Masks have a storied history in Music
From DOOM’s iconic metal face to Daft Punk futuristic helmets, the mask has always been a statement. Whether it’s to separate the person from their art or simply for fun, a mask is always a talking point. Odd Wilson is the latest in a long line of musicians in masquerade, however don’t be fooled into thinking this is just another gimmick. Over the years this producer has crafted unique, diverse sound whilst putting his personality front and centre. With the release of his latest project we took the opportunity to talk creativity, life and music with the man himself.
So I wanted to ask about your latest project, ‘Love Letter to Dilla’ with Tres Hinds. Where did this project come from?
I’ve known Tres Hinds for a long time before I made the transition to become Odd Wilson. He’s a fantastic musician. We recently met up at a music type event in Memphis, and he was talking about collaborating. He was telling me where his head was at as far as music and I was telling him what I was doing. He was intrigued by it. I introduced him to Lo-Fi and the groups and stuff, and he was very intrigued by it. He knew it was lounge music, but he didn’t know the extent of the whole genre and what it was doing for everybody. So, we talked about it and we started collaborating.
In the end, we just called it ‘A Love Letter to Dilla.’ I was telling him the J Dilla really doesn’t have anything to do with Lo-Fi at all. He built this nostalgia behind his name after his death, because ‘Donuts’ was released a little bit I think before or after he passed away? So, this could be a tribute to us mixing the Lo-Fi genre and how we feel about the music. The music is basically a representation of how we feel about his music, not trying to interpret to what he did. It’s just a representation of how we feel about his music. We just wanted to send a love letter out to him, basically just saying, thank you for creating this avenue that everybody’s doing now with the beat tapes and stuff.
What do you feel was unique about this project between your and Tres Hinds? There’s a lot of Dilla tributes so I want to know why do another?
This was the first time that me and him ever collabed on anything. We played around with some stuff back in the day, but this is the first time that we ever collabed with anything. We had a lot of conversations about J Dilla and Nujabes. I was telling him that we can do a Lo-Fi project, but I didn’t want to do a tribute like every other producer. Pretty much every producer, they did a tribute. You’re right, there were a lot of tributes out. But you’d be seeing a lot of producers trying to emulate his sound with those tributes. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do the polar opposite. I want to keep this Lo-Fi. I want to keep the traditional Lo-Fi sound. A lot of people would probably suspect this is a J Dilla type of sound project, but it’s not.
Right. I get you.
Yeah, we wanted to something completely different and still keep it to the same Lo-Fi sound that it needed to be. But it had no production that sounded anything like J Dilla. So, yeah, in some ways we did take the idea that everybody else has done. The only difference is that we didn’t do the same thing that everybody else did, because a lot of producers tried to emulate his sound, and you really can’t do that.
I see what you mean. Dilla was very soulful, very funky, and is your interpretation of that. Is that a fair thing to say?
Not even an interpretation, because you may have heard maybe a few tracks on it that had that influence, but we just did our own thing with it. No sampling. Maybe a couple of the drums have their little swing to it, yes. But we still keep it Lo-Fi. Even though, like I said, Dilla has nothing to do with the Lo-Fi genre at all. We just wanted to have a love letter to him because we both were huge fans of his.
I understand. And that’s really interesting that it’s no sampling. Can you speak a little bit on how the collab worked mechanically between the two of you?
Yeah. So, I sent him some drums that I created, and he sent me back some chords. We were just bouncing ideas off back to back. There was actually one track that we did together, but I wanted to condense it down to those particular tracks, because I felt that those were the ones I was feeling the most. I was talking to him about it and he was fine with that.
So, we worked on a bunch of stuff, and we were just sending stuff back and forth. He would throw something down and then I’d throw something down. Then, when we finally got to a place where we were happy with how it sounded, I started mixing. I did a little something different with the mix. I mixed it to where it sounded like a sample. It sounded like a vintage record that’s been sampled before, but there was absolutely no sampling going on in this project at all.
I wanted to move into just your general discography. There’s quite a lot of variety across your music, in terms of sound. Is that element of variety important to you?
I questioned it myself when I was doing it, because originally I came out and I was playing with some Trap, EDM type production. But I had to go back to the source of what made me who I am today and that really truly is the Lo-Fi genre. When I was producing, I was a huge fan of that nostalgic Hip-Hop. The stuff that Q-Tip did, or the stuff that DJ Premier did, and 9th Wonder. All of those great producers. Even Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre was a huge influence of my production. I had to go back to the core of that, and I had to feel 100%, authentically myself.
But I do think it’s very pivotal that producers play with a lot of varieties because that’s how you can cross genre. Even in Lo-Fi music, I feel like there still needs to be some cross genre going on in there You don’t want to just keep it jazzy and piano influenced. You want to try some things out. I think with this niche project I’m working on, you’re going to see me play around with some ideas, and still keep it that same traditional sound that it is. So, I think it’s very important that a lot of producers play around with a lot of ideas, if you want to grow.
