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INTERVIEW: OLIVER OSBORNE





Integrity Records is pleased to announce the release of the latest installment in the "Yellow" Artist Series, which has featured a diverse group of producers and live artists in the past, including minimal Archiv, Crane de Poule, Fabrice Lig, Miles Ellis and the guest. John Beltran. The fifth and final release features Toronto-based DJ/producer Oliver Osborne, who is making his label debut with his exciting "Hold On" EP.


The release features four tracks that showcase Oliver's intricate production style, incorporating elements from a variety of genres including techno, house, and ambient music. A combination of organic and electronic sounds; Lush instrumentations, groovy basslines, intricate rhythms, and vocal breaks can be heard throughout the release.


An immersive soundscape that transports listeners to a new yet familiar place, Oliver's "Hold On" EP is an immersive listening experience for those who prefer electronic music with a little more depth and expression.


We have had the pleasure of interviewing Oliver Osborne and this has been the result.


Can you tell us a little about your experience? Where are you from and how did you get into music?


So I wonder whether my experience is perhaps a little atypical from the majority of producers. if you were to take a statistically significant slice of DJ/producers and take a look at what else they've done musically, I'm guessing I'd probably be in a relatively small segment.


Firstly, I was born into it from the standpoint that my father is a multi instrumentalist and was gigging through the kind of early years of my life (and well before).At home we had a classical guitar, a baby grand piano, and a clarinet, which growing up I hardly touched.


Until Nirvana, Nevermind came out, and then I just had to play the guitar. And I had been singing since I started school. I was doing a couple of musicals a year through my teens.


But on the instrumental side of things I think I must have been about 13 or 14 when that album came out, and that was the guitar, forever in my life.


Maybe a year later, I got my hands on Blood Sugar Sex Magic and that made me want to play the bass.


And then not too long after that DJ Shadows debut album Endtroducing came out and that's what really showed me how exciting drums can be and the role that they could play within the track, the very central role they could play within a piece of music and slight sidebar, another thing that it told me was that you could have music that was very emotionally impactful without there being any lyrics.


If anything, it made me realize that lyrics will polarize the music. They prescribe what you should feel about it, what you think it could be about. Whereas instrumental music leaves these things very open for the listener.


Through my teens and early twenties I played in a number of bands. As a frontman, as a drummer, as a guitarist or bassist. And then into my, into my 20s when I started, or kind of realized how much you don't have to compromise when you are producing music solo.


Compared to having to negotiate a through-line with four, five other musicians, it was liberating.


So that the early days of playing in bands and playing various instruments, and transitioning from that into thinking about arrangements holistically and doing all of the kind of creative heavy lifting myself, I think really put me in it put me in good stead so that even when I'm working “in the box” I am doing this with a pretty nuanced understanding of what you can do with these various instruments and certainly with my more recent work, leaning more towards a kind of organic aesthetic.


How is your sound evolving? What artists and genres do you enjoy mixing right now?


On the mixing side of things I have spent a lot of time recently going back over older material.


Like most people who have been doing this for a while, I get sent more promos each month than I have the time to go through. However I do go through a hell of a lot of them.


For years this resulted in me taking on over a hundred new tracks a month, often playing sets with a solid proportion of tracks that hadn’t even been released yet.


However this meant that a lot of quality tracks fell out of the rotation before I had full appreciated what they could do.


After I got set up in Toronto I spend a few weeks going through a bag of gig thumb drives, and found myself (re)discovering tracks that I hardly had any recollection of. I had genuinely left some high-quality stuff on the table.


So in terms of what I’m playing now, outside of a lot more of my own productions these days, I playing tracks from the Vault.


Here are a few of the big ones:


Chroino - Jacuzzi Boys

Misonzi - Saronde

Honest Loose (Cloaka Remix) - Boxwork

The One - BValtik

Change - Arkady Antsyrev

Bailar (Floyd Lavine Remix) - The Angels

Japanette - Luca Lento

She Might - Barotti

Ritmo Final - Igor Vicente, DKA


Which subgenre I lean into depends very much on where I’m playing, but I never go too long without bringing in some colourful percussion.



