HigherFrequency  DJ Interview


Oliver Ho Interview

DJ and Producer Oliver Ho has continued to lead the UK techno scene. Not limiting his success as just an artist, Oliver Ho has created a great impact in the scene with great releases through his 3 different labels META, Light & Dark and Exist.

5 months since his last visit, Oliver Ho recently came to Japan to play at "World Connection - An Evening With Oliver Ho" held at Club Air this past Feb 28, and once again showed the local crowds his world class skill. During his stay, samurai.fm's Hash had the opportunity to sit down with Oliver. In this interview, Oliver gives his views on the current techno scene, his labels and as well as his view of the current scene in Japan.

> interviewer : hash (samurai.fm)


HigherFrequnecy : You played in Japan recently. How do you feel now coming back to Japan after just 5 months?

Oliver Ho (O) : Yeah, it's great to be back. I love coming here, especially Tokyo. I find the people's attitude towards music is different to what it is in the UK.. I think they are more open-minded here. If you drop different kinds of tracks and music they're going to give you the benefit of the doubt - they've got more patience. They'll go on the journey with you whereas in the UK you can turn a crowd against you in 5 seconds. What's really nice as well, recently is that last time I came here I saw loads of different smaller towns in Japan which made me realize that Japan's not just this image of Tokyo but there's so much more to it as well.

HRFQ : Can you tell us what is the latest situation of Techno music in the UK?

Oliver : I think there are lots of people making good music and there's still faith in making Techno. I think what's happened is there's been a cleansing process in the last year or so where you have had a lot of companies closing down such as Muzik, Groovetech, Prime Distribution & Integral. There's been a lot of big companies for the last 5 years that have been profiting from UK Techno and expanding too quickly, so recently there has been a downsizing where some of the stuff that didn't need to be there has been scraped away leaving a lot of people who are really into it for the right reasons.

HRFQ : What is your, and your peers, general perception about the Japanese techno scene?

Oliver : We are very aware that it has always been popular here. You have DJs here like Fumiya Tanaka, DJ Shufflemaster, Ken Ishii, Takkyu Ishino and others who have been promoting Japanese techno across the world and are very well known ambassadors for Japanese dance music. I think that's backed up by the fact that whenever American or European DJs come here they always have an amazing time. Everyone loves to come here because it is a different culture and you get that feeling that you are definitely not in Europe anymore, and it's a chance to play to a different crowd. Also something I've found in the clubs here, is that everything is technically amazing - the respect for the quality of sound here seems to be unparalleled.

Oliver Ho

HRFQ : Can you update your latest activity on DJing? Do you have any particular gig in your mind as the best one in 2003H

Oliver : New Years Eve of 2003 in Holland where myself and James Rustin who runs Blueprint records were doing a 6 deck show. Up until then we were quite cynical of the whole two DJ performance and using so many decks so it was an experiment for us because we'd never done it before. It was really good fun and we were using that format for doing different things by playing ambient records and accappellas - not just 6 club tracks across 6 decks. Otherwise mainly playing Europe, Spain, Czech Republic, Portugal, Croatia and I'm going to America soon. For me it always nice to travel out of Europe because you get used to playing in certain countries, especially Spain as UK techno is really popular there. It's always nice to go to America or Columbia.

HRFQ : On production front, I know you're currently running three different labels, Meta, Light & Dark and Exist. Can you tell us the concept of each label, differences as well as your strategies behind each of them?

Oliver : Meta was the first one I set up, and that was originally just a label where I could release music that wasn't really right for anyone else's label - a label where I could do stuff that was more of a personal experiment, maybe music that other people weren't really in tune with. That's always been a label where I'm working with tracks using vocal sounds and music that is more funk orientated, African and ethnic rhythms.

Light & Dark was a way to do some music that was less percussive and less tracky' - less directed towards club playing. It's darker, more minimal and more sounds orientated - often tracks will disintegrate into ambient thing so it's a way of being more abstract and experimental with a dancefloor edge.

Lastly there is Exist. That was originally supposed to be a multimedia idea where ideas would be expressed by different artists or maybe a short film or series of photographs, and then some music. The music was always supposed to be nothing to do with the dancefloor at all, and not necessarily electronic either - just a way to do something that's completely uncompromising. The problem with doing something like that is such a specific thing and it is very difficult to market and persuade people that it's worthwhile, especially a record company or distribution company. So, Exist is still going but it is going at a very slow rate, something like one release every 2 years.

