Let’s face it: genres come and go, but it’s a known fact that techno will never die. Indeed, it’s longstanding appeal only seems to increase with age, and like a fine wine it continues to evolve — and of course, win new fans at an impressive rate.
One man who’s been involved for some time now (in many different ways, as you’ll soon find out) is Hungarian producer Cosmic Xplorer. As you might imagine from his space-tinged alias, his is a techno aesthetic that’s decidedly forward-thinking in nature, encompassing a tough exterior that’s sure to be in vogue for a long time yet. And the man himself has been on a rich vein of form of late, just as anyone who takes even a quick listen to NLZ005 EP will tell you. Released via the NNULLZ label, the EP takes few prisoners and also comes with some fantastic remixes too. In this far-ranging interview, we touch on everything from computer crashes to producing aliases to his history in the Hungarian techno scene. Enjoy…
Connect with Cosmic Xpolorer on Soundcloud | Instagram
How are you, what’s good and bad in your world?
I am doing fine, thank you for asking. The good side of my world is that I do not feel limited in the studio anymore. I create whatever I want. It feels awesome! My production knowledge grows week by week and it is cool to see how I progress. The bad side of things is that I am surrounded by people, who dislike techno and electronic music in general.
What keeps you enthused, motivated, inspired? Has the pandemic impacted your positivity in some way?
My answer will probably sound very odd to you! My motivation is based on a vice-versa relation between contemporary art/architecture and music. When I see photos of for example Kyneton Flat Pack house featured in Grand Designs Australia TV show, I do not see a building that provides a home for a family, instead, I see the endless source of sound inspirations. When I visited the Guggenheim Museum in New York City or the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane Australia, I did not see visual art, but heard sounds in my mind. Sounds crazy, huhh? On the opposite side, when I designed my own apartment in Budapest, I could only do it while listening to techno. No techno, no inspiration. No inspiration, no techno.
A modern or contemporary place like basically any major city in Australia or New York City, therefore, was an endless course of inspiration for me and because of this I am kind of held back since I moved back to Budapest, Hungary. We got lots of uninspiring buildings from the socialist era and the eras before that.
Tell us some background about yourself and how you got to this point?
I discovered electronic music in 1995. I could find interesting tunes in almost all subgenres of electronic music back then. I liked techno, trance, hard house, acid jazz, downtempo. I even made a few Drum&Bass tracks back in 1999 and some of it got even got played on the radio. Some of my friends and I kind of became unofficial music curators at a local commercial radio station in Miskolc, Hungary. I still think of this era as a golden age of electronic music – at least for me. I played at parties and had some radio show invitations and I felt like what I did matter to other people as well. Later on, my music production PC crashed and I could not overcome this loss for almost 20 years! Also, at the beginning of the 2000’s I moved to Budapest to study and got distanced from producing music and also fell out of the party organizing circles. The love for the music stayed, but I was no longer involved in the scene.
In 2005 after finishing college, I started to work for a telco hardware vendor and started to travel a lot! I lived and worked in Australia, Africa, North-East Asia, North America till the end of 2010. When I returned to Hungary I knew I wanted to get involved in the music scene again in some way. I knew I did not want to produce music, since I was still under shock by the loss of my music production PC (that happened in the late 90’s). So I tried DJ-ing and had my own radio show called Late Night City Stories. But I had to realize by the end of 2012, that the music scene has changed. The focus shifted from quality music to the star DJ culture and I could not understand this change at all. Despite the successes I had in this period e.g. a gig invitation to play at the Rheingold Club Düsseldorf, I quit DJing.
As years passed I started to miss more and more all the excitement that comes with involvement in the party scene, so in 2015 I started to paint underground techno inspired non-figurative abstract paintings and created the alias of “One Man Techno Army”. OMTA was an audiovisual live performance, where underground techno met and melted with my hand created abstract art. I had shows in Italy, Portugal and the Czech Republic, but the project was not discovered by the electronic music scene so I stopped in 2018. In 2019 I changed strategy and started to learn modern electronic music production.
Can you tell us a bit about the alias? Why the need for an alias in the first place?
Victor Calderone, Chris Liebing, Joey Beltram or Oscar Mulero … all sound like artist names for me. As it turns out they are real names as well! I am from Eastern Europe and let’s confess, Eastern European names are harder to pronounce and to write and they do not sound attractive at all. With some exceptions like Stanislav Tolkachev, all EU based producers use aliases. My alias comes from the fact the I like to discover, explore things constantly and I also like astronomy very much and I am a big fan of the relaunched Cosmos TV series. Unfortunately, I do not have much time for this hobby nowadays.
>Can you also tell us a bit about your relationship with the NNULZ label — what’s the thinking behind it all?
>It is a short story. After my first release on the French label called Lune, to my biggest surprise, I was contacted by many small labels and NNULZ was the first one to offer me a concrete release slot in their release schedule. The funny thing is that I already had the label on my radar since a track from the label’s first release was played by Ben Klock at the virtual Exit Festival in 2020.
