Across two decades, Tadd Mullinix has amassed himself a veritable arsenal of aliases, exploring nearly as many styles and sounds. Take a snapshot of the Ann Arbor producer's career at any moment and see just how versatile and consistent an artist he is. Whether it's the willfully weird EBM he makes as Charles Manier, the acid-inclined house and techno of JTC, or the freeform electronics released under his given name, Mullinix carves a distinctive niche with his music. But inspiration comes in waves. Having spent most of the 2010s experimenting with various projects for his Bopside label, Mullinix recently began shifting his interests.
Mullinix's urge to do something different brought him to an impasse creatively, but it didn't take long for him to find his way. Planning for a trip with his family to Yerevan, Armenia, where he would teach creative technologies to kids in an after-school program, Mullinix started to wriggle out of his rut. "I had to learn Ableton Live because I thought it was the best program to teach the kids, so I went back to basics," he explains. "I started thinking about how I'm going to teach them to make beats. All of that got me back on track, and the momentum came back." The creative surge resurrected Mullinix's acclaimed hip-hop project, Dabrye, and, as might be expected from such a multifaceted producer, it also gave life to the latest alias in his arsenal: X-Altera.
While curating the MC parts for the next Dabrye record, Mullinix started working on something new. At first, the music was more aligned with Soundmurderer & SK-1, his old jungle project with Todd Osborn, who released on their own Rewind! label in the late '90s before Rephlex reissued their catalog in 2003. But making straight jungle and drum & bass felt too well-trod. So he started digging deeper, returning to his record collection for new energy and inspiration. As the groove-based structures of house and techno became less appealing, Mullinix was looking for more dynamic, dexterous electronic music. He eventually rediscovered a section of 4 Hero's catalog, from when the legendary group was transitioning out of hardcore and into jungle. The complexity and innovation of that music spoke to him and jump-started a deep dive into his musical past.
Homing in on that point in the UK hardcore continuum was a major catalyst for X-Altera, but Mullinix was still broadening his palette, following the rabbit hole of discovery. Deep, melodic techno also began to grab his attention – like the Detroit-born sound of Kenny Larkin's Azimuth, or Warp's classic Artificial Intelligence series. Hearing this music again, coming through the lens of drum & bass, opened up Mullinix to tracks he'd all but forgotten. B-sides and other lost gems from his record collection started to feel more relevant to him now than when he first heard them as a teenager. Such connections are crucial to the sound of X-Altera, as is how they were found: organically, through the passion of record digging and a deep knowledge of electronic music history.
As naturally as X-Altera came to be, the music itself is a unique refraction of styles and bold, contradictory approaches. But it all blends together uncannily well – maybe because of the decades of production experience that went into it, or the holistic mindset Mullinix took from the beginning. The name itself reflects as much. "X-Altera references two things. It comes from Latin – ex altera – which means 'from or of the other side.' Which could be a metaphysical thing, or you could say it's jungle ethics brought into the techno world. And I spelled it this way as a reference to X-101 and X-102, the Underground Resistance project of Jeff Mills, Mike Banks, and Robert Hood," the artist explains. Detroit meets London, deep techno meets drum & bass, old meets new – X-Altera unites these threads in order to take them in unknown directions.