I have so many good people in my life I would have never known, if it hadn’t been for my music.
While dubstep is no longer the colossal movement that it once was, it’s certainly enjoying a period of revival, an epoch of “renaissance” inspiring a new wave of producers with unorthodox ideals, who aren’t afraid to break away from the Croydon tradition. Ironically, the country often criticised for bastardising the sound, is now proving to be fertile ground for the new guard breaking through, sweeping the rug from beneath us in the process. Among the handful sprouting up across the US, is an individual whose reference points range from experimental rock and jazz to his love for the LA “beat scene”, a vibrant concoction which has uniquely shaped his taste for off-kilter production and kaleidoscopic sound design. If DMZ – a central pillar of dubstep’s global foundations – inspired our country’s finest, then for Oxóssi, it was LA’s Low End Theory, the cachet equivalent to the “hip-hop” phenomenon. Channelling this cross-pollination, Oxóssi’s drip feed to the “dubstep” conversation was swiftly acknowledged by Underslung, who didn’t hesitate to break the artist to a wider audience with a carefully planned Banana Stand debut. The collective backing of “Mr Shelby” resulted in Sleeper signing more of his unique sound stamp for Crucial treatment. Oxóssi now follows up his joint venture with an impressive solo EP on Crucial Recordings with title track “Solace” featuring the hypnotic vocals from Bristol’s very own Rider Shafique. With his new EP shipping this week, I pinned down Crucial’s latest signee for a few questions about his music, influences, and the new EP on Crucial Recordings.
TRUSIK: Easy Jesse, thank you for taking the time to speak with us, how’s it going?
OXÓSSI: Of course, anytime! Doing very well, thanks.
TRUSIK: I understand “Oxóssi” is an ancient Afro-Brazilian spirit depicted as a hunter who provided for the people. What’s the story behind choosing this deity as your alias? Also just so we can clear this up for everyone, how on earth do you pronounce it?
OXÓSSI: When I was a little kid, I used to geek out on bugs and reptiles. I’d go hunting for them in the backyard and so my family dubbed me their little Oxóssi. I thought it was different and fitting. It’s pronounced “Oh-sho-see“.
TRUSIK: To start us off where it all began, could you tell us a little bit about your musical journey, from discovering underground music, to learning how to DJ and your interest in building beats?
OXÓSSI: Well, I’d say I was musically immersed by my family from the get go. My father played piano and was in love with pretty much anything that produced a musical tone, so I grew up listening to a huge mix of artists. Anything from the classics likes Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson to more dynamic progressive pop / rock like Elton John, Supertramp, and Emerson Lake and Palmer. I also went out a lot on my own, bought up a lot of hip-hop and soaked that up at my friends’ houses – my family didn’t like the explicit lyrics (laughs). So pretty much everything from jazz, to pop, to rock, to hip-hop, to even ambient music made its way to my ears. Eventually, I started playing drums / percussion in school and then picked up guitar as well. I think the DAW producing started a little after graduating college. I found it difficult to get a band together and keep a regular practice schedule. Alongside that, I had been listening to electronic music more and more, so I ended up figuring out that I didn’t need a band to create. I could do it all on my own. Started out making more hip-hop type beats (I used to attend Low End Theory quite a bit), but then about 3 years ago, a friend took me to a Deep Medi show and it was all downhill from there. I fell in love with the sound, the feeling, and the raw energy of it all. DJ’ing became a sort of natural progression of that once people started recognising my music asking me to play out live more.
TRUSIK: In terms of production, from the hardware you use, to any additional software and plugins you can’t live without, how do you make the most out of your studio setup when approaching the build of a new beat? How long does it typically take you to finish a tune?
OXÓSSI: This is always a hard question. Sometimes a track comes so easily, and usually those are the best. “Mr. Shelby” was done in 2 sessions. Then you have the tunes that take months to finish off. It’s all on a case by case basis. In terms of making the most out of my set-up, I try not to overcomplicate things. My set-up is minimal and usually my music is very sample based. A lot of crate-digging mixed with some analog hardware I have. A lot of keyboard work. It really depends on what has been inspiring me and what comes out naturally.
