This is the tale of the ‘Synthesizer’ kid, who dreamed that one he would spread his love of electronic dance music to the far corners of the earth. The kid worked hard, hidden away in his studio mastering his craft. Today we know of him as Opolopo, the Producer & Remixer Extraordinaire and Turntable Dynamo.
With a name that means ‘Plenty’, in Yoruba, Opolopo has much to smile about. He has a string of dance floor smashes under his belt including his track featuring Shea Soul – Be Enough, Choklate – The Tea, the now infamous remix for Gregory Porter 1960 what? and recent a track featuring 1990s soul singer Lisa Stanfield for her Picket Fence, not to mention the Sacha Williamson heavy weight slammer ‘Blame’.
The time has come for Opolopo to stand and be counted as one the most prolific producers around.
The 4 X 4 not only a classic house beat – it forms the foundation of the interview 8 questions only.
1. Tell me one thing about yourself that most people do not know?
I can beatbox with my teeth.
2. Do you remember the first tracks you heard that turned you on to a life of making music?
I’ve always been into “making music” for as long as I can remember. I have no formal training but as a kid I was always messing around on the piano, coming up with simple riffs and melodies. The big thing for me though, that really sucked me in, was the discovery of electronic music. One of my earliest musical memories is hearing the synth-pop tune Popcorn on the radio when I was 3 or 4. The track featured the Moog synthesizer and I remember being fascinated by how it sounded and how it was different from anything else on the radio. But the biggest moment was probably hearing Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene during a relaxation exercise in gym class in the late seventies. It sounded so alien and mystical. It was all synthesizers and drum machines. Synthesizer was kind of a dirty word back then -“you don’t have to know how to play, just how to press a button”. But I didn’t care. I loved the sound. So I went and bought Jarre’s The Concerts in China album, and it was listening to that album that made me go -“One day I’ll have the synths and machines and I’ll be making electronic music.”
3. I first became aware of your music, after hearing your now infamous remix of Gregory Porter’s 1960 what. How did you keep your feet on the ground after creating such a dance floor anthem?
I’ve told the story many times but it was just a simple edit/tweak I did for myself so I could play it in a clubby context. Then Gregory’s label heard of it and the rest is history. I only added the minimal elements I felt it needed for the dancefloor: a synth bassline, kick, hats and a bit of percussion. The success of the “remix” lies in the power of the original. All I did was to present the track to a new audience.
4. Peter you had the unique opportunity to go on tour with your keyboardist father, what did you learn about music that you may not have learned otherwise?
Yeah, I was just a kid tagging along every now and then with my dad, who played keys in a cover band. We went playing on a cruise ship or supporting some big show artists at hotels. Don’t think I learned so much about music itself. It was more of getting a, not always so glamorous, glimpse of musicians and artists lives in the spot light as well as backstage. I loved the experience but it didn’t really make me want to become a musician. I was more interested in production and the music making process than being on stage.
5. The ‘Opolopo production sound is distinctive, what do you think makes your sound and style so different that other producers?
It’s just about musical and sonic taste I think. I have certain things that I like and I kind of now how to get there. The rest is just tools to get the job done.
My musical journey growing up, as a listener and fan of music, goes from electronic through fusion and jazz, through funk, soul and boogie. I think all those elements are present in one way or another in my productions. I guess that gives me a certain sound.
6. If you had the choice between DJing in a world class music arena full of music lovers or writing and producing a double platinum selling record, which would you chose and why?
Haha, well there’s not much money in selling records anymore so financially I should go for the full music arena. But then again, my arena style fist pumping is a bit rusty so I’d still go for the platinum record.
But seriously, as much as I love DJ:ing, my first and biggest love will always be producing and making music. There’s something about locking yourself up in a studio, creating and controlling your own musical universe, that’s hard to beat.
7. You are the master of the remix. The last album you did was ‘Voltage Controlled Feelings’, released on Tokyo Dawn records back in 2010. Do you have plans to produce another album and can you tell me more about your future plans?
I co-wrote and produced vocalist Amalia’s debut album, Art Slave, for TDR in 2011. So there kind of was one more after VCF. 😉
But I’m releasing a spanking new full length album for Z Records later this year. A mix of boogie, funk and house. It’s been in the making for quite some time but I’m very excited to finally unleash it upon the world.
