Music producer, DJ, and radio announcer, Alex D Xecutioner, born Leston Saunders, always had a love for music, from his earliest childhood memories. Like many youth in TT who have used and continue to use music as a viable pathway of expression and empowerment, Saunders always cherished his special connection to his appreciation for melodies and lyrics.
“I never limited my musical taste to one genre of music,” he says of his formative years, “and thus, I gained a very varied appreciation for every type of music.”
Born in La Lune, Moruga – a rural village at TT’s south-easternmost point – he grew up on Picton Road, Laventille, a community revered for its strong ties to the genesis of Carnival, producing numerous talents and pioneers over the years that have vastly shaped the local cultural landscape.
And while his musical tastes were as varied as TT society itself, it was during his time at St. George’s College, Barataria, that his peers first exposed Saunders to dance music.
His fondness for the genre, long before its international surge in popularity, was compounded by his interest in fitness. “I became interested in a wide range of different styles of types of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) when I got more into fitness as this would be my preference of music while working out or doing one of my long endurance runs,” he explains of the ways he became predisposed to the genre. “It just gives you that extra pump because of the various continuous beats and energetic vibes.”
It was soon after leaving secondary school, at the age of 19, that Saunders first dabbled in DJing. It began as a solo effort, as the young hopeful would attend clubs and focus on the methods and styles of club DJing. Soon, he invested in himself and bought his own equipment. “Sometimes it was hard because most times the guys at the top wanna stay at the top, so they really don’t want to give the time of day to new and upcoming talent in the DJ world,” he comments on his earliest challenges in the field.
“Over the years I became very versatile as a DJ by mixing and being able to mix every type of dance music there is, even finding that middle ground to fuse dance music with soca, dancehall, and even hip-hop,” he shares. It is this versatility in mixing international sounds with locally and regionally accepted music that helps connect the average listener to dance music, as well as club patrons. “It’s because they can identify with the mainstream fused with EDM,” he believes.
His first mentor in the world of DJing was Tony Hydro, another early pioneer of EDM on TT airwaves. It was after this mentorship that Saunders started DJing on the EDM radio show, The Elektrik Avenue, hosted by Hydro and Eron Surajbally, also known as Shane Luvglo.
As Saunders recalls, The Elektrik Avenue ran its course on radio for several years before the international and local uptake of EDM music. “We ventured into unchartered waters way before and have been pushing the music in Trinidad since then.”
The Elektrik Avenue, while teaching him the ropes, was a stepping-stone for the DJ. After its wrap, Saunders started his own radio show alongside co-host Luvglo, titled The Bass Factor. On this show he focuses on exposing listeners to EDM music – both mainstream and less popular.
“Reviews from fans are showing an exponential increase in range, of both local and international listeners ranging from the Caribbean to as far as Russia,” he says proudly of the reach that the show has. The glowing reviews from listeners make it all worthwhile he says.
“But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies in this DJ world scene,” Saunders reveals. He says EDM DJs in Trinidad are underrated and there are some club owners and even radio stations that are comfortable with underpaying DJ talents. “Some even want you to play for free to get exposure.”
He says the most common misconception he’s come across is that EDM is techno music. While the two share common roots, the vast ranges of sub-genres of EDM show it is an adaptable genre that can interest a diverse listenership.
“There is a whole Caribbean Dance Music (CDM) movement, fusing soca with dance music elements to be marketed both locally and internationally,” says Saunders. “So props to local producers like myself and others doing the remixes and ‘refixes’ that have been pushing the music forward.”
It’s tough work. Listeners and fans don’t see the toil that goes into censoring, editing, and remixing tracks. Saunders often burns the midnight oil working on mixes so that each show is not the same. But although a lot of work goes into producing an EDM radio show, the praise from listeners makes it worth the effort. “I’m also adding to the variety of music played on national radio; that’s so worth it,” he adds.
But Saunders also believes that respect for all music, particularly our indigenous genres, is necessary. “I say this to fans: although music is changing, still stay true to the music that made us a nation. I’m an EDM DJ but I still listen to retro soca and calypso. This makes me appreciate the evolution of music and gives inspiration for future projects.”
He holds fast in the inspirational quality of music of all genres. “Music can give youths a chance to express themselves and rise above the hardships plaguing our society,” he says, adding that a passion for DJing and becoming a music producer are viable career paths to earn a living.
Even through his own hardships, mixing and listening to music has lifted his spirits, giving him a more positive outlook. “I always tell people if you feeling down in the dumps, surround yourself with positive people and great music and you’ll see how fast that negative feeling can be overcome.”
For 2018, he says fans can expect even more dynamic ranges of music mixes, with some select live interviews featuring local artists.