Exclusive interview with legendary producer behind Riddim Travelers, ALEXX ANTAEUS

An industry legend with a heart and mind grounded in the true essence of life which is freedom of expression. Alexx Antaeus is a music producer and restaurateur based in Kingston, Jamaica, and New York City. As a voting member of NARAS (the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences), the governing body for the GRAMMY® Awards, Antaeus is highly experienced and maintains an avid sense of what’s current and important in music and pop culture. Antaeus has been producing and DJing since the 80s, with a roster of talent from The Rolling Stones, Earth, Wind & Fire to his solo work in chill EDM, Alexx Antaeus posses the authority on hit-making music.

His latest work is with the multi-genre infused island dancehall group Riddim Travelers and their new single “Rewind”. Featured on the track is Atlanta based R&B singer Cherae Leri and Jamaican rapper Dutchess Charm. With the sexy and confident vocals of Dutchess and Cherae over the expertise of Alexx Antaeus’ production, “Rewind” prevails. OneEDM had the pleasure to speak with the Monom Records owner to discuss his impressive career and plans for the future.

OneEDM: Your music productions span a wide and vast sea of multiple genres and accomplishments. From the worldly music of “Byzantine Meditation” to this current Riddim Travelers project “Rewind” with Dutchess & Cherae. Would you say your experience and endeavors in music has developed your knowledge and intuition into almost wisdom in everything pertaining to the music industry?

Alexx Antaeus: I’ve been in the industry long enough to have worn many hats. In terms of composing and producing, music is a beast that cannot be controlled. Sometimes I sit down to write a chill EDM track, in the veins of “Byzantine Meditation,” and I end up with a dancehall track, and vice versa. The focus right now is to complete the Riddim Travelers album, featuring various Jamaican and American artists, over trap, tropical house, dancehall, and dance tracks. Once that’s out, sometime before summer 2019, I will be concentrating on a new Antaeus album, mainly chill EDM instrumentals.

Riddim Travelers discography contain rhythms that take the listener around the world. What is the benefit of exposing other cultural sounds to the masses? Can fusing multiple sounds almost hint to the people that unity is by far the most important message to not just the musical community but humanity?

Music has no boundaries. Music unites, does not divide, as some politicians seem to do these days. Influences of Africa and the Caribbean, as well as Asia and the Levant, can be heard in all genres of music, especially in pop and dance music. Music is life; it’s the glue that does not let humanity disintegrate.

Please tell us how the collaboration and writing process of Riddim Travelers ft Dutchess & Cherae’s “Rewind” came to be?

Cherae Leri is a great Atlanta-based R&B singer. We met in at my New York studio, and what was meant to be a brief meeting, developed into our first recording session together. Dutchess Charm is a multitalented young Jamaican singjay. She’s full of energy and would rap and dance for hours. I recorded Dutchess at my studio in Kingston, Jamaica. Dutchess and Cherae came up with the lyrics for their parts. I wrote the music. The most fun was having both ladies in Kingston for the filming of the video. We were able to secure a permit to shoot at the old Kingston Railroad Station, which is now closed.

How has the role of the producer changed since back in the 1980s till now? Do you see a growth in what producers do and release or a change that is significant?

Wow! That’s a serious question that could be the subject of a book or at least a major study. I started as a DJ/remixer in the late ‘80s. Most of my productions are in the ‘90s and beyond. The producer of the earlier days was more like what the director is in the movies. A producer had to deal with studio choices, MIDI programmers, artists, recording, mixing and mastering engineers, to name but a few. In our days, because of advances in technology, as well as how the music industry operates in relation to the Internet, most producers have become synonymous to many of the above.

The music industry and entertainment industry has gotten to be very ego driven, especially with social media and its essence of not just connecting to people but displaying what you want about yourself. This type of practice in the industry can get distracting and the music can almost be compromised. Who are some talented artists today that stand out to you and really keep the heart of the art alive?

In the dance/EDM genre, Armin van Buuren and David Morales, to name a couple. In hip-hop, Jay-Z, Swizz Beatz, and Kendrick Lamar keep it real. In Reggae and dancehall, Chronixx, Chris Martin and Damian Marley. It is really difficult and unfortunate to separate social media exposure/marketing from an artist’s/producer’s success. It’s disturbing to see untalented people succeed because of great marketing. It pains me, as a DJ who worked hard to entertain people on the dancefloor using three Technics 1200s and a mixer, to see a DJ spend the entire night waving their hands up in the air while mixing of songs and various filtered effects take place via some form of magic. [laughs]

You were kind enough to take the time to do this interview during the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays, and we so appreciate that. Being in the hospitality business, you see a side of the holidays that most people taking time off from work do not see! What’s your mindset for the holidays?

