Interview with OPHIDIAN
OPHIDIAN is one of Hardcore's most highly acclaimed and best selling producers of the moment. Based in Holland and recording on the Enzyme label, he has played at numerous events across Europe both big and small with his own uniqure brand of Industrial-style Gabber. On the 31st March he returns to Scotland to play Twisted vs Brainfire in Glasgow, so we tied him up for some serious questioning beforehand........
1. How long have you been producing as 'ophidian' and making music in general?
I've been making music for most of my life, starting out with piano lessons when I was five years old. I never really liked playing because I had to practice my homework and such, while I much rather made up my own stuff. I made my first small songs on the piano before discovering electronics at about age 10. I messed around with keyboards, as well as recording mixes using tapes. (In fact, at this stage I recorded a few tracks together with Tijs Ham, who would later adopt his alias Tapage and I would release music with more than 10 years later...) When I was about 13/14 I discovered the label Ruffneck and the artcore sound and I loved it instantly. This pushed me to practice my producing skills, with as main goal a release on that label. Unfortunately for me, due to various reasons the label was closed before I made a proper demo. However, one year later (1998 and I'm almost 17) DJ Ruffneck accepted my demo for his new label Gangsta, and he gave me my first releases, for which I used my alias Trypticon. Aside from these records, I started a side-project for the Gangsta sub-label Supreme Intelligence. For this slower, darker style I adopted a new name, which was Ophidian. Later, when both labels closed and I moved to Enzyme I decided that to drop the Trypticon style and make Ophidian my main alias. From 2001 on I've used this name for most of my records, and it's the name people have come to know me by.
2. Many people are familiar with your recent works on the Enzyme & META4 label's, has your musical arm always been that of Hardcore or were you influenced by other styles of music?
I've always listened to and produced a very wide range of styles, from pop and metal to hardcore and brainless electronic glitches. When driving my car or chilling out I rarely listen to hardcore though. The CD's that've been stuck in my car radio most of the time lately are either by System of a Down or Venetian Snares. The styles I make besides hardcore and IDM are usually just for fun and not intended for release, however I believe that all the different styles do influence each other. I think most noticeable cross-overs are the classical and IDM influences in my hardcore tracks the last few years.
3. Would you accredit your obvous production skills to a natural talent or do you think influences/experience from your association with producers like the Ruffneck crew and your recent education in music technology have more to do with it?
I think it's a combination of both. Most of the things I do come naturally to me, but of course I'm backed massively by my study in piano and the techniques I have learned from DJ Ruffneck over the years. My education and the great producers I know have not had a direct influence on how I make my tracks, but have rather indirectly inspired me and driven me to achieve the best I can.
4. When making music what do you aim to achieve with each piece? Do your tracks have a personal meaning to them or do you just aim to improve on your technical skills?
Almost every track I make has some meaning to it some way or another. Occasionally it's a reaction to something going on it the world at the moment, but more often it's personal meaning. Also a track can be based on a fictional situation or story, which I'll try to illustrate in the feel and atmosphere of the track. Of course, occasionally I just make tracks because I feel like making tracks!
5. What hardware/software are you currently using for making music and performing live?
While I do have some hardware synths and effects stacked around me in my studio, I often stick to the software domain when making tracks. I like to vary the software and sequences I use. For instance, in the last year or so I've released tracks I made in Cubase, Fasttracker, Madtracker, Renoise, Psycle and Logic as well as tracks I made using only wave editors. Funny enough I use kind of anything, except the also very popular Fruity Loops and Reason. When I perform live it's quite the contrary. I always bring my own mixer and outboard effects, as well as a sampler and keyboard. The fact that I actually use every piece of equipment I have on stage during the set makes it a lot of work to build up, perform with, and break up all the stuff, but I think it's worth it, because I makes my live sets genuinely live.
6. Is there any one item in your studio you could not do without?
I don't think so. I like to think I can make music anywhere, with anything haha. As long as I can sequence and record it properly. I think what I would miss most about having to do without my own studio are my sample banks I've built up over the years.
7. Your label META4 has been quite successful since it's launch, what is your intended music policy and what direction would you like to see it go in the future?
In theory Meta4 releases any kind of mainly hardcore-related music Patrick (Ruffneck) and I consider to be good, but will not fit on any other label. In practice this has often turned out to be deep, atmospheric hardcore and techno influenced tracks, with rough, industrial flavours in the beats. This is a development I like and support, however, don't pin us down on this style too much. Our artists are mainly fresh, up and coming producers as well as established artists who want to do something different from their normal styles, so there's really no way to precisely predict what new release will be like. Recently I've started a sub-label called Meta0. On the main label we've had some adventures down the breakcore/IDM-ish lane, and it's this direction we will be persueing on the sub.
8. With your recent explorations into Techno, are you intending to move more into the Techno side of things or do you still retain a strong love for the 'core?
I really like the sound some the harder (mainly German) techno labels have been doing, especially in '04/'05. On Protocast we release our own version of this sound, stressing the synths, break-downs and arrangement. I like making tracks for this label, and I will probably make quite a few more, but it will not take over from my hardcore projects.
9. Do you feel the Hardcore scene in Europe has gone kind of stale or do you think it has a bright future to look forward too?
Hmm, in my opinion there are a lot of artists, both producers and DJ's, who seem to be stuck, recycling their own and each other's work and not moving anywhere. But at the same time there are a few guys who have really surprised me in a very positive way, for instance Endymion & Nosferatu who have done near perfect dancefloor tracks, and N-Vitral and Void Settler who have brought a fresh breeze to the less mainstream hardcore area. I think hardcore fans have pretty much to look forward to in the near future. The main danger for the still developing artists is in my opinion maxing out the possibilities we have. What will we do after someone makes the perfect melodic track? Or the perfect banging, industrial, glitched-up havoc? I think the music itself will find a solution for this though.
10. Besides me (joking), are there any guys/gals out there making music that impresses you?
I guess I've already partially answered this question, but there are more artists out there who I think are doing a good job. The Outside Agency (and the other arists on their label Genosha Records, like Petrochemical) are doing really well in my opinion, as well as my collegues at Enzyme, but this is only to name a few.
11. What releases do you have planned in the next 6 months and are there any plans to re-press Blackbox?
I've done quite a few collaborations lately which will start to appear on different records in the coming months. Currently I'm finishing off a mini-album I will release on Meta4 as 'Ophidian as Raziel', as well as working on the second Meta0 release with Tapage and my own new Enzyme e.p. At the moment we have no plans to repress the Blackbox, and I doubt that we ever will. I was a big enough risk pressing those 7"'s in the first place, and besides that, although I think many people missed it first time round, I wouldn't like it to lose it's charm by becoming over-available again. It's becoming a kind of cult-album, and I'm pretty proud about that actually. I think the chances of me making a new Blackbox are greater than Enzyme repressing it.
12. Having visited Scotland before what did you think of the crowds compared to those elsewhere in Europe?
Without wanting to complain too much about my home crowd, I think Dutch parties have often been lacking the proper atmosphere lately. I think the people may be a bit spoilt. It's not always bad, there are still great parties, but there are often groups of people hanging on the walls and complaining about the DJ, the sound, decoration, visuals or other people instead of making a great party for themselves. As far as I've seen, Scotland has a great crowd, all smiles, all energy. It may not be as big as over here, but I prefer playing to 100 people going nuts than to a few thousand just standing around any day. In my experience France has the best crowd concerning open-mindedness. You can rock the place playing anything in your set, as long as it's a good set. Spain is fun as well, although the crowds have a bit more trouble adjusting to our harder sound. Still, they have a lot of energy. Anywhere else in Europe varies from party to party.
13. Have you ever drank Buckfast?
No, what is it? I've found some kind of traditional monk wine on google. Is this it? Is it good?
Mr Ophidian thanks for your time in answering my questions and all the best in the future with your works.
Interview by Flood, March 2006
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Ophidian will be playing at Twisted vs Brainfire on 31st March 2006 in Glasgow.17