MDC Interview#51 " X.NTE "
Michael Hollis, who records and performs under the moniker x.nte, the track feels far beyond the product of a mere hyperactive imagination, almost like the sound of a brain exploding with a barrage of ideas or more so fragments of ideas. What opens as an elegant piano melody quickly rockets off into what seems like a thousand different possibilities, each machine gun snare and spliced sample kamikaze-ing into the next. As a listener, it’s a whole lot to take in, and it begs the question: where does this ceaseless bombardment of sounds come from?
Q. Please tell us about the environment in which you grew up. How did you become interested in music?
Living in the USA is constantly, pointlessly painful. It feels like every day we are getting violated in some way. It is never ceasing. Art feels like the only reprieve from all this. It has become my outlet for interacting with my local community. Outside of the local art community it was difficult to relay my music to other people. Eventually I started playing music in the local music scene and met people who were open my music preferences and even shared them. There was an event called "Invent Room Pop" I would frequent. In this event you would bring your own instrument and play along with complete strangers. Each musician put their name down in a hat and they would be chosen at random. I think this opened my eyes to music, art even, being purely expressive. I was finding more appreciation in abstract art, simple drawings, scribbles, etc. I wanted to approach art in this way -- taking every influence I had and expressing what I needed to.
Q. When did you start making your own music?
After Invent Room Pop I joined a band with Matt Goethe, who went by Cedro Danado at the time. Our band was called CDC. We played frequently at a local venue named The Eyedrum. I would use my Nintendo DS, performing on Electroplakton or Korg DS-10, while hooked into a delay/loop pedal. Matt would use a drum machine and a Korg Monotron. We did not have the proper equipment to record our music at the time. And eventually the band fell apart.
Q. Tell us your Top 10 musical influences.
When I create anything I think about the concept of God and how this entity would see things, and if they'd be just as frustrated. I think my biggest influence is energy. A huge, domineering energy that overtakes everything, but also a calm, empathic, embracing energy. Whenever I listen to any music I create many scenarios in my head, many acts. Growing up I was a fan of hardcore punk, harsh noise, avantgarde, digital hardcore music. It was an outlet for a lot of what I saw in the world, and the stress I had towards it.
Q. What is the origin of the name "X.NTE"?
It was originally A.NTE. I wanted it to be an anagram for "Anxious, Nervous, and Tired Endlessly." I changed it to X.NTE because I wanted it to be more ambiguous. My friend Cass Cameron introduced me to Fruity Loops Studio. He taught me how to manipulate sounds on the playlist, and how to apply different variables on the mixer. At first I would just make simple tunes. I didn't release anything at the time because I wanted to better define my sound, & find something that worked for me. When I finally landed on something, this is when I started X.NTE.
Q. I feel that X.NTE makes modern Breakcore. Do you think you are making Breakcore?
Much of my influence is from breakcore, however when I create music it is not intended to be breakcore. I like to create many different genres within this project & elevated the meaning of specific genres -- seeing what more I can do or even what I feel at the time.
Q. About your latest album "Aggressive Stereo Sound". How long did you work on this album? Do you have any themes for the album?
This release began in March of 2021 and was completed on December. Much of my music is created through inspiration. Then there's the time taken to tweak tracks; listening to it an abundance of times to see if it still holds my interest. Afterwards I had to commission the artist (Joshyua Cardona & William Burns). The time taken in total wasn't too long. It is mainly finding the time & inspiration to work on this project while navigating life. With "Aggressive Stereo Sound" I wanted it to be monstrous, yet contemplative. The divergence between wanting to fight back against the unfairness of life & taking time to appreciate the beauty within it.
Q. Which song on "Aggressive Stereo Sound" is the most memorable?
"Foreveronattack" is the most notable song on the release for fans. For myself, I love "mischief2". It was the track I wanted to theme the entire release around. Some of the samples used and the lyrics within that fit the theme well. The piano riff in that song also plays in my head often.
Q. What equipment do you currently use? What is your songwriting process? When do you get an idea for a song?
Primarily my computer, Akai Midi Fire, and M-Audio Oxygen49. Much of it is sample based primarily from audio recordings, songs, and rips from synthizers/drum machines. Most of the instrumental riffs are played on my own using the midi controller and VSTs (Virtual Studio Technologies).