How do you feel your music influences or impacts listeners?


Well, in terms of the music I release versus the stuff I play: when I play I want to always find that overlap in the Venn diagram that is stuff that I think is genuinely great music but that is also going to get people's elbows above their earlobes. That's always what I'm going for.


And, sure, I want to take people on a musical journey, never a bad thing, but this is very much secondary to making sure they have a great time on the dance floor.


As far as the music I release, I'm a little bit more self-serving. I mean, partly because I never know what context people are going to play these tracks in.


I think it was a Stil Vor talent live set, someone ended up playing one of my tracks at a good seven BPM slower than it was produced at, and gave it a whole different vibe. Also, who knows what kind of leanings a scene I’ve never experienced might have. My track Soldiers of the Dawn, which I originally released as a B-Side to another release, ended up really landing with the Cape Town scene, for example.


So I'm not tending to try to project onto the dance floor or audience when I'm producing, but I hope in terms of how it impacts and how it influences people that there is a proportion of the people who listen to the music that are like, “Ha, I haven't heard house music do that before, and I like it.”


I'm hoping that outside of the people who are just enjoying it for the music’s sake, that there are people who can extract something from it, especially people who are musicians or producers themselves.


I think this willingness to be quite self-indulgent, or at least resist the temptation to be too deferential to the norms of the day, or follow a prominent style, has put me in good stead.


I opened for Culoe De Song a few weeks after he played one of my tracks (The East) on a Keinemusik radio show, and he said quite directly that I have a different style.


This happened within a few months of &ME playing my track 01001100 at a Mixmag Lab show, a track that virtually everyone else that I’d played it to had told me to cut down the more than 3 minute intro. That really validated my tendency to follow my gut, and I get the sense that this resonates with people on the floor.


My father once told me that I was to produce music that was fully original that no one would be able to understand it. You have to give people enough that is recognisable for them to understand it, but with enough original components to stand out.


What projects are you working on right now? What can you tell us about your last project?


I have the core of what I hope to be able to release as an album. Over the last couple of years I have put together tracks that range from downtempo to drum and bass and they all sit together quite nicely. The next step is to then arrange these with intros and outros in a way that that kind of flows and tells a story, the way a good album should.


I always think of, again, Endtroducing, Blood Sugar Sex Magic, and Train of Thought by Talib Kweli & HiTek, Timeless by Goldie, and many other seminal allbums that had a massive impact on me. You listen to the way that the tracks segue and there is a flow and a kind of narrative arc to the albums that make you want to listen to them start to finish.


They don't always have a deliberate attempt to bridge the end of one and the beginning of another. But great albums, in general, tend to flow.


I know that the world doesn't tend to listen to albums quite the same way that it used to. End to end. But that’s what I;m going for.


So that's ticking over. Hoping to start badgering record labels probably middle of this year to hopefully find a home for that.


I have an EP I'm working on for Garden Groove Music. That's a Cape Town based label that I just did a show with in Cape Town. And I have a couple of couple of Afro tracks I’m cooking up for Bali based Souta records.


And beyond that, actually, I just finished a big sampling project where I went through my record collection and pulled out anything and everything I think I might want to sample.


Since moving to Canada I've fallen in love with thrift store records. You'll never go in there with a certain thing in mind and find it, but there are some bits of absolute gold there. A lot of spoken word records, a guide to ESP, Nature sounds, Jane Fonda Workout records, famous plays recorded to wax, standup shows.


So I just finished doing a massive dump of all of my favorite bits into a personal sample pool, so everything I'm working on at the moment has got something that's come out of that.


It's quite exciting to be working with this raw material because while some of the stuff I've never heard before, some of what I have chanced upon are tracks from my youth that I've absolutely loved.


As for my last project, just from knowing a little about Eddie’s sound, and absolutely loving that track Absolute, the meatiness of it, I knew I wanted to work with him.


In my estimation, he is probably one of the most important people to come out of Singapore (my home of ten years until the start of the pandemic) at least as far as house and techno is concerned. He's worked with some amazing people with the label and put some powerful releases out.


