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Xspance [Interview]

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Myles Webb is behind the XSPANCE moniker and can be described as a self-taught electronic music producer. After numerous releases, remixes and co-productions, a few of them on Dutch imprint Cinematique, it's time to present his latest project 'Luminous'. This album came together surprisingly quickly, and was produced over the period of a year. Myles wanted to take the listener on a journey with a variety of tracks in the style of music he really loves to make. He finds it exciting experimenting with different genres, infusing the atmospheric melodic landscape sounds that Myles is well known for. He feels these tracks work well together and really tell a story which Myles hopes you all enjoy. 

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Myles to learn more about the release of his 'Luminous', his background, studio, DJing and much more. Enjoy.

Hi Myles, thanks for talking to us today. How has your start to the year been so far and please tell us something interesting about your day today?

Hi, and a big thanks to Progressive Astronaut for having me today, I’m honoured to be interviewed by you guys.  I can’t complain with how my year is turning out so far - my new album with the fabulous Cinematique Records is being released on 10th May which is very exciting, and another LP is on the way in September. That one’s taken over three years to complete, working in collaboration with singer / songwriter Daniela Rhodes, who also worked on Out of Time, a track on the Luminous LP.

Well, writing this interview, promoting my latest album, I would say that is quite an interesting part of my day!

Looking back on 2023 what gigs of yours have stood out and why?

Recently I’ve had several messages through Soundcloud and other platforms asking if am planning on performing any gigs soon, which is a lovely thing to hear, but sadly I’m not. It has taken me around 13 years to learn how to produce music so setting up for a live gig will be a different ballgame altogether and take me years to get my head around! So, I am sticking to the studio for now.

However, if I get the time, I like to put out a monthly podcast of my favourite tracks, which always seems to go down well. Here is my latest podcast.

What’s a piece of music (not your own) from 2023 that had the biggest impact on you, and what makes it outstanding for you?

There is so much amazing inspirational music out there right now, it is hard to choose a particular track. I’m a sucker for a moving atmospheric movie soundtrack, I particularly liked Hans Zimmer’s work in Dune Part 2. I also really love listening to the intricate work of Max Cooper, I particularly love the constant complexity of the evolving glitchy textural elements he creates, nothing gets boring, and his production skills are through the roof. I entered a remix contest around a year ago for his track A Model of Reality (feat. Kotomi) - it was fascinating working with Max’s production parts, a wonderful experience, and a huge learning curve when it came to upping my game with general arrangement, creativity and mixing. His album Unspoken Words is simply stunning, and I always seem to go to his tracks first when I’m putting a new set together.

Take us through a typical day when you’re not travelling, what does a day in your life look like?

For me, a typical day would have to start with a strong black coffee, then taking the dog for a walk - that is if I’m not doing the commute into London for work. I like to keep fit, so if I’m working from home I try to get a HIIT workout in before work, I find it really gets me set for the day ahead. Or if I’m in London, I like to run around part of the Thames in my lunch break. Every day is different working as a mixed media / graphic designer, as I get involved with various tasks like coming up with creative concept designs for bids and communications, doing photography and videography and working on motion graphics. In the evenings I look forward to getting into the kitchen to rustle up something tasty for dinner. I then like to relax on the sofa with a herbal tea or glass of wine (depending on what night it is!) to watch an episode or two of Fallout on TV for a couple of hours.

Talk to us about growing up and living in the UK, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make?

Growing up I was always encouraged by my parents to learn to play musical instruments. I learnt how to play the guitar, violin and piano all at the same time, and progressed quite far in all three, but guitar became my favourite.

Playing the violin, I was also part of several orchestras in and out of school, so classical music most certainly has influenced the orchestral cinematic sounds in my music today. Learning to play music in the way I did has given me a good sense and understanding of melody, and I generally know what sounds right for the music I want to create.

What was the music genre you discovered first before you turned to electronic music, and what made you continue with the latter?

At college in my late teens there were various genres I liked to dip in and out of, indie, funk, soul, and hip hop. Over time my music tastes shifted more towards the electronic music scene, but I particularly loved trance music, and at that time couldn’t wait to buy the new Tiesto Sunrise compilation. From there I really took to ambient electronic music, listening to artists like Project Skyward, Boards of Canada, Moby and Ulrich Schnauss. These artists have been a huge influence on my own sound ever since.

Your latest album project and first for Cinematique entitled ‘Luminous’ is set to drop, please tell us about the release and what type of vibe you set out to create for it.?

Yes, very excited to be releasing this album with Cinematique Records!