I have been in the bar and club business as a DJ and owner for as long as I can remember! For me, the holidays are always about providing the best entertainment to our patrons. Their joy is our goal.

How do you keep yourself grounded and focused on what truly matters to Alexx when the business can be a tough one?

Simple. I constantly count my blessings, I ignore the naysayers and, to quote my friend, the Olympic champion Usain Bolt, “I don’t think limits.”

What are three things you are grateful for in your life in Jamaica and three things you grateful for in your life in New York?

“Ronin” is a Japanese idiomatic expression for someone who is without a home, a form of a foreigner in a strange land. I was born in Greece, lived most of my adult life in the U.S., and now I spend a large amount of time in Jamaica. I am not even sure where home is, anymore. But, Jamaica and Jamaicans have made me feel welcome. The Jamaican national motto is, “Out of many, one people.” So, I am grateful for that and for what I call “eternal summer,” even though Jamaicans tend to think that they have four seasons. [laughs] I also feel a sense of freedom in Jamaica that I don’t feel anywhere else. Contrary to what people think, Jamaica is a lot safer than many other places around the world. In New York, I love the sense that I am in the center of the known world. In the center of business and entertainment. I also appreciate the fact that I can get lost in the crowds, as opposed to Jamaica, where just about anyone, especially in Kingston, recognizes me.

You, have such a beautiful blessed life, whom do you really have to thank that assisted in you arriving where you are in life now and where you’re headed?

Without a doubt, I owe a lot to my best friend, Dr. Geoffrey Richstone. He’s always had my back. Mom has also been instrumental in my life. In the music industry, people who have contributed to my success are Michael Becker, David Jurman and Steve Bartels in the U.S. and Easy Coutiel, Andrew and Pete Giatrakos, and Harry Papadopoulos in Europe. Where am I headed? Simply doing what I love and striving for my actions to positively affect the lives of others.

At Reggae Mill Bar in Kingston, the popular dance club has “Throwback Saturdays”. Playing the best of the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Was this an inspiration behind the new single “Rewind” particularly the Dance Remix?

It was not. Our big night is Fridays at the Devon, which for the past 18 months has been the most successful party in Jamaica. We play cutting-edge new music and classics. We attract 700-1,000 patrons every Friday night, under the stars at Devon House, a heritage site in the heart of Kingston. The Devon House Mansion was built in 1881 by George Stiebel, the first black Jamaican millionaire. My studio is where the George Stiebel room was. I am honored to be part of a place with such history.

What can we hope for in the future for Monom Records?

The immediate focus is the Riddim Travelers album. After that, there will be a new Antaeus album. That will be followed by singles from Dutchess and DJ Erinski Easy. 

Please share how Art Wednesdays at Reggae Mill came to be? How do you find all these talented artists?

 As I mentioned, we have a great space at Devon House, which includes both indoor and outdoor areas. Our goal with Art Wednesdays is to provide a platform for local artists to showcase their works. We do not charge any fees or take a commission on sales. The inspiration came from The Swizz Beatz “No Commission” movement.

Does the preparing for the Grammy Awards ever make your schedule and routine intensified this time of year? What is the most rewarding part of being a voting member of the academy?

There is a degree of stress in being a voting member of NARAS, which is the governing body that determines the outcomes of the GRAMMYs. Peoples’ expectations for an award for their creation depends on us. With the exception of the “big” awards, which are songs/albums and artists that everyone has heard about, there is a lot of listening to be done so a fair decision can be rendered. While on the subject of GRAMMYs, NARAS needs to re-evaluate some of the categories. For example, Reggae and Dancehall music, with such great influence on dance and pop music, have only one award, Reggae Album of the Year. At the very least, there should be two more awards, Reggae Song of the Year and Reggae Artist of the Year. Just think about it; in this year’s awards, major names like Shaggy, Sting and Ziggy Marley are competing.

How do you keep your head screwed on so tightly? Do you make an effort to keep Alexx Antaeus balanced internally?

It’s easier said than done, but we must constantly strive to keep an inner balance. Nothing and no one should ever have the power to disturb that inner peace. The job we lost, the girlfriend who betrayed us and the house that burned down, cannot and must not be stronger than we are.

Do you think there is importance in keeping the heart and mind working cooperatively within your business and within all areas of your life?

Without a doubt! The mind has to learn how to control the heart and vice versa, so a balance can be achieved.

Is it an artists responsibility to make a positive contribution to others with their work?

An artist’s responsibility is to deliver the best possible form of his or her art. How others receive it is up to the recipient.

After all the accomplishments and success you have earned, is there more to obtain, more to experience, more to create?

Success and also, failure at various moments in our lives are not destinations. They are but experiences to a never-ending journey. So, the goal is to have fun while doing something worthwhile.

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