Do you have aims and dreams as a DJ and as a producer? Who would you love to produce alongside? And DJ alongside?
I am doing this because I love electronic music and I want to entertain the audience with the music I love. I have no dreams about playing or producing with some other artists alongside, I just want to make a living out of my passion starting a few years from now. I am a music oriented person, not a people-oriented one.
Do you consider yourself a DJ or producer first? Do you have a preference?
I consider myself an electronic music performer. What I do on stage is very different from other artists. Most of the artists play records on stage, some of them play live with their analog instruments. I have a hybrid approach. I play music as a normal DJ would do, but I change that music on the fly when performing live, by adding percussive, groovy and poly-rhythmic sounds. I prefer doing this instead of sitting all day in a dark studio. In this sense, I gravitate towards stage performances.
Can you tell us a bit about your thoughts on the Hungarian techno scene? What do you think it’s lacking? And how was it you became so obsessed with techno in the first place?
As funny as it sounds, I have only had been to two techno parties in Hungary! I remember visiting an Adam Beyer set in 2010 at Sziget Fesztivál and have been to a party at Merlin club also in 2011. To be really honest I was never a party goer. I only enjoy being at a party if I am involved in organizing it anyway. I need to be “on duty”, otherwise I don’t enjoy it. I followed the Hungarian techno scene through the Hyperspace mix CD series mostly. The first two are real badasses!
I listened to techno occasionally since 1997, because I really liked DJ Budai’s Techno-House Classics Of ’93-’96 mix CD, but the real obsession with techno started around 1999 when Chris Liebing’s Audio Compilation Vol.1 came to my radar. At that time I started to listen to the Hyperspace mix CD series and to some DJ sets recorded live from DJ Misjah, DJ T-1000, Sven Vath, Massimo
Also I collected some vinyls from Adam Beyer (Code Red series), Jeff Mills, Gayle San and some heavy-pounding tunes from Primate Recordings.
What’s the idea behind this new record? And can you tell us a bit about the remixers and how they ended up coming on board?
As “Cosmic Xplorer”, I start my interstellar journey in our Solar system or at least in close proximity to our Sun. In this EP, I visited the mysterious planetary moon Phobos. I started my journey by Calculating the path (Calculating Path) that necessary to reach the proximity of Mars. Then the time of the moon orbit (7 Hours and 39 Minutes) has to be considered as well in the calculation. As small accidents happen all the time, after landing on Phobos I got lost (Lost on Phobos).
The involvement of Dutch producer Immørtale was an idea of the label owner Synus 006 and I am happy he left his signature on the Lost of Phobos track. It takes the EP to a very different, fast-industrial direction. The Encoder remix (that was played by Rob Zile in the Brainfood radio show KissFM Australia) was a lucky accident!
I had problems figuring out the right balance between the beefy bassline and kick drum so I asked Synus 006 to help me to fix it. He advised me to get in touch with his musician friend Encoder. He did not just solve the problem but a few days later he told me he created also a remix of the track. I liked it so I asked Synus 006 to release it on the EP as well!
Cosmic Xplorer’s NLZ005 is out now via the NNULZ label. Buy/listen to the release here.
What gear did you use, did that matter?
I produce music at the moment “in the box”. I hear all sorts of myths and urban legends about the analog vs. digital and PC vs. Mac catfights. I am trying to keep myself away from this kind of battles and I focus on extending my creative and technical music production skills. When I feel limited in any way with my current setup, I will change it. In the end, all that matters: does it make you dance and feel good?
Did the pandemic affect the record at all? Would it sound different had there not been one?
No impact at all! I hear big producers and DJs whining about not making dancefloor-oriented music because all the dancefloors are closed. What? Are you making music for the dance floor and not for the people dancing on it? It makes no sense for me. People listen to music more at home and in cars than on the dancefloors. If somebody is into pounding techno grooves, then a pandemic or closed clubs are not going to change that!&
Maybe no focus on getting gigs, just on making music with no distractions, has been a tonic in some way?
My tonic is a vision that I wake up with and go to sleep with. In this vision, I do what I love to do most. I prepare for gigs, go to gigs and entertain the audience. I will do everything humanly possible to achieve this dream. Making music is a nice thing, an essential thing that might open some doors for an artist like me, but as I described earlier I like stage performances much better than sitting in my studio.
What else have you got coming up/are you working?
Yes! I have at least three more releases planned for this year and already started to work on them. I can already hear how my music evolves, so I hope the audience will also get a chance to listen to it.
Can you tell us three pieces of music or literature that have helped you over the past year?
I would rather not name any particular music here. Instead, I would name two of my mentors in music production and in mastering. Tom Hades is a guy who can explain complex things in a very simple way. I love how he makes music. Jonathan Wyner is a mastering engineer and talks about his craft in a very artistic way. I love to listen to both of their masterclasses and podcasts and they help me to overcome some blocking issues.