So, when you compare something like ‘A Love Letter to Dilla’ and ‘Welcome to Oddville’ do you see similarities between that, that we might not see as an audience? What’s your thoughts on this idea of a distinction between the two sounds?
Okay, so I’m glad you brought up ‘Welcome to Oddville’. When I did ‘Welcome to Oddville’, I wanted just to say that that whole project was me playing around with ideas. It was what I was going for at that time period. I feel like with me, I’ve only been Odd Wilson for going on three years now. So, it hasn’t been a long journey. I think in the midst of that I was still trying to find myself and ‘Welcome to Oddville’ was more me playing around with sounds and ideas, and seeing how people respond to it. I had a really good response to it, but I still feel like that it wasn’t 100% me. Now, you listen from ‘Welcome to Oddville’, to listening to ‘Odd Wilson’s Lost Lo-Fi Beats’, and ‘Coffee and Donuts’, and finally ‘A Love Letter to Dilla’; then you’re seeing a transitional state of Odd Wilson. With the music that I really want to do and what I really want to convey to the audience.
It’s also good to have ‘Welcome to Oddville’, because that’s giving people an opportunity to see that there’s another side to me that I could convey maybe later down the line. If I want to grow, if I want to mess around with genres. Which is funny because I do a lot of Lo-Fi, but I get invited to open up for some bass music type stuff. It’s crazy! I think it’s because of the head, and people like it, and they like taking pictures with me. So, I think that’s why these people are calling me to do it.
What inspires your music?
It can be a lot of different things. It can be listening to a new album. Or, if I’m in a Lo-Fi Family, Tsunami and all those great groups, sometimes that may inspire me. People may post up a track and I’m like, that’s interesting. That’s unique, how he did that. I’m also an art guy. I go to a lot of art museums when I travel and sometimes an art piece may speak to me. I’m big into motion graphics and music being in one package, as well. Basically like a film composer composing a piece of movie. If I see something like that, something like that can inspire me. It can be a number of things. It can be a scene from a movie even.
So, it could be a lot of different things that inspire me. But also just because I had the inspiration, doesn’t necessarily mean that when I get to the MPC that, that will come out. I’ll be like Okay, this chord or rhythm is pretty cool. I’m going to use that. But then, I may not have a drum pattern that fits there. I just may save that for a rainy day. I basically will just work on one thing and if I feel the inspiration to do it all the way through, I do it. But sometimes, it’s more me feeling around the keys or making a drumbeat, or chopping a sample that day. If I feel it, then I just go ahead and go all the way with it. Nonstop.
Do you ever find yourself revisiting stuff that you might have started, say, six months ago or do you just want to keep it rolling?
It just all depends. I try not go a long period of time without making something because we only have so much time in a day to do the things that we do. Some of us have 9 to 5. Some of us have got families. Some of us have kids. So, within those 24 hours, I try to find at least an hour or two to try and create something. Whether it’s a drumbeat, whether it’s just playing the keys, whether it’s chopping the sample. Or, whether you’re doing sound design and you may have come up with a weird noise.
So, to answer your question, sometimes I go through my stuff and I’ll be like, okay, this is pretty cool. I’m going to just focus on this today because it feels good. And it could be just how the day is. If it’s a beautiful day outside, and the energy is right, my room’s smelling good, I cleaned up really good, and I just feel good. I’ll be like, okay, that one right there, it fits the vibe of how I feel today. So I want to finish that one. Once I get that energy going, I’m just ready to create.
I totally feel you. It’s almost like you’re banking experiences for when it’s right again. Do you know what I mean?
Exactly. That pretty much sums up how my creative process is, and how I go back to things. Because there may something that I did, maybe six or seven months ago, that I go back to and I think, this actually sounds pretty good. Let me finish this.
So, in terms of influence, who would you see are some of your major influences?
My major influence musically hmm. Well I didn’t listen to Hip-Hop till I was 20 years old, because my parents were really strict about it. But then, after a while, they were just like, you do what you want. So, the first time I really got influenced off music, I have to say, was listening to Prince. My dad was a huge Prince fan. But when it comes to Hip-Hop and production, the first Hip-Hop album I ever bought was ‘The Chronic 2001’. That album was so superb production wise, sound wise. It just had this level of production there. It was just so sonic and so crisp. It was a huge influence on me. I can definitely credit Dr. Dre as probably one of the producers that heavily influenced me. But then, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue music or not. I wasn’t sure and there’s too many risk factors. There’s too much this, there’s too much that. But then I came across The Neptunes and they were just doing so many different things. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo were producing music for everybody. So when I heard ‘The Neptunes Present…Clones', that was it. I was done. I was like, I’m going to for it. Fuck it.
