Onra, a new and exciting producer residing in Paris, France, spoke with me the other day about what he's up to and his future. If you haven't heard his new record Long Distance, you should go check it out now. It's one of the most tasteful and funkiest records that I've heard all year. It's making its way into my top 20 of the year, I'm pretty sure. If you don't want to read the interview, at least listen to the tracks and watch the video. The tracks will definitely make your summer play list and maybe a few mixes.
How are you doing today, what city are you in and what are you working on currently?
Hi, I'm doing fine, thank you. I'm in Paris today, it's the first day of summer, also the day of the releasing of my new album "Long Distance". I'm working on helping promote this new LP, working on a US tour. I just started to work back on Chinoiseries Pt. 2, I made half of it last year already, and I need to finalize it for 2011.
How old were you when you made your first production and how has it changed since then?
I was 19 when I started to play around with a computer program called Ejay. The cheapest software you could find at this time, not even 20 bucks if I remember right. I've used it for a few years, until it sounded more serious, then I decided to buy my first piece of equipment, which is an Akai MPC 1000, that I still use today. I've been using this machine for seven years now, I'm feeling really familiar with it, but I'm getting to a point where it is too limiting for me, and I feel like I need to learn those new programs if I want to step my game up.
I really like the cover art for the new record, Long Distance. How much input did you put into it or did you give free reign to the artist who designed it?
No, actually, it has been one of the main reasons why the album got pushed back, since the label and myself were not too sure of our first options. The graphist sent me something like 40 examples of covers before we all agreed on this one. I felt this album was really important to me, so I really wanted to be 100% sure that I liked the cover.
After Chinoiseries pt. 2, I read you're going to be done with concept albums. Are you wanting all your past projects to come together and form a solid concrete sound or do you hope to create a new sound altogether?
I don't know where I'm going now, I'm not trying to think too much about it, I'm going with the flow, taking one thing at a time, and we'll see where it leads me. With "Long Distance", I feel I'm getting closer to how I want to sound, but still, there's a lot of progress to be made, I'm still very far from where I want to be.
When I hear your music I hear influences from Dam-Funk, Madlib, J Dilla, and maybe Washed Out. Are these artists big influences on your work and if not who DOES influence you?
It's true for the first three artists, especially J Dilla. He's a legend, a genius, a god for me. I guess that says a lot. I'm also inspired by all the dope Hip-Hop and R'n'B producers from the 90's, that's what I grew up listening to. I didn't know about Washed Out until recently, when someone after a show, asked me if I sampled "Washed Out" to make that "Moving" beat. It appears that we sampled the same thing. Though I made this beat almost two years ago, from the same time I released "My Comet" on a 7".
Which producers would you like to work with and why?
I'd like to work with my friends, the people that surround me here in Paris. Buddy Sativa, Walter Mecca, Häzel, etc... I'm a big fan of their work, I hope the world will soon open their eyes on what we got here in France cause there's a lot of talent. Aside from them, I'd like to work with artists that I'm already in touch with. People like Waajeed, Dam-Funk, Jneiro Jarel, Reggie B, etc...
The MCs/vocalist chosen for you in the past seem very appropriate, but which MCs/vocalist would you like to work with if it was up to you with no budget involved?
That's an interesting question. I'd randomly say Andre3000, Sade, Prince, Pharrell, Bobby Caldwell, Kashif, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, a lot of MC's...
What are some of your favorite albums of all-time?
Slum Village "Fantastic Vol. 1&2", Lonnie Liston Smith "Visions of a New World", Brenton Wood "Baby, You Got It", Aswad "New Chapter In Dub", Roger Troutman "Many Facets Of Roger",
I know you're going on tour soon. What is your live set up? I heard you might be bringing a friend on tour this time.
Yeah, exactly. Buddy Sativa is coming along with me on tour. He plays synthesizer on top of my productions. I bring my two MPC 1000's on stage, and play my beats from them. We really are a good fit, it makes the show much more enjoyable for the crowd.
America seems to be on the line-up for a future tour. How many U.S. dates do you want to end up playing?
I'd like to play as many dates as possible... I'd like to stay for two months, so 20 gigs would be awesome.
What is your formula for laying down a track?
I always start with finding a sample, then it just happens in the MPC. Sometimes I know what I want to do exactly, sometimes I don't and I go with the flow...
Do you have a day job or can you survive just making music?
I'm surviving with music right now, thanks to the gigs I get, because the money we got from CD's/Vinyls' sales is very small. Surviving is the right word. I have basic needs, I never buy anything too pricey, so I can live off my art pretty simply. I wish I could renew some equipment, buy other machines, but for now, it's not possible.
(if you need help finding the album or tracks let me know and I'll see what I can do)
Onra - The One feat. T3 from Slum Village from Onra on Vimeo.