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Interview: Naxxos on evolving with the genre and hearing loss in the music industry


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Chris and Max, the Austrian electro duo also known as Naxxos, are often attributed with the grandiose merit of being the pioneers of the Tropical House sub-genre.

Together with the likes of Klingande and Kygo, the couple is up there in the list of music-makers you should be listening to when it comes to chill, mellow electro-pop and deep-house. However, after their 2013 ground-breaking debut New Orleans, they felt they were stuck in the system of the music they were making.

They say their goal used to be to make uplifting, chill music, taking the essentials of deep house, and then going a bit wilder on the melodic side by adding a ‘real’ instrument such as a saxophone, etc. “I think we’re still big on the chill point, but now both our compositions and lyrics are maturing,” explains Max. “Now we’ve made it our most important rule to always evolve. This way we have no boundaries limiting us from expressing ourselves musically,” adds Chris.

Since experimenting with various genres, the duo have now locked in their trademark, genre-splitting sound with which they’ve crafted their fresh EP Animal.

“Sometimes we even watch movies just for the score. It’s not just about what you like but also to kinda analyse what sounds good to the ears and why,” explains Max, when I ask him what inspires them or what guides their music making. Chris adds: “As an active musician you have to have an open ear to everything around you. Even though we represent a certain type of genre, you should constantly draw your inspiration from music outside that genre. I guess thats how music becomes kind of unique.”

Although they’re excelling at it – for Max more than for Chris probably - the duo resort to music mainly to vent their creativity and find a bit of an escape from hectic times. What better way to do so than within their laid-back tunes?

In fact, the student-doctor Max says making music could be seen as a way of auto therapy for him. Indeed, with his interest in medicine, he realizes that music therapy is generally very efficient, and also quite popular in Austria. “I wish I were more proficient, but for now I’m just really glad lots of patients can profit from music therapy. We even got a labor law for music therapists which is quite progressive,” he explains professionally.

However, music isn’t always only good for our health. Drawing on his experience as a student doctor, Max comments on the condition of Tinnitus - hearing sounds that come from inside your body, rather than from an outside source - in the wake of national Tinnitus week.

Many people, especially musicians and club goers are particularily afraid of tinnitus, yet not every ear noise necessarily comes down to tinnitus (perpetuating that fear by using a word that often is not the correct diagnosis doesn’t really help, in his opinion).

Regardless the vocabulary used, within music, tinnitus is omnipresent. Max says several of his colleagues have experienced it, and he himself has had a case of it. “I grew up in a country where you can start going out at age 16, maybe even earlier, and there’s no real law on how loud a system can go in a club. So clearly, I didn’t always use the disposable earplugs everytime I went clubbing, and one night it was just too loud for a too long time. I couldn’t hear properly for a few days and after that I had a persistent ringing in my ear that stopped me from sleeping.”

He refers to a study he’s recently read, stating that many professional musicians have already experienced hearing loss, ear pain or tinnitus during their career and yet only a small percentage use hearing protection. “I bought proper hearing protection when I started making music and I think it’s an investment everyone should consider. While music can be the cause of a persistent noise in your ear it can absolutely help you to get rid of it. I used to listen to music when falling asleep to overlay the ringing, which I only heard in silent situations. Other colleagues told me similar stories, but they listened to white noise or ocean waves. I’m quite happy I got off the hook, being able to fade out my ear noise almost completely. For others music therapy could be an excellent option, much like in Baby Driver.”

Chris stands by the same principles too. As a sound engineer he’s always been rather cautious when it comes to loud clubs or concert venues. But that wasn’t the case until he actually started studying and heard a pretty disturbing story from one of his tutors. “After more than 20 years in the business, working at venues, playing gigs and especially going to clubs without any proper ear protection, he was diagnosed with tinnitus and has been living with it ever since,” he explains.

He concludes, “The point is, even people in the industry underestimate the dangers of loudness. As Max already mentioned, proper ear plugs might cost up to a few hundred dollars, but everyone should consider buying a pair.”

Learn more about Tinnitus here, or listen to Naxxos' Animal EP OUT NOW on Le Sofa.

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