Opolopo Talks About New Album Opolopo Tweaks On Local Talk, Jean-Luc Ponty, Soulphiction and Musical Inspirations
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An Interview with the Insider for Le Visiteur
Local Talk are soon to release a seriously hot compilation with tracks from their vaults given a revamp by studio wizard Opolopo. He’s an artist who we love here at LV online. His music embodies everything that is great in dance music. It’s incredibly funky, soulful, infused with Jazz sensibilities, sublimely well produced and it always bangs in a club. Opolopo’s working relationship with the always brilliant Local Talk goes way back at over a decade and it really is a match made in musical heaven.
With the album Opolopo Tweaks due to drop on 26th November we dispatched the Insider to talk to the much respected DJ and producer about the album, his career, Stockholm, his inspirations, his favourite own production and lots more. opolopo also laid down a rather scintillating mix for us which you can check below.
Grab Opolopo Tweaks from: https://localtalk.bandcamp.com/album/opolopo-tweaks
As the world begins to spin again, how is the mood in Stockholm? Are clubs and bars open? Have any festivals happened this summer?
All restrictions have been lifted here so things are getting back to “normal”. However, Sweden has had a very different approach during the pandemic with no mandatory lockdowns. There have of course been restrictions but people have still been allowed to move around and to use personal judgment and follow recommendations and apply them individually. So at least psychologically, we’ve been better off here and the mood and mental state of people hasn’t been as precarious as in many other places.
Do you think that the pandemic has left lasting damage to the night scene in Stockholm, or do you think it is recovering?
I’ve heard that the club scene was shifting even before the pandemic. That people are more interested in paying for a nice meal and drinks rather than paying admission to get into a club. Having said that, I recently played the first two nights of a new strictly jazz club night. Both nights were packed and people were getting down to Omar Sosa, so there seems to be a pent up demand for going to clubs and partying. Just hope it stays that way.
What’s the place to go to listen to house music in the city?
Can’t say I know any place like that at the moment I’m afraid. There are some nights that pop up every now and then but nothing long lasting.
Your roots are in Hungary, right? What took you to Sweden? When was that?
Yes, I was born in Hungary. Hungary was a communist country back then and when I was two, in 1970, my family defected and we ended up in Sweden eventually.
What turned you onto music as a kid? Was radio a great source of listening? Who did you listen to at that time on the radio?
My dad was a keyboard player with his own band and my mother also played the piano so there was a lot of music in the home when I grew up. It was that atmosphere and my dad’s record collection that turned me onto music. But that was on the jazzier side of things. In my teens I listened a lot to the Soul Corner radio show on Swedish national radio. It was hosted by the legendary Mats Nileskär who’s still going strong. A lot of my love for soul, funk and R&B came from that radio show.
It sounds like you were tinkering in your early years with tapes and stuff. What was you set up for these early experiments ?
When I first started “recording” was as a teenager with two cassette decks, bouncing between them and doing overdubs. I had a Sound Master SR-88 drum machine, a Casio VL-5 keyboard and a Yamaha CS01 synth. I also recorded the family piano that I sometimes would prep in different ways to get a new sound out of it. I used to put tic-tacs in the hammers to get a spike piano sound and also put tape on the strings to get a different muted sound. Those were the days…
What did he do in his musical career? What sort of stuff did he play? Instruments? Was it your dad who first inspired your sound back then?
Yes, my dad played the piano and was a touring musician with his band. He started out playing jazz but when we defected he had a cover band and would play in different cities in Scandinavia with the family tagging along. It was definitely my dad that inspired me to get into music myself.
Who were the artists you were into growing up?
Too many to mention. But some of the stuff – mostly music from the 70’s and 80’s – that shaped me musically in my late teens and early twenties include: Jeff Lorber, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, George Duke, Bob James, Gino Vannelli, Mezzoforte, Earth Wind & Fire, Isao Tomita, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, General Kane, Con Funk Shun, The Gap Band, the list goes on.
Herbie Hancock – Actual Proof
Jeff Lorber Fusion – Magic Lady
Earth, Wind & Fire – Faces
General Kane – Woppity Wop
Con Funk Shun – Hide and Freak
Tomita – Mars, The Bringer of War
Jean Michel Jarre – Arpegiator
When did you make the transition from DJ to producing? Or was it the other way around?
The other way around. I started out producing and wanting to be a musician. I had no interest in DJ’ing but I had a lot of music. Mainly CDs and rips on DAT of my dad’s vinyl collection. Sometime in the mid 90’s I was asked to come down to a club and play some records. It was fun but it was not something I thought I would pursue. It wasn’t until about ten years later it became a serious part of my livelihood.
I get the impression that your studio is immense, Is it at home? Is it full to brim with every synth known to man? What’s your favourite piece of equipment in the studio?
Yes, my studio is in an old humongous aeroplane hangar packed with every classic piece of hardware that money can buy…. in my mind…. It’s actually the exact opposite. My studio is at home and consists mainly of a desktop computer, some speakers and a midi keyboard. It’s been quite a few years since I switched to doing basically everything on the computer. I still have some hardware though. I have a “jam station” with a Rhodes, some synths and an Akai Force, that I use for some impromptu jams that sometimes make it onto video. But for actual production, I’m all digital. It just works better for me. The workflow, creative possibilities and effectiveness of doing everything “in the box” makes up for the total lack of sex appeal.
What are the instruments you play and to what degree?
I play keys well enough to be able to record my musical ideas. But I’m not trained and my playing is limited to my own musical universe. I play some plucked guitar very badly and do a bit of slapped bass. I tried playing drums as a teenager. However, I do know how all those instruments work and should sound if played well. So through the wonders of technology, I can make things sound as if they were played by somebody who knows what they’re doing.