TRUSIK: The psychedelic motif in your work groups you with the new-guard of producers experimenting with a range of kaleidoscopic designs, from hypnotic polyrhythms, to paranoid arpeggios, and cosmic space echoes. What attracts you to this “aesthetic” of music over other genres?
OXÓSSI: I think it’s the music I used to listen to growing up. Experimental rock interested me a lot early on (UFO was a big influence of mine). Mars Volta was also a huge staple in my music diet later on in life. Pretty much anything off kilter and non-standard interested me. Unique time signatures, experimental jazz and ambient stuff. If it was on the radio, I didn’t really want to hear it, which in retrospect was probably a bit too militant of a mindset. Once I got into more electronic music, I fell in love with the LA beat scene. The Low End Theory residents are all amazing at what they do. Artists like FlyLo, Samiyam, Jonwayne, Dibiase, and Eprom were all favorites too. They were all pushing the boundaries. They still are.
TRUSIK: You’re first vinyl feature “Mr Shelby”, was on a joint record with ADP for Banana Stand Sound. How did it feel to finally have some material out there on physical format, and are you happy with the response it’s had?
OXÓSSI: I was very happy to have my music on a vinyl record. There’s something special to be said about physical formats that differentiates them from the rest. It gives a sense of palpability to your passion and efforts. I think my favourite part about it was the fact that it was my good friend pushing my music (Underslung); to have a friend who believes in you so much that he is willing to take money out of his own pocket to release your music is indescribable. I am forever thankful to him. In terms of the response to that release, it started out steady and has recently ramped up since my upcoming release with Crucial. I found out (yesterday actually) that there are only a few copies left of BSS001, so it’s good to know people are receiving it well.
TRUSIK: Like you mentioned, you’ve been snapped up by Sleeper for his Crucial Recordings imprint. What does this signing mean for you as an artist, and what do you want to achieve with your first solo vinyl release?
OXÓSSI: I am extremely happy with the release and its final result. Sleeper has made this whole thing such a pleasant experience and he has always received my music with no judgement. Always open to new and different sounds and textures, never limiting me to a bpm or “style”. I don’t necessarily have a goal with this release other than to share what I love and enjoy through a healthy medium (music). I’ve met great people along the way because of this and I am very thankful for that. I have so many good people in my life I would’ve never known, if it hadn’t been for my music.
TRUSIK: There’s a beautiful arrangement of melodic textures and instrumental leads sampled across the whole EP, from the guitar chords on “Solace” to the beautiful harp melody on “The Tempest”. Take us through the creative process behind the tracks you and Sleeper picked for the release.
OXÓSSI: I have always found myself dabbling with melodies or sampling from unconventional sources. I really enjoy trying to take the old and make it new and relevant again. The melody in “The Tempest” comes from a very old experimental electronic Japanese record. The guitar in “Solace” sampled from an anime soundtrack. Things that I’ve grown up with that have in some way accompanied me into the present.
TRUSIK: At what point did Rider Shafique enter the equation? Did you build “Solace” with his vocal contribution in mind?
OXÓSSI: To be honest it started out like any other track, but I felt something was missing. I had been listening to a lot of spoken word at the time and so at one point I even approached another vocalist in the scene, but it didn’t pan out. Somewhere along the way I put on Author’s “Forward Forever”, and once I heard Rider on that record I thought to reach out. To be honest I didn’t think it would all materialise, but Rider is a super approachable guy and so it all worked out in the end. I couldn’t be happier with the result.
TRUSIK: Mesck did a fantastic job with the A-side artwork didn’t he. Which label artwork has grabbed your attention the most recently, and how so?
OXÓSSI: He did an amazing job! Exceeded my wildest expectation on it. In terms of artwork that grabs my attention, I really enjoy the artwork I see from Tri-Angle Records, Houndstooth, Alpha Pup and the recent Innamind and Blacklist releases.