Q. What do you enjoy most about making music?
Being able to make the music that I want to listen to, that emulates the expression I need is essential for me.
Q. I believe your generation is the digital native generation. What is the common feeling among your generation?
I think that is the case in the USA specifically. Here people obtain music either digitally, or for collection/archiving. In other cases there are people who purchase cassettes/CDs to listen to in older vehicles that aren't equipped with modern audio systems. I think both are viable. I wish there were more platforms available that benefitted the artists more. Bandcamp is a great platform but the recent changes make me very concerned. With electronic music, if you don't have a fully live setup then you're encouraged to DJ. This encourages more people to collect digitally for the sake of creating playlists on modern controllers.
Q. How did you change your mind in the Corona Transit? What has changed most before and since?
I am fortunate that my situation during the pandemic was mostly safe & comfortable. Before it become widespread I worked at a stressful job, so having time away from that was needed. I lived with my close friends at the time and received government assistance so staying inside wasn't an issue. There was a lot of music created during that time, but not many performances. Much of my time was spent outside. We were in walking distance to a local park. It was a good time for establishing what I wanted most out of my own life. I think deep down everyone knows what's needed, it just sometimes gets blurred with every other thing. I can't tell what has changed yet, but I know parts of me are different than they were.
Q. The US Breakcore/US Rave scene looks very exciting these past few years. What do you think about the scene?
I am pleased that there is a scene here. It has made it easier to explain my music to people. As mentioned, it was difficult to discuss my music with people. The shows I played earlier were not as well received. In Atlanta the focus is primarily on either Hip Hop & Trap music or Techno & House. I think with Machine Girl and 909 Worldwide emerging when they did helped broaden things more. The biggest issue I have with this is that many of the artist do not push the boundaries. When I listen to Peace Off for example I notice the varied transitions, glitching, distorted kicks, heavy bass. Much of what's released in the USA I would classify as breakbeat, jungle, or even drum and bass. When it comes to breakcore I feel that this experimentation is required. The focus of the rave scene in the USA seems to want to to return to classic techno styles & re-emerge the subcultures from that era. I greatly wish that they would move past that. Dance music has transformed in many ways and so has society.
Q. You have had releases from Suck Puck Recordz, Kitty On Fire Records, DEATHBYSHEEP RECORDS and others. Which albums/EPs are particularly important to you?
The Cock Rock Disco release is the most important (Angel 93). I have admired Cock Rock Disco for many years & never imagined I'd release with them. This was around the same time I met Elevation (Jose Pizarro) who has become a valued friend to me. Around this time I got to meet Jason Forrest. He was in Atlanta, we met at a local event called Controllerize and drank together. With that release it made me feel that I could make music beyond breakcore. I could throw in any influence I wanted. I learned many production techniques from Jose in the process too. It was a great evolving point for my sound.
Q. You have released several cassette tapes, how do you feel about the physical? What do you think of records, CDs, and other formats?
Having my music exist beyond the internet is valued, but not essential to me. I think that having options available to fans who enjoy having physical media is great. To me, the producer, the music is the priority. However fans obtain it is appreciated. I am not much of a physical collector. I find it a bother. I move frequently so having more items to take with me is a pain.
Q. What artists, labels, or genres/scenes have you been loving lately?
All the labels I've released on I try to keep up with. Outside of those there's Murder Channel, Ohm Resistance, Kitchen. Label, $uiciderecord$, Eat Dis, Normcorps, & Fujimi Industry. Artists, I'm really excited to see what Bloodclot & Cencyte release. Ivy Hollivana creates beautiful tunes.
Q. What is your schedule for the future? Why do you create such music?
Working on a project with both Nohighs & Elevation called Paroxysm, which will have a release soon. I want to travel more and share my music -- play live in many different places. Eventually want to create or curate music videos. I plan to continue to work with Kitty on Fire Records & Never Normal primarily. Nothing was planned with this project outside of the music but opportunities to do more have become available. I'm excited to see what happens!