Like I said, we weren’t even close to being finished with #SynthwaveSunday today. We’ve got a special afternoon treat with a look at the Opus Science Collective. I’ve actually never come across a more diverse collection of music, and as you all know, I cover a LOT of music. Whether you’re into chiptune, video game music, synthwave, synthpop, etc. Opus Science Collective has you covered. Don’t believe me? Let’s explore some of their releases:
Feeling nostalgic for a trip through loops while collecting golden rings? Zoned is a Sonic the Hedgehog lover’s dream come true…and to be honest, it’s a lot of fun even for casual fans. I was always a Mario over Sonic guy but I still found this to be an immersive and fun trip back to better days.
Who doesn’t want a car that’s a Transformer? Right? Well, since that isn’t going to be happening anytime soon Opus Science Collective has a great four track EP of brilliant synthwave to at least give you a good soundtrack driving your Toyota Tercel.
Like your video games but find the soundtracks lack a certain level of FUNK? OSC has you covered with this collection of four EPs that act as score for imagined games (that I now totally want to play! Somebody make this happen!).
Want to know what’s so great?!? I’ve barely scratched the surface here. There are remix albums containing re-imagined versions of Sega Genesis/Master System game scores (Super Nintendo too), more singles than I can shake a stick at, and remixes galore. The Opus Science Collective Bandcamp page truly is a treasure trove of goodness just waiting to be discovered. Head over there now and download some tunes to listen to while you read the interview! Click HERE to check them out! You can buy the while collection for less than 10 US dollars, which is insane. Speaking of insane, the new OSC EP, Girls on Bikes, hits August 25th and do you know how much it’s going to cost? Nothing! Keep your eyes peeled on this space for a reminder of when it hits!
Welcome, and thanks for taking the time to talk with us. For starters, can you tell us exactly what the Opus Science Collective is?
Today, the Opus Science Collective is really, OSC – a retrowave artist who draws influence from synthwave, synthpop, funk, old school hiphop, 80s pop, electronica and chiptune. However, OSC my artist brand is quite far removed from my original intentions some five years ago or so.
I’m friends with (and work with) a number of talented musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds, and the “collective” started out as a means of musically collaborating with various different friends and colleagues through the medium of retro-inspired electronic music (with me, as a creative director and producer of each project). With myself overseeing production, there would be a consistent brand sound to the “Collective”, but with all the collaborations, it would shape up to be a broad and interesting spectrum of music under one name.
Whilst the ambition and intentions were positive, in reality this was a somewhat over-idealistic and optimistic idea that proved too hard to execute.
Over time, several projects faltered and proved difficult to get going due the real-life commitments of those involved (families, jobs, geographical logistics and so on). I’d already set up and established the OSC brand online, on the back of some of my own, early work inspired by bands like Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra, so I decided to keep going with the name, but essentially operate as a solo artist who happens to sound like a band, by name.
I felt the full name with the inclusion of the “Collective” adds a little spice to things. I sometimes still use the royal “we” when posting on social media. It can cause confusion when people meet me or interview me. I guess it adds a little intrigue and mystique around the OSC brand, which is ok. To try and reduce confusion, I use the full name a lot less these days and typically refer to myself as OSC.
As “OSC” itself, OSC is primarily the abbreviation for an oscillator, which is the name of the component on a synthesiser circuit that is the source of it’s sound. I.e. without an oscillator, you couldn’t have synthesised sound (well, there other methods of synthesis, but oscillator based synthesis is the cornerstone of modern electronic music). I wanted to operate under the abbreviation OSC for that reason, but wanted the O, S and C to stand for different things. I wanted something odd/unusual that would show up easily in google searches and I knew I wanted “Collective” for the C as per my original plan, mentioned above. “Opus” and “Science” just sort of made sense at the time…
The scope of the music you produce is pretty wide. Can you tell us about some of the genres you can find in the OSC discography?
I grew up in Birmingham and trained as a Blues/Jazz pianist in my youth. I grew up listening to Jazz, Blues, American Folk and Country music. Lots of Chicago Blues and 60/70s Blues-Rock stuff to. It wasn’t until I was into my twenties that I really got into electronic music and other pop music from the 80s. I’ve always had a keen interest in artists who are able to step into different creative spheres (and do so to a high standard). Tom Waits, Neil Young, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Beck, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Ben Folds etc… Between my very non-electronic musical background and generally getting a kick out of exploring different musical styles, I found my own stuff can end up being a real mixed bag of styles. Some people dig this, but I think I sometimes unintentionally marginalise my audiences by offering up too much in the way of variety. I’ve rarely produced a single body of work all in one style, which, whilst creatively I’m comfortable with, commercially it sort of holds me back and the work struggles to gain traction as often people might only be into one or two tracks on an EP or album (because of the variety of styles).
As you mention, if you look through the range in my earlier work of video game remixes, and original material, they’re a very mixed bag of electro, techno, funk, disco, chiptune and more… You’ll hear slide guitars, 808s, old funk samples, Commodore64 chip sounds, funky Chromeo-esque synths, acoustic pianos, harmonicas and all sorts. Looking back, my earlier work is largely me exercising my different influences and them all just coming out at the production stage.
The Opus Science Collective does commission work, right? How exactly does that work?
It’s quite simple. If you like OSC’s music, and want music like that for your video game, film, youtube video, art installation or anything else, get in touch, give me a run down of the project and I’ll make something OSC-like for your project. I’m a firm believer in collaborating with different medias, both in terms of making something cool and interesting, but also in exposing my work to new audiences, wherever possible.
