The new generation of producers to come out of London have truly reflected the city’s status as one of the world’s largest melting pots more than any other wave of artists before them. Be it jungle influencing the kinetic techno coming out on Hessle Audio and Timedance, jazz and soulfunk inspired house music coming out on Rhythm Section or American club music and grime fusing to form the seminal Night Slugs. One London producer that has been turning heads for the last few years is O’Flynn, whose unique brand of house and electronica takes influences from across the globe.
After rattling the scene with his debut 2015 single ‘Tyrion / Desmond’s Empire’ on Blip Discs, O’Flynn has since become an embodiment of a producer that matches the eclectic tastes of his city, with an enthusiastically anticipated album on the way. One of his more recent singles, ‘Tru Dancing’, was originally released as a free download but took on a life of it’s own, becoming one of the most played tracks of the summer and a bonafide anthem for Hangar’s Discobar.
Described by Boiler Room as ‘one of dance music’s most prosperous newcomers’, his tracks are absolute dynamite on the dancefloor, and they’ve already been littered among the sets from heavyweights like Four Tet, James Blake, Gilles Peterson, Denis Sulta, Bonobo and Pearson Sound. Ahead of his headline slot at the launch of new Dublin night Notions in Wigwam, I caught up with O’Flynn to talk about his influences, the relationship between sampling and appropriation, his upcoming album and more.
It’s been close to a year since your last release, ‘Pluto’s Beating Heart / Eleven’. What have you been up to in that time? Is it true you’re working on an album?
“I’ve spent the last two years working on an album which is still not finished but it’s starting to take shape. I’ve also been focusing on some new 12’s and a flip side to ‘Tru Dancing’ so there are lots of new bits to come out soon.”
As someone whose debut release only came in 2015, and having only previously released on Blip Discs, making the jump to Ninja Tune must have been surprising. How did that feel when you got the offer from them?
“Releasing on Ninja Tune was a great feeling as I was a massive fan of the label in my late teens – they were one of the labels that got me into electronic music. The album ‘Ninja Tune XX’ came out when I was at college and was a compilation that introduced me to loads of amazing artists and tunes. I still go back to that album to reference tracks sometimes.”
You’ve accomplished a whole lot in a very short space of time. What do you think was the most important factor to your success?
“I think I was very lucky with my first release ‘Tyrion /Desmond’s Empire’. I didn’t really expect that release to do anything because I was completely unknown at that stage and it was just released by my friend Tom, who runs Blip Discs. But Tom managed to get it to Four Tet, Gilles Peterson and a bunch of other DJ’s. When it started getting played by the likes of them that changed my career very quickly. I think there is a lot more to achieve though, there are still lots of clubs I want to play and I’m looking into starting a live show and at some point, I’d like to start a label and night as well.”
You mentioned in your interview with Stamp the Wax how big of a feeling it was when Four Tet played ‘Tyrion’ in the Boiler Room. However, this summer ‘Tru Dancing’ has possibly been your track with the most playtime from DJs yet, with plays coming from Denis Sulta, Folamour and whole heap of others. There was a point a couple of months ago where four nights out in a row I heard it being played in Dublin! Where did the inspiration for that track come from? Seeing as it originally came out as a free download, did you expect such a massive response from everyone?
“I made that track just to play at Gottwood Festival a year ago with no intention to release it. A big inspiration came from the Butch track ‘Dope’. When you play that tune in a club the whole energy of the room changes, suddenly people who were not dancing had their hands in the air. It was such clever build up and I copied loads of ideas from that. I didn’t think it would work that well but when I played it at Gottwood the reaction was great and then I just decided to give it away instead of waiting for months for the vinyl to get pressed. Although it will come out on vinyl with a flip side soon. Obviously the original track by Tru Tones is incredible as well, so that in itself was a big inspiration.”
Do you sometimes feel that you have an obligation to make bangers that work so well for DJs like ‘Tru Dancing’ when you have more cerebral cuts like ‘Eleven’ and ‘Spyglass’ that showcase your production chops more?
I don’t feel I have an obligation to write certain styles, I like to create a range of music from dark to fun. The album I’ve been working on is less focused on the dance floor and more towards headphone/ listening music. Although there are still some dance cuts on there. However, I always like to try and write bangers as well because it’s a great feeling to play those tracks to a room full of people dancing.
Your sound certainly can be described as one with global influences, and as such you’ve played gigs across the globe, from Europe to Uganda to Japan with Jordan. What’s it like playing in these countries?
