Bart Rossi and Jean-Marc Segondy are two French artists responsible for the project XSI. Not only do they have a successful 10 year project together, but they also perform as Wild Monkeys (with Mad Maxx), have their own aliases Stryker and Bionix, have a mastering studio XSI Mastering, and a growing record label, United Beats Records.
Psymedia : Hey Bart and Jean-Marc! To kick things off, tell me about your introduction to psychedelic trance. What was the French scene like back then? Tell me about your early years in the scene and the formation of Xtra Sound Independant?
XSI : Hey! First of all, we would like to thank you for giving us this opportunity to speak to the South African crowd. Words are not as strong as music, but with words emotion can still matter a lot! We were introduced to psychedelic trance as a result of playing instruments in our early days (piano for Jean-Marc, and guitar for me) and we’ve been interested in electroinc music for a long time. We went through a lot of different styles and finally got caught by the psychedelic vibes.
The idea of XSI began long ago, even before making music, as a radio show by Jean-Marc and his friends. XSI was born in 2002 as a psychedelic trance band, but it all really started at the end of 2004 after the first album entitled Warning Zone. It was at that point we decided to make music not just a part of our life, but focus on it entirely. All of that happened thanks to friends an overwhelming scene in France (party and spirit wise). It was the biggest psychedelic scene in Europe back in the days!
Psymedia : You’ve regularly collaborated with a number of names in the scene, releasing two albums almost entirely comprised of versus tracks. What’s it like working with so many people in the studio? What’s the key to finding a good collaborator?
XSI : Well, in fact, music is meant to be shared. You share it with people on the dance floor, at home with friends, so in the studio I think it should be the same. Producing music with others is part of the experience. When working with so many people in the studio, you get to share fun, knowledge, ideas and music. At a point when electronic music interest expanded, I could hear myself and a lot of producers arguing we are a full band by ourselves.
As if we were the drummer, pianist, guitarist, bassist and singer (for example) at the same time to form a basic acoustic band foundation. But now when I think about it, it was wrong to say that. You can be good at a lot of things, but you’ll never be great. Collaborating is the key to surpass yourself. Naturally finding someone to work with is not easy, and it depends on your point of view and how you do it. If I have to speak for myself (Bart), it’s two things at the same time – human experience (feeling comfortable with the person your make music with whilst having fun) and then the music ‘skills’. In my opinion you need both together to make it great.
Psymedia : You guys also perform as Wild Monkeys alongside Mad Maxx. The project takes an entirely different route in sound. How different is the production process in comparison to XSI? Why did you decide to form the project?
XSI : Wild Monkeys was started when Jean-Marc, Max and I wanted to make music together, but not be limited to the styles of our projects Bionix, Mad Maxx and XSI. We wanted to make those sounds we weren’t allowed to in our other projects. You’d think it would be easy, but after 10 years of habits in the studio it’s exactly the opposite! Wild Monkeys, I think, is a scream from our hearts [laughs] The name says it all. At some point we are all monkeys, and sometimes you want to let it go wild! All of us have this within us, where we want to go nuts but you can’t really do it in everyday life in this ‘clean and polite’ society. We took this concept and put it to work in the studio. The result is three guys going crazy in the studio, not caring about any codes or rules, mixing together all our latest influences. We like to say that we gave birth to a full mixed style of Dirty Electro, House, Techno, Trance and Psychedelic, despite that we wanted to get ‘wild’.
Psymedia : Bart, you’ve also recently formed your solo project Stryker. Can you tell me a bit about it and what direction you’ll take?
XSI : Well, Stryker is the result of 10 years of ‘flavour mutration’. There are many emotions from me bundled together in this project. The feeling that I’ve grown enough to make music by myself. When you are in a band or work with others in a project, along the way when you evolve, your personality can change and your tastes change. You have to be careful to not hurt your image and your partnership. So the best way is to have your own project, do things your own way. With regards to the sound, like Wild Monkeys, I wanted no limitations by codes or even a name. For sure, I have a lot to say in my music, but I’ve never hidden that my main motivation is to make the crowd smile and dance. Since my days as a DJ I’ve enjoyed a variety of styles and will never limit myself to one direction. I have tracks from 138BPM to 145BPM – some are more psychedelic, some are deeper, some are full power, some are more melodic, and so on. You’ll be the judge as I’ll perform a DJ set under this name at for the first time in your country at Groovy Troopers.
Psymedia : Both of you now have individual solo projects. What’s it like being alone in the studio, in comparison to all your other collaborative projects?
XSI : To the honest, for me, I somehow find being in the studio boring [laughs], but it’s nice to get lost with yourself and take the time to focus, take the time for details, make it a certain way because you like it, and you don’t have to compromise even if you’re wrong. It definitely brings a different vibe to the music. At the same time, it’s more complicated because sometimes, as we’re not machines, when you’re a bit down and don’t have inspiration, then the other half is there to give you support and you can rely on him or her. However, even in music you do need your own ‘privacy’. I think the best solution is doing it all at the same time – a band, a solo project, and making collaborations. It will only give you a wider point of view!
Psymedia : Bart, a few years ago you also opened XSI Mastering. Being an engineer, has it changed your perspective of other people’s music at all?
