Interview by Arnold van der Walt
Already being compared to the likes of Bonobo and Caribou, Oscuro has been making waves with his richly textured soundscapes. Today, he brings us the deep ‘Take Me Down’, exclusively on The Playground.
Oscuro was formed in 2014 after he won a contest on Beatport Play for his remix of Tears for Fears’ ‘Pale Shelter’ which was subsequently released via Universal. Since his debut album release in 2015, he’s seen support from industry heavyweights such as The Line of Best Fit, EDM.com, THUMP, CLASH, Earmilk, Your EDM and Discobelle to name but a few. After releasing music via Pegdoll records, 2017 saw Oscuro become part of the iconic Cafe del Mar record label, the latter recently released their chillwave 3 compilation of which Oscuro is featured on. A regular name on Youtube channels such as Fluidified, nourish, and MOR Network, Oscuro found himself composing tracks for BBC Television with his music featured on Sky News and Sky Sports.
‘Take Me Down’, his latest premiere via The Playground, is filled with beautiful piano melodies, haunting vocal work and an ever-present sense of melancholic dread. The repeated verse “I’m lost without you” can have multiple meanings in the context of the track. Hope or hopelessness? You decide.
We sat down with Oscuro and spoke about his brand new premiere, ‘Take Me Down’, composing for the BBC, and the power in simplicity.
Hi Oscuro! Before we get into things, what have you been u to lately?
Hey! I’ve been mainly working on releasing singles, building towards an album project later in the year. I am also planning on releasing another sample pack soon, keep an eye on my Instagram for more info.
Your music has a distinctly deep and atmospheric style to it. To those not familiar with you, how would you describe Oscuro’s sound?
I would describe my current sound as an emotive soundscape juxtaposed with more visceral percussion and drums, stylistically influenced by genres such as Chillstep, Future Garage and Wave
How did you get into producing music? Was there a moment where you realised “this is what I want to do for a living”?
I was into skateboarding as a teenager and started playing guitar after being inspired by punk & metal bands, I decided to pursue music through college and university mainly focusing on performance and music education but after seeing a friend producing I realised you could make music on your own on a computer and I was hooked from then on! I’d always really enjoyed a broad spectrum of music and gravitated towards electronic music due to the apparent creative possibilities.
You’ve had multiple releases on a wide range of labels, channels and publications. Do you have any advice for an up and coming producer on how to enter the scene?
I think it really helps if you get inspired by a particular scene where there is a lot of engagement, a platform like SoundCloud can be invaluable for getting feedback early on and if you offer your tracks as free downloads, promotional channels can easily feature your track which can lead to growth.
It’s always great to be experimental and push boundaries with production but I think it’s also important not to alienate your listener and to always make sure your tracks have meaning and are enjoyable to listen to.
Speaking of, you just premiered ‘Take Me Down’ via The Playground. What can you tell us about the creation of the track?
I built the musical themes of this track around the lyrics, for me the track explores the feelings of being hopelessly devoted to someone or something, sometimes when you pursue an artistic passion it can feel like it has a hold over you but at the same time you can’t imagine where you would be without it, the same could also apply to a romantic relationship. I hope listeners will find their own meaning in my tracks.
Is there a specific sensation/emotion you want listeners to experience with ‘Take Me Down’?
I like to try and strike a balance between feelings of sadness and hope in my tracks, I hope that comes through for the listener.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?
I try and write every day and keep a folder of short musical ideas and chord progressions on my hard drive; these ideas usually start on the piano (piano VST & MIDI keyboard). I tend to pull up an idea after a few days and decide if it’s worth developing. The next thing I work on are the drums, before finding a vocal sample to work with, sending it to a singer or developing the melody if it’s a purely instrumental piece.
Gary Numan is quoted as saying: “I have always been far more interested in sound than technique, and how sounds work together, how they can be layered. I think electronic music, (in its infancy anyway) allowed us to create music in a way that hadn’t really been possible before. It created a new kind of musician.” What are your thoughts on this statement?
I totally agree with that statement and I think technological advancement is creating new possibilities every day, producers have the luxury of abundant processing power, we are only really limited by the scope of our imagination.
I think conversely it’s important not to lose sight of how powerful simplicity can be when done correctly, a piece of music with 100+ tracks of audio can sound fantastic but so can a piece of music with just a piano and vocal track… I find it important to cycle between both approaches.
Which three albums have influenced you the most creatively?
Tough question, I can pick three that had a particular role to play in pushing my sound forward and they would be ‘The North Borders’ by Bonobo (I still find new layers in that record). ‘Immunity’ by Jon Hopkins (I find that he achieves a level of cohesion that still blows my mind) and lastly the soundtrack to American Beauty by Thomas Newman, I’ve spent hours pondering how he achieved some of the soundscapes he created and this pushed me to try new things to emulate some of the sounds I liked.
Which artist would you cite as your biggest influence and/or inspiration?
It’s hard to pick one! But it was definitely Bonobo that lead me toward the more organic side of electronic music that informed my earlier work and eventually developed into my current sound.
Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
I definitely gravitate more towards the studio, that being said there is nothing like seeing people consuming and enjoying your music in real time!
What has been your most memorable performance so far?
I haven’t done any huge shows or massive venues yet but have had some good times playing smaller sets with engaging audiences.
And which performance would you prefer to forget?
I’m lucky enough not to have had any real disasters yet so ask me further down the road!
Apart from releasing your own music, you’ve also been composing for BBC. How did you manage to balance so much recording work?
I’ve done a small amount of commission work for various clients for the last few years and it’s been quite a natural process in that I’ve been able to devote my time to each project and ease off on my own release schedule to accommodate.
Are there any new artists on the Oscuro radar that you feel the world need to know about? What 3 songs do you currently have on high rotation?
So many! Some fairly recent discoveries are Vesky, Fyze and Phelian.
Tracks on rotation are:
1. Vesky – Regret
2. Shah – The Moment
3. Faodail – Looming
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Oscuro! Before you go; tell us about any upcoming shows or releases you have in the pipeline.
My track ‘Stay With Me’ was just released as part of the new Cafe Del Mar compilation, so be sure to check that out. I’ll be releasing an EP towards the end of April so stay tuned on my socials for more info.
Famous last words…
Thank you, it’s been great!