Monday, 28 September 2009

Onra interview

Here is an interview I did with the brilliant Onra.

For Chinoiseries, you sampled a lot of ethnic Vietnamese music. I was wondering if you might ever be interested in working with any Oriental hip hop groups, or if there is even a scene for the sort of music you make in the East?

Hip-Hop is still very new in Asia, and most of the people only know what they see on MTV or those kind of medias. I haven't met no vietnamese band, but in China, I met a couple people who were rapping in Chinese over 90's Hip-Hop influenced beats. I've never thought of collaborating with asian groups, except Japanese, that could be an idea, but it's not something I'm really looking forward to.

Given the success of Chinoiseries, is looking for inspiration in world music something you are interested in pursuing? Perhaps taking samples from Latin or African music? Like a hip hop Peter Gabriel or Paul Simon?

Chinoiseries is just a concept that happened because I went to Asia and I managed to find some records. It wasn't planned. I'm looking for good samples, no matter the country, the time, the artist, the genre of music. I like to make albums with themes though. The Tribute one only has Soul samples, 1.0.8 is made with Bollywood samples, and Chinoiseries is Chinese/Vietnamese. My next project is only made with 80's Funk samples. After the second volume of Chinoiseries, I don't think I'll do another theme album, though it's very important for me that each project has its own particular concept. I want to move on from making beats to making songs and collaborate with vocal artists.

1.0.8 features a very different sound to Chinoiseries, lots of surf guitar and gothic soul, is that a sound that you have always been drawn to?

1.0.8 is strictly made with Bollywood soundtracks, it happened that Indian music and Chinese music have some similarities, especially in the type of instruments and percussions they used, but still I find them different.

I've seen that you consider yourself a 'beatmaker'. In a way, that is a lot like being a producer. Are you interested in working with MCs ever?

Yeah beatmaker, producer, that's almost the same thing basically. I've worked with MC's already, but nothing has ever came out, it was just demos that we did for fun. Of course in the near future, you will hear more vocal artists over my beats, hopefully around the end of next year.

If so, who would you like to work with?

I'd like to work with people that really inspired me, legends and unknown underground talents. I can't really give you any names cause I have to figure out if those collaborations are possible (budgetwise), or if it's only something I can dream about.

Do you have any plans for any collaborations at all?

I have to keep it for myself cause nothing is confirmed so far. I don't want to announce something that's not gonna happen, I did this in the past, and I don't like this feeling of unachievement.

As a hip hop fan, I'm interested to know what you think of the state of US hip hop nowadays? Things have changed quite a lot since the early days, and the power balance seems to have shifted southwards (ATL/New Orleans/Houston/Bay Area). What are your feelings of where US hip hop is at right now?

It's a very difficult situation to analyze. First, you can't really talk about US Hip-Hop in general. What you mean I guess, is the kind of Hip-Hop that is played on mass medias like MTV and mainstream radio channels. This is music for the kids and for the club. All they talk about is party and bullshit and I don't really see this changing and going back to the essence of Hip-Hop. But I have a feeling that it's gonna get better anyway, music is like a cycle, maybe Hip-Hop needs to die for real before resurrecting into something new, and more relevant.

Though, I agree this type of music is usually wack, I think some mainstream artists are really innovative. And sometimes, when I don't understand how people can appreciate this garbage, I'm thinking that I'm too old already to understand.
To finish, I'd say that real Hip-Hop is more than alive, and there's bunch of people who keep doing it right and making it evolve. People must dig deeper than what the medias are giving them,

I know that you are very passionate about hip hop, but are there any other genres of music that are drawing your attention at the moment? A lot of the forward-thinking dubstep is getting a lot of hype, is that of interest to you?

I like a lot of different styles of music. I can't name everything cause there's so many genres and sub-genres that I would need to be too precise and it would be boring. I'm passionate about Hip-Hop, but I'm passionate about Music first.
As for the new kind of music, there are some really good things. I personally don't like Dubstep, there are some good songs that are always gonna work in a club, but I'm just not into it. Though I have to admit, some elements of it are interesting and can be inspiring.

Growing up in France were you surrounded by hip hop from a young age, or did you come to it later in life?

Let me tell you that France is (or was) the second Hip-Hop nation behind the U.S. So It's pretty big here. I discovered about Hip-Hop in 91 cause my older step-brother gave me some tapes and he was watching this TV show called "Rapline" on french TV. Although, at that age (10), I couldn't really make a difference between Kriss Kross, MC Hammer, N.W.A or A Tribe Called Quest. To me, as long as I heard someone rapping, it was good.

I know you are about to start work on your next album. What can we expect? A whole new change of direction?

The next project is gonna be released in January 2010, on irish label All City. You can expect some trakcs in the veign of "My Comet", it's gonna be all inspired by 80's Funk. It will be follow by the second volume of Chinoiseries on french label Favourite Recordings, later the same year.

What does 2010 have in store for you?

Besides those two albums, I'm looking forward to travel more and do more shows. I want to come up with a new live set, so it's gonna be a lot of work, and I'll be working on my first real solo album with vocal guests.

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