XSI : Well, it has definitely changed my perception of my music and others. I find myself listening to a lot of stuff that I probably would have never come across on my own. With regards to others music, I think the most difficult thing for a mastering engineer is to understand what the artist is trying to say. Mastering is not about changing the soul of the music. You can improve it if the track needs it, but basically the job is to make the track correct in terms of loudness, keeping maximum range of the dynamics, polishing the frequencies, yet at the same time keep the vibes the musician wanted. It has resulted in me listening to tracks that are perhaps not my style, yet I still have the desire to understand it, which has made me more open-minded and only helped me realize the type of style I want to make myself.
Psymedia : Another recent venture is the formation of United Beats Records. Tell me a bit about why you wanted to form the label, what your duties involve and what it’s like owning a label considering how rocky the music industry is?
XSI : It was an adventure of friends that started in the studio with Jean-Marc, Max, Ludo (Block Device) and I. At first our main motivation was to build something that could express our point of view of psychedelic trance music. However, as artists, we had something different to give to the scene. Besides having an outlet to release our own music, we most importantly put together a great team. I strongly believe we are still a fucking good team today! Speaking of duties, this is where we were wrong at the beginning. We had no idea how much it would be to run this kind of operation. Max (Mad Maxx) has been running the label for the past 3 years, and I (Bart) have stepped in as co-owner, now for 1 year counting. We have been able to push it further at a faster rate, and are looking at a bright future to come.
Max and I work very good as a team, and this is a basic element required for a successful venture, especially in the music business. Since the label’s inception I’ve mastered 90% of the releases. At the moment that is my only exclusive duty. For everything else we share and allocate jobs. Like any other company we know what we have to do, and divide things to be taken care of. But, I think the most important job as a label manager is to strengthen the cohesion of the group, to make the bonds stronger, because before anything else, it’s a human adventure. As you said, because of the way the music industry is now, it’s not a business anymore. You’re not making money anymore selling music, well, at least in the psytrance scene.
Psymedia : You’ll also be giving away 800 promo copies of your latest album Dancefloor Apocalypse at Groovy Troopers. What made you decide to give free copies? Do you think free music is something people want these days, even though you own a label?
XSI : [Laughs] well after what I said earlier, you can understand my point of view. Selling music is, firstly, a way to promote artists when the release comes out. The reality of the market is that on a track sold at 1.56 euros on some platforms, you get back, as a label, 0.39 euro. That money is used to cover your expenses, used partly to promote the artist, and then the rest you give to the artist, which is usually not much. The music industry is weird, we’re kind of playing a game. When you buy music you mostly support the platforms that sell the music and all the businesses around this. At the same time you still support the artist because the exposure brings bookings for the artist, and they do make money and can live from what they love! But yes, I think people don’t really want free music, they just don’t want to get ripped off buying it. As an artist, we are more than happy to give something tangible, a part of us, to the first 800 Troopers. As a label owner, the worst that can happen is that it will not sell more than it is now and at best it can improve the sales and even bring more exposure to the artist and label.
Psymedia : This won’t be your first time in South Africa. Just a year ago you were here for Mandala Project 2013. What’s your favourite thing about the country, and what’s going to be different about your set(s) this time?
XSI : Yes, for me, this will not be the first time. I am mainly excited about the crowd and vibe I experienced in 2013. It has something authentic that’s not found everywhere. It reminded me of the old days in France, despite the fact that we didn’t have such great weather [laughs] For Jean-Marc, I’m impatient to let him experience what I did a year ago. I’m definitely taking him Great White Shark Cage diving. But of course, I was speaking of the vibe in your country! The main difference about the sets is that we’ll be together on stage to perform as XSI. It’s really a huge difference regarding the possibilities during the live show, as well what we give to the crowd while we play. Wild Monkeys will be different too, of course, a different vibe than being with Max. As I said earlier, we all have this wild part, but our way to express it is not the same. We will also be performing as our indivudal projects, Bionix and Stryker, for the first time in South Africa.
Psymedia : Any upcoming releases you want to mention?
XSI : Nothing in particular for XSI is planned, since we released our album Dancefloor Apocalypse 7 months ago. Bionix will release a new EP soon entitled Fireball. My début album as Stryker is planned for the beginning of 2015. I’m also very excited about the début album of Wild Monkeys, as we’ve only released EPs so far. Speaking about the label, sorry I can’t resist, we also have two major releases coming in the fall of November and beginning of December. Our main compilation entitled Party Smart Vol.2 from a new DJ joining the team, followed Shanti‘s upcoming album. Stay tuned, the end of the year is gonna be a busy time for good music!
Psymedia : Thanks for the interview, see you at Groovy Troopers Mandala Project 2014! Anything to add before we finish off?
XSI : Thanks to you, it was an enjoyable interview. You caught us with some unexpected questions! We hope the readers will enjoy it as much as we did. To finish off, we must say that we’re very impatient to come and play for the South African crowd, share new experiences, speak about the music or people’s encounters! To any South African readers that didn’t plan to come until now, be there or be square! A special cheers to the Psymedia team, as well as Jacques and Delphi for making it possible. See you all at Mandala Project 2014!