So it’s come to the time where we have to talk about the head haha
How did the head come about? What’s the reasoning behind it?
All right. So, we can talk about where it came from. I can tell you where I was in my life four years ago. I was highly depressed because I went after music pretty hard, but as you know, some things in music aren’t always a guarantee. It caused a lot of depression for me because I’m getting up in age, things weren’t working out, and my personal life is a disaster. So, I’ll tell you, the head inspired me man. I got the idea from this film called Frank.
I watched that movie five or six times. I laugh every time I watch it. But the movie was dealing with mental health. The guy was mentally unstable. So, then, when I did my research about where the writer got the idea for the film, and I researched about Frank Sidebottom, and I started watching all those shows on YouTube and found out that he had a mental health issue as well.
So, I was like, fuck. I want to take on his mantle, because I feel like it’s something that I could discuss, and something that I can overcome myself with my depression, and my anxiety, and all this stuff. It was something that I could do and push myself forward. But I had to make sure that I wasn’t stepping on any toes, that there was no copyright. Fortunately, I’m black and I made the head look more like me. So, I was like, okay, we solved that problem right there hah.
That’s interesting because normally producer’s tend to don a mask to separate personality form music, but it seems you went almost the opposite direction? Making the personality part of the music.
Exactly. That’s exactly what I did.
I’m also a graphic designer, so I started designing it right away. I had to find a name that fits my personality, but also fits what I’m trying to convey with this whole persona. So, I started going through things. I’ve been called weird and odd, pretty much my entire life. Being from the South, being from Memphis; it’s a very slow city. Information gets here very slow. Unlike me. I can go out and find information anywhere. So, when I listened to certain music in high school, I used to get bullied because I would prefer to listen to Nine Inch Nails or a Hip-Hop group that’s not even popular in the South. I used to get bullied for that shit all the time, because of my music choices. But the thing is I like to listen to music that has a deeper meaning, songs that have a deeper meaning and cuts through a little deeper.
But I had to find a name to fit the persona. So, odd was the first one. I was trying to go through different things, my last name or what I could go by, and I had a Deadpool comic book behind me. Deadpool’s real name is Wade Wilson so I was like, okay, cool. I like that. Also it was partly inspired by Wilson from Castaway
I’m surprised that you haven’t used that as a sound tag yet actually. Just the recording of Tom Hanks screaming ‘Wilsooooon!’ Haha
Actually, on my next release, there is an intro that includes it! So, I was already thinking about the same thing. So, in a nutshell, that’s what created Odd Wilson. That’s when Odd Wilson was born. Then began the journey of trying to find somebody who could make a paper mache head.
Do you think that that process added to your creativity?
It definitely did. I think it’s the most creative I’ve ever been in my entire life. Also as far music goes and coming up with concepts that I could play off of; I also ended up creating a brand that can manoeuvre around different spaces and perform with the head. I think creating it put me in a good state of mind.
So you're from Memphis. To you what is special about Memphis in terms of music? And then, just generally, why is the south particularly special for you?
I guess I can answer both of your questions at the same time. What’s special about the South is that, for one, it’s the Southern hospitality, but also you have amazing musicians that come out of the South. I’ve been to Atlanta plenty of times, and there’s a lot of people from Memphis that are actually staying there, but I can’t speak for that city. I can say about Memphis though, that Memphis has the hungriest, most versatile musicians. You have a lot of different elements in Memphis that a lot of people don’t know about. There’s these incredible musicians who just give 110% because there’s not light shed on Memphis right now.
Now it’s starting to come, because now you’re starting to find out about a lot of new artists who are coming out of Memphis. But Memphis has never been in the position where Atlanta has been. Atlanta has a lot of diversity. They have a lot of different things going on in Atlanta. But Memphis is growing, and there’s a lot of diversity in this city. You have a lot of great artists that are spawning out of it. So, I think I answered both of them there. A lot of talented musicians grow from Memphis, from Atlanta, from New Orleans, from Texas. You have a lot of different, diverse people. I don’t know. It’s just the swag, it’s the chill vibe.
It’s the cradle of Western cultural music. Whether it be the blues or jazz, I think there’s a lineage and a history to the South that is quite intangible to people that aren’t from there. So, it’s really interesting to hear your perspective on it. From what I’m hearing, you’re saying that the South has a general attitude towards creativity, but then, in Memphis, there seems to be this hunger?
There’s a lot of hunger. There’s a lot of enthusiastic artists that are ready to get it. And the one thing that people from Memphis, that differentiates them from any other city, is that hustle. When they leave the city, they get out and they hustle harder than probably most because they want it just as bad. There’s not a lot of support here, so when our artists, maybe like myself get out of the city, we have tons of support from other people. But I think that whole stigma that Memphis has gotten is going away slowly, but gradually.
