[INTERVIEW] OM UNIT – “IF PEOPLE LIKE TO DANCE THAN THAT’S FINE.”

Om Unit by Jonangelo Molinari for Civil Music 1

Jim Coles grew up with the movie Bladerunner, other Science Fiction things and Synthesizer music by artists like Vangelis. As a teenager he experienced the birth of Jungle / Drum and Bass music. Just before the millennium he got bored of the evolution of this sound and looked for something new. Between 2004-2008 he released three Hip Hop LP´s as 2Tall. In 2010 he came back to Jungle/Drum and Bass with his new alias Om Unit. He called his production process “slow-fast” style, many took this term as a new genre. Labels like Metalheadz, Exit and Civil Music (who released his Om Unit Debut LP “Threads”) signed his new stuff. The combination of laid-back grooves and hectic percussion is the playground for artists like Om Unit who work on retrofuturistic ideas of the Hardcore Continuum. Jim is always taking some old school Jungle, UK Garage, Dubstep, Footwork and Hip Hop pieces for his new music. In 2011 he decided to start a own label called Cosmic Bridge with artists like Kromestar, Moresounds, EAN, Danny Scrilla and Boxcutter. The new “Cosmology”-Compilation shows perfectly the “slow-fast”-style without looking on the tempo. Headliner Mag talked with Jim Coles about the “Cosmology”-Compilation, the retrofuturistic aspect in his music and the Hardcore Continuum.

(Eine deutsche Version des Interviews gibt es hier.)

You said in an interview, that producing an album is like telling a story, your story. Is curating an album a similar process for you, but maybe not just your story?

Well, I think with Cosmic Bridge the label is kind of a feedback loop, because I tend to sign music that I think has been influenced by what we have already done in the past so a building process for everyone involved. The story with the Cosmology compilation is showing the evolution of the artists on the label.

What is important to you when you choose a track for a Various Artist album?

A track has to represent a feeling. I go with my gut when I sign music to the label. The tracks all have a place within the style we like to push on the label and link in with releases we have done before. For this compilation I chose tracks that represent the sounds of first batch of Cosmic Bridge artists, solidifying things before we move on to expanding the family.

What kind of relationship do you have with the artists? Is it just about the music or are you close friends?

We‘re kind of a loose collective. I ́m the guiding force behind Cosmic Bridgem but I got to know the guys well over the last three years. We played together and hung out together as much as we could. There is no exclusivity to the label either, but I like the think that I gave some of the artists a break. That‘s the way I see it. Danny Scrilla released his first record on our label, Moresounds his first vinyl and EAN used this Alias for the first time. Kromestar and Boxcutter have been well established, but for them it was actually having an outlet to do different styles of music. That‘s what I like to do with Cosmic Bridge.

cosmology-cover-1400

The Music on Cosmic Bridge and as well as your own music is kind of dystopian and yearning, in a way retro-futuristic, I think. As if the music had lost something in the past. Did you loose something?

It’s a good question, I think there is an element of that, the soundtrack style to it all. But the kinda retro-futuristic thing… I ́m not so sure about that. That is really an aesthetic that can only be associated to the music by the listener. Everyone always mentions Bladerunner and Vangelis and stuff like that when talking about the label or my sound, and I think there is an element of that in the music’s spirit but it’s not so simple as that to define and is definitely more than “Retro Futuristic”. I enjoy sound that creates pictures, and I enjoy music which sounds like it is alive, as it if has it’s own soul. I think with Cosmic Bridge it is all about capturing that. I mentioned earlier that I look to release tracks that have a feeling, and that is what I have done. From a listeners point of view maybe the rhythm and the textures in the music might be associated that with a dystopian feeling, but I can‘t speak for everybody on the label, we all have different ideas. But I can say that a good example is that there is one EP that is coming later this year called “Post Human“ and the whole idea of Post Humanism is what inspired the artist to make it. For me there is something in the name Cosmic Bridge that could help join all this up… it ́s like you said, a yearning, reaching for some kind of higher connection with something beyond the everyday suffering of the world. But all in all it is hard for me to quantify, because it ́s still just music. There are no lyrics. Without lyrics it ́s very much open to interpretation. I don ́t trying force that agenda. If people just like to dance to it than that ́s fine too! (laughing)

But isn ́t that wish to higher connection close to the idea of science fiction in the 80s or 70s?

I think so. It ́s about reaching out to something “higher” perhaps. Especially the 70s science fiction artwork, where people really realizing visually these amazing worlds, that could maybe exist somewhere else..It ́s a little bit escapist, but I think it ́s very good for the imagination so I think it ́s healthy. I think there was definitely more imagination in popular cultures in the 80s, even in the 90s with the X-Files on TV and stuff like the Outer Limits and pioneering stuff that MTV and Liquid Television were doing. Popular Culture seemed to celebrate diversity more, and especially science fiction, I mean everything from Star Wars to Bladerunner coming in in the 80s, X Files, Star Trek, the list goes on.

How old are you? Do you grew up with theses stuff?

I ́m 34, so I grew up in the 80s. I definitely influenced by like synth music you know. I remember hearing “Chariots of Fire“ by Vangelis when I was a kid. I Definitely remember seeing Jean Michel Jarre playing live on some TV Program when I was a kid for sure. And yeah I ́ve seen the birth of Dance Music, early 90s and everything, that all definitely touched me as well.

What about the other artists on Cosmic Bridge? Do you know how old they are?

We are all in the late 20s like early 30s. So it ́s definitely a kind of unifying thing and perhaps in a generation wise as well.

