Feeling confined to one particular genre or sound is a predicament many modern music artists and producers fall victim to. In the popular music scene, it can be difficult not to feel pressured into pursuing a particular music trend and remaining artistically individualistic in the face of record labels and management is often an uphill battle. One artist who defies this notion, and has carved a unique sonic signature of his own is New Zealand artist Opiuo.
Having grown up amongst boutique music festivals which fostered an interest in diverse genres of music, Oscar Davey-Wraight, aka Opiuo, has come to align himself with a sound that’s constantly evolving. Finding it difficult to pigeonhole his sound, he named his first studio album after the kinds of sound effects you’d hear within his work, Slurp and Giggle. Last year, with 5 studio albums under his belt and releases on notable labels such as Additech, Empathy amongst his own record label Slurp Music, Opiuo’s career reached new heights after his collaboration with Syzygy Symphony Orchestra. This year Opiuo has been working on new music and gearing up to play multiple shows down under.
We got the chance to speak with him before his national tour, about all things local music, his experience with collaboration, and what the future has in store.
What was the music scene like in New Zealand growing up?
Amazing! I had an incredibly fortunate upbringing as I was surrounded by music and festivals from the very beginning. The “scene” didn’t really exist in my eyes as it was just a giant collection of small groups of people doing very cool things all over the country. I was witness to many genres and evolutions of New Zealand music first hand and it gave a real sense of freedom within music.
Your debut album release in 2010 ‘Slurp & Giggle’ forced you to leave your job and dedicate all your time to music. Did that shift change your relationship with music at all, turning a hobby into a full-time job?
I’ve always maintained the blissful notion that music is my hobby. It keeps me excited about doing it every other day. I love doing my own album and tour poster design work as well. Although it is very much my job these days, and I hold the utmost professional approach, I take it just seriously enough to make it forever fun!
How do you go with artistic collaboration, do you find you work better or more efficiently on your own?
I’d always been a very solo person when making music early on, but in the more recent years, I’ve branched right out into involving so many friends and music heroes of mine. It has been a very exciting ride, and I always like to see what someone brings. Even if they are just sitting in the background offering a fresh set of ears, it helps open up my mind to what is possible.
You’re extremely well versed in the art of remixing. How do you navigate your remix projects, and decide how much of your own style to inject into an original?
I think remixes should be exactly that, a complete remix of the original. Too many are only a small reworking and do not take the song in a whole new direction. So that’s what I always try to do. I never take on a song I do not think I can add some worthy improvements upon, and often I will not listen to the original all the way through, just so I don’t get too influenced by it. I like to take as little elements from the original as possible to then make something new but directly honouring the incredibleness of the original piece, as that’s why we are here in the first place. It’s a delicate balance, but an ever exciting and enjoyable one!
Are you more of a hardware or software kind of guy when it comes to your music production?
Both! I don’t like restrictions or rules at all! Whatever I am feeling that day is where I go. Sometimes it’s all from one hardware synth and sometimes is from every single synth and soft synth in my arsenal. I do have a very soft spot for hardware though; it’s just so juicy!
Your sound delves into so many genres, sometimes sitting well below 90bpm in one track and then 130bpm in the next. When completing a body of work do you think too much about consistency within your work, or do you let it all come into fruition organically?
It needs to be organic. It needs to be what I’m feeling at that very moment in time. I think far too much about everything, so nothing is ever completely organic, but I also love the randomness of life. To me, there is always some consistency within one of my releases, and I think it ever the more exciting if it takes a couple listens to find it.
Your most recent project was in collaboration with the Syzygy Orchestra, what lessons did you take away from that endeavour?
So many I’d never be able to list them in one place. It was a completely life-changing experience. I felt I not only grew musically and technically but also emotionally and spiritually as a person. It changed many ways I looked at things and gave me an internal confidence within myself that I could accomplish things I have always only dreamt of. I also probably gained 23 new grey hairs.
You’re about to head to Melbourne to play Let Them Eat Cake Festival on New Years Day, can we expect any new work from you to help ring in the New Year?
I’ll have at least 70% new music in my set. I can’t wait to try so much of it out for the very first time on my Melbourne family!
Catch Opiuo at Let Them Eat Cake on New Years Day 2019, grab tickets here!