Bangor based producer Oscar Waves now has two years of solid output to his name. From 2018’s ‘Salty Air’ to latest EP Scrapbook and all the remixes and collaborations in between, he has explored various paths in his pursuit of a sound. Scrapbook is his boldest release yet. A five track EP that goes a bit out there, gets a little weird and pushes his own vocals to the very front, something he has been reluctant to do. All of this combined gives a release with a very different feel to what’s come before, a resultant mix of tracks that befits its title.
We asked the producer to give us some insight into his sound on our latest influence mixtape. He went deep.
“I spent a lot of years, prior to Oscar Waves, solely listening to and making electronic music. I feel that a typical house beat can still be a bit of a crutch for me sometimes, finding myself with a great idea for a song and then getting lazy, speeding up the tempo to 120bpm, sticking four kicks in, a hat on the offbeat and calling it a day. The way I have tried to combat this with Oscar Waves is by keeping the dance music for remixes (so I can still give my teenage-self the quick hit of making a club ‘banger’) and then actually pushing myself musically on the Oscar Waves originals…”
Gold Panda – Quitter’s Raga
My first few releases as Oscar Waves were definitely were more influenced by the electronic music I listened to from 2010 to 2014. Artists like Four Tet, Koreless, Bonobo etc. Basically every song and remix I put out before the Scrapbook EP was built from the ground up purely using samples. One of my biggest influences was (and still is) Gold Panda. I would honestly say for me, Lucky Shiner 2010 by Gold Panda is one of the best albums of all time. The influence from Gold Panda was so strong that I released three tracks at the start of 2020 under the title ‘Dreams Of Flying East’ that basically acted as a way for me to purge this influence, get it out of my system so I could move my sound forward. This being said there are definitely traces of Gold Panda that can be found in this EP like the use of vocal samples in ‘Stressed Out’, chimes in ‘Earthquake’, conga hits in ‘Island’…
Mount Kimbie – Before I Move Off
Another artist that has had a significant influence on my sound and my writing process is the electronic duo Mount Kimbie, especially with their debut album Crooks & Lovers. This album still holds up in my ears as a perfect blend of live recorded instruments, expertly placed samples and really ear catching grooves. Here’s ‘Before I Move Off’, an incredible song that blends and catchy one-bar guitar riff, a funky ‘verbed out bassline, Casio beeps, a choppy vocal sample and the perfect use of silence at 2:15. This album is one I return to often for ideas and inspiration.
Washed Out – Get Lost
When writing any song I always start with a drum loop, then some samples, chords, all the other production stuff – this could take only a couple of hours from start to finish. The last thing for me in the process is to write lyrics and record vocals – this could take a week or more. I am so self-critical and like a lot of people, I hate listening back to my own voice. Doing all my own production means it’s super easy for me to just delete the vocals and start from scratch (which happens a lot).
When I first started making music as Oscar Waves, I looked to some of my favourite artists for inspiration on how to disguise my vocals within a song. One main influence I turned to was dream-pop bedroom producer, Washed Out. I mainly enjoyed listening to Washed Out for the way he used his voice like an instrument. When he dropped the Mister Mellow 2017 album it was a completely different sound and I was blown away by how different, unique and incredible the album sounded. ‘Get Lost’ is a hectic blend of a single note hummed, a disco drum loop, one piano chord stabbed repeatedly, people chatting and laughing in the background, saxophones noodling all over the place, all topped off with a hypnotic, super heavily effected vocal. The result is something so weird but yet so addictive to listen to. Lots of these ideas found their way somehow into the Scrapbook EP.
Mac DeMarco – For the First Time
The reason I think most people write music is because they have something to say, or feelings to get off their chest. Being vulnerable enough to convert my thoughts and feelings into lyrics is something that has been too scary for me to do – until now. My friend Matty recently told me “if you’re scared to do something, do it scared” (he said he read this on Will Smith’s Instagram).
I had things I wanted to say and things I wanted to get off my chest, (maybe it was the weird year we all had, or the fact my partner Ruth is pregnant, I don’t know) something made me want to get some stuff that was inside me, out! One of my favourite artists of all time is Mac DeMarco and he is certainly no stranger to putting his feelings into his music. Mac’s music is a constant inspiration to me especially his This Old Dog 2017 album. He taught me that the best lyrics don’t have to be complicated or over eloquent… just honest. You can hear me channelling my inner DeMarco in my EP closing track ‘Cargo’ so much so that I even squeezed a mention into the lyrics.
