XXXChange's new Win Win situation
DJ Epton brings along traveling video performance art.
It is time to celebrate the work of producer/DJ Alex Epton. Better known as XXXChange, Epton has done racy bracing remixes for alterna-heroes Bjork and Thom Yorke to great acclaim, as well as produce Kid Sister and his buds in Australia's disco-punk sensation The Death Set.
More famously, the young Baltimore expatriate did time in Philadelphia as the music-making half of Spank Rock, the rude electronic rap outfit he shared with his buddy MC Naeem Juwan. It's hard to believe it has been five years since XXXChange and Juwan released the naughty YoYoYoYoYo, a modern classic of nasty party rap that stands on its own in comparison to filthy funk giants Millie Jackson or Dolemite. Sadly, while the world breathlessly awaited YoYoYoYoYo's follow-up, XXXChange and Juwan split apart.
"Contractually we're separated although we do still work together from time to time," XXXChange says. "I only have one or two songs on his new record. But he's been doing a bunch of stuff for Win Win." That's the name of XXXChange's new ensemble featuring yet another old buddy from Baltimore, Chris Devlin, and their video collagist pal Ghostdad. On its just-released eponymous debut CD, Win Win joins forces with Juwan, Andrew WK, Lizzie Bougatsos of Gang Gang Dance, and Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor for a dazzling brand of escapist electro-hop.
"I've actually known Chris for longer than I've been friends with Naeem," XXXChange says. "We grew up on the same street in Baltimore."
Since Devlin and Epton have made a series of well-regarded mix tapes (Voila!, Couche Tard, Spank Rock Fabriclive.33) Win Win was a piece of cake to record. "We're all three pretty decent at music making, though I usually do have to finish everything." XXXChange includes Ghostdad in on the duo's rave disco recording process. Devlin and the DJ usually take a crack behind the camera for a visual element that XXXChange claims is a crucial part of Win Win's live environment. "We're doing a kind of traveling performance-art thing with the video. Each night we install it differently, depending on the venue, and Ghostdad cuts up video stuff live using a computer program that he wrote."
With Spank Rock behind him (Juwan is currently doing his own Euro-disco thing as Mobroder while finishing the next Spank record), XXXChange is up for the challenge of making weird, smooth electronic music with vocalists like Taylor, and pushing the boundaries of the present tense. "Now that the album is out and we're playing live, I feel like the music has taken on its own identity that's greater than just the three of us. It took this long for me to kind of see what it is and what people like about it. Win Win's a new name and a new hope for the future really."