Other than that there’s a bunch of new remixes coming up.
8. If you have a mission in life what is it? How will you know once you’ve achieved it?
When it comes to music my only mission is to never compromise with the quality of my work. Sure, in retrospect some things might not have worked so well or turned out differently than I thought while making it. But I always try and put in the same amount of work and dedication no matter what the project is. I’ve always thought that if you set your bar high enough all the time, people will eventually catch on. I’ve always wanted to let the music speak for itself. If you keep doing that and have the stamina and are stubborn and foolish enough – you might succeed.
So being able to make a living doing music is in a sense a result of achieving my mission.
Thank you Opolopo for sharing your passions and ambitions with us. For more from Opolopo please follow the links below:
Danny Krivit ‘And the Beat goes on..
In the early 1970’s Richard Nixon was president; the world shook with violence from the Vietnam War and Middle Eastern strains. It saw the beginning of electronic video games, Cool DJ Herc introduced sound systems to Cedar Parks in the Bronx and later on the world.
This is the era where we start our story, although this is not a story in the conventional sense, it is an interview about the life of a man, who has made a massive contribution to the music scene. Who has been instrumental along with his peers in keeping a much loved music scene alive and kicking for just over 40 years.
Join us as we board our time machine and enjoy a whistle stop tour through the ever changing faces of music. First stop we go back, way back, back in the day.
It is said that it takes a whole tribe to raise a child. Who where the inspirational members of your tribe and how did they influence you?
Greenwich Village in the 60’s was a hugely rich source of influences,
where I would run into people like; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, and play hand ball with my friend Nile Rogers. I got my first white label promo records from my neighbor-the vice president of Polydor, who later introduced me to James Brown. Going to the Filmore East… weekly! Where I saw Santana’s first performance, & countless others. I watched Soul Train religiously. Listened to AM radio station WWRL “The Gary Bird Experience” & later FM station WBLS & Frankie Crocker.
Can you recall some of your most cherished pieces of vinyl in those early year’s, do you still have them in your collection?
The White label promo’s of Lyn Collins “Think” & James Brown “Get On The Good Foot”… which James Brown gave me himself.
One of my 1st 12” singles I got in the mail, was “Family Tree” by Family Tree, not enough space to mention all the other titles in between.
Is it true that you got to meet the late Great James Brown when you were younger? How did this meeting come about and what was your lasting impression after meeting him?
•He was already my idol, when the Sex Machine album came out; I saw that show @ Madison Sq. Garden, Bootsy Collins was playing Bass. Meeting him only galvanized feelings towards him.
At what point did your passion for collecting music start to take over, and direct you into DJing world? What else was happening in this period of your life?
As a kid I was already a chronic collector, comic books & a slew of other things, collecting records started early & came naturally. When I started Djing @ my father’s club “The Ninth Circle” I was only 14, too young to get into most other clubs. I remember going to places like the Original Lime Lite on 7th Ave, where David Rodríguez played. Me & my friends could not get in, so we would have our own party on the sidewalk, where we could still hear the music clearly, even the mixes. Because I couldn’t get into many clubs I would live for concerts, places like the Beacon on Broadway & 74th St, where a typical show would be; Bohannon, Betty Wright, The Stylistics, & Mandril… all in one show!
As we move forward and settle on those early club years at the ‘9th Circle’, ‘One’s’, and the now legendary joint ‘The Loft’. We look back on what was emerging, as the touch paper was lit and would become the start of something explosive.
Your father owned a club named the ‘9th Circle’, which some might say had a peculiar name. The 9th Circle referred to Dante’s Alighieri depiction of his journey through hell. From dark origins, to the name of a well known Jazz club. Is there a story behind how the club became to be called 9th Circle?
According to Dante’s Inferno, hell was divided up into 9 circles, & the Ninth Circle was reserved for the worst sinners. The cynical anti establishment bohemian atmosphere of the early 60’s helped to make that title seem more cool than dark.
Through out the period of the mid to late 1970s there appeared to be an explosion of colour, music and mood. The conditions were conducive for a real meeting of the minds. Who were your contemporaries around this time? Did you have any idea that you were changing the course of the music history?