Toro y Moi – Fading
With the Scrapbook EP, I really wanted to conquer my fear of releasing vocal led music. I know for sure I’m not the best singer but (with the help of Mac DeMarco) I had lyrics that meant something to me and so wanted them to be heard. Probably my biggest influence on this list vocally is Toro Y Moi. I had been listening to Toro Y Moi since his debut album in 2010, but it wasn’t until his 2017 album Boo Boo and Outer Peace from 2019, that I started getting seriously influenced by Chaz’s music and especially the production on his vocals. The best compliment I could ever receive from someone would be that my music reminded them of Toro Y Moi. Here’s ‘Fading’ by Toro Y Moi for you to enjoy, although I don’t think anyone could enjoy it as much as I do.
Mr Jukes – Magic
I (like everyone) had an indie music phase when I was younger. One of the bands I listened to most was Bombay Bicycle Club however it wasn’t until they released their fourth album So Long, See You Tomorrow in 2014 that my ears really pricked up. It is full of Asian inspiration, samples, broken beats, catchy hooks, twists, turns and of course all connected by Jack Steadman’s delicate vocal. I knew Jack Steadman before I ever listened to BBC through some of his solo electronic tracks on YouTube. Skip to 2017 when there were rumours of a Jack Steadman solo album, entitled God First and released under the new alias of Mr Jukes. When this album landed it was just about all I listened to the whole year! I’m sure this album has influenced me in some way, but I feel like it would be blasphemy to point out any resemblance to my music. Anyway here is my favourite track from the album, ‘Magic’.
Tyler, The Creator – EARFQUAKE
Since his first album Goblin was released in 2011, I had heard so many people gassed on Tyler, The Creator. I tried a few times over the years to listen, but it wasn’t until he released IGOR in 2019 that his genius finally clicked with me. His attitude, production, vocals, storytelling, sampling, chords, style and timing is all exceptional. Tyler is definitely on another level musically than most other artists at the minute but this isn’t a fluke – he works hard, IGOR is his fifth album and he’s only 29. He is my favourite artists’, favourite artist. IGOR was my most listened to album of 2020 and I’m not surprised, I couldn’t get enough of it. I’m not sure the specific influence he has had on my music but he has definitely has had an influence on me as a person. So much so I named one of my tracks ‘Earthquake’ after one of my favourite tracks of his ‘EARFQUAKE’.
Jai Paula – Str8 Outta Mumbai
I am well aware that I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to producing music. I still write and record all my music on a version of Fruity Loops (now called FL Studio) I got in 2008. Are there rules? I’m sure there are so many rules to producing music but I feel like if I don’t know what they are, then I won’t know if I’m breaking them…
I loved Jai Paul’s first two singles ‘BTSTU’ and ‘Jasmine’ when they were released in 2011-12, but in all honesty I forgot that he existed there for a few years. It wasn’t until I went to Cape Town at the beginning of February 2020 to visit a friend that we rediscovered Jai Paul and absolutely rinsed his album Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones) from 2013. Listening again to Jai Paul reassured me that it is ok to break the rules when producing music (although I’m sure Jai knew the rules in order to break them). His production is so unique and interesting I can listen to his album over and over and never get bored. There is so much to hear. Here’s my favourite track from Jai Paul ‘Str8 Outta Mumbai’.
Tame Impala – ‘Cause I’m A Man
The name Kevin Parker is uttered in our house like some Holy Deity. In the same way people talk about the work of Mozart or Einstein or Newton, we talk about the music of Tame Impala. Kevin Parker’s third album Currents and this year’s release The Slow Rush are honestly life changing bodies of work. Both Ruth and I have them playing in the house over, and over, and over. Like every musician I have mentioned in this list so far (weirdly?), he writes, records and produces all of his own music. Listening to Tame Impala has taught me so much about writing lyrics, rhythms, drum sounds, timings, synth voices, vocal effects and so much more. Most musicians I enjoy listening to make me want to write music like them, but when listening to Tame Impala I get frustrated that I will never get anywhere close… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Here’s ‘Cause I’m A Man’ by Tame Impala.
Chaka Khan – I Feel for You
Finally the last song on the list… Something I have been trying to do much more of in 2020 is listen to music from previous decades and really try to focus on the production. One of my favourite songs of all time is ‘I Feel For You’ by Chaka Khan from her 1984 album of the same name. I never really thought why I liked it until I went back and listened again with a production ear. Chaka’s incredible voice is obviously undeniable, but the production on this track is absolutely insane. The delay on that snare, the sharp hats bouncing from L to R in the mix, that bassline, the harmonies on specific words, Stevie Wonder’s chromatic harmonica solo… every millisecond of this song there is something interesting to listen out for. The song is so hectic yet every single element in the song has its own place. So much still to learn from the production of this classic masterpiece.