Oliver Ho

HRFQ : You are saying that Exist embraces the philosophy of multimedia, and each release being a platform upon which various mediums can be explored. How did you come up with this kind of new ideas? Has recent declining of Audio CD market somehow influenced your consideration on this project, or is it purely arisen from your creative point of view?

Oliver : I think it's always been difficult anyway. In some ways it's never been better for something like that because people are more aware of multimedia projects and the DVD format is becoming an audio visual multimedia thing with an album or short film all on one disc. Maybe even the fact that dance music sales are down is an indicator that non-dance music projects are on the up or people are giving them time. Now is a good time to start putting more energy into that project, but at the same time I don't want be creating something that's directly connected to club culture or dance music because I think people automatically expect something specific. I don't want to make music just for clubbers to listen to when they go home after a club. There's some many multimedia things going on that aren't connected to dance music especially in New York, and I've always been into that side of the arts.

HRFQ : Jeff Mills just demonstrated its potential by his Exhibitionist Mix DVD. Do you think it's the direction we're moving in? And if yes, what kind of visual image would you include in the visual side of the product?

Oliver : I think it's very interesting what he has done with that exhibitionist thing - what's interesting about is that it's very simple. It's the opposite of what Coldcut do which is very fast and immediate. I think the thing that Jeff has done is more of an art installation, where the installation is the concept that generates the idea. I like the way it's lo-fi - just a video camera and him DJing. I do short films at the moment and they are very abstract - if I was to release something on 'Exist' that had visual content I'd want it to be not competing with people on the same level. Not necessarily making images that are very hi-tech or high budget but the most important thing is to have the idea there. The best rule for me is that there are no rules and to not push myself in any one direction or to force myself to adhere by one creative process - otherwise you are cutting off avenues that you might otherwise use.

Oliver Ho

HRFQ : Although there're many talented Japanese DJs and artists, it's been quite hard for them to break into the European Dance scene. Also, there are only a few of dance music labels here in spite of large party scene, because Japanese labels have been hardly distributed by European companies before. Do you think it is the matter of distance between Tokyo and Europe, or is it simply because Japanese people are missing something important for dance music?

Oliver : I don't think any one country is leading the world in cutting edge music - there are so many people here doing cutting edge stuff. I think one problem is that with in many countries there is a stratum of very successful artists and then below that there is a big gap and it's only possible for the most successful artists in Japan to get recognition. I think the UK and America are lucky in that respect as they are better at exporting their artists. Also other countries are more interested in importing artists from overseas - in Japan there always seems to be lots of foreign DJs playing.

HRFQ : Do you think language is a problem?

Oliver : I think maybe that's one of the biggest things. Unless Japanese artists are willing or able to translate their ideas into English then it's not going to be as easy to export.

HRFQ : There're many DJs who make their sets only by CD, and this doesn't surprise us any more. But, there're some who doesn't even carry CD holders, but single laptop PC and mix the whole set by using the software like Traktor and MP3. What is your impression on that?

Oliver : Any which way you can to get a noise - that's my philosophy. What I would be against is laptop mixing replacing something. Everyone gets hysterical when they say 'MP3s will be the death of vinyl' and if it was that would be a massive shame, but most of the time it's augmenting what's here already and that can only be good as long as no one chucks their vinyl collection away in order to get a PC.

Oliver Ho

HRFQ : Can you let us know the name of the artists who have given you a lot of influences?

Oliver : The person that made want to start making techno was Jeff Mills. He as always been the person I have looked up to not only artistically but also in a business sense - in the way that he has been able to run his labels in a fairly independent way. I think he is a good blueprint for how you can set up a techno record label and keep it out of the control of other people. At the same time there are people that inspire me that aren't connected with Techno at all. Miles Davis has been a massive inspiration in the last three years, especially his 1970's period when he was making records like Bitch's Brew. For me he is probably the most inspirational person ever. If I could stop making techno and sit in a room and listen to him for the rest of my life I'd be happy! Steve Reich has been a massive inspiration as well with his contemporary classical stuff. He did the blueprint for minimal classical music along with Terry Riley and Philip Glass. I love blues, jazz, and traditional Japanese music like the Kodo drummers. They come to Britain a couple of times a year and I try to see them. It's quite inspiring to see people so dedicated to what they are doing.

HRFQ : Do you have a message to the readers?

Oliver : I think what is most important know to anyone listening to dance music and trying to learn more about it is to have an open mind and not just sit at home and listen to dance music all the time. I love dance music and that's the industry that I work in, but at the same time, especially if you are making music, the only way to get real good inspiration or to appreciate what you are doing is to see the whole picture. The more people that do that the better it will be for the music itself.

End of the interview