The North American resurgence in electronic music has allowed bass music to blossom into a unique culture that has captivated music lovers of all ages. One globetrotting musician has been on the forefront of this influx of bass music culture, championing the controllerist movement while carving out a truly unique sound. Hailing from New Zealand, based in Melbourne, Opuio (Born Oscar Davey-Wright) creates a sonic palette that delivers a Funkadelic, Glitch-hop, G-funk roller coaster ride that oozes with pure fun. Recently, All You Need is Bass sat down with Opiuo to talk about festivals, bass music culture, and the technology that is driving his sets.
DC: What festivals are you excited about hitting up this summer?
Opiuo: It’s funny, because I’m hitting some now, then I’m going away for a few months. Doing a tour of Europe and things like that, so I’m not doing too many festivals here this summer. I just did Symbiosis, Lightning in a Bottle, and then I’m about to do Raindance and Wakarusa. But I think the two that I was looking forward to the most were Symbiosis and Lightning in a Bottle. Lightning in a Bottle was awesome! I was only there for not even a day, but it was amazing, so beautiful, really well put together.
DC: Do you have any festival horror stories?
Opiuo: There was one in Australia, I can’t even remember the name or where it was exactly. I played first thing in the morning and it was pissing down with rain, but people were still rocking out and doing their thing and right during my set part of the roof structure (of the stage) collapsed and gallons and gallons of water came pouring through the roof and landed whatever was on stage and completely destroyed a bunch of shit. So we had like three umbrellas on my stuff. After my set, the next guy went on for half an hour until they ended up stopping the music for a while. The people in the crowd were loving it though, they were having massive mud fights which was fucking awesome.
DC: Do you find that festivals back home in Australia are developing and growing in size?
Opiuo: For sure! The underground festivals that have been running the past ten years are really at capacity now. Yeah, most people know about them, even if they aren’t necessarily into the music, they know about them. It’s great.
DC: That’s interesting that you say they are at capacity, do you think that the European festivals are reaching an attendance saturation point?
Opiuo: I haven’t done any European festivals. I’ve held off on going to Europe. My sort of music isn’t as well known there. It seems to be more of an American, or Canadian thing. Even from where I’m from ya know, it’s still growing a lot. Europe is more based around drum and bass and breaks and other stuff.
DC: What’s the best thing going on your current rider
Opiuo: The best thing on my rider…umm..I recently put socks on there. It’s amazing.
DC: There is nothing better than new socks!
Opiuo: Exactly! Oh, and tequila. I usually have two shots of tequila before I play makes everything work properly (laughs).
DC: What’s your perspective on bass music culture since you started touring?
Opiuo: It’s kind of fresh and new, which is exciting, well some of its not. Some of it, in my mind, has reached some sort of saturation. Something like the dub step world. Not to say I don’t find stuff that I really dig that I’m really stoked on. Sometimes I don’t think I will with some types of music, I think as bass music gets more popular it’s only going to get better for all of us. Getting so much attention then spreads everyone’s eyes out on the diversity of music. I wasn’t quite sure when I was touring here whether I would get people coming to my shows or whatever, but it turns out I’m forming this really broad fan base, which I think is awesome. I get people in their late teens to 50’s coming to my shows. To see that range of people in the same sort of environment is really cool. I think bass music massively broad in general, so I don’t know what I think of the whole entire scene, but what I think about my sort of world, I love it because people are there for the music, and not really the fashion of it.
DC: Are you aware of how your music is disseminating?
Opiuo: Word of mouth is huge. That’s a kind of testament of the music speaking for itself. I hope it keeps going like that. Social media helps, but that’s really the word of mouth thing. Torrents are cool, It allows for people to gain access to the music that otherwise wouldn’t.
DC: How would you describe your genre? Do you have one?
Opiuo: I don’t like genres. I think they serve an amazing purpose, because one person can tell another person about a type of music and easily describe the sound. That said, I think it’s kind of limiting. There is definitely some music I make that is genre specific, but could be sped up or slowed down until its crossing into another (genre). I want to keep it moving. I definitely knew at one point in my career that I really had to establish a sound, so I really worked hard at creating something that was definitely me. Some people thought it was getting too repetitive, so I got to a point of understanding that is why I am always moving forward. I think I would describe my genre as Funkadelic-bass music.
DC: There is definitely a funk quality to your production. I would go as far as saying the bass patterns carry an almost tribal rhythmic quality, have you heard that before?
Opiuo: Yes, I have heard everything. There are a lot of ways people describe my sound. It’s funny because the same song can sound completely different to someone who hasn’t heard a type of music before, people can have unique takes on music styles depending on what they are listening to. Once you hear a certain type of music a lot, then you get a sort of similar view of it somehow. I’m not sure if that makes sense. Somehow if you hear a shitload of, say dub step, or anything in that tempo, people class it as dub step in a second, and instantly tie the emotions they have with that style of music whether good or bad. If (the music) is something newer for your brain and you don’t have a connotation attached to it, I think you can get more out of it. That’s why I don’t listen to too much electronic music outside of making it and playing it. It just seems to excite me more when it’s on a dance floor.
