Webster Hall got its groove on last Friday, May 20 to the one and only funk master, Opiuo. The house was full, but not packed, and the overall vibe was positively chill with distinct notes of palpable excitement.
Hiyawatha and Dali got the crowd moving and shaking in preparation for Opiuo’s spirited set. Opiuo threw down an energetic set with a gradual build that kept the crowd bouncing all night long. Armed with not only his laptop but also a range of electronic drum machines and synths, this DJ set had extra flair for sure. His hit ‘Sneakers’ from the album, ‘Omniversal’ paired with his undeniable stage presence were the highlights of the night.
Although Friday was a night to remember, if you missed out on the music do not fret, Opiuo will be returning to New York this August when he joins a massive line up at Brooklyn’s Elements Music and Arts Festival!
We got the chance to talk with Oscar about his upcoming album and why he’s excited to be coming back to Brooklyn in a few months:
What kind of inspiration do you draw from being in New York – the greatest city in the world 😉 ?
I have come here a few times, and the first couple of times I came here I didn’t get the city – it was dirty, people were rude, it was crazy. Every time I have come back since, it has grown to be one of my favorite cities in the world purely because I see where that inspiration comes from and you have to be doing something. It is inspiring just to be here. It doesn’t sleep. There’s all sorts of music. When I was staying in Brooklyn two days ago there was a full thirty dudes going down the street with drums on, playing crazy percussion. That shit just happens, and it’s awesome. Organic too, it’s not like ‘hey we’re doing this thing,’ people were just doing their thing, it just happens.
Why did you move from New Zealand to Australia? Was it creative, professional, socially driven?
At the time it was more social, I needed a bigger city; I wanted to try it out. There was a bigger music scene, but not knowing that music was going to be my thing, it was always a hobby. It just kind of took over me when I was there, which is why I ended up doing it like this.
Really? I thought it sparked when you were living on your parent’s property and they would hold music festivals?
Music to me was always an awesome hobby that I loved doing, that was never going to be my reality or my job. I always kind of dreamt of that, but the beautiful thing was I never put that much pressure on myself for it to be that. But being a nomad, just being around and seeing the opportunity to do it, I just ran straight at it.
What is your creative process like for creating a song? Is it a long thought out process or can you bust out three songs in a day?
It varies; it can be a couple of days to months. It depends on what I am going for. Normally an idea starts, if it something that pre-existing in my head, which is nearly every single time, it kind of comes out and depending on how hard I push myself to go somewhere, new or different, will depend on how long it takes. I have this weird thing where I can sit there and I have a song completely going in my head, and then the ability to get it out is what slows me down.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to playing with the live band?
The advantages are the ability to travel with your best homies, and have an amazing experience to share with people that are right there on stage with you. Every show is drastically different even though we are trying to play the same music, things happen that you don’t expect. The disadvantage is sometimes I want to just play a different song, and when I play solo I can. It is very planned out [with a live band] because we all need to know what we are doing. But it’s cool because we less backing track and more pulling things apart and playing it live. So the cool thing is we can fuck up, and that’s the cool exciting thing, it’s what we are doing it for, it’s not prerecorded and in that sense we can fuck up.
So would you say you get more nervous when you play with the live band?
I would say so; I don’t actually get nervous before I go on stage ever. It’s like right before going on stage I go into a relaxed state. There’s more thought, there is much more rehearsal and time put going into therefore I am actually more relaxed because we know what we are going to do. The cool thing is it’s scary because all the other guys need to pull their stuff together, when we walk off stage and we all nail it – that’s the most insane feeling.
What is one thing that you can tell us that you do before you go on stage that no one else knows about? Do you have any rituals or anything?
I actually just go to a corner by myself and just go as crazy as I can, just to get it all out. I don’t want to go on stage and feel like I’m trying to figure out what I am doing, sometimes I scream and go nuts in order to connect with the audience. They have been dancing and I don’t want to walk out there stiff.
Can you give us one short-term and one long-term goal?
My short-term goal is to do what I love and be able to support the people around me to do what they love. My long-term goal is to live a happy life, actual true happiness. There are a lot of things that get put into view that people think they should want to do, happiness for everyone is completely different. You define that for yourself, and you can’t judge anyone on that.
Do you feel like you are well on your way to a happy life?
Yeah I have days when I am like living a life that most people only dream of. I don’t take it for granted; there are some days where you don’t even think about it, you are in that zone. Every time I am doing something I really feel like this I am so less than lucky in that moment, in someway you are deserving of what you get to do, I take that knowing there are so many people that would really love to be doing what I do.
Everyone has their ups and downs.
Absolutely, I think there’s a balance in life, you need to have your downs to have your ups. You really do, and every one has them no matter how amazing their life is. The ones with the most amazing lives have the craziest downs. When I learned that you don’t know everyone’s story, that was an amazing point in my life just to really appreciate everyone for who they are, and I am not judging them too hard because you don’t know what they have had that day, that whole year, their life, where they came from. It’s an important thing to remember. It’s a pretty miraculous thing that we even exist at this split second in whatever reality is.
You will be back in August for Elements, how excited are you for that? What are you most excited for?
I am extremely excited; I have never played outdoors in this kind of environment. I don’t even know what my specific excitement is for it. When I found out I was doing it, I said yes before I even knew the offer for it. It seems slightly ‘Mad Max-y’ and slightly industrial which I am totally down with.
What do you hope to gain from the experience?
The funny thing is when I tour and travel I have expectations of places, but it’s the things that I least expect is what I take away with me the most. So I hope its just something that smacks me in the face out of left field.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new album coming out?
Yes! It’s coming out in two weeks, I am extremely excited. I finished the album and it’s the first time I have finished the album and I am still really excited about the music. Because it is such a long process, you listen to it so much you get sick of it. This is the first time I have finished it and being so excited about it still. It is something special for me, I went to places I have never been.
Where do you draw the inspiration from?
I took my time with it as well. I went and made music for myself, as well as making music that I think other people will listen to and expect of me. It a tough thing when people expect something of you, and you have to make something new, and they want something they know but also isn’t too old. At the end of the day if you are unhappy with what you are doing there is no point in doing it. The further you drift from something people expect, they kind of come with the experiences because you can get people that love it and people that don’t like and that’s awesome because that gives you more distance. For me at the end of the day I love what I have done. I can’t believe it is still two weeks away. It was cool, a really good experience.
If you could pick two artists to be your parents who would they be?
I am going to say one of the first people who blew my mind: musically it was Tracey Chapman. When I was younger and I didn’t really understand what music could do, especially random things I listened to. Purely for that experience I had it was almost like another Mom that I had when growing up. And someone like [Salvadore] Dali, someone completely freaky like him for my Dad. My parents are still some of my best friends still today so I wouldn’t change them for the world. They are super proud of me and genuinely love my music too. I send them all my merch, my dad always wears it; they are my homies, they even come to festivals sometimes.
Photos by Ashlyn Fulton