that. EDM has become a bad moniker, kind of like an STD. But EDM just means electronic dance music and Chicago will have a significantly strong role in that. Some of the guys that are leaders in the production and DJ community, such as Jason Kalendr, Inphinity, or Marc Stout, they are setting an example for some of the mid range veterans such as myself who are looking out and trying to make Chicago the stronghold of production and DJ talent. They’re putting some new projects together. The best thing right now is everyone is starting to realize that synergy and collaboration are the secret ingredients, so to speak, to the recipe of success amongst DJs. It is such a complicate profession with so many nooks, crannies, and knowledge – so many areas that you have to be talented in from marketing to advertising to promotion to creation of music to mixing skills to everything. The more you can team up, the better you will be. Everyone saves up their bag of secrets and tracks and its not really too much like that really anymore. The worst thing about the Chicago DJ scene is that there is a lot of DJs who get work solely of the fact of how many people they bring into the club with little to no regard of their talent on the decks. It is tough to see them struggle when they get up there and it will give the club a bad reputation. It really is a carefully cultivated art”.
WhySoChi: You had a busy 2014, this week proves the momentum form last year has not stopped you are playing your 3rd show in as many nights. Explain your creative process on how to keep your sets fresh and new.
Xonic: “This is definitely one of my better weekends, for sure. It is interesting when people say “set”, because it is like you already have an idea of what you are going to do. You might have an idea, but for good DJs that might only last like the first 15 minutes to throw some tracks out there to see how the crowd is and to see how the crowd feels. Tonight for example, there are three acts after me, who are all going to play live music from trap, progressive, to electro. I will have to test the room and see what kind of room it is, I can give the guys after me that information. I have my ways of testing it. I have tracks that are sorted to make it easier for myself. In a 1 hour set, I would play anywhere from 25 to 30 songs. I will probably be prepared with 100-120 songs with potential. Then, I weave my way through it. The songs that will stand the test of time, I will drop anytime- such as “Lazer Beams” by Green Velvet”.
WhySoChi: All time favorite track?
Xonic: “My favorite track is “The Reward is Cheese” by Deadmau5. It is the perfect blend of techy electro and underground yet it has a familiar build and drop style”.
Xonic: “It changes and it really just depends. Right now I like super advanced, intelligent dance music, like The M Machine. I like the people that push the limit of sound creation, noises that you would never anticipate to be part of the music. Industrial sounds for example that are twisted, a snare drum, and a melody on a synth that you would never be able to do with regular instruments. That is the beauty of electronic music”.
WhySoChi:Favorite local dj/producer besides yourself and why?
Xonic: “Theres a few but I would say Jason Kalendr, Infinity, Marc Stout, my mentor Brian (goes by D2A). There are a lot of guys in the city that I love to listen. Those are probably the main acts that I would go support and see. The guys who are up there getting mentioned consistently, they are mentioned for a reason. DangerWayne is great too, Zander, GoodSex, J. Worra”.
WhySoChi:Favorite room to play (club)?
Xonic: “The main room at the Mid on a Saturday night. Anywhere that its crowded, and I am connecting with the crowd. That is something you cant really describe till you feel it”.
WhySoChi: Favorite Chicago festival you have played? (wavefront/north coast/spring awakening) why?
Xonic: “The main stage at Spring Awakening. Nothing really beats that level of production. Setting the stage where when you feel the bass hit you can see the water vibrate right off the table. It was crazy. Spring Awakening 2013”.
WhySoChi: What should we be on the lookout for? New releases? Collabs?
Xonic: “I am staring to work on a lot of stuff by myself but the sounds that I am hearing in my head are a little more advanced than the sounds I am capable of making out. So I am chasing this elusive production dragon where there has to be the right combination of time, the music thats in your head so it can be packaged correctly, and its the right time for the listener. Some really good DJs and producers put something out and its not the right time. Something new probably within 2 months”.
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