DHXP makes complex, genre-hopping music – six minute operas with every one a journey. I spoke to Duri, the man behind DHXP, about his newly released album, Solitary.
I watched and listened over the past several months as Duri worked on this album – he was pretty open with the IMF community throughout his process of developing each track, going back to add and subtract elements, and ultimately mix and master them. And I saw (we all did) Duri’s frustration at various points in the process, which I can certainly relate to.
The material on Solitary is personal, and the album is a journey – alternating between quieter moments, poppy electro bop, and hull-bending distorted walls of sound.
As I wrote this piece, I went back and listened to both the final and several older versions of many of the tracks on the album. The clear audible refinement over multiple cycles from rough demos to finished is a document of the journey of the album. The raw ideas are there in the earliest versions, but the amount of effort expended in developing these ideas to make them really land is evident.
I actually made a remix of Hurricane at Duri’s invitation, which will be on an album of remixes to be released soon. That made me want to talk to Duri about the process of making this album and what it meant for him. We spoke a few weeks ago. Our condensed interview is below.
So, how did this album come to be?
I had some songs already done. I don’t know exactly when I made the decision to turn them into an album, but I realized that the songs I had were more about myself and what I wanted to do. I realized that I was really thinking a lot about who I am and who I want to be.
I’m really happy with the finished album, and the songs on it. I had a lot of fun writing them. I tried to go deep in blending genres, which was a lot of fun for me. I really wanted to hear songs like these, so I made them.
Hurricane was probably the first track I wrote on the album, and I was a bit worried about it. I thought that the genre changes might be too abrupt. But when I shared it, I found out that other people were really responding to those shifts and surprises. That encouraged me to push even further in that track and others.
What did you learn?
The songs are all about my state of mind when I made them. I was really thinking about what I was doing, and what I wanted to be, and all these songs are different parts of my self-exploration. I actually learned some things about myself and my wants, but the biggest thing I took from the process is learning to be more OK with who I am and where I am.
For instance, I was working on Hurricane, which is about love, and how it hasn’t really worked out for me. And I realized is that it’s alright when things don’t go as I imagine they should, and maybe that love doesn’t have to be all bees and butterflies.
You don’t have to be your Facebook profile – it’s OK to be human.
What about the music itself – what were you trying to accomplish?
I settled into a style for these tracks where they start in a more mellow place, then go somewhere crazy, and come back to where they started. I did a similar thing in Hurricane, Thunder, Things that I Miss, and In the Palm of Your Hand.
That’s like a jazz structure. Start with the head, then go on a journey before coming back home. Do you listen to jazz? What music were you listening to as you made the album?
I really try to expose myself to lots of different musical genres. I never really had to even try to do this – I just always found myself really enjoying lots of things I heard. During this album, I really went back into Limp Bizkit and other rock/metal and nu metal. But I also listened to a lot of J-pop and other pop music, and I think all these ideas filtered into the final album in some way.
I would say that some of my biggest influences in terms of blending and bending genres are Knower (electro/funk), K.Flay (rap/pop), Jazmin Bean (pop/metal), BABYMETAL (kawaii/metal) Poppy (pop/metal), K/DA (pop/trap), Mija (electro and other stuff), and SOPHIE (electro and other stuff).
Other than Hurricane, what tracks really stand out for you?
In the Palm of Your Hand is another favorite of mine. It was the peak of my experimentation on this album. It’s almost seven minutes long, and a lot of people told me that maybe I should split it into two or three separate songs, but I really like the structure, and kept it as one. The journey is more complex than on some of the other tracks- at the end of the song, instead of coming back to the start, it ends up in a different place, where some of the heavier elements from the middle sections end up getting incorporated into the more mellow feel of the intro.
What was the biggest challenge you had to deal with as you made the album?
It started feeling challenging as I started mixing, but the cyclical process of mixing and remixing, and mastering and remastering really took a while. I really heard the difference each time I went back to a track and gave it more attention. It was hard for me to finish that process – to call each song ‘done’ and move on – because I saw that my skills were improving, and the material might just keep getting better for much longer if I kept working on it.
During that time, I knew I was happy with the material, and totally OK with the imperfections I knew were in it. I’m really glad about finishing the project now, but a couple months ago, that idea of finishing really freaked me out. I know that I could still put more work into it, but I eventually, I had to let it go so I could move on. I actually had to set a deadline to force myself to that point – I was going to visit my family for Christmas, and I just told myself that I needed to be done before I left.
I find that some of the music I like the best is often obviously flawed. Sometimes that actually adds to the experience for me.
Sometimes the flaws make the music more unique – more human.
My cousin gave me some great advice. He asked me if I thought that people would not like the song because of the flaws I was hearing, and whether by fixing them, more people would like it. And I realized, probably not. Because I like a lot of things that are a bit raw and also flawed, and I think most people who would listen to my stuff would not focus so much on the problems, but more on the things that make it special.
You’re also releasing an album of remixes of tracks on the album?
I invited a lot of people to remix tracks on the album because I like lots of styles, and I like the styles of lots of IMF producers.
It feels like a present when I hear a remix of one of my songs. Every time, I was genuinely happy that someone made the effort to remix one of my songs.
The remixes helped me see that some of the ideas in my songs worked really well in totally different and also great songs. Especially hearing lots of the vocals backed with totally new styles of music was really fun and exciting for me.
I really enjoyed remixing Hurricane – it was a challenging track to remix and reinterpret, and I really appreciated how much effort you put into your own creative process. Did you mean to make your job so hard?
I was really pushing the boundaries further with each new track I made in 2020. With each one, I pushed a little further.
Now, I’m playing with some basic pop tracks, and it feels so easy to me in comparison. I can make tracks really quickly, and they’re good. I’m working a lot with Flora Lin, and we’re thinking about maybe making an EP or an album. And the thing that’s different this time is that I’m trying to build around a theme., and that’s making it feel a lot easier to make creative decisions.
You collaborated with a lot of people on Solitary. How was that?
Neon M, Flora Lin, Porkboii and Tone Deaf Jeff all helped out with vocals on different songs. Soran Leif worked with me on Addiction. I worked with all of them because they were people that I just got along with on the Discord, and we just gravitated towards each other. All the collaborators were awesome, and really brought new dimensions to everything. The material I got from all of them was just great.
Flora and I are continuing to work together more deeply because the workflow between us has just been really effortless. It’s always surprising to me how good her style meshes with my music, and how effortless it is to make my music better when she’s part of it.
What do you really want people to know about this album?
There are no rules. As long as it sounds good to you, you should do it. There will always be people who don’t like my music. For my songs, I was worried that people might like one part, but be turned off by another. What I found is people telling me, over and over, that they learned to appreciate things in my music that they didn’t think they did – like “I don’t like metal, but I like DHXP kind of metal.” This is one of my favorite things.