Today we had the privilege to interview the one and only French rawstyle super-star Valentin Troha, aka X-Pander. He gives Hardstyle an amazing French, but also mystical touch and even though he started things slowly, he is the only French artist that has made it to the top. A couple of years ago, he has signed with the Legendary Scantraxx Label, which has been home to the most talented artists like Headhunterz, Wildstylez, Noisecontrollers, Brennan Heart, The Prophet and many more.
First of all, thank you for taking part in this interview Valentin! It’s a real pleasure to have a French artist at Hardstyle Mag! How are you doing?
Thanks for the opportunity. I’m doing good, this has been a very productive weekend in the studio!
Before we head into details about your music and your career as X-Pander, can you tell us how it all started? How did you come up to listen to Hardstyle as it’s not yet a very popular music genre in France?
I discovered Hardstyle around 2006 with a friend. Then in 2007, we decided to start playing with Fruity Loops. Almost 10 years later, things have become bit more serious.. :p
Regarding the X-Pander project, the name came after the aftermovie of In Qontrol 2007 “sound expander”.
What was the the X-factor that pushed you to start producing Hardstyle?
I never dreamt to be a DJ. I love music, and what is more beautiful than being able to express yourself through it? But it has always been step by step process. Started for fun, then you learn some tricks, you create your “producers network” and learn even more, etc.
Everybody has a favorite artist that somehow got you addicted to Hardstyle. What is your favorite artist in the scene ?
I cannot drop you only one name. Lot of artists gave me the taste to Hardstyle. At the time I discovered Hardstyle, it was mainly Italian and Dutch artists.
For the people that haven’t yet listened to your music, first of all shame on them, but how would you describe your style as you are mainly producing rawstyle, what are the secret ingredients that make people feel like ‘Ah yeah that’s X-Pander signature, I can feel the vibe!’ ?
I tried to fight as long as possible against the word “rawstyle” since I don’t like the concept to put music in boxes, that’s really stupid. My main focus when creating a track is setting up a strong atmosphere, then comes the rest. I really like horror themes and that’s what you can mainly find in my recent music. I try to not stick to it too much to annoy people, but can’t help it, I love dark atmospheres. I don’t have any secret ingredient but I have a tip to any producer: don’t listen only to Hardstyle. Indeed, you can find inspiration, ideas, techniques by listening (or even producing) other styles of music.
X-Pander - The Orwellian Nightmare
You have moved to the Netherlands last year if I recall correctly. What pushed you to go to Holland as your hometown Nancy (France) is only at 4 hours from there?
Indeed, my hometown isn’t that far from The Netherlands, so I don’t feel so far away, this really helps. I moved to be closer to bookings/meetings, being more part of the scene in every aspect.
I have 0 regrets, living in The Netherlands is AMAZING!
As I am also French, how did you cope with Dutch? German is hard but I think that Dutch is the ultimate hardcore level for a French isn’t it?
I struggle a lot with dutch. Trying to learn, but it’s not an easy process. Luckily most of Dutch citizen speak fluently english.
Now to get back on your music, I have selected a few tracks that you have recently released. ‘Rampage’ , ‘The Orwellian Nightmare’ and a track I found while looking at all the tracks you have made so far, ‘The Ancient Empire’ that you had release last year with Digital Mindz. These three tracks have each a very unique atmosphere as ‘Rampage’ is rather an aggressive track, with heavy kicks while ‘The Orwellian Nightmare’ is a bit darker and less ‘brutal’ than ‘Rampage’. What inspired you for these two?
For both tracks, inspiration came from the vocals. I got the samples then I started building an atmosphere around it, which leaded into the tracks you know.
X-Pander - Rampage
And what inspired you for ‘The Ancient Empire’? When I listen to this track I feel like being drawn back to the Egyptian Time, with Pyramids, Pharaohs and all their mystical gods overwhelming the place.. It’s pretty impressive to be able to create such mind blowing atmosphere!
Thank you! Well, we wanted to create a track on Egypt theme, because no one did it before (if I am not mistaking). I had the break part ready, Oskar (Digital Mindz) found this amazing singing sample which was perfectly fitting. Then after we had the break part ready, we worked on the “Hardstyle” part. That’s mainly how I work. First I create atmosphere/break part, and then it transforms into Hardstyle.
X-PANDER & DIGITAL MINDZ - ANCIENT EMPIRE
As I mentioned it earlier, you are signed at one of the most legendary and notorious label of the Hardstyle scene. How did you did you get to the top?
It all came step by step. At first you’re local DJ, happy to perform in local clubs. Then you send your tracks to bigger DJs who start supporting you on smaller festivals, then bigger festivals. Then you start performing yourself at those festivals. I had the chance to get early support from E-Force since 2011 and from this day, he kept playing my tracks. I had then the opportunity to make a track with him in 2013, Liberty, which was featured on Unleashed Once Again album. I got then in touch with Scantraxx who offered me to join A2 Records.
France is not the biggest fan of Hardstyle in the world, but there are more and more people listening to Hardstyle and going to festival that are actually French. Do you think that in future, France will also host big Hardstyle events & festivals like in the Netherlands & Belgium?
Hardstyle is x-panding worldwide, which is a really good thing. There are 2 main problems with the organization of big events in France. Firstly, the authorities are not really welcoming this kind of music. Second is: France is big. The French Hardstyle community is spread, so people from the south will prefer saving money to go to an event in The Netherlands than going to an event in Paris.
Any idea where in France it would be possible to host such events?
Well, I would say either Paris, Lyon, Marseille or somewhere in the North-East.
Talking about events, I have seen that you took part in many major festivals so far like Master of Hardcore, Syndicate, Ground Zero Festival, Dominator, Defqon.1 and so on! That’s pretty impressive! What is your favorite Festival?
By Far Dominator. I love the atmosphere on the festival. I had the chance to play there 2 times, and it was amazing.
A few weeks ago Techno Parade was taking place again in the centre of Paris. I’m pretty sure that as a French, it’s really something to play in front of so many French fans!
I got to play there last year. This was the best experience I ever had as a DJ. I posted a video on facebook, the crowd reaction was simply out of this world.
Everybody in Europe makes clichés about the French and their unconditional love for ‘Baguette’… I know it’s pretty frustrating as the French are way more than just baguettes addicts… Can give us a few tips for the non-French readers to live as a true French patriot?
Bread is indeed part of our daily life. I realized it more than ever when moving to Holland. Where can I get a decent baguette in this country?? If you’re French baker and want to become successful, move to The Netherlands haha.
I’m not sure if I have any tip to live as a true French patriot. During the last 3 year I lived in 3 different countries, so I see myself as European citizen rather than French patriot.
Alright, thank you for your precious time Valentin, it was again a real pleasure to have you today at the Mag! The whole Hardstyle Mag Crew wishes you the best in your career! Merci beaucoup!
Thanks for the opportunity! A bientôt!