Talk about producers of breakbeat, drum and bass and glitch, and you often conjure up images of pale, reclusive dudes hiding out in basements making the kind of terrifyingly loud, jarring noises erupt from their monitors that would make small children sob, complaining about how the scene was so much better ten years ago and how kids these days just don't know what real electronic music is, et cetera. It's all very serious-business and not all that much fun - which, let's be honest, is the complete opposite of what dance music should be about, right?
Luckily, Melbourne has Opiuo to brighten the mood a little for us. Residing in the northern suburbs of our fair city, his musical world is one filled to the brim with all sorts of cheeky good times - his tunes traverse everything from glitch, dubstep, drum and bass and funk, awash with a glorious sense of hyperactivity and joy that's universally appealing beyond the strict boundaries of genre and time. Having been all over the world to play festivals from Burning Man and Shambhala to Victoria's own Rainbow Serpent, his hometown of Melbourne were thrilled with an announcement that Opiuo is set to play the Hi-Fi bar this month alongside fellow funk magician Spoonbill - so naturally, we decided it would be all sorts of great to get caught up with him and score a full update on what he's been up to.
A little bit of background, to begin: originally a New Zealand native, Opiuo relocated to Melbourne out of a desire to get more involved in the music industry - a decision which has worked out wonderfully for him, he says. "I was initially drawn to Melbourne through a pure need of a bigger city, and a bunch of my closest homies had recently moved and they raved about the amazing music that was coming through weekly. I thought I should check it out, as I was really just starting to subconsciously make music my life." It's a decision he is thankful for, allowing him the opportunity to network with some seriously rad people - "I wouldn't be where I am today without the amazing people here. Everyone is supportive, and expressing themselves with their own creative mash, no matter what the person next to them is doing. It's refreshing, raw and beautiful all in its own way."
Opiuo's back catalogue is crammed with all sorts of musical delights - from the funky, laidback vibes of earlier tunes like Monkey Crunk to more recent offerings like Robo Booty and tunes from his latest Squiggle EP, Opiuo writes tunes for crowded dance floors - twisted bass lines, whacked-out grooves and glitched-up beats combine to create an intoxicating experience for listeners of his tunes. Where did the love for fresh, funky beats begin? When asked about the kind of music he was raised on, we are treated to an answer that reveals a diverse palette of sounds and genres, all united by a love of the electricity of live performance. "Growing up, I was surrounded by punk, rock, and outdoor festival culture. My parents had big festivals staged on their land from when I was super young. It was awesome for expanding my brain into what music can be. I listened to everyone from Bob Marley and Rage, to Herbie Hancock." Cool kid, right? When it comes to his own music, however, he's inspired more by everyday happenings. "I'm actually more influenced with the everyday goings on of life," he reveals. "People, places, faces, and spaces fill my brain with the electronic pulses to create, more than anything else, and these days my headphones are filled with loads of hip hop, some acoustic ramblings, and a dash of downtempo electronica."
From this well-educated, musically speaking, mind came his debut album from last year, titled Slurp and Giggle - and released to much acclaim from peers and punters, both here and abroad. "It was created over the summer of 2010 in my studio in Northcote. I made everything on my Mac Pro with a bunch of Native Instruments soft synths, my trusty Novation Xiosynth, and blasted them through my KRK monitors. The music part came about quicker than I had expected, but it turned out to be the track selection that would take forever. I sat on it for 2 or 3 months before being happy with the final chosen and arranged tunes. But holy shit, it was an extremely satisfying moment to have an album of original music released. I never dreamt of being in the position to do this, and now it's my life."
Lucky guy. On the driving force behind the creation of his music, his words are simple and speak to the deepest desires of dancefloor enthusiasts the world over - to get loose and have a damn good time while doing so. "I wanted to create something fun, that makes you move, allowing you to create your own moment in time while you listen, and leave all the bullshit life sometimes brings on miles away."
And it's definitely fair to say he's succeeded in his aim - party animals the world over have been busy getting up to no good in the name of Opuio's tunes. It's been a busy year for the man, with international travels and massive gigs featuring prominently in his calendar for 2011 so far. Asked about some of the best parties he's played lately, he regales us with one tale from New York City from mere weeks ago: "I had a huge crowd - thousands - in a gigantic tent rocking out to my music, responding literally to every move. It was a massively spastic scene, and such a fun rush! I got to kick it with some NYC friends and see some amazing hip-hop from RJD2 and Redman from Wu-Tang. So dope!"
Despite the insane shenanigans that often go hand in hand with travelling internationally and playing to huge festival crowds, Opiuo remains particularly enamored with the fair city of Melbourne. "To be honest, my favourite shows are right here in Melbourne! Hometown crowds are the best. Boosting special live sets at the Hi-Fi Bar and Rainbow Serpent are where it's at for me!"
I'm curious as to what he's into in terms of heading out on a Friday or Saturday night, when it's not him up on the stage forcing massive crowds to dance for their lives. Is he a bit of a party animal, I ask? "I used to be, but now I'm actually a bit of a home person when I'm not touring and on the road," he responds. "I prefer hanging with my Melbourne family, my computer, and my long board. When the right gig is on though, I love to be in the crowd. Being a punter is so much fun. But as soon as the show is over, I'm already thinking about how I can make my own next show just that little bit better. It's a never-ending addiction, one that never leaves my mind."
In addition to various sweaty, euphoric gigs around the state, some of you might also have caught him happily handing out tips and tricks on how to make your tunes as shiny and fun as his at the most recent Producers' Conference at the Revolt Artspace, steadily building a reputation for being Melbourne's place to be for up-and-coming music producers. He also recently offered up one of his own tracks, the delightfully bangin' Robo Booty, for remixing duties by his fans on the Opiuo website. What a generous soul! Opiuo is modest and down-to-earth when it comes to his love of sharing his knowledge with others - "I think when you are given the opportunity to share your creations with thousands of people the world over, it's an amazing gift to be able to give back, share tips and experience, and generally help move the people around you forward," he explains. "Whether it's by allowing the chance to work on one of your creations, or explain how the complex creative process works in your head - I think it's important to keep in touch with the peeps around you, and not get lost in the clouds."
We're pretty keen to get a heads-up on what's in the pipeline for one of Melbourne's most exciting electronic musicians, and as he reels through his list of what's on, I get the sense that this is definitely a guy who enjoys throwing himself into the deep end of the music scene. "Currently I'm writing new music for my next album, working on another album for a side collaborative project 'sun:monx', remixing people from far and wide, planning tours with my agents for the entire world, providing beats for some amazing dance crews in the US, and generally keeping as happy as possible." Now that's multi-tasking to the extreme. "It's a lot of work to keep on top of it all, but I wouldn't rather be doing anything else." Lucky for us.
Opiuo [AUS] plays Bada Boom! alongside Spoonbill [AUS] and more on Saturday August 20 at The Hi-Fi.