TRUSIK: There’s some nice collaborations floating about with the likes of Foamplate, Wulf, Samba and Malleus. So my question is two-fold. Firstly, half of the producers mentioned are based in the US. So in a roundabout way, how do you feel about the US scene. The rising producers as previously mentioned, the labels like Banana Stand, Gourmet Beats, Fortress Dubs, and even Innamind could be considered US-based now, as well as the number of crews and events being held between the coasts are starting to bring out bigger names. It seems as if the US is on the ascendent, so what’s your take on it all?
OXÓSSI: I think the scene in general is growing, not only in the US but worldwide. You see artists from all walks of life and areas of the world coming up. New styles, new focuses, new ideas. It’s all very exciting. That being said, I am very happy to see it growing in the US specifically because it shows that people are becoming more and more open to different and unconventional music. It also gives all of us over here an opportunity to share our music more frequently through a live platform.
TRUSIK: And secondly, how do you find sharing the workflow on a joint project compared to how you would approach an individual one? Do you feel that it aids your own development as a musician as you share and discover new ideas with other producers? What’s been the most enjoyable collaboration you’ve worked on to date?
OXÓSSI: It has been extremely fulfilling to work with such talented people. In my opinion, working in a medium or format you aren’t necessarily accustomed to is necessary. It forces you to think about your own music in a different light. In terms of my workflow, it all seems to be pretty natural with most of the artists I have collaborated with. I don’t necessarily have a collaboration that was most enjoyable, I think that may be because all of the artists on the list you mentioned are good friends of mine, so it’s an amazing experience each and every time.
TRUSIK: You grabbed all our attentions with your remixes of Ori’s “Half Human” and more notably Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”? How do you typically approach the break down of a remix, and is this an angle of production you enjoy challenging yourself with? Are there plans to remix any material from your contemporaries?
OXÓSSI: My approach to remixes varies, it’s never the same. Sometimes I hear something in a track that peaks my interest but went a different direction than my mind did. Others tracks have elements I feel could be added or moved around. In terms of remixes, I don’t have anything specifically planned, but I would love to work on a remix for any of the artists you mentioned. I do have stems for Malleus’ “Dragging the Lake” sitting in a folder…
TRUSIK: On that note, what else can we expect from you in 2016, is there any other forthcoming material, interesting projects, or up and coming music gigs you can inform the readers on?
OXÓSSI: I have a vinyl release forthcoming on Silent Motion coming up in June with some music you might be familiar with. I am very excited about that. Some more collaborations with the artists previously mentioned. I also have a couple of other things that seem to be developing organically which I am very excited about. Just playing it by ear as each opportunity comes along.
TRUSIK: Thank you for your time brother, all the best with the forthcoming projects. Are there any final comments / shout outs you wanna share to wrap things up?
OXÓSSI: Sure thing, I really appreciate you taking interest. Oh man, I feel like I am going to forget someone, but I’ll give the shout out thing a try. I would like to start off giving a shout out to Murad, Stephen and the whole B-Side crew. They have taken the LA scene to new heights and I feel lucky to have such amazing people in my life. Out to Underslung and the Banana Stand imprint for being the first to believe my music deserved the vinyl treatment. Sleeper for pushing my music and always giving me the freedom to express myself, no questions or boundaries. In terms of all of the artists I have met along the way… Malleus. He has always been a good friend and one of the first people that took interest in my music. Headland, he is a super forward thinking producer and definitely one to keep on your radar. Foamplate. Also a good friend and very obviously talented artist. The good man Samba, also one to look out for in 2016. Jonah Freed in NY, Causa, Watchmaker, Moonstones, Mesck, Evo, Distinct Motive, Pieces of Juno, and iSkeletor. Helktram, Karnage, Dayzero and City1 have been holdin it down in the Far East. They always send me amazing and unique music. Beezy and Quest for always supporting my tracks and giving me motivation to keep shaping my own sound. Joe Nice for supporting me and for being an amazing friend and mentor. Man there are so many people, and they’re all so talented. I hope they know that they all mean so much to me. I am super appreciative to everyone I’ve connected with.
TRUSIK: A track…. by your favourite new artist: Eureka the Butcher – Desert Rituals you’re currently opening your sets with: Dot Product – Animation you give the rewind treatment every time: TMSV & Van Dam – Pop Eyez you would like to remix: Zomby – 1 Up