Actual Proof was a moniker you also used. What time frame was that from? Is there a clear difference between Actual Proof and Opolopo in style of production?
That was a moniker I used for the first release on Local Talk in 2011. I had just released an album on Tokyo Dawn Records that was more on a boogie and electro tip. I had also done a lot of soul, funk and broken beat. Mad Mats (Local Talk label boss) suggested I use an alias for the LT release. Actual Proof was supposed to be the strictly house alter ego of Opolopo. But I went on to do a lot of house releases under the Opolopo name as well and there wasn’t really a musical distinction between the two aliases. So Mr. Proof was pretty much a one hit wonder.
My only remix as Actual Proof
When did you first take your name Opolopo? Did you ever visit Yoruba?
I first used Opolopo (Yoruban for “plenty”) for an album in 2003. Youruba is a language spoken mainly in Nigeria and some other West African countries. I’ve never been to any of those places though.
You’ve released on a ton of cool labels. What would you say were your most successful releases? Can you give us three?
Define “successful”, haha! Judging by the number of plays (not the amount of change in my pocket) three remixes come to mind.
If there’s one track that people usually know me for, it’s the remix of Gregory Porter’s 1960 What?:
Another one that did well is the rework of Sandy Barber’s I Think I’ll Do Some Steppin’ On My Own:
On the more disco/boogie side of things, It’s probably my remix of Change’s Make Me Go Crazy that holds the top spot:
With several outings on Local Talk, how far back does your relationship go with these guys?
I’ve known (and known of) Mad Mats for quite some time. I went to a lot of his legendary Raw Fusion club nights in the late 90’s. Tooli I got to know when they formed Local Talk in 2011.
Why do you think Local Talk are such a strong imprint? Why are they so successful in your opinion?
Because they are picky f*ckers! They know what they like and are passionate about it. I think they are just as passionate about what they don’t like. It makes for a well defined musical brand driven by the love of music. Quality over quantity.
This coming album dropping in November of ‘tweaks’, do you have a favourite out if the ten tracks or is that too hard to choose?
Hard to choose. I knew I wanted to do something with Soulphiction’s Bizzness. I could kinda hear in my head what I wanted to do and I think it turned out quite well.
Another favourite is Soul Renegades’ Speak To Me because I love the original so much. Those chords and that vocal sample are just so perfect together.
Speak To Me
This whole project was really interesting as I approached it the way I do when I do slightly less official edits and tweaks. I was just working with the finished original stereo track and no stems or multis. So I stayed much closer to the original than I usually do with full on remixes. The limitations of only having a full mix stereo track to work with leads your creativity down a different path.
Do you ever worry what the original artists will think about the remix? Or is that something that doesn’t play a part..
No. I mean, of course I want the original artist and label to be happy. But I can’t let the fear of not pleasing the artist dictate what I do. I usually ask if they have a certain direction or vibe in mind and then I just do my thing. Luckily that usually works out for everybody.
I love what you’ve done to the Soulphiction track. It must have been an honour to do this remix for such a great producer. Was that a tough one to do?
Bizzness was one of the first tracks I had in mind when Local Talk approached me for this project in 2019. The original is a very clever sample reshuffle and skillful beat surgery by Soulphiction on a rare 70’s funk track. So it was great fun adding some Rhodes, Horns and other bits for some jazzier flavouring, while still keeping it funky. Sadly I never got the chance to get the seal of approval from Mr. Baumann before he passed away. I hope I did him justice.
I’ve seen you play a few times in London and you’ve always set the disco floor on fire. Why do you think the UK crowd love you and get you so much?
I think the UK crowd just get good music in general. It’s all very subjective of course and it depends on what parties you play but the UK is musically very special. People know their music. So many interesting musical art forms and genres have originated there. I think there’s a tradition of musical curiosity in the UK that’s unrivaled elsewhere.
Do you have some nice gigs lined up for the coming months?
Gigs abroad are still quite slow. A lot of planned dates that fell through due to new waves of the pandemic. There are some nice ones planned for next year like Groove Odyssey in Ibiza and Soul Fusion in Portugal. Fingers crossed the world will be back to somewhat normal by then.
You’ve spent a long-time making music. If you didn’t end up working in this industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Before starting doing music full time back in 2003 I was also an art director at a web agency. So if it hadn’t been for music, I’d probably be doing some kind of graphical or industrial design. Either that or competitive pole dancing.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you?
Don’t wear your underwear on the outside of your trousers unless you’re a superhero.
What is your nugget of wisdom for young producers wanting to achieve the longevity you have in this industry?
Set the bar high for the quality of your work and don’t be in a hurry. If you’re good enough for long enough, people will notice. Hell, they might even want to pay you eventually.
What do you have in the pipeline?
A bunch of remixes as usual. Some that are very exciting but I can’t speak of just yet. There’s also a lovely project celebrating the Legendary Jean-Luc Ponty that I’m part of. The first release from the project is a reissue of the iconic In The Fast Lane with a cover version by myself. 12″ and digital on the Vive La Musique record label.
Thank you so much for your valuable time!
Thank you for having me!
Grab Opolopo Tweaks from: https://localtalk.bandcamp.com/album/opolopo-tweaks
For more info please check:
Opolopo Facebook: www.facebook.com/opoloposweden
Opolopo Soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/opolopo
Opolopo Instagram: www.instagram.com/opoloposweden
Opolopo Twitter: https://twitter.com/opoloposweden
Local Talk Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LocalTalkRecords
Local Talk Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/localtalk
Local Talk Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/localtalkrecords/
Local Talk Twitter: https://twitter.com/thelocaltalk