In Conversation with Naxxos

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Interview by Maya-Rose Torrão

Naxxos is the music project of two multi-talented Viennese producers who have taken the electronic music scene by storm. When Chris and Max started Naxxos, they were both studying and approached their music-making of somewhat of a side project. I can tell you now that Naxxos has become way more than that; the pair’s tropical house track ‘New Orleans’ alone has become an indispensable international summer anthem and boasts over 19 million YouTube views.

A doctor and a sound engineer, the two friends started making music together almost a decade ago when they were still in high school. After three years of experimenting with sound and production, the Naxxos project was officially formed and the team released their debut track which became an instant hit. From this moment onwards they were travelling around the world, trying to balance being students and an international music act simultaneously and collaborating with massive names such as Klingande, M. Maggie and Sam Feldt.

Just over seven months ago Naxxos released their debut EP ‘Animal’, which was met with great excitement from fans and new listeners alike. The album features a unique mix of danceable house, EDM and groovy electronic bangers but the duo keep pushing themselves to experiment more and more, with goals for the future to take the project into future bass, trap and other exciting areas. Naxxos is definitely a musical outfit to keep your ears on as it seems like there is no project too ambitious for this talented pair.

Listen to Naxxos’ newest release below, which was shared only four days ago, a remix of US-based rising star Daisy Gray’s latest single ‘Saviour’. Check out more of Daisy Gray’s indie pop and alternative R&B sound here.

We caught up with the Naxxos duo and chatted about gear, fans and the future:

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
We just love music, and at some point you ask yourself: Do I just want to keep listening or start making it as well?

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
This is a tough one. There are so many different ways of creating a track from scratch and it all comes down to whatever inspires us. Sometimes we’d have a vague direction in our heads but after writing down some of those ideas it would turn into something totally different. Then there are days where we’d spend hours doing sound design only, without having any musical idea in our heads. And all of a sudden one of those would turn into the backbone of a whole production.

Does your material feature any collaborations?
Over the last few years we never really considered collaborating with other producers. Our first real collab was on ‘Not Alone’ with Young Animal Hearts. Writing a new song with someone else was quite the experience in retrospect, because it forced us out of our comfort zones, to approach new ways of creating music and to compromise more than we were used to. Fortunately we got know a few great producers that reached out to us via Soundcloud, so we will most likely release some collaborations in the future.

What’s on your current playlist?
Actually a variety of different artists and genres. It’s quite tricky, and a loaded question we get a lot, which we can never fully answer. Loaded because usually people expect we’re going to say Flume, Mura Masa, Esta, Gold Panda or whatever else seems to have inspired us, but we do listen to quite a lot of everything. I just went to an ‘acoustic’ festival for example and saw shows from Dan croll, Luke Sital-Singh, Nick Mulvey, Son Lux and Meute amongst others. The next day I might listen to Odesza, Gorillaz, Tash Sultana and Anderson Paak. After that, movie/game scores, Max Richter, Vivaldi or Neo Soul. It’s really quite tricky because what we might listen to at a given moment couldn’t ever reflect what we listen to in general.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
I guess we always try to consider the overall vibe that we get from the partygoers. If we play a few tunes that really get the crowd going, we might stick to that vibe a little longer. Mostly we prepare our sets according to the type of event and go from there. Sometimes we just play stuff that we dig, which usually also resonates quite well with the crowd. Especially if it’s a recurring party line people tend to enjoy something out of the box and new, rather than having us play the same tracks as the resident.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
We love using plug-ins by Soundtoys. Using tools like Tremolator, Crystalizer, Decapitator or EchoBoy on your sounds can bring a simple loop to a whole different level. You can tweak the hell out of out of those plug-ins and you’d be amazed how many ideas you can come up with and how much texture you can change or add to a song with them.
LFO Tool is also a very nice option for creating movement on your synths. We’ve been experimenting with swung LFOs quite a lot recently; let’s see what happens on that front. If we want our drums more crispy, we love to add a transient shaper. To get that brilliance on our synths we like to use Ableton Live’s OTT or Wave’s Vitamin plug-in. Speaking of Waves, almost every single plug-in they release is the bomb. On top of that we’ve also started to make our own wavetables with analog synths for signature synths, but it’s an ongoing process.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.
It’s like a bedroom studio – recording studio – home studio sandwich.
When we go to the recording studio we usually have some ideas prepared. We’d meet up with singers or instrumentalists, take some time to get to know each other and pitch some of those demos. We immediately feel when a singer gets our vibe or not. When it clicks we start jamming. After that we usually finish the songs in our studios.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
Well, I guess every producer starts making music because it’s something they want to do. But there definitely was a moment when we realized that we could partly live off producing music. We were able to spend more and more time on developing our production techniques, improving our musical knowledge and growing as producers. You could say we financed our studies with our hobby. Fortunately there are no tuition fees here in Austria.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
A lot of water and a few beers. If possible, a towel and hidden stash of cigarettes.

Any emerging artists on your radar?
Ramzoid was one of those unknown Soundcloud artists that would keep popping up. His fan base is growing rapidly and he even has some pretty solid production tutorials on YouTube, someone to watch out for for sure.

What gets your creative juices flowing?
Doing some random sound design, jamming on the piano or the guitar, listening to some music on a sunny day at the park. Sometimes clubbing or partying. Rarely sitting down and forcing yourself to be creative.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
Our DAW of choice is Ableton Suite for production and ProTools for recording.
As mentioned above, we own the complete Soundtoys collection. Padshop by Steinberg is a great tool for pads and drones, Waves has some really great stuff out there as well. On the musical side we use Kontakt 5 and own a bunch of libraries. We’ve got a few Yamaha Pianos and toy Synths. A few percussions, Mics and Guitars. We recently got an APC 40 and a Drumpad. We’re still experimenting with various options for a live setup. Currently got our eyes on a Nord Stage an a few other synths and launchpads.

Any side projects you’re working on?
We’ve given ourselves a lot of liberty by moving away from a specific genre, therefore we’ve also lost the need for side projects. Let’s see what the future holds.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
What really refined us as musicians and human beings was our recent decision to stop trying to cater to an audience and only making music we really dig. On the other hand our management would love if we worked faster, but we’re still pathologically pedantic.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
We’ve got a few new finished songs, some upcoming collaborations, and a lot more unfinished stuff. We haven’t decided whether we’re going to release single by single, another EP or even an album. Really depends on our mood and how quickly things will go.

Be sure to follow this exceptional producer-duo on Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook and check out this video of Naxxos in action featuring the lovely Dionne Bromfield earlier this year: