Studio Talk with Oli Furness

Oli Furness Interview

Once again we take a trip into the mind and the studios of someone we love, because music…is love right? This time we grapple with the effervescent Oli Furness, we talk about how he makes his tracks and push to find out some of his deepest secrets and top tips. We also learn a bit more about his new vinyl label “Music is love” which is causing a bit of a stir on the interwebz.

Oli is also one of our new school of artists you will be hearing some next level stuff  from very soon on NDV.  Catch a sneaky peak of his amazing track with Yemi on vocals below!

So Oli, Your new on the scene but your definitely no beginner. So tell us who is Oli Furness? Can you tell us a bit about where you came from, What are your musical roots? and how did you end up where you are now musically?

Oli Furness is a protector of the innocent, a silent servant keeping a watchful eye over the mean rainy street of Manchester! Hahaah. No – Oli Furness is a true reflection of who I am as a person. My tracks are mainly little stories of things happening in my life at the present time, the titles usually give that away if you look close enough. Musically I come from a real smorgasbord of musical tastes. At an early age Motown was a big love for me, which then through the influences of my brother lead into hiphop after hearing Motown samples in the stuff they were listening to and being intrigued by the whole sampling thing, it consequently lead to me getting a wu-tang tattoo at the age of 14 but that’s another story! This soon lead onto hearing house vibes through my brothers bedroom wall and my journey began there. I think where I’m at musically now is abit of a weird place as I don’t necessarily listen to the kind of music I make. Albeit I listen to house but in a very modern reference through the likes of Smallville , underground quality right through to people like Actress or Triangle Records out in NY. I do make music like ike under a moniker but that more of a personal thing.  Everytime I sit down to write music I always end up writing music similar to the vibe I grew up listening to, I suppose its just engrained into my being now.

What makes you tick, what direction are you looking to take your music in?

I’m not really sure where I’m looking to take my music, I suppose as I grow in confidence I would like to strip my music back and start to write the kind of house/electronic music I listen to.  I know some people sit down in a studio and are like “right I am gonna make this type of track,  that does this and has that” etc but I’m really not.  I just sit down and things pop out of my mind and into some kind of musical form.  I’m not too worried about where my music is going as long as the direction is an organic one that doesn’t make making music anything less than an enjoyable & cleansing experience.

For me you represent one of a new group of producers pushing a fresh house vibe which takes old vibes and offers something new, how do you view the music scene at the moment? is it healthy? where do you see things going?

Well that very nice of you to say. I think the stuff I make sound like it could have been made 20 years ago so I suppose that your portrayal of my sound comes from the production techniques I use.

I think the music scene at the minute is an amazing thing. Some of the producers that pop out of the woodwork are just mind blowing and usually it’s just without sounding patronizing,  kids that are sitting down at computers with programs that are accessible on torrents without any preconceived ideas and make stuff they truly feel.  I mean theres 2 young lads I am familiar with at the minute called Maxwell and Liam Geddes and the styles of music their making the simple cannot have heard first time round but how ever they have been influenced form it there bringing a completely fresh out look to it and doing it with complete style and grace. There’s is a downside to this as with anything, the downside being that there is a whole lot of people itching to be in the spotlight and the pollution of half baked tracks is very very thick. That said I think if new and exciting producer are coming out of this mire then its worth it.

I can see the music scene going form strength to strength it will always be a revolving wheel of trends, but with this current revival in vinyl coming back it’s going to improve the economy and give labels a fighting chance to really make something of themselves.

Do you work in the box, or with hardware? or a bit of both? What do you find are the most important considerations in getting a great sound out of your tools? What kind of elements are you listening for? Can you share any tips or specific practices you use with plugins / hardware?

I actually work both, I have an very unhealthy obsession with hardware as I’m sure anyone who owns a few pieces will tell you.  Once you have found a lovely bit of kit (my catalyst was a Roland Juno 6) you are forever thinking well if I get this, imagine what that will sound like or imagine if I get that what I can do if I marry that with that etc! haha.  Like I said unhealthy.  My girlfriend Sam has even got me 909 and 303 pillows even though I have both machines!! Haha.  (matt: yeah but trust me you are better off – the real things make shit pillows)

My important considerations for getting a great sound out of things vary with each situation.  I mean take for instance the 909 or the 808.  Very, and I mean very little has to be done to them for them to sound amazing, people spend along time eqing and working on 909 samples whereas if you have the machine you literally just turn the thing on, tweak the eq a touch on your mixing desk and boom your away.  But in general I believe that to get a good sound out of things, the elements have to be in context so if you have a big sub and your trying to fit another bass on top, make sure you work the pair together, instead of singularly.  The certain elements I am looking for is character I am a big fan of redux (abletons bit crusher), it just highlights things so well in the mix, in fact a sneaky tip for you – If I’m using a bass sample (rare but it does happen) I make 2 copies of it,  I low pass filter one/high pass filter the other find a happy medium between how the 2 sit together and the add some slight redux on to the top bass just to really emphasize the sound.

Can you tell us a little bit about your average working environment, which sequencer, which plugins are your “go to” plugins and why? share some insight into the thinking behind your use of those tools?

My working environment is Ableton always even if its just to record hardware in.  It’s what I learnt on and what I am at ease with.  I know some people swear by logic or whatever but I honestly believe if you can write then it doesn’t matter wheather it be with a pen or a pencil, as long as the story is told. So ableton, my Roland machines 909/808/707/303/101/106 etc etc.  I’ve have also got into a bit of a habit of using native live plugins, I know waves and a whole host of other amazing plugin out there but live plugins are just so good and so intuitive which makes my work flow incredibly easy.  There are a few odd 3rd party things I use but on the whole live have the majority share.

So how do you get the ball rolling when your starting a new track, could you tell us a little bit about what you like to get down first and what you feel is the most important factor for you?

Well that’s the old what came first the chicken or the egg isn’t it really.  The start of a track can come from anywhere messing around with a synth or practicing on a drum machine or even a sample. I’ve got a track that I have not made public yet called stressed out which came from listening to ATCQ one smokey Sunday.  I mean it’s not totally avant guarde – you can have an idea and then of course you have to get a groove going round that to sculpt and shape a track but there is no one kick off point for me.  So I suppose beats are the main vibe but beats are sometimes wrapped around a bass line idea or a vocal sample.

The last track I made is a remix of roni size “brown paper bag”  this started with getting a dub version of the track and a vocal version.  Putting them both into live and looking at the track, listening for what I could rip out of the originals to put into my remix,  listening for what could be eq’d and what was clean.  Once that was done I had a decent sample bank to work with so then came the drums. Once a rough draft of the drums was done I then revisited the sample and looked at how I could cut /rearrange the samples to go around the drums.  Once that was flowing I started to look at the narrative of the track and how I wanted to take it.

What are your views on mastering? Do it yourself? or Get the professionals in? Is it vital for a top record? or not so important?

Theres is no question it needs to go to someone whos trade that is.  It’s a complete art in my eyes and having someone solid like that in your corner is as comforting as having a lovely old synth in the studio. So yes important. Very important.

If there was one bit of advice, that you could give to improve most of the music you hear nowadays, what would that tip be? And what would you say is an important element you find great tracks always get right?

The one bit of advice would be to do something on your DAW or hardware every single day.  It’s a cliché but practice does make perfect.  I could say something like be unique and don’t follow trends but that’s not my place to influence how you tell your story, I do know however that if you make a track now and your kicks too heavy or you’ve not got enough movement in your tracks, if you continue to make tracks regularly and work at it,  in a years time you will see all those faults disappear as you grow and learn as a producer.  For me a great track always conveys emotion in the right way whether it makes you screw your face up and punch a wall or if it makes you tilt your head back breath in deep and come up of whatever your drug of choice is.

That and arrangement which again I suppose comes down to how the story is told.

What’s next for you? Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming releases, and any notable points in there production?

Ok so next for me, it’s weird because I make a lot of track but don’t ever really send them to anyone, haha.  The only label I’ve ever sent stuff to without being asked prior was lost my dog and they didn’t want any of my tracks so I think subconsciously I don’t wanna have that shit in my life.  I make music because I enjoy it if people wanna sign it they sweet., but I’m not really in the business of pimpin myself out, maybe that will change as I start to believe a little more in my production or get better! Haha.

But as it stands I’ve got a vinyl / digital ep coming out with you guys, a vinyl ep coming out on skylax/waxclassics which is a pleasure to be a part of as I respect the owner a great deal hes a top top guy and on the 17th of September I have got a vinyl / digital release called “if I was” coming out on Scottie Deep and MK’s label Say ahh.  Oh and a track on a freche fruchte va in October too.

Apart from that it’s a really exciting time away from my own personal exploits as a label I have co-founded with Angus Jefford is about to drop.  Its called MUSIC IS LOVE and we have been completely blessed with some of the tracks we have been lucky enough to sign. The first 2 eps are quite simply the bollocks!!! (Matt: Agreed)

What’s insping you right now? Any particular artists you are enjoying more than most?

What’s inspiring me right now?  I suppose being in the mix with some amazing people really inspires me, seeing my friends do well and the buzz around everyone is really making me wanna carve a career out in this game, I mean I know there is no real money to be made really unless I get all david guetta on it, but seeing people like my mates over at illusion recordings and one records and my mate Dan Mumberson just make me think  “yeah you know what, it ain’t all Lear jets and coke parties but waking up each day and writing emails about something you wanna talk about is an ok way to live”

As for artists like I said there is an endless line of people doing there thing at this moment and it would be rude of me to mention some and not the others.

Having been lucky enough to hear some of the upcoming music on your own new label Music is Love.  I can say people are in for a treat, can you tell us a bit more about it?

Thanks, we are very very very excited about this label. It’s had its ups and down. From finding amazing tracks to developing the branding and identity to having people like nice and ripe try to strong arm tracks from our label.  But it’s a learning curve I am really enjoying.

We want the label to be like a family so quartely we are releasing a VA and in turn will have the artist do a separate ep so you get a taster of the artist then a full ep to get to know them.

Our first release is New Jack City and boy it’s a corker, theres even a cheeky music is love remix on there (which is myself and Angus) and a Scottie Deep remix so were coming out the gate hard!!!!

Cheers guys!

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Co-owner at NoDoughMusic & Mastering Engineer