But to expand on this. OSC aside, I’m a working musician. As well as piano/keys, I also play guitar, blues slide guitar and blues harmonica. I’ve studied music most of my life. My background’s in studio recording and live performance covering a wide variety of musical styles. I can and do write to briefs. I’ve written and produced music for indie short films, phone apps, youtubers and indie games, and it’s not all 80s stuff! I’ve done 16bit Chiptune work, Ambient Electro, Euro-Style EDM and all sorts. I’ve recently been scoring a video game soundtrack for an indie-game dev in America. Much of what they want (musically) has its routes in 1970s funk (Parliament, Slave, The Whispers) and the subsequent resurgence of this era in early/mid 90s house music (that sampled 70s Funk back in the day). Therefore some of what I’m making for them is like 70s funk with a 90s house twist!
You’ve got new music coming out soon! What can you tell us about the Girls on Bikes EP?
Well, under OSC, I’ve always made the kind of music I’d like to listen to and this EP is my attempt to plug what I perceive as a gap in the broader Retrowave scene! The synthwave scene has a lot of heavy, full throttle stuff; the Vaporwave, Retro-Electro, NuDisco and Chiptune scenes have a lot of highly technical and super funky stuff; Mitch Murder has his hyper levels of gloss and polish… It’s all great stuff, but I’m a sucker for simpler, pretty melodies, pretty harmonies with a subtle funk groove to underpin them (think YMO, Quincy Jones and Hall & Oates having a synth jam). I’m also a sucker for not taking things seriously, having fun with the music and having music that gives the listener a wry smile.
That’s where Girls On Bikes comes in. I guess you could say it’s sort of like Chromeo without the vocals… Between the dynamic of the five songs and their titles, it’s easy to imagine it being the soundtrack to rubbish, straight-to-TV teen romance movie, a coming of age sort of thing. It’s all cheeky and funky to start with, then it gets more melodic and easy going, then it gets serious, then it gets sexy, then it get contemplative and reflective. Like a good night out!
If this EP can end being just one person’s soundtrack to their summer for 2017, I’ll be happy, because that’s sort of what it’s about. Summer days, beautiful people hanging out, warm evenings, short-lived summer romances…
I mentioned above that I tend to put out EPs and/or albums that are a mixture of styles and I feel this has held me back in terms of audience growth. Well, this EP is also my attempt to rectify that. I made a conscious effort on this EP to ensure the whole thing stylistically tied together, very tightly. I therefore ensured sound design was kept strictly Retrowave/Synthpop in style and that I applied the same sound-design, arrangement and production approach to all the tracks.
For example, I used the same drums samples and the same bass synth patch on almost all of the EP. There are also instances of recurring synth patches that give stylistic nods to tracks earlier/later in the EP.
In case anyone’s interested, the drums are a hybrid of 808, 909 and LinnDrum samples. The rest of the sounds come from:
- Roland Jupiter 50 – the little brother to Roland’s current flagship synth – great for big Juno/Jupiter style poly pads and D-50 wave table sounds
- Yamaha DX21 – which is from 1985 and is essentially a stripped down DX7 – it shares its microchip architecture with the YM26 series, the chipset used in the SEGA Mega Drive and many classic arcade games from the late 80s and early 90s – including Street Fighter II – it’s an amazing, highly underrated synth
- Roland JV1080 – Classic Electronica synth from the early/mid 90s
- Nord Electro 2 – for a couple of Electric piano sounds
- Novation UltraNova makes an appearance on one track
- CMYK‘s Magical 8-Bit software synth for the chiptune sound on the second track
I prefer to mostly use my outboard synths. I know there are a lot of amazing software synths, but I like the simplicity and tactility of working with hardware synths. I don’t get all analogue purist though as all my synths are digital.
I record and mix in Logic Pro (as it’s my favourite DAW, it suits my workflow), with mostly Waves plug-ins for processing, a few stock Logic plug-ins and of course the TAL Chorus. It’s jus the best (and it’s free!).
What are some things you’d like to see more of in electronic music?
That’s a tough one… Electronic music is so brilliantly diverse. There’s already too much good stuff to ever get around to listening to with the detail and focus that I’d like. Seriously, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to enjoy all the good music that’s made. I guess if everyone could stop making music for a couple of years and give me chance to catch up on all the good stuff!
But seriously, one thing that I notice a lot, is people get very hung up on genre, on style and trying to conform to what others say defines a genre. It’s symptomatic of the tagging culture and sort of a necessary evil, but I’d like to see more people just doing their thing. Make music because of how it makes you feel, not to appease those who only look to listen to it once and then pigeon hole it. You may reach a smaller audience, but those that listen to your music will get it and it’s nice when that happens.
Oh, and more thing… interesting melodic/harmonic stuff. I know from experience that some (including some very talented) electronic music producers only really listen to stuff similar to what they make. I’d love for everyone to challenge themselves with what they listen to. Listen to stuff far removed from what they make. There’s always something to be gleamed from other music, that can ultimately make your own music more unique to you and ultimately broaden the scene for the better better.
What can we expect to see from the Opus Science Collective in the second half of 2017?
Synthpop! Vocal-heavy synthpop! (new, original songs with guest singers – not me singing, thankfully!)
Any parting words before we go?
If you’re still reading, well done! I appreciate I can ramble on… and a big thanks to all those who continue to support me, like, comment and share my online content. It’s very nice to know people enjoy listening to the noises I make in my home studio. And Girls On Bikes is free, so go grab a download when it’s out, then tell your friends to all go download it too. Let’s get this thing showing up on the BandCamp charts!