Name: Xenia Xamanek
Occupations: Composer, producer, music platform/community radio station founder at UUMPHFF
Nationality: Honduran/Danish
Current Release: Xenia Xamanek's DELIRIO REAL is out via UUMPHFF.
Recommendations: My two favorite albums at the moment: Paul Marmota - Zona II; Rosa la maldosa - Rosa pistola

If you enjoyed this interview with Xenia Xamanek and would like to stay up to date on their music and creative activities, visit them on Instagram, bandcamp, and Soundcloud.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started composing music when I was around 16/17 and producing when I was around 18. My early influences in music as a young teen were both my dad’s CD collection with latinamerican music my moms Björk CD, the music section at the local library in Denmark and my ipod where I put everything I rented from the library.

I was a curious kid and I wanted to hear everything. I had music in all different genres and I always just listened on shuffle without really knowing what it was I was listening to. Music seemed to be an endless universe. It could sound and feel so different and I kept on getting surprised. It was pure excitement for sound and music, and I wanted to be part of that universe and create my own worlds there. It was a place where I could feel connected, at home and be me.

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

I always wanted to do things my own way … and I always wanted to explore the very edges of everything. I never liked to emulate that much and I'm bad at recipes, literally. Also in cooking. I always like to learn new things and I sometimes skim tutorials or “recipes” to learn techniques, but don’t stick too much to the tutorial.

My transition is a never ending development of learning, doing, failing, questioning and understanding myself and my surroundings, and how it all constantly changes.

One essential thing about my own voice is that it changes. I think the transition is the essence and it has no end goal.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

I think it's forever intertwined. I create from myself. What I express is very directly connected to who I am and what I experience.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

Music schooling and institutions have been a challenge. Being in music schools since I was a teen, I got a lot of information into my head that I found a little wrong or misleading. I've studied music in Denmark and it’s very eurocentric and male dominated and white. So navigating in that and wanting to do things differently and being very alone in this, has been a challenge.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

I started out playing saxophone. I thought I was gonna be a professional saxophonist. But very quickly I found out that I wanted to create with a much wider palette. So I found out that I could use pedals and electronics with my saxophone and started to compose for other instruments too and made noise and some weird performance pieces with video and dancers and eggs and stuff.

Later on I found out about softwares and got ableton and that changed a lot for my way of creating. It was a place that seemed to have no limits. It was easy to listen back immediately to my ideas which made it so intuitive when I got to know the software better.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

Working with Max/msp and coding made me think about how much the interface is shaping your ways of thinking and creating.

In max you have to build everything yourself from building blocks. I was intrigued by this freedom and independence that coding could give. It made me think in another way and imagine more. My ideas and what I was creating changed for a period.

But then again, with max there’s a very long way from the idea to actually being able to execute it. It takes so long to learn and is not very intuitive, especially when you are a beginner. That made me question coding music, and how it is limited in another way. How everything is an interface and will color. The people I know who make music in max or by hardcore programming also sound kind of the same. So I got tired of this way of thinking and creating. But it gave me the ability to imagine without being stopped by the thought of “it is impossible”, because it is probably possible to code it.

Now I'm dedicated to getting to know Ableton better, so I can move as freely as possible in that software. And I play sax again and more guitar and sing. I guess it’s a longing to communicate very directly. Like singing from the heart.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

I love jamming with others. It’s so giving in so many ways. and I love collaborations. Because it’s so beautiful connecting souls like that, and seeing the outcome that no one could do without the other. But I think it only really works out when it's same frequency spirits. have to be able to tune into each other at least.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

I try to do routines sometimes, but I think it's difficult. Every day is kind of different and I would say everything blends together. I don't have many things in my life that are very fixed so I have to build my own structures and often unexpected things come up, and you play a show on a tuesday night or help out with something thursday or go to the studio with someone or whatever. It’s all very fluid and most of the time it suits me very well that it's like that.

However I have some things that I usually do. The past year I have been spending a lot of time and energy on starting UUMPHFF - a music platform, label and now also a community radio based in Copenhagen. On Mondays we have our weekly meeting with the platform. Then I usually start the days working on admin stuff from home or our UUMPHFF office. I work on my music and ideas when I feel like it and when I have time.