So Luminous is a selection of tracks which I think best highlight what my sound is about, a mixture of melodic, ambient, progressive and breakbeat genres. I decided to name it Luminous because it was the first track I produced on the album, and I wanted the rest of the tracks to evoke similar emotions but also to work as standalone pieces of music, as in a film soundtrack. The rest just fell into place from there.

Tell us how the album began to take shape? Was there an initial goal of writing an album or did this happen organically in a way?

Organically for sure. Making electronic music has always seemed like a natural and exciting process for me and one I deeply enjoy. This LP is a good example of when I’m really feeling the sounds I’m creating, when one sound leads to the next, and before I knew it the album was born. It wasn’t really the plan to write an album, but it just evolved into one that worked as a long player and which I’m very proud of.

Although the album is primarily a listening collection I would say, there are some cuts which could also be quite club-effective as well, so I’m curious which ones have gotten the most play in your sets?

Yes, this album has a variety of flavours, and there are some faster-paced, more progressive tracks which have already featured in a few of my latest mixes. I find the tracks Touching Stars, Tides of the Moon and Dark Focus work nicely. Outside my own sets, Dark Focus seems to be a favourite so far - it’s been played on Alec Araujo’s show on Frisky Radio and Fractal Architect’s latest podcast for Organica B2B Sessions which is positive start for the release.

It is a quite varied collection of music, one which you could say covers a variety of genres. Tell us why it was important for you to express your thoughts, ideas and feelings in this style of a long player.

I like telling a story through my music where each track builds upon the previous one, taking the listener deep into my world like a good film, TV series or book would.

I wanted to challenge myself with this album to see how far I could push my style into the various genres without losing that sound I’m known for. I also wanted this album to appeal to a wider audience, hence the shifts between the various genres. Working in this way really kept my workflow interesting, which is probably how this album came together so quickly and so well.

‘Luminous’ was recorded over the course of a year which is relatively quick for an album with this much depth and character, I’m curious what inspired such a creative swell of tracks like you’ve managed to achieve here. And what are your thoughts now looking back on it that’s done and ready to be released.

When I’m in the mood and feeling inspired I get straight to work in the studio. I’ve always worked quickly; I become immersed in the whole experience of writing music, it’s difficult to stop once I start.

How did you end up with the final track selection? And how difficult was it deciding on the flow from a listener’s perspective?

I like to start an album by thinking of a general theme and the track names - the music seemed to evolve from there with this album. Once these tracks were complete, it was like they all just fell into place in terms of telling the story and taking the listener on that musical journey. Similarly to what I’m aiming for with my mixes, this album was about taking the listener on a sonic journey through the variety and pace of the music. For my opening track, Ocean Motion (main progressive version), which was in my mind the perfect track to kick the whole album off with, I also thought it would be a great idea to ease the listener into this version and then rework it into an ambient alternative. I was pleased with the results, and it was a nice intro to the start of the Luminous LP.

Give our readers a look into your studio? What is your current setup? And what studio tools featured heavily in the writing of ‘Luminous’?

I had no idea where to begin when I started out as an electronic music producer. It involved lots of time, research, and money, but with some persistence I managed to set up my first small production base in the tiny flat I had at the time. I produced my very first track there, Satellites, and put it up on Soundcloud 12 years ago. When I moved to a house, I was able to adapt one of the rooms into a studio and over the years slowly built up my gear. I finally feel comfortable, and it now works perfectly with my workflow.

The Daw I use is Ableton; it’s where I layer everything together. For effects, I have a couple of external delay pedals: Hologram Microcosm and the Empress EchoSystem. They’re both great fun to play with, and fantastic tools for adding depth, delay and texture to any sound.

The star of the studio is my Novation Summit external synth - the sounds that come out of that are divine. I also use it as my midi keyboard to knock out initial melody ideas.

I also recently bought a Roland S-1 too – it is a powerful little thing, and has some grit and punch I tell ya!

Hanging on the wall is a electric acoustic fender guitar which I like to plug into the Scarlett interface and experiment with too - this works great with the pedals.

Now, I’m a bit of sucker for a plugin but there are some fantastic VSTs out there if you know the sorts of sounds you want to create. I find using plugins is a wonderful way to get inspired and to get some initial ideas down quickly, which is how I developed some sounds and melodic ideas for the tracks on Luminous.

VSTs I commonly use:

for orchestral elements: I like to use some of the Spitfire Audio VSTs, Hans Zimmer Strings and Olafur Arnauld (Stratus) are my favs

for synth leads, bass sounds and pads, Lunaris 2, Diva, Omnisphere and Unity Nostalgia are all stunning VSTs. You can spend hours on these and the time just flies by!

for FX: EchoBoy for some nice delay effects and width too, Blackhole for reverb,

Output: Thermal & Portal for texture and width

How would you feel about these tracks being remixed? And are there plans for this?