“I love playing abroad and am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to go and do it. It’s really cool meeting people who you have so many things in common with across the world. Europe is always great, I recently played in Belgium at an abandoned Go Kart track in the woods. Uganda was really special at Nyege Nyege Festival, I played on a stage which overlooked the river Nile at sunrise.”
What’s currently inspiring you in the studio and in your DJ sets?
“With production I would say it’s more sit down and grind until you create something good. But sometimes I listen to mixes whilst playing FIFA. Eventually I will hear a track I really like and I will stop playing FIFA and start trying to make a track better than I just heard because I won’t like the fact that I’ve heard someone else’s tune that I prefer to my own. So I’ll spend the rest of the day trying to better them, but that rarely works!”
“With DJ’ing I would say it’s watching other DJ’s. A few months ago Hunee played after me on the same stage. I was really ill with the flu at the time, but Imade myself stay so I could watch him. I just sat behind for 2 hours pretty mesmerised by the set. After that I really told myself I needed to dig much harder for records in the future if I was going to be on his level.”
Your music has a lot of African influences and sampling. I can tell from both your DJ sets and actual sampling that you are respectful of the culture and don’t just cherry-pick the easily digestible bits, but of course doing what you do questions may arise in the name of appropriation. How do you answer these questions, and is it something you’re conscious about when making music? (e.g. we’ve seen less African influences on your last two or three releases)
“This topic has come up with me before and it’s an interesting one which could be debated all day. Sampling has always been a bit of a grey area in music, ever since the early days of Hip Hop. There have always been varied opinions on it, some people look at it negatively and say it’s exploiting the original artist or stealing their music. Others would look at it as I do and say it’s using sounds and inspiration from other cultures and times to create something new and fresh. Whatever people say, chances are that some of their favourite tunes are heavily using samples even if they don’t realise it. There is an incredible wealth and range of musical styles from across the world which is an amazing thing to have access to, and to not take influence or sample sounds from other cultures and countries would be really strange and a waste for me.”
“About a year ago I went to Uganda for 3 weeks with Tom Blip and Spooky J on a Blip Discs project to record musicians and play the Nyege Nyege and Bayimba festivals. Out there we were actually part of the recording process thanks to David Tinning at Santuri Safari and recently Blip Discs put out a record by Mubashira Mataali Group. Since then we have been playing it in clubs and have brought music to the UK which would otherwise not have been heard by people. That project would not have happened if we didn’t start off sampling records from Africa. Now Spooky J and my friend Pete Jones have spent the best part of a year in Uganda and has formed a band called ‘Nihiloxica’ who have released on the ‘Nyege Nyege Tapes’ (which btw has some banging releases on) and now tour around Europe. So lots of positives have come out of the sampling we have done.”
“Sampling has also massively improved my music production. For example even if you had the money you couldn’t walk into a studio in London and record the drums I sampled in ‘Tyrion’, you wouldn’t get anywhere close to the sound because recreating all the conditions and using all the equipment they had to get that sound would be impossible. I think sampling adds so much texture and depth to tracks that MIDI doesn’t offer, it’s integral to making sure we keep up the highest standards of music production and if you occasionally offend someone who has nothing to do with the original recording or that culture and is taking it upon themselves to be offended on someone else’s behalf, then I would say it’s worth it.”
When producing music, do you have a set routine or any rituals you stick by? Was there any tricks you discovered that massively helped you in the production process?
“As I mentioned in the previous answer sampling massively helped me improve. I don’t have any set routines with it actually. This might be the reason it takes me so long to make music. All my tracks have come about in different ways. I don’t know why that is but I think it helps keep my ideas fresh. I also invest and add equipment into my setup all the time so I’m constantly adapting to make new sounds.”
What can we look forward to from you in the next year?
“Hopefully a lot of music, the album should be delivered next year and I hope to get out a few singles this year.There is the possibility of a live show as well, next year after the album.”
Any artists that you feel deserve a bit more attention at the moment?
“I think there are a lot of artists that deserve more attention at the moment. I find so many festivals and even some club nights have the same line up at the moment, it’s like there are always reserved slots for the same few every year and whilst some are certainly justified I think it makes it much harder for upcoming artists to break through and leaves it a little stale. Although there are certainly promoters doing their bit to push out artists who are new and unknown and that’s a really important thing for the industry. I’m currently really enjoying music by Loft, PEEV, Al Zanders, Roza Terenzi, Happa, Keita Sano, Mor Elian, HAAi, Ekhe, Nihiloxica, Slickback, WEN, Jules Venturini and many more.”
O’Flynn plays Wigwam at Notions’ launch party on September 13.
Words: Chris McNabb