So at one point I had the itch to put together a techno record and thought that this would be the time to reach out.


So I put that track together with more of a stripped-back minimal track (Odio e Amo) as a kind of A and A, with them a third track that didn't actually end up making the cut. But this is where it got really interesting to me.


He came back and said this is something that I would play, and is something that would work for the label. But can you propose a third that's completely different and something more musical, something to give the release more bredth. Which is where the Hold On came from.


I started the track with the kind of idea that eventually I put a kick drum in there and have everything hang around that. But it ended up getting to where it is now pretty quickly.


I was happy with the way it came together in the end and I thought listen, he always say no. However he liked it and in it went. But I still wanted to go down that other fork in the road, o I ended up putting the other mix together to give it an opportunity to do some work on dance floors.


So all in all, for sure, the most diverse, you know, release I've come out with and, massive props to props to Eddie for pushing me to make the release what it is because I'm super happy with it.


It covers a lot of musical bases from the very stripped-back digital vibes of the techno track, through to something which has been a massive way inspired by the kind of jazz I've listened over the years. Especially Avishai Cohen when he was, at least in my opinion, at its finest. The Avishai Cohen trio days with Mark Giuliana on the drums.


Has that sound changed a lot in recent years? What is your musical criteria in your last project?


Outside of a few forays, my work has taken on what I believe is a certain recognisability.


I'm gravitating towards the same kind of sounds and timbres, whatever the arrangement might look like, or which genre it might fit into.


I put out a single called Over The Pines, which was a kind of homage to that early 2000s Cadenza Records sound, as well as being a result of listening to a load of recent Cutting Heads stuff, and then there was this amazing album by Guti Scott with a ferocious opening track that I love, but all around like 126-132bpm, and very much omn the house/tech-house end of things.


Over The Pines is much the approach as Propaganda, which just came out on the Souts earlier this year, and is a kind of broken Afro beat, much slower.


So it's exorcising different ideas, but with a similar kind of feel.


In terms of the musical criteria for the last release, I kind of covered it with one of the previous answers.


We all know that the digital revolution has affected sales, but do you think it has affected creativity?


Oh, this is a chewy one, right?


Yes. Absolutely, and both for good and bad.


Vast amounts to unpack here.


I firmly believe that the net effect of the digital revolution has been that there is more good music coming out.


I would however argue that the good music is a smaller proportion of an overall much much larger volume of music being released.


I’m pretty sure it's like 120,000 tracks a week that go up on Beatport.


But the net effect has been positive.


Also, and this is huge, technology has lowered the bar for entry in a huge, huge way.


Twenty years ago you had to buy some hardware at the very least.


I recently read an article about the setup that Daft Punk used to create Homework, which was about as mind blowingly stripped back as you could get at that time.


But that was still a couple of eight tracks that they'd hotwired together, and sure, they only had one compressor, but they had an outboard compressor, and synthesisers, and a sampler. Way more outboard (and expense) than anyone needs in 2023.


These days you can do a huge amount inside the box. And with the various companies who make plugins vying for everyone's attention, there is some incredible free stuff out there.


For a while, partly on principle, partly because I was broke, I didn't spend anything on plugins. But I did find some incredible freebies. That really helped me push the ball forward on my sound, because I had to work with what I could get my hands on, rather than trying to find that one magical plug-in that would make everything better. But I digress.


Technology has given people who would have been priced out of creating music the opportunity to do it relatively cost effectively.


If my responses weren’t already running into the thousands of words we could talk about the impact of music suggestion algorithms. That they do this based on metadata rather than on the actual qualities of the music itself (apart from Mussio/Soundcloud).


There is also the way people listen to music. Single tracks streamed digitally versus albums. The easy access to music places more emphasis on making sure you hook people in the first 30 seconds of the track.


But we can leave that for another day.


Can you tell us about your present and future projects?


I covered a fair amount of this before. So it’s the album, EP for Garden Groove Music (South Africa), tracks for Souta both in the pipeline and in progress in the studio.


On top of that I am working on a small festival called Lumatera in the country a couple hours out from Toronto for this summer.


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