O’Flynn on his ‘Aletheia Remixes’ EP and the power of human connection in music [Interview]

It’s an indisputable fact that once O’Flynn released his debut album Aletheia, the glittery songs composing the 12-track album would become staples of Summer dance floors all across the globe. Keenly, here in Melbourne an Aperol Spritz was seldom enjoyed without the sweet sounds of “Tru Dancing” reveberating across sun-lit crowds. Though it was not just punters who enjoyed the London-based producer and DJ’s work – legendary names in the electronic music industry such as Four Tet were also amongst the first to praise O’Flynn, revealing his name as one of the most promising house producers of his generation. 

In order to celebrate about a year since his debut album and connect producers in the bleak and desperate times of the pandemic, O’Flynn has returned with a hot remix EP featuring reinterpretations from some of his favourite producers including Loraine James, K-Lone, Dan Shake and Ekhe. This release was shortly followed by O’Flynn doing his own remix of Bronson’s “VAULTS”, highlighting remixing as one of the best forms of collaboration while in isolation.

EARMILK had the chance to chat with O’Flynn about both his debut album and remix EP, how his creative process has changed during the pandemic, cultural considerations when sampling music and the age-old debate of sampling vs crafting new sounds. Read below to gain an insight into the young producers mind. 

From the onset it is clear that O’Flynn has a deep appreciation for music and the social bonds that it can form. Notably, he divulges that Aletheia was catalysed by social gatherings and travel, festivals and cultural exchanges. “The first sound you hear on the album is a field recording from a festival called Boomtown” he reveals, “I was just walking around with my friends drinking some beers in the sunshine popping into different musical experiences. I don’t really think life gets much better than that”. I wholeheartedly agree with O’Flynn, even if the memory of festivals now causes a pang to the heart, out of longing and desperation for when they will return. 

The most popular song of the album “Tru Dancing” also has a strong connection to festivals and that lifestyle. Keenly, it was specifically made for the Wales festival Gottwood, and was not planned to be released after that. However, once he saw the reaction of the crowd the first time it rung through festival speakers, O’Flynn was made acutely aware that it was a track that really connected with people. A decision based on witnessing emotional reactions to his music truly ties in with O’Flynn’s ethos of making music for the people. “The music I make isn’t for me” he remarks, “it’s for everyone else. So having empathy and an idea of what can improve someone’s day is essential to creating music that is going to connect with people”. 

The human connection at the centre of the album is largely represented through rich percussive programming, mainly adorned through carefully selected ecstatic samples. O’Flynn notes that the strong focus on percussion was influenced by a trip to Morocco. “It was one of those perfect trips. Morocco to me is a magical place. Walking through an old souk, it feels more like somewhere you would be in  your dreams or a fiction novel rather than reality”. Between sleeping in the Sahara Desert, playing frisbee on sand dunes with local guides and travelling to Chefchaouen, which he maintains is one of the most beautiful places in the world, the possibilities for inspiration were limitless. Aside from being constantly surrounded by ~120bpm drumming, O’Flynn was mesmerised by the raw excitement from the music he was hearing. “It opened up an entirely new world of sounds that I wanted to try and combine with my music. The rhythms and sounds of the percussion I heard in music from Africa, India, South America, Asia and Arabia were just simply more interesting to me than a lot of the music that was made in England”. 

Evidently, O’Flynn reveals that his approach to music largely stems from cross-pollination and cultural exchange, whether it be jamming with people across the world to make the globe feel a tiny bit smaller, or combining techniques and flavours to discover something new and interesting. Though he is privy to the fact that any music that involves sampling faces questions surrounding representation and compensation, particularly in the case of sampling largely African music and re-contextualising it for spaces that are predominately white. “With all the samples I use in my music we do our absolute best to track down the original writers and producers, clear and then pay regular royalties to the original artists. That doesn’t mean ‘pay them off’, that means that if a track gets used anywhere, be that on Spotify or in an advert or something, they get paid as well. I’m learning, listening and trying to evolve all the time, and going forward I want to make sure I give more visible credit to artists I sample – having their names alongside mine on Spotify and other measures like that”. 

Dan Shake · Claudia’s Trip
Like O’Flynn, Aletheia remix artist Dan Shake also has a strong focus on percussion and drum programming, highlighted in O’Flynn’s self-proclaimed favourite dance track of all time “Claudia’s Trip”. “I’ve played so many of his records in club over the years” O’Flynn shares, “I love the percussion in his tunes, a great producer to listen to if you are referencing sampled drums”. In Shake’s remix of “Seamstress”, the producer forms a hypnotic mirage of vast and spacious percussion with vocal overlays and trickling sonic textures that pay homage to the original track. The house track features a slow build up, but when it finally erupts in ecstasy, it is clear why this rising house music star has collaborated with legend Moodymann. 
While Shake transforms O’Flynn’s [insert adjective] track into a ranging house number, producer Loraine James inserts her unique experimental take on “Celestine”. Reminiscent of her previous work, including album released on Hyperdub For You and I, the electronica remix is ripe with ambient haunted pads, manipulated calls and glitch drum programming. O’Flynn felt compelled to ask James to do a remix after hearing For You and I, praising her for her “consistency with quality and originality”, which he finds refreshing. 
Like James, K-Lone truly put his own imprint on his remix of “Painted Wolf”. Keenly, the remix artists all share a sense of individuality and idiosynchronicity which attracted O’Flynn to their work, whether he knew them previously from university such as K-Lone and Ekhe or was astounded by their work as a producer before friendship emerged. In the case of K-Lone, O’Flynn was mesmerised by his album Cape Cira, which truly provided room for the sound elements to breathe and work together in a minimalist fashion. He approached his remix in a similar style, where O’Flynn believed that less rather than more would do the remix wonders and found that K-Lone “perfectly stripped it back and put his sound on it”. 
The final track of the remix EP is a collaboration between good friends O’Flynn and Ekhe reimagining “Mesablanca”. O’Flynn reveals that his style of working is basically just jamming on his Elektron Octatrack sample and hardware synths. “He consistently tries to break boundaries and be forward thinking with his sound and comes up with super interesting ideas. He and my friend Jacob (Spooky J) are next up on my label Hundred Flowers which will be released whenever the clubs reopen”. 

To finish off the chaotic last months of 2020, O’Flynn remixed “VAULTS” off BRONSON’s self-titled debut album alongside other talented remix producers including Cassian, Skream, OFFAIAH and Tunnelvisions. O’Flynn’s rework hones in on cosmic and intergalactic sonic artefacts, turning the slow dark and menacing industrial number into a roaring up-tempo miasma of hanging vocal melodies, pounding drums and gritty bass licks. 

As we enter 2021, O’Flynn is continuing to make music, with a second O’Flynn album in mind collaborating with friends to focus on more dance floor oriented work. Being deprived from the magic that ensues on dance floors during isolation and the pandemic, O’Flynn iterates that he hopes to return back to them on that joyful occasion with a load of his own tracks produced during this time. 

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