DC: Your production is largely in the mid-tempo BPM ranges. Have you always made music like that, or have your dabbled in other forms of electronic music.
Opiuo: No, I used to create everything from D&B to electro and breaks as well.
Opiuo: Ummm, what inspires me to make music is actually the thought of playing it for people on a dance floor. A moment in time like that. Realistically, I don’t hear too much music that inspires me to get in the studio and make music. The music I’m thinking about writing gets me more excited to create. The music I listen to is more emotionally driven acoustic, folk, and down tempo electronic stuff.
DC: There had to be some artists that originally sparked your interest in creating electronic music.
Opiuo: Drum & Bass was the first thing that made me super excited about electronic music. I used to DJ house and trance when I was 14, really young, just because I wanted to make the party and it was super fun. Early on it was Drum & Bass artists like TeeBee and Noisia who were rocking it. They are amazing producers. When I was just starting out writing songs I would listen to these guys and their amazing compositions.
DC: The distribution of music must have been quite a different experience for you growing up in New Zealand.
Opiuo: Yeah, I did grow up around a lot of great music, but in New Zealand it was more about roots music and stuff like that.
DC: When you travel do you produce tracks? Or are you a studio dweller?
Opiuo: It’s mostly studio based production. I like to spend quite a bit of time on it. I think, without causing too much shit, there is a lot of music out there that is written on a timeframe as opposed to a quality-frame. I’m not saying simple music is bad, some of the best songs out there are simply arranged. At home I can spend a few days on something making it super tight and making work really well and be happy with it. When I’m on the road I’m concentrating on how my live show is going to be…making the transitions, playing bass lines live, live drumming, among other things. I want that part of my show dialed down and expand on song that already exists. I just find it too hard when I’m focused on the live package that I’m presenting. I can’t wait to get home and write music, my ideas at the moment are running wild. I’ve purposely have two months with no shows coming up so I can go home and write shit loads of music. It’s great to have the time to do it.
DC: So it’s safe to say that travel inspires you to write.
Opiuo: Yeah, it’s the playing for people that does it for me.
DC: I watched a YouTube tutorial that was posted a couple years ago where you were discussing baseline techniques using Apple’s Logic. Is Logic still your go-to weapon of choice?
Opiuo: Yes, Logic in the studio for sure. But in terms of my live setup, it’s Ableton Live. It’s the only way I can have a few channels running with different parts running separately. I don’t like the engine in Ableton as much as Logic; I find Logic is better for summing sounds together, so I don’t break up my songs too much. I use Ableton in conjunction with and external drum machine that has its own audio out separate from the computer. I also use Animoog on the iPad also to play some parts, and Native Instruments Maschine when I have a larger band.
DC: With all that outboard gear on stage, have you ever had any performance hiccups?
Opiuo: Yeah, definitely. I’ve never had it completely fuck out on me, but I’ve had moments where it just stops for a few seconds. There was a show in Kalamazoo where my Maschine controller stopped working and I had to reboot Ableton and unplug the controller. Now if anything like that happens I’ll boot up iTunes on my iPad and play a track out of there while I reboot Ableton. Some guys have a separate backup setup, but I can’t carry much more gear around with me.
DC: I would consider you more of a controllerist than a DJ.
Opiuo: People still say to me, “I can’t wait to hear you spin” or “I can’t wait to see you DJ”. I’m quite happy correcting them; most aren’t offended when I do. I want people to know what I’m doing on stage. Quite often I will tell the crowd what I’m doing live. There is that element of live performance and I think it’s important to let the people know that the show could be different from night to night.
DC: Within Ableton, do you have the flexibility to change things on the fly? How much of your sets are automated?
Opiuo: In terms of the flow of my set…since the start of the tour has completely changed. I still have the same songs in there, but every two or three days I’ll find better ways to do something live. Some people simply put Ableton in the arrange-view and press play. I don’t like doing that; I think it’s kind of boring. I like launch different clips or sections of songs with the flow of the set, but other parts are more sequenced because I’m playing other parts on the keyboard or whatever.
DC: Do you see a lot of Lazy DJ’s while touring that simply hit ‘PLAY’?
Opiuo: Totally, but I think they serve a completely different purpose. I think the people that are DJing serve a purpose, because people are still enjoying them. Maybe their focus is writing tracks on the road or whatever. For me, I want to go home, write something that’s going to nail it, then go on the road and be able to switch it up so it has an element of me! Sometimes when I’m playing the keyboard on stage I’ll hit a wrong note, but it’s part of the experience. For me it makes all the difference, and it’s why I enjoy seeing someone play live!
Also check out our past articles on Opiuo: