―We saw your show on Friday and the festival. We loved the jam session. What was your impression of the Japanese audience?
Oscar : I thought they were amazing. They listen so much, they don’t talk, they are with you all the time. You can feel a very strong appreciation for art here which I love.
―You had some improvisations in the show. Is it something you consciously do for live shows?
Oscar : All of my songs I write them with the possibility of improvising. I like the live experience to be different from the records. I don’t want to keep playing the same thing over and over again. I come from a jazz background, and I played with amazing musicians. I change the musicians I play with and I want their character to come out in the music. I think it’s exciting for the audience to come and know that you are getting something one of a kind.
―When recording an album or composition do you see yourself more of a jazz approach of capturing a moment, rather than a singer-songwriter approach where they pursue one style.
Oscar : I usually produce my song on production software and write all the parts to make the full track. Only after that, did we go to the studio with a few musicians to record. We might practice and develop the song with the musicians, but it is usually a planned and written piece with sections that I can go to different places live.
―What was the theme or focus for the album you released last year, “The Spoon”.
Oscar : “The Spoon” was definitely about the personal journey I was going on. It goes from being in a sad, low place, with some heartbreak. Then it goes to a place with more anger, looking outward at the world, feeling quite trapped. Afterwards, it goes into more acceptance and understanding. Trying to understand myself and get to a calm place.
―With a mix of your jazz and hip-hop groove influences, we can hear that personal journey musically. We felt that your musical journey is in cooperated with your music as well.
Oscar : I want to open my audience to many different styles. For “The Spoon” I was listening to a lot of The Prince, which definitely had an influence. There are more rocky, punk influences in there which I have not explored so much. But it’s been a big part of my musical journey especially when I was younger. There is some West African and Latin American music with soul and jazz. I don’t think about it too much. I just love music so I want to express it in every way I can.
――Your song, “Berlin 1” had that dynamic music vibe, we love it.
Oscar : I wanted to create a very infectious groove. Something that could get you into a meditative state but also have strong emotions as well, quite heavy ones. That song was definitely influenced by Prince and a bit of Michael Jackson. The “Controversy” was an album that I listened to a lot as a kid. I wanted it to be a chance for me to explore vocals a bit more. Most people know me as a guitarist. I used to always tell people I was a guitarist. I would never say I was a singer. That was just a mental headspace I struggled with. I was like “In this song I am going to go crazy on the vocals” and now I put my guitar down at lives and sing. That’s something I never did before. Now I realized it is a way to open up and connect with the audience more.
―― We loved the music video for that song. You mentioned Prince and Michael Jackson and styled with the 50s-60s suits. What was your vision for these visuals?
Oscar : The vision for this video was this character, his name is Jerry. Jerry is a businessman from New Jersey. He is influenced by the Sopranos, not gangsters, Christian Bale and American Psycho that kind of thing. The first photoshoot we did was with Malcom Yaeng, he is the creative director for the record. He wanted to recreate the image of Christian Bale with the chainsaw. We wanted to explore this character more so we went to Berlin to film. Jerry is supposed to be a funny tragic character, someone you hate but also care about. I wanted to explore putting humour and deep emotion together for this video.
―It was a great video.
Oscar : The director of the video was Antoine Thomas-Sturge. He’s an amazing dancer as well, he danced in my video for “Someone for Someone”. He filmed and directed the video with me and Malcom Yaeng.
ーLast month you released “Automaton” with Ash Walker. It sounds very different from what you do, what was the vision behind that?
Oscar : Ash is a good friend of mine. He just sent me the track with no vocals on it. He knows I love reggae and dub and he does also. It was during the lockdown and he sent me the track and we had a long conversation about life. I didn’t know him that well then, and it was really helpful at that time being isolated. The song just flowed out.
I had this idea of this cyborg, automated man feeling misunderstood, like an outsider. So I wanted to create a story about him. In the vocal style of old reggae music.
―Do you think you will be exploring more, reggae and dub music?
Oscar : I don’t know, maybe. I listen to it a lot and I grew up listening to it. Reggae in the UK is big and a lot of that music developed within the UK. There is an influence of that in my music now. It’s like bass, dub style in some of the tracks. I don’t think I will be making reggae music but I’ve been playing with a lot of artists that play that kind of music like Joe Armon Jones.
―Do you already have ideas for your next project?
Oscar : Yes, I have made a lot of music already. I’ve been writing and producing more. Some is in the world of “The Spoon”, and some other is quite different. There is a lot of music that is ready to go.
―There is a lot of music coming out of London, not just in the jazz scene. How do you see the current music scenes, in London?
Oscar : I think what is really beautiful about the music scene in London is that everybody is very supportive of each other. We all play in each other’s projects, we are friends, and there is a lot of cross-pollination in this scene. There is a really rich music history in London, it’s also been a place where great international artists come from. We definitely have connections with the older generation, like the percussionist who plays on “The Spoon”. Crispin Robinson, he played a lot in the acid jazz stuff, he plays in the band Galliano. He didn’t perform with us this time.
Also the big mixture of cultures, London is very unique in the way that people from different places are around each other a lot. It’s less segregated than a lot of other cities. In that way you get more styles mixing together, it’s really beautiful.
―Are there any bars or clubs you recommend for the music?
Oscar : Yes, you should go to NT’s loft. That’s on a Wednesday and Thursday. They have a jam session, and lots of people I know play music there. Really great place to hear music. Also, Orii Jam at the venue called Color Factory. This one is on every Monday. There is also Steamdown, an event at Matchstick Piehouse which is in Deptford, South London. Really great place and it’s on Wednesday as well.
There are legendary venues and jazz cafes. Village Underground has a lot of good events. There is also a venue called EartH in Hackney and they do a lot of good events there.
photography Satomi Yamauchi（https://www.instagram.com/satomi_yamauchi/）
text Takahisa Matsuanaga