FEATURED: OPOLOPO – “The 80s Made Me Do It!”
Posted on March 21, 2011
Written by Mikael Lopez / Photos by Martin Rinman
“The music that you listen to during your adolescence marks you for life. It’s really difficult to let go of what you grew up with during those years because it shaped your personality, who you’re pretty much going to be for the rest of your life,” says producer Opolopo.
The Swedish producer grew up during the 80s, a decade where romantic notions of a bright future seemed to have disappeared completely while dystopic visions of technology versus humanity were everywhere, perhaps most iconically staged in Blade Runner (“probably the best science fiction movie ever” according to Opolopo).
“A lot of technology became mass produced, cheap and available to people. I think that was a big difference. Cheap synthesizers, home computers and cds started popping up, the whole cyberpunk thing, how technology is available to everyone. There was probably a lot of fear towards making sounds with the press of a button, everything programmed, the machines taking over. These ideas were already present from before, but I guess during the 80s it felt like it was becoming reality.”
Opolopo – Kobayashi Maru (Album Preview)
Young Opo was fascinated by science fiction and claims to have borrowed every book that the school library carried in the genre, favoring “old school” authors such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ursula K. Le Guin and Arthur C. Clarke. But the producer’s greatest passion in life has always been music and it was, unsurprisingly, the electronic kind that first caught his attention.
“The music that I was interested in was music that sounded as non-human as possible. I liked the music that sounded like it was made by machines or aliens, extraterrestrial music, Jean Michel Jarre or Vangelis, music that was completely synthetic. I don’t know why it fascinated me so much. I still like it when music sounds like that.”
Opolopo’s musical horizon was expanded further during his teenage years when he got heavily into jazz fusion (a hard-to-define genre mixing elements of jazz, rock, funk and electronic music among others), introduced to him by his father who was a musician and a big record collector. The jazz fusionists’ open mind to how music is made is echoed in Opolopo’s words today.
“There’s no opposition for me between a ‘normal’ way of creating music and a completely artificial way of creating music. As long as it’s good it’s good. It doesn’t matter if a fantastic virtuoso is playing it or if it happens to be randomly produced by a computer. I can appreciate both, but maybe for different reasons.”
Opolopo – Step Into The Light (Album Preview)
Opolopo didn’t write the tracks on his full length Voltage Controlled Feelings with an album in mind, he rarely works that way. He sent the label a bunch of songs he thought might make an album, but the label could hear two albums coming off of these songs – one with an 80s vibe and the other more towards nu jazz. Opolopo agreed. Guess which album was released?
“When I was fifteen I dreamed of one day using the sounds, especially the drum machines, that came out during the early 80s. I wanted to make music that sounds they way I wanted it to sound then. It felt like the right label and the right time to do my 80s thing.”
It should be clear by now that Opolopo isn’t trying to ride on any 80s retro trend bandwagon (he’s a couple of years late for that anyway), he lived and loved the era and to him the sounds are just as relevant today as ever.
“Much of the music from the 80s sounds just as futuristic now as it did then. If you listen to Kraftwerk it still sounds like it was made 2042. It’s interesting because today you can get away with playing something from ’92 and it can still sound fresh. Everybody is sitting with 49 gigabytes of drum samples and can choose exactly what sounds they want use. At the same time there’s a certain charm in the fact that things actually did sound different before because of technical limits.”
Everybody seems to be releasing music today and at a faster rate than ever, all just a click away, available anywhere, at any time. Every time a producer emerges with a new sound, threehundred clones quickly appear. And a restless genre-jumping generation is making it increasingly difficult (and obsolete) to categorize music the way we used to.
“Even if it’s not particularly hip today, drum & bass is still a concept that feels really unique and well defined, sped up drums and half tempo bassline. Now everything’s a melting pot. It’s hard to find a distinctive style that will pave the way to the future. Often people jump on these new cool things and it becomes a phase, but will it lead to something, will it become something? If you just chase the latest trends it easily becomes watered down and doesn’t feel real.”
Opolopo – Ballad For Amalia (Album Preview)
Even though the music industry is shakier than ever for independent artists (“selling records just isn’t something that generates money”) it can also free you from trying to please others and make music just for the sake of it.
“I don’t feel like I have to sound like something to get recognition, I don’t feel I’ve compromised. What I’m making today is music that is my music all the way. It feels like I’m doing my thing and it’s working.”
Opolopo recently released his album Voltage Controlled Feelings on Tokyo Dawn Records, always has great remixes available and produced Amalia’s debut album Art Slave (Tokyo Dawn Records). If he had the opportunity he’d reincarnate as some kind of scientist, but we suggest something cooler like Ming the Merciless or Charlie Sheen.
(BONUS: Opolopo reads, watches and listens to:)
“It’s tricky to get time to read, but the last thing I read, Revelation Space, was fantastic, a real space epic.”
“I really enjoyed George Lucas’ first film. It’s not as accessible and seductive as Blade Runner, but it’s got some kind of dark depth to it that I like.”
“He’s been really innovative. He uses samples and a hip-hop aestethic on his album, but I think he’s made it his own. He’s screwed the hell out of the sounds!”