I don't have a studio at the moment so I just do it from home or the office. I go for walks and play guitar covers when I need breaks and spend time with friends. I listen to music all the time and I also spend time with my cat.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

DELIRIO REAL which is my just released album. I think this marks so many things both on a personal and an artistic level. I had some realizations. It is a very personal album. It feels like with this I manage to speak from my heart more directly than I have been able to do before.

I started working on it around the beginning of the pandemic. A motivation was that I was so much in my feelings, - many experiences in my life had accumulated inside of me and I needed an outlet. For me music is the best outlet. So then some music came out from what felt like a delirious place of emotion explosions. This place was some kind of other reality to me. Often music is.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

I don’t have strategies and I don't know what's the ideal. It depends so much on who you are on how you work.

For me, I like to have my own space. To close a door or make a bubble around me and tap into myself, together with music, books, my computer, my phone ... Opening 50 tabs on my laptop of different things I think about and want to learn about or look at, listen to. It's my own little chaos that I love to be in.

I also like travelling - being in a train, a car, a plane or walking always makes my mind flow and opens my senses. And again I love jamming, and jamming with others.

But I don't see it as strategies or ideal states of mind, it’s just states I like to be in.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

I think one of the main reasons I make music is because it’s healing. It helps me to deal with my emotions and my experiences. It’s an outlet to let things go when it gets too intense inside of the body.

For me healing sounds are not limited to one type of frequencies or material, it can be anything. It’s how it’s played, how it’s presented and how it resonates with you. The most “hurting” or “uncomfortable” sounds can sometimes be the most healing for me, if it hits into some intense emotion that I have. Then it can help to place that emotion or energy somewhere outside of myself, and I think that is healing. Like screaming. It’s more about making space for what's there, accepting it, connecting with surroundings and frequencies and letting go.

Sharing music and listening together, playing together, and concerts are important. The healing of music can be even more powerful together. Then you feel that you are not alone with the emotions :’).

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

I think it is important as an artist to always be aware of how you might be appropriating other cultures and check yourself, your privileges and your position.

For me it's so much about respect. Respecting people and knowledge and history and understanding that not everything is for you to take and use, which is something many western and white people think. How using things from cultures that are not your own might contribute to upholding a power distribution where the dominant people benefit from exploiting and erasing other cultures.

It is indeed a fine line and complex. I also think cultural exchange is something that makes things evolve and creates new exciting music, art etc. I guess If you are aware of your position and you learn about the culture you are inspired from and if you are respectful, then it will make sense what you do with that knowledge that you gained from that other culture. How you can make it something of exchange and something new, or if you should just not.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?

I've been into asmr a lot. I found it so interesting how the body reacts autonomously to specific sounds and images. this bodily reaction that comes before the brain knows anything. It's such a realistic simulation of actual touch just by stimulating eyes and ears simultaneously in a specific way. Some music does that too. but somehow more related to emotion and not just the actual simulation of touch.

It’s like magic how senses work together. I find it beautiful how the senses can communicate so directly and beyond/before language and thought.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

Art is always political. What I express will talk into a specific political context because of who I am, my identity and DNA, but also because art always expresses a state of mind and a position in the world. I reflect a lot on what position my art is taking in the world in relation to who I am, what it says and what it means in different contexts.
A theme that keeps coming back in my own work is coexistent contrasts, fluidity, ambiguity. Which for instance could be related to me being a mixed-race and non-binary person. By expressing myself, I also somehow make more space for and put focus on the things that I represent; - fluidity, not binary, difficult to box in specific categories and genres. Something I think is important to hold space for.

Sometimes my approach has been more directly commenting on something that is going on in the world. I did a piece once that was a comment on the coup d'etat in Honduras in 2009. I had so much anger in me. I also felt so much frustration for my dad, who was fighting for changing things in Honduras as a student and got into serious danger because of it. It made me so angry and sad to see how everything got thrown back to where it was before everything they were fighting for in that time, and how hope for change for the country was fading. I think I was trying to express that anger and channel that through that piece. I wanted people to feel the frustration and to engage with it, to care.

For me art is much about communication, connection and world building. It can be a way to make us perceive things differently, to question and to imagine new things. It can make us open our senses and emotions and feel things differently and open up for other ways of being and existing.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

Everything and all the things that words cannot.