He’s one of France’s best known musical exports and a fixture in the international house and techno community for years: we’re talking Olivier Raymond aka Oxia, one of the brightest stars on the soulful techno firmament. Along with likeminded country mates Agoria, Nicolas Masseyeff and Rone, Oxia is responsible for putting the lush and delicate sound of French emotive house and techno on the map, having agrnered a worldwide following in the process.
With a discography that dates back to the mid-nineties, Oxia slowly developed himself into a highly diverse artists whose music stretches further than just plain club grooves only. Jazz, soul and bits of funk have found their way into his creative brain, which thus far has lead to a myriad of superb tracks such as the famed Domino (2006), Whole Life (2010) and of course his 24 Heures album which was released in 2004 on his former Goodlife label. More recently, Oxia delivered his second and long-awaited album Tides Of Mind on Agoria’s InFiné label, on which he further experiments on his trademarked sound. The result? A standout collection of incredibly musical and colorful music that will most likely end up high in this year’s charts of best albums.
We caught up with Olivier to find out more about the production of the album, his relationship with InFiné, what stuff he uses to get to his sound, and much more…
Hi Olivier, thanks for your time to do this interview, how have you been lately? Pleasure! All is very good. I am pleased to have finished my album and the response so far has been incredible. I’m currently doing a lot of promotional stuff : interviews, podcasts… but that’s all great to do! First, congratulations on your new album Tides Of Mind. It’s really a stunning piece of work! You stated that you drew from a wider range of influences during the creation than you used to do for your previous work. Can you explain please? Thank you very much, I am happy to hear you like it. When I made my previous album eight years ago, I listened to a lot of techno music, almost only that at that time. Sometime later I restarted listening to other genres too, such as my old loves soul and funk but also jazz, classical music, folk and artists such as James Blake, Loney Dear, Radiohead and lots of deeper electronic music. This provided me with a different point of view for the new album, although you don’t really hear all of these influences. I still love making tunes for the dancefloor but my music now contains more melody and finesse.
What goal did you have in mind when you first started working on the album? Did you have any specific concept or message in mind you wanted to bring across? When I started working on the album I didn’t really have a concept or a special message to spread. I just wanted to make an album and enjoy myself. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to do things differently. My aim was to make tracks that were deeper and more melodic, some really downtempo tracks too and I really wanted to work with vocalists. However, I didn’t want to put my dancefloor personality aside. The idea was to make an album holding a balance of both.
How many tracks did you produce for the album and how did you decide which ones were going to make the final pressing? I work really slowly, meaning I spend a lot of time on a track. I am quite a perfectionist. I have many ideas and it just takes time to decide which idea I like best. I try out a lot things. I finished almost every track I started, although some have nothing to do anymore with the original recording. Originally there were going to be 15 tracks on Tides Of Mind but I stopped working on a few as I didn’t see them fitting the album.
One of the most remarkable tracks is the collabo with Miss Kittin on Housewife. How did you get in touch with her? Can you explain how you worked on the track as a pair? I know Caroline for a long time, actually since the very first electronic parties in Grenoble and Lyon, which is also where I met Michel (The Hacker). Last year in Ibiza we were hanging out together at a great party and we came to the conclusion we actually never collaborated. Since I already started working on Tides Of Mind I felt the time was right to do so. When I was working on this particular track I immediately knew this would be perfect for Caro to contribute her lyrics to. I sent it to her and in no time the lyrics were done. She sent me a first version, we decided to make some final changes together and the track was finished. Everything was done from a distance.
Tides Of Mind follows eight years after your last LP, which is partly due to the demise of the GoodLife label you ran with The Hacker amongst others. What other factors did contribute to the album production hiatus? Did you feel any pressure during the production process? I did quite some other work after the release of my album 24 Heures. I finished a few EPs and remixes for Goodlife, Kompakt, 8Bit, and Tsuba, I completed 3 mix CDs including 5Y 8BIT and 5Y Systematic. And time flies on top of it all. I started working on the new album end 2010.
We (Michel The Hacker, Alex Reynaud, & moi) decided to stop with Goodlife as our musical/artistic opinions became too distant. Instead of arguing and getting into a mess we decided to quit the label and as a result we are now still very close friends. Furthermore we were all very busy with other projects. But who knows, maybe one day we relaunch the label…
The only pressure I felt was that Agoria asked me to do an album for Infiné. Due to this question everything kick started and it spawned a natural pressure, which is good given the fact I work quite slowly. By the end there was this time pressure to get everything done as agreed with the label. But throughout the artistic, creational phase of the album there was no pressure at all!
Speaking of InFiné -one of the tastemaker labels in Europe today-, how did you get involved with the label in the first place? Can you describe your relationship with the label? I knew two of the founding members for a long time: Alex Cazac, who used to work with Goodlife’s distribution partner Pias France and with whom I’ve always kept in touch, and of course Agoria. We met each other about 15 years ago at the first electronic parties in our region, although we lived about 100km from each other. We became close friends in the past few years and it was him who asked me to release an album on Infiné. I was very happy and didn’t have to think twice about the proposal. InFiné is very good label with a broad musical vision and a really good image. It’s roster includes artists such as Agoria, Rone, Aufgang, Francesco Tristano, Cubenx and many more. I knew I could get away with different music than people know me for.
Now that the album is finished, what other plans have you got lined up for this year? Any special plans for the summer? I just did a remix for Spanish label Suara and a mix for Raveline Magazine that will be made available online through iTunes and Beatport. The biggest project I am working on right now is my new live show, which will see its debut on May 25th at REX in Paris. It is really taking a lot of time as I didn’t perform live for 10 years. I have to go over it all again from scratch. Luckily I am assisted by my friend Nicolas Masseyeff, who also helped me with the mixing of the album. And then there’s the worldwide Tides Of Mind tour which will take me all across Europe, Japan, Mexico, and USA.
France seems to have a very fertile electronic music community. What’s your view on the current French house scene? Do you notice any differences as opposed to the rest of the world? Any acts you’d like to recommend? Indeed, it’s true: there are quite a lot of good producers in France. When it comes down to house music I do not know if there is a big difference with other producers although I must say I regularly find French productions to be very classy. There are a lot of French artists I really like such as dOP, Agoria, Shonky, Nicolas Masseyeff, D’Julz, and Dyed Soundorom.
If we’d walk into your studio, what would we see? Any particular piece of gear you can’t do without? You would find about six or seven pieces of analogue gear. I work with Cubase on an Atari for sequencing. I think Domino was one of the last tracks I produced in that fashion. Afterwards I moved on to digital with a Mac and Cubase, and later on Logic Audio. The best way for me personally is the combination of both. I use quite some plugins, but I do still use hardware such as the Virus and the Nova. I have two analogue synths – a SH 101 and a June 106- that I don’t use that often anymore as they are not in the best condition…
Can you give us your top 3 of all time favorite albums (regardless of genre)? Tough questions! It is always very difficult naming my all-time favorite albums, tracks and artists so I will give you three that have meant a lot to me throughout the years. The first to come to mind are:
1. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On 2. Michael Jackson – Off The Wall 3. Radiohead – OK Computer
What more can we expect from you in the future? Well, I just finished the album and am very busy working on the live show and the touring. So for now I’m pretty occupied. But I do know Nicolas Masseyeff and I will be working on a EP together…
Any final words of wisdom to our readers? Anything goes! Always enjoy what you do! and I hope you like my album! Also thank you for taking the time to read the interview.