At the time I never thought I was changing anything more than the next record & having a good time. Regarding the NY club scene, When I began in 1971 I knew people like David Mancusso, Francis Grasso, Michael Cappello had already made their mark, I would fit more in the 2nd wave with people like Nicky Siano, David Rodríguez, Steve Deaquisto,Bobby DJ Gutadaro, Barry Lederer, T Scott… there were much more, but you get the idea.
David Mancuso, and The Loft, meant a good many things to a lot of different people. What did this revolutionary coupling mean to you and why?
I always think of David as the base of the tree that everything sprang from. There were others before him, but they usually just did their job… they weren’t changing or affecting much. The loft was David’s house, & just an extension of him, and totally unique.
And the beat goes go…as we move forward from soul, funk, disco; watch them blend and evolve. A new movement, ‘House’ music is born and now starts the next chapter.
Cruising along, we take in the sights and sounds of the 1990s and beyond.
Danny you appear to be the Pied Piper of the generations. Calling forth all music lovers together, in the search for the everlasting beat. In the mid 1990s you team up with the purveyors of the dance floor ‘Body and Soul’, featuring Joe Claussell and Francois Kevorkian. How did you come to join Body & Soul, which would later become the holy trinity of the dance scene?
Early 70’s to mid 90’s… nice Rumpelstiltskin jump.
I had known Francois since the mid 70’s; we had always shared an extreme love for music. Before Body & Soul started, Francois would call me & say ‘I wish there was a club like this or that’, & we would go down a list of what we thought a good club should focus on… & how there just wasn’t anywhere like that at the moment. Clubs & DJ were increasingly focused on $ 1st. He called me one day in July 96’ & said, ‘I’m playing at this club Vinyl today, this could be a little like what we talked about, just music we like to play, on a good sound system, for some friends & people who feel the same way, no $, just for the fun of it’. I said “I’m there”. The 1st one was only 30 or 40 people… but it felt great & we couldn’t wait to do it again, soon we asked Joe to join us, with the 3 of us it felt great. We were never looking for success, this was for fun, but nobody seemed to be doing that at the time, & it started to catch on fast.
Did you anticipate that Body and Soul would become successful on an international scale: in Japan and United Kingdom? How would you describe the similarities and the differences between the world wide members of Body and Soul family?
I knew it was perfect for Japan, but not surprised it caught on other places too. There are a lot of great music lovers out there when we travel. However playing at home for people you grew up with & experienced the music mostly the way you did is hard to compare to.
You are renowned for captivating audiences with your re edits of classic, soul, funk and disco tunes. As a Producer, Mixer and Editor in your own right, how did you first become interested in the technical side? What was the first re edit you made and how was it received on the dance floor?
The 1st edit I did was called ‘Feelin James’, a medley around James Brown’s Funky drummer.
•Since it was more in a hip hop vain, I was limited to who I could really bring it to, I brought it to Freddy Baston, Mark Kamins, & Mantronix @ Danceatieria, & Tony Smith @ Funhouse. It seemed to have gone over big with everyone.
Danny you are in the unique position of having a panoramic view of the evolution of the underground dance music scene. When you consider your past experiences as a DJ, Producer and Promoter, what if any are the significant changes you have noticed? Do you feel that the essence of those earlier parties still carries through at events you perform at today?
I feel very fortunate to be part of many great parties. Some of the big changes I’ve really noticed. Everyone’s extreme loss of their leisure time. An evaporated music industry and its support system.
Technology rules supreme. Cell Phones and digital music. I used to often get goose bumps from a special piece of music… I’ve never gotten goose bumps from digital music.
The music community was shocked recently with the passing of one of ‘House music’s, founding fathers Frankie Knuckles. There was a huge up swell of emotion at his passing. On reflection what did the work of Frankie Knuckles mean to you?
Frankie was a class act, when he played something; it seemed to take on classic feel, not classic old, but classic strong.
Danny, you appear to have dedicated your life to spreading the gospel of music; from champion of the Turntables, Vinyl Junkie Extraordinaire, and Maestro of Productions for Re Edits, Mixes. When you look back, can you describe the most poignant highlights of your career so far?
I’m not much for touting my own achievements; it just feels great to be doing something I love so much for so long and to also have people appreciate it.
How did you continue to show love, and sustain your interest and energy in to lifestyle that has been with you all your adult life?
This is where out journey thank you sharing your unique experience with me. Until next time Keep On Jumping!