For many years … in my perception … Drum & Bass and Jungle seemed to be no longer relevant in context of contemporary electronic dance music. But it changed with artists like you or Machinedrum or Sam Binga and labels like Metalheadz and Exit etc. So now Jungle and Drum & Bass are an important part of the Bass Music movement again. What do you think comes this new enthusiasm from?

I can only speak for myself. I was more recently influenced from listening to dBridge and the Autonomic stuff. The Autonomic sound, if you like. What they were doing brought completely new
ideas into the framework of Drum & Bass, it was almost not even Drum & Bass. But it felt like the precursor to something else. I had kind of stopped listening to Drum & Bass as much around about 99 – 2000. I was kinda done with it, because I felt like it had been pushed so hard, so fast. You know, you go from 92, 93 all the way to like 98 and after that it felt like there was almost no room left to breathe. Everything normalized in a way and it started to feel like a period where I think it was hard to find innovative music within Drum & Bass and I don ́t really know why. Maybe it was me, maybe it was “the scene”, I don ́t know. I think you ́re right in a certain sense, there are new people coming to the surface now, because there is more interest in the tempo again, the feeling in the tempo, and there ́s certainly a lot of new innovation. But I recently realised that there has always been innovation within Drum & Bass, so perhaps it is the fact there is more media attention now around the newer producers, or people like myself coming back into it that D&B and Jungle feel that make Drum & Bass music now feel important again, but for myself can ́t really say exactly why exactly. What we should all do though is to pay respect to dBridge as for me he has been innovating for a long time and he really is the one who deserves the most respect for that.

I ́m asking myself if this enthusiasm came from Juke and Footwork?

Perhaps. I mean that links in with what was being made back in 2010, 2011. There was certainly some sort of fusion or synthesis there. Perhaps it generated an interest in classic Jungle again. But everything has kinda a 20 year cycle. So it ́s kinda like time right now. You know, 2014 links back to 94 in a way. I ́ve certainly seen a lot more classic Jungle stuff popping up on Facebook, just from friends. and people kind of, like myself trying almost connect that to your teenage years, That ́s why I ́m working with Metalheadz pretty much, because I dreamed of it when I was 15 and I was too young! It’s a dream come true.

You did Juke and Footwork remixes of some Jungle classics with the Alias Phillip D Kick. How did you get to that?

Yeah the Phillip D Kick stuff.. I discovered Footwork from speaking with Mike Paradinas. I saw him DJ at plastic people and he was playing all this mad 160 Bpm music and I felt like this is like Jungle but it is more tribal and minimal somehow. It was very exciting and soon I was DJing classic Jungle tunes mixed with these Footwork tunes. I was trying blend the two styles together in my sets and one day and I realized that I should just make my own Edits, just use the old Jungle sound pallete, and make my own Footwork style stuff with it. And I decided to use an alias, because I didn‘t really want this to be my main thing.

Om Unit by Jonangelo Molinari for Civil Music 4

How is your music perceived in Britain? Which buzzwords are connected to your sound? Do people call it Drum & Bass or Dubstep? Do know about it?

I honestly don’t know. I can say that in Britain we have quite a unique take on the whole sound of “Bass Music” as an umbrella term because it’s something so synonymous with our culture here, that it’s hard to really try to use these terms. I think partially because kids aren’t overly fussed about genres here, they know what they like and aren’t necessarily interested in making judgements because our culture is about raving and having fun, anyone that has been to outlook for example will have seen what kind of state the english kids get into. It’s about raving for us first and foremost.
In terms of how the UK views me? Perhaps some people like me for the Drum & Bass stuff, some people say they prefer the Hip Hop stuff I did before as 2tall. I don ́t mind. I ́m like people like it, don ́t like it. It ́s not really any of my business. I know I ́m the one that make a record and put it out and I ́m happy with it. It doesn ́t belong to me anymore, it belongs to everybody else. I think perhaps people will associate a little more on the Drum & Bass side right now, because of the work I ́ve done perhaps at the last year… But I ́m not really limited to that.

Do you know the Hardcore Continuum like Simon Reynolds described it?

Yes.

Do you think that this amalgam that you are doing and the artists on Cosmic Bridge are doing, this amalgam of Drum & Bass, 2Step, UK Garage, Grime Dubstep, Hip Hop is kind of a new chapter of this Hardcore Continuum?

Yeah, the Continuum… Good theory. It ́s just a label though! I ́m alway a bit suspicious when people – especially journalists – label stuff.

That ́s our job.

(laughs) Yeah! And that ́s fine. I have the luxury of not really having to analyze, because I ́m on the creative end, at the source. But I think it ́s a relevant description, because if you ́re looking at culturally what England has done since late 80s early 90s, there is a lineage. What I ́m doing right now is necessarily a direct part of that lineage. I think it ́s more of an offshoot of that Continuum. I think that – you going from Hardcore to Jungle to Garage to Dubstep – then the next part of the “Continuum” will be something else. I think this fusion of Jungle and Footwork is only a good example of synthesis. It ́s not a unique cultural and social movement. You know.
Footwork is a cultural and social movement, Jungle was and still is a social movement. But the fusion of the two together, that thing itself is almost like a fad. On Cosmic Bridge we ́re focusing on 160 Bpm, 170 Bpm, 85, 80 Bpm. But we taking influences from Dub, progressive synthesizer music, Hip Hop, Footwork, Jungle for sure. But the Footwork-Jungle thing… I don ́t think it ́s such a big deal. It shouldn ́t be a big deal. (laughing) There is gonna be something else which will be the main thing. But I can ́t see it. Maybe I ́m too old, I can ́t see it yet.

Text: Christian Kinkel

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