Russian born, German based DJ, producer, live act and vocalist Xenia Beliayeva released her second full length studio album this year, titled Riss, the LP came via Paul Hazendonk’s Manual Music label.
We got the chance to chat with Xenia to discuss what the album means to her, how she finds working with people and why the album came out on Manual Music.
Hey Xenia, how are things? I hope you’re well?
Hello, thank you! I feel really bad and depressed today, just kidding. All fine over here. Hope you are well too!
Your new album ‘Riss’, tell us about the production and how it came to be?
Yeah, well, It was time to do a second album and logical after a while. The production was trickier than we thought. It came in tours, deaths, grief, creative holes, bad demos and well-paid jobs in between. During this time, tons of mine and André’s nerves were torn apart. We’ve been writing demos, recording, trying and giving up. In the first production phase, it felt like every session started from zero and we didn’t move an inch. Apart from being stuck in the process of finding the sound, the production was spread time-wise with lots of long breaks due to the above mentioned reasons. The already slightly faded studio gag “Hyperdraw” was replaced with a new, charming content “H42-3-Dimensional Wolf Howling Sounds”.
“I build a fiiiiire, a fiiiiire for you”. Partially, I wanted to thump my head against the wall. I first wrote lots of papers full with lyrics and then destroyed them afterwards. Every now and then, André kept a paper and returned it to me later. Distance helps. By the thought of eating lunch again at the Khao San restaurant next to the studio, I sometimes had the feeling of nausea, but I was hungry too and didn’t have time to cook. There was a lot of sighing, the trick was always to breathe. We laughed and cried. I whispered and screamed.
From sheer despair, I fell into ecstasy when we finished a track and happily cycled home while the track was looped on my iPhone. I don’t remember exactly how long we worked on the album. Almost two years, maybe less, maybe more. I’ve lost track. Because of that and for many other reasons, it’s called “Riss”, which means “Crack, Fissure or Fracture” in English.
The result consists of 12 pieces. Self-willed and ruthless, good and evil, fast and slow, beautiful and sad, dark and light. There are high expectations, dignity, motivation, Razor, Riss, Televisor. Because, Borderline, Cross The Line. Charisma, pride, quiet steps in the dark. Rest, lunacy, money destruction. Euphoria, unbelief, adrenaline. And me! Only my father doesn’t understand it until today. But in front of me is a small unfolded digipack. A piece of joy, a lot of love, confidence, my second album. My little “Riss”.
It came out on Paul Hazendonk’s Manual Music, do you have a strong relationship with the label, and why did you feel it was a good fit for the album?
Dennis Ruyer introduced me to Paul a while ago. I’ve sent Paul a demo, but we didn’t find an agreement in the first attempt. Then I had an incision in my life and in short term it was not about music at all, as I had to clarify private matters, Paul returned to me at the right time. Writing a lovely mail, that he just stumbled across my album in his playlist again and if we should give it a go now. It felt good and right and we moved on. It was a good fit.
You come from Moscow, Russia, while most DJs are from Europe and the US, how did you find the transition into the European industry?
I am Russian and still have a strong connection to Russia. I moved to Germany when I was young and mostly grew up here. So, I’m kind of European. (Geographically anyway.)
You have DJ’d alongside Laurent Garnier and Kraftwerk, both must have been special moments?
True. I was 17 when this gig took place. It felt like someone made me a Queen. I was really scared, nearly pissed my pants (before the gig, during the gig and after the gig) but somehow I survived.
There has been quite a progression in your performances, with André Winter holding down live tech duties for you, how did you learn live skills and put them into practice and what kind of role does André carry out exactly?
Na, André rarely joins me for gigs. He does it sometimes and will do it for “very important” ones, but nowadays we don’t play live together anymore. (Gotta update the bio) As you can hear, my voice is layered with various effects. I’m not a Mariah Carey and Mariah Carey is probably not always needed. If I go on stage live, it’s quite tricky in the soundcheck to find a general EQ setting that works through the whole set. The balance of voice and music and no feedback. Since all effects and tracks vary, you always end up being busy with EQing track by track. The audio engineer of a club or festival doesn’t know my tracks. Which effect comes where. What’s on track 7 or 3, in the break. Where I need a delay or a cut up. So I basically need a personal audio engineer, who is familiar with my music, or André or I have to do it myself. (Which really sucks to be honest, as I’m nervous anyway and have to concentrate on various things on stage plus hearing yourself is another issue).
It’s learning by doing. After every gig I got a new idea of improvement. Communication, advices, reflection, new gear, ideas and so on. I’m far from where I wanna be. André’s role, apart from being a superb producer, whom I wrote most of my essential tracks with, is a good and reliable friend. A wonderful musician. A person that brings out the best of me, that challenges me, that reflects me and my work. Motivates me at the right moments, stands behind me and at the same time tells me honestly when I’m stuck in shit. That helps a lot. Sometimes I write demos and record vocals half a day until I can’t reflect on it anymore. During these moments I’d send André a short take and feel quite safe with his opinion. So his role is an all-embracing one. Let’s say he is very important to me.
Can you tell us about what you might have in store for the rest of 2018?
Next up, we have Razor from the Album with a Marc DePulse remix coming out May 21st on Manual Music. Then I have a collaboration with Maksim Dark, called “Less Than Zero” in June. Then comes “Borderline” also from the Album, with some remixes and one is from Paul.
Another single from the Album called “Explore The Darkside” with a Black Asteroid remix and a feature with Daniel Meyer from “The Architect”, we wrote some kind of a pop duet together and just have to record the vocals and make a final mixdown, and then we’ll see.
And finally, give us one piece of advice you would give to any DJs, live acts or producers just starting out on their journey?
If you’re a house music producer, please do me a favor and stop telling people for hours what house music is. “House music is the universal language, house music is this, house music is that.” Just kidding, the advice would be always to tell your own story.