And so the beat goes on. We have waved farewell to 2013 and have embraced 2014 with vigor, even though we are all a little damp from the continuous rain.
January for some normally feels somewhat like an anti climax after all the festivities. So I’ve got back on the case with another interview that will warm your cockles and soothe your soul in more ways than one.
Now if you live in the South West and are a committed soul fan, the chances are that at some point over the last 20 years you have found yourself at one of Bristol’s much loved and respected Soul Train events. For two decades Paul Alexander, John Stallard, Steve and Adryan Ashby of Soultrain have kept the fires burning and have bought legendary acts such as: Alexander O Neal, The Fat Back Band, Roy Ayers, Omar, Loose Ends, much to the delight of soul lovers.
Ladies and gentlemen get your groove on and do the electric slide, introducing one of Soul Train founding members Paul Alexander.
Can you tell me how Soul Train first came about?
Soul Train started as a one off reunion for 70s clubbers in December 1992. Our origins go back to early 70s importing US funk, we had our own charts which is well documented in Chris Browns book ‘Bovver’ and is also quoted by massive attack as early influences to Bristol Sound Take a look on www.soultrainuk.com bio.
• Which 3 records would you say sum up the sound track to your life?
That’s a hard one so many to choose from: I love William Devaughan, be thankful / Creme de la creme, Ain’t no stopping us now by McFadden & Whitehead was a big Soultrain anthem as was legends Maze with Joy & Pain.
• You’ve enjoyed a long career, what have been the highlights of your career so far?
Playing Glastonbury and Love Saves the Day. Hosting a 5 hour radio show on Star Radio every Sunday and being voted as the Top Soul Club Night outside of London ( past & present ) by Soul Survivor Magazine.
• You have worked with many legendary artists such as Omar, Loose Ends, The Fat Back Band, Soul 2 Soul, to name but a few. What does it feel like to work with your musical heroes?
It’s through our love of the music that we brought the fatback band to Bristol twice ! The first ever Fatback Band appearance in over 25 years lives long in the memory. Alexander O Neal was a soul legend in the 80’s, I think to be on stage with both these soul legends as a soul fan was awesome. If we never work with another artist, to look back in years to come on these nights both will live long in the memory. Omar and Nile Rodgers were by far the most professional.
• The scene has changed over the years how do you see it developing in the future?
Much to our surprise, what started off as a one off has just kept running and running. We introduced reggae train 5 years ago which has been a great success. We get new people discovering Soultrain all the time. What they want is the retro soul sound so we will keep playing for as long as people keep turning out to our events . For the future we are eye-ing more festivals
• What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline?
Roy Ayers next up , then potentially Bootsie Collins , and maybe major US soul legend in May so watch this space.
Kindest Regards Yours soulfully Paul Alexander
Big love and thanks going out to all the Soul Train family.
For more tales and the history of Soul Train check out:
Lay-Far’s music is like a breath of fresh air, which blows the cobwebs away from the usual convention sounds. He has almost single handed restored my faith in the new breed of producers coming through on the scene and for these reasons I want to shout from roof tops that the ‘So Many Ways’ album, in my humble opinion, is one of the best albums I have heard in 2013. This is quite a statement to make, however I stand by it. The album plays like a rich tapestry, an extravagant wall hanging, the more you listen to it the more you hear. Lay-Far’s musical influences are clear; Jazz, Broken Beat, Hip Hop, House, Soul, Funk, Brazilian beats, are all cleverly woven into the fabric of the album. The stunning vocals contributions from the likes of Pete Simpson, Dragon, Peter Oakden, Sarah Winton add texture & colour to each track.
It is difficult to pin point stand out tracks on this album, it is a wonderful collection. Tracks like ‘we are the drum’, ‘Stand up’, ‘When I’m seeing you’, ‘So many ways’, the imaginative use of samples between the tracks. This is an album that excites the senses, it invites you to listen, it takes you by the musical hand and off you go on your own little journey. Or in other words this is a journey into sound. Artists of Lay-Far’s calibre are rare which is why we should support his music, put the needle on the record and dance.
Artist: Alexander Lay-Far
Record Label: GlenView US
Type of music: Jazz, Broken Beat, House, Soul
Released on: 29th November
Available from: ITunes, Juno Records, Chemical Records