We caught up with Serbian-born, New York-based multidisciplinary artist X-Coast following his recent single release titled ‘Marathon Man’ on the esteemed Higher Ground label. We talk about his recent Australia tour, the inspiration behind Marathon Man, his affinity towards the Irish people and more.

X-Coast, a project by Bojan Cizmic, serves as a personified embodiment of ‘90s European rave culture. X-Coast is as much of a concept as it is a musical project. Ranging from self-directed videos, after-after parties at a Serbian flea market, 3-D internet art aesthetic to his immensely entertaining online persona. Not to mention a wealth of timeless, genre-weaving releases, there are few artists who can match Cizmic’s devotion to creating and following such a broad narrative and become immersed in this artistic venture.

According to him, X-Coast is an island and he serves as its human host. There have been multiple “sightings” of other hosts, like the clones that show up at his DJ sets or the “older version” of Cizmic, who appears in his “House It Up” video, adding a deeper sense to the lore of the overall X-Coast project. 

Once serving as a booker for Serbia’s EXIT Festival, Cizmic arrived in New York City back in 2013. As X-Coast, he’s a force to be reckoned with in the booth, having become a staple among NYC’s most lauded clubs like BASEMENT and Paragon. His formidable reputation led him to perform at internationally renowned parties and festivals like Igloofest, Printworks, INTERCELL, and so on. While accumulating enormous releases on Rinse, Steel City Dance Discs, Studio Barnhus, and more over the years. We talk through music, gigs, a range of artists he’s currently digging and more below.

Hi Bojan, thanks for taking the time to do this interview! I just saw that you’re relatively fresh off your most recent Australia tour. Pitch Festival in particular looked like a real highlight. How did you get on?

‘Pitch was pretty wild, with the government warning (due to extreme weather conditions) that was issued on its first day and the uncertainty that followed – it definitely created a heated atmosphere and made the people appreciate the program which they were able to experience even more. I was very lucky to have played my whole set unscratched at the scheduled time, not all of my colleagues were so fortunate. I’m still getting positive feedback from that night and it means a lot. The set was recorded, hopefully we’ll get it online asap. Also, the spontaneous appearance of some X-Clones and the local merch t-shirt collab produced with Tisha @byytisha made it even more special. It was a whole X-Tribe moment.’

X-Coast at Pitch Festival in Australia

Your new single ‘Marathon Man’ was released last week on the fantastic Higher Ground imprint. Would you like to share your thoughts on the singles release? 

‘I was inspired by a mix my friend recorded in 2003 at Paradiso club in Novi Sad, Serbia. At a certain point, he was mixing this beautiful melody in with percussion driven tribal Techno (basically what we call Hardgroove rn) and it struck me – I needed to write something similar to this and extend the classic loop by clashing the slow evolving theme and fast looped beats. The chords with added pitch bend are also on the edge of being off-key, and that’s where the magic is. The overall result is an optimistic feeling, as if we were preparing to take part at a big sports event, like the Olympics.. hence the name “Marathon Man”.’

Having been a keen X-Coast listener for many years now, ‘Marathon Man’ is fun, sleek and energetic. It strikes me as a production that possesses genuine flair that can be heard when listening, which to me, is the epitome of the true X-Coast sound. Are you content with how your sound has progressed over the years while still managing to achieve that flair that each track of yours possesses?

‘Hey, thanks for listening so closely! I’ve talked to different people throughout the years about what makes this X-Coast sound, and half the time I’m not even aware of the signature “flair” these productions have for the listener. I think, if I was to crack it, I might lose that touch and the magic will be lost. Lets say that only 30% of the tracks I write end up getting released, I try to think about the future and foresee looking back at these releases after 5, 10 years.. I’m here for the long run – it’s not a race, it’s a marathon hehe.’

Having spoken to you extensively before about the use of sampling in your productions, could you please enlighten us on the application of samples within your production process, especially in the case of any samples that may have been used in ‘Marathon Man’?

