One of the standout 12 inches of 2015 came from the unlikely source of O’Flynn, a young British producer who inaugurated a new imprint Blip Discs with two tracks of percussive and powerful, African-influenced house music. ‘Tyrion’ became a tool for Four Tet that was rarely left out of his sets, while the anthemic ‘Desmond’s Empire’ won support from Gilles Peterson and was used to devastating effect across festivals in the summer. An enviable way to launch your career, but he’s not dwelling too much. His follow-up for Blip Discs has already got Radio 1 and Rinse airtime from James Blake and Hessle Audio respectively, while also showing off a different side to his productions on the B-side.
We thought it about time to catch up with the lad with a nice, meaty Q&A. He’s also put together a mix touching on global sounds from around the world leading into a club-oriented finish. No tracklist, so get your requests in!
First, our usual ice-breaker. What’s your first musical memory?
I think it was ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ on tape. I never liked that song, think I just liked pushing buttons on the tape machine.
Your released work to date is heavy on the percussion. Do you have much of a musical background in this area?
Not at all! The idea of using heavy percussion in tracks came about when I went to Morocco with a few friends. We were in this amazing cafe in Fez which had about three floors and it was hollow in the middle. We were on the roof eating some camel burgers and we heard this drumming coming from down inside the cafe. We checked it out and there was a group of about ten women just jamming on different percussion at about 120 bpm. One of my friends joked about just needing a kick and bass underneath it and it would be a finished track. I took that quite seriously and the first track I made coming back from that holiday was ‘Tyrion’.
With heavy support from Four Tet and Gilles Peterson, Tyrion / Desmond’s Empire didn’t go too badly as a first release. What was it like getting validation from such lofty heights?
It was crazy, I think the biggest moment for ‘Tyrion’ was when Four Tet played it on Boiler Room. It was incredibly humbling having my track amongst other great music. Gilles Peterson has supported both my records and it’s amazing to be amongst his selections as well. Getting plays by these big people is great but I’m still very small in the industry and fighting to make a living, I’m not just sitting back now these guys have played my music. I’m always trying to think what I can do next and how I can be better.
Your development has gone hand in hand with Blip Discs who released your first EP. How did you link up with Tom and why did you decide to look to Blip Discs is your first home?
I think Tom was the only person willing to release ‘Tyrion’ and ‘Desmond’s Empire’. I had no real contacts at that time in the industry and demo submissions to other labels didn’t work. Anyway Tom got a small grant from the uni we both went to, which was not really enough for vinyl so my brother helped put in some money for the first pressing. I was just excited to have some of my music on vinyl, didn’t really think about other labels.
There seems to be a common thread running through your releases and that of the label? How involved is Tom Blip in the creative process of the releases to ensure that continuity?
Actually the next few releases break that continuity. Blip Discs is very much Tom’s label not mine so only he will be able to answer that question properly. However Tom is very involved in the creative process. On both my releases I gave him what I said were finished tracks and he said they were not ready, I would argue a bit and then realise he was right, change a few things and then he would give the green light. Certainly ‘Desmond’s Empire’ and ‘Spyglass’ improved because of him and other friends.
You’re quickly making a name for yourself through your African influences, but the B-side to your most recent Blip 12” is a deviation from this. What statement did you want to make with this one, after Blip001 went down such a storm?
I’m not really trying to make statements. Because I do a lot of sampling the theme of my tracks can change quite easily. ‘Tyrion’ was the first African influenced track I attempted. It was really the live music in that cafe in Morocco that was the real influence. I also like the idea of contrasting A and B sides, so it gives the person buying the record two different sounds. I never want to release a filler track, something that has no real purpose but makes up the numbers in an EP or album.
Blip003 suggests that you don’t want to be pigeonholed in that sound of African-influenced house. How would you like your music to progress in the next year or two?
I don’t really know. ‘Tyrion’ seems to connect with people when I play it out, it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had as a producer when that happens. I want to create music that keeps connecting with people whether that be in dark basement clubs or in their bedroom.
Now for some London focused question, with this being your (kinda) hometown. What’s your favourite and worst thing about London?
London is too big and too expensive but it’s got a wealth of music culture that is hard to beat.
Where’s your favourite place to buy records in London?
I love Phonica for new dance music, Sounds of the Universe for more African funk and world music. YAM and Rye Wax in Peckham are also great for dance music. Honest Jon’s is full of special records as well, and there are still a few record stores I am yet to go. A more local record store is Ben’s Collector Records in Guilford – I have bought so many great record’s in there. That’s where the sample to ‘Desmond’s Empire’ came from. They are all my favourite so far.
What are some of your favourite parties to go to?
When I was at university in Leeds there was a night called Cosmic Slop, they had a real nice custom sound system and a great group of people would always go. The DJs there just play whatever they want and it was the first time I had seen that kind of DJing. They would play a mad hip hop track and then the next tune might be some spiritual jazz or something. I would always hear great music there. I also love parties outside at festivals where they have a section of woods with fairy lights and lanterns – it’s way more atmospheric to me which improves the night.
Are there any young and talented producers and DJs we should keep an eye out for this year?
Well some of my friends produce great music, I’m hoping they start to finish their tunes so we can put some music out. But some of them are just happy to make tunes and not play them to anyone or let them fade to the back of their hard drive. They just love making music which is cool I guess but don’t have the desire to release them. One friend who sends me finished stuff goes under the name Kanyenke. I think there will be some special records from him at some point.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve made for us?
The first 20 mins or so is more selecting music I like to listen to daily and after that it’s more of a club mix. The stand out track for me is Pasteur Lappe – ‘Na Real Sekele Fo Ya’. Just brilliant in every way. I think you could play that record in any club in the world and people would dance.
For anyone who hasn’t seen you DJ out yet, what can we expect from an O’Flynn set?
Well I like to play a variety of music but I think it depends on what the crowd are doing as well. I play whatever I think will get the crowd dancing, but I love mixing the more heavy bass/percussion tracks with disco/ funk edits. I read so many interviews of DJs saying they throw in tracks that they think are a risk and I try and do this as well. Sometimes the reaction won’t be great but these tunes have the potential to go off if they are dropped at the right time.
Beyond your most recent Blip 12”, what else is coming up on the horizon in terms of releases and live dates?
I’m not too sure about where my next release will land yet, it’s still in the process of being made and could be a few months before anything is announced. This month I’m playing in Bristol (tomorrow), Pop Brixton (16th April) then The Arch Gallery in London (30th April).