I love to remix other artists’ music, so I’m always intrigued to hear how other producers interpret my own music. There are plans for a couple of remix EPs taken from the tracks off Luminous which hopefully will be ready this year or in early 2025. I can’t mention any names yet but I’m very excited to hear what they all come up with.

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive artist albums? Do they still carry the weight they once did or should? Is this something that perhaps depends on who (record label) is releasing it as well?

Interesting question. I personally do not think the digital era has changed the way we perceive artists’ albums. If someone likes a producer’s work, whatever label they’re signed to, they’ll buy or stream and listen to the album and not think twice about it. I always have!

You record a podcast about once a month on Soundcloud so you are quite active as a DJ, please tell us your approach to the craft, and how has being a DJ influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks and perhaps also, your work as a producer?

First, I regularly buy new music which I love to share, and creating a seamless mix of monthly favourite tracks is an excellent way to listen to them and certainly helps with the work commute! I try to create something a little different too by selecting a variety of electronic tracks across several genres, but the key is to how the music is arranged to really draw in the listener and take them on that musical journey.

How much prep do you put into the sets you play, or are they spontaneous for the most part?

My sets are a gradual build-up of tracks I’ve collected over a month or two that I think would work well together, then one day over a weekend I will compile the ones I think work the best. It’s hard to discard some but sometimes they just don’t quite work in the mix, I always find a place for these in another mix so they are never wasted.

Where do you source the majority of music for your gigs? Is it primarily from producer friends or promo mailouts at this point?

I try to support my producer friends by purchasing their releases and playing them in my sets where I can. I also regularly receive promo mailouts. For other inspiration and ideas for tracks, I listen to podcasts from DJs and producers like Sasha, Nick Warren, Marsh, Jody Wisternoff and Max Cooper.

Current top five tracks in your sets?

It’s hard to pick the top five but these are all superb contenders:

  1. Max Cooper - A Model of Reality (feat. Kotomi)
  2. Marsh - Pretty Eyes (Marsh’s Reflective Mix)
  3. Simon Doty & Zein - Sama
  4. Matt Lange - Rift
  5. Leaving Laurel - It’s Never the Last (Things Never Last)

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

Ooohhhh so the best gig ever then, nice one!

7.00pm:        Nils Frahm – the perfect candidate to kick it off.

8.00pm         Kiasmos – I think that transition would work very nicely

10.00pm       Luisne – starting to get deeper

12.00am       Max Cooper – bring out the projections

2.00am         Ulrich Schnauss – he’ll get the crowd in a relaxed chilled state before travelling home

If you were not a DJ/Producer what do you think you’d be doing with your life? (Something not music related.)

I would say this needs to be the other way round - if I wasn’t working full-time as a graphic designer, then of course I would be a full-time musician!

But being a creative person, if I were not a DJ/producer I would probably see myself doing something similar to what I’m doing now.

What’s something people do not know about you?

I love to watch a scary horror film in the dark and on my own. I want the hairs to stand up on my neck. The scarier the better. Helps if there is a great soundtrack to it too.

If you are not DJing, producing in the studio or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

Come the weekend it’s pretty hard to get me out of the studio but if not, I like to go on long walks with my wife Sam and our dog Leo. I’m also a keen landscape photographer so I sometimes take the camera along too if the weather is good. Other than my music I find cooking a terrific way to relax too so that’s something I look forward to in the evenings. I like to eat out at nice restaurants, I love a good Malbec or a pint or two of nice cold Guiness.

What are some of your favourite TV series? Both all time and recently, what have you been enjoying lately?

I never miss MasterChef, which is always good fun, and sometimes I pick up some good tips for my own cooking too. I love a good zombie series and I’ve seen all of The Walking Dead. Another excellent series I’ve seen recently was The Last of Us which I thoroughly recommend. I thought Guy Richie’s The Gentlemen was a good watch too. And I’m currently really enjoying the series Fallout on Amazon Prime.

What does the remainder of 2024 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

I have lots of exciting projects on the go, and the demos are mounting up! As I mentioned at the start, another album I did in collaboration with Daniela Rhodes is due out September - we’re extremely excited about sharing this with the world. Hopefully I’ll be able to share release dates very soon, so keep an eye out!

I also have other EPs and remixes which are ready to go on other various labels too, just a matter of time…so, lots of music still to come from XSPANCE!

Big thanks to Progressive Astronaut for this interview and hope you like the album.

'Luminous' is available now via Cinematique: https://tinyurl.com/2smhrvhb

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