‘Yes, I do love my samples, but this being a follow up to the first “Bailando” single, on Higher Ground, and the state of popular electronic music at the moment which is very remix/bootleg oriented, I had a need to make a statement. There are no samples in Marathon Man! Sure, there’s some drum loops, drum samples and short vocal stabs, but the theme was written from scratch using VSTs and my old Korg R3.’

You have a long-standing history when it comes to playing in Ireland and seems like you’ve built somewhat of a cult following here over the years. Do you share this natural affinity with the Irish people? What are some of your favourite things about getting to come back here to perform time and time again?

‘Ah yes, I love coming back to Ireland, there’s definitely a connection. I feel like the crowd interprets what X-Coast is about in the right way and I have made a lot of friends here on and off the dancefloor. You also have a lot of extremely talented producers and DJs! There’s a legacy of festivals and club culture. I also appreciate the opportunity to build this relationship over time – I still remember my first show in Dublin at The Hangar, late 2017. I still have videos from that night.’

You’re playing at D8 In The Garden in August alongside a terrific lineup that also includes Armand Van Helden, Mall Grab, Derv and Becky. Are you looking forward to getting back to Ireland and playing at this relatively new festival setup?

‘This is one of my most anticipated shows of 2024. The line up is put together so well, it definitely has potential to be one of my favorite shows of the year. Somebody please restrain me from fanboying Armand like that last time at Index opening party.’ Tickets here.

Would you mind talking us through your gig in The Lab London a few months back when the attendees found themselves in a room full of X-Clones during your set? 

‘Where to even begin? That show was cursed, I mean the first time around when it was set to happen, I landed in London and got news that the AC system fell on someone’s head at Mixmag HQ (where the stream was set to happen) and we were forced to postpone. The next scheduled date my flight to London got cancelled and I couldn’t reroute, so we postponed again. Third time’s a charm! Thankfully, all the X-Clone bodies who previously signed up to volunteer through socials were ready for the third attempt and I can’t thank them enough. They were all there at the same time lined up in front of the Mixmag office and they came in dressed as instructed. I handed out X-Coast™ fedoras and we agreed for them to come in when they heard me play “Bailando”. This whole stunt is actually paying tribute to the “Real Slim Shady” moment by Eminem on MTV Music Awards 2000. After this, there was a sort of premiere of “Go Hard” featuring the legendary Jungle MC Det! Made the whole thing very eventful.’

Have you much planned for Riviera Records? Care to share any updates on the label front?

‘There’s plans for Riviera Records, but it’s taking its own pace. World domination was never the idea. The next release though is a 5 track compilation that spans from Memphis inspired rap to Techno, Trance & Rave. After that there’s an X-Coast ep..’

You’ve been based in Brooklyn for quite some time now, do you plan to stay there for the foreseeable future or have you considered moving somewhere else and if so, where?

‘Brooklyn feels like home now. I have just celebrated my 9th anniversary moving here. I wish I was spending more time in NYC – the touring schedule is pretty busy these days so I technically live on the road most of the year.’

Name some DJs and producers that you’re currently digging at the moment.

‘DJ Pacifier, Raw Unkut, Cult, Lewis Taylor, Lil Na$$ty, Peace Division’

Are there any Irish artists you’d like to collaborate with who you’ve yet to work with?

‘Playing with Dylan Fogarty for the first time June 8th in Berlin. That’s gonna be exciting.’

Do you have much planned for the rest of the year in the form of releases? Additionally, are there any stand-out club shows or festivals that you’re looking forward to playing this summer? 

‘This is definitely a remix year – just put out an X-Coast remix of a Trance Wax track on Armada, there’s a K on my D+C Remix coming up that you might’ve heard in my sets, a remix for Shygirl that I just wrapped up, a remix for DJ Gigola in production and some more original music by the end of the year..’

Is there anything you’d like to highlight to the readers before you sign off?

‘Somewhere in the deep blue Caribbean Sea, between your imagination and what’s real, lies an island – X-Coast’

You can keep up to date with all things X-Coast here.

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