Even for me, as Odd Wilson, I’m getting tons of opportunities in Memphis to perform, and get myself out there to get my music heard. I’m also able to create my own events and create my own lane. The same thing that they’re doing in Atlanta with STLNDRMS. They’re doing it there and I’m doing it here. I actually got a few Controllerise artists coming to perform at my show, on November 9th. So, that’s pretty dope!
Let’s talk about that a little bit more, about the live scene. What’s your favourite thing about playing live or performing your beats live to people?
Their reaction. If you get seven or eight people moving in the room, then you know that’s good. Out of 15, that’s good. But when you have a whole audience that’s nodding their head and they’re dancing, then you’re winning. So, the thing I look for out of performing on stage is the reaction out of people. Am I the best performer? I don’t know. I’m still adjusting to it because, as I tell people, it’s difficult when you have the head on and you’re performing.
It’s hot, and it’s sweaty, and it can get a little moist inside. But, to get people’s reaction and get people into what I’m doing, they love it. So, that’s the thing I look for out of when I perform my stuff live on stage, it’s the reaction out of the group, and just trying to get people to follow you. That’s the whole point. You’re getting people to follow your work and get into what you’re doing. That’s the point of performing live to me.
What’s your take on that community at large?
I think it’s a very supportive community. The one thing that I enjoy with the groups out there, is everybody’s honesty and their critiques. I’m not looking to get my ass kissed all the time, or whatever. I think that the groups themselves have a ton of honest opinions and I think it’s constantly growing.
Groups like Tsunami and Lo-Fi Family I see as really active in the community and that’s very important to me. There’s a lot of great support in those groups. I love it! I love what it stands for. My only critique is that I do want to see more Lo-Fi producers perform live. Like I see people like Ile Flottante putting out events in the UK and I want to see more of that. I know they do their thing in Houston too. I want to see. Ore producers getting out there because, at the end of the day, we’re all trying to tour, we’re all trying to travel, and we’re all trying to grow this genre.
Who are some artists, that are based in the community, that people should be more aware of or be paying more attention to?
Like I said, I like Ile Flottante. I love his music. I also really like Grumpysnorlax. I like what he does. He has a real video game sound. I like this other guy, he’s named Melvin. He’s from Salt Lake City, I really like his production as well, too. Brother Kandoo as well. I like Damon. I like what Damon’s doing for the community, even though he’s strict as hell in his Tsunami group haha. He’s super strict. But I understand.
I’m also a big fan of guys from the UK. You are really passionate about the genre. I see it. I see the visuals. I really follow you all a lot more because you all post up more than probably anybody from the US. So, I’m really a fan of what you do over there.
So, it’s almost like you feel the community should be paying more attention to the community, rather than external influences or however you want to phrase it.
Here’s the thing, man. I went to school for marketing and business at one point in time. I didn’t finish, though. But to understand the music business, it is a business, but it’s also, we as the beat community or the Lo-Fi community, we created our own lane, which I love. You’re basically saying you don’t need a business to push your music out anymore. You can just push yourself as an artist.
So, to grow, we need to do more advertisement for the community, and do more shows. Y’all just did a show recently and I watched some of the footage, and I liked it. I want to see more of it, and to put more of it in the spotlight. We need to have a group thing where we do a little Boiler Room spotlight on everybody that performs. Each show, and just broadcast it out a little bit.
So, for you, the next step is very much about getting out into the real world with live shows?
Yeah. And also building relationships. As of next year, I plan on doing more shows in LA because as far as the Beats scene and the Lo-Fi scene, LA and Atlanta is pretty much the Mecca of it. Mainly because Controllerise made their thing in Atlanta, and they made it more popular to go down there and do shows. But in LA, you have beat culture, you’ve got beat sets, you’ve got the Low End Theory. You have all these different things in LA, and I think it’s good for us to connect with those people and be able to do those shows down there, and build those relationships up with those people.
I totally get you. Playing live will increase our interconnectivity, basically.
Playing live and I think creating platforms, like this, where you’re interviewing Lo-Fi producers. Having sit downs with them, talking with them about their process, talking about how they come up with their ideas, talking about what speaks to them. All that different stuff. I think that’s the only way we can grow with the community and keep going. Like there was no Memphis Lo-Fi scene until I just raised my hand and said, hey, I want to do some Lo-Fi shows in Memphis!
What’s next for Odd Wilson? What’s coming up that we should be excited about?
You definitely should be excited about this beat tape I’m working on. I’m working on a full length beat tape. As you mentioned earlier, I do play around with sounds, and I do do a lot of different things, so this beat tape is going to be a departure from anything… well it’s not really a departure. I’m basically going back into sampling. But it’s going to be a more upbeat, more happy feeling project. I’m picking some very unique samples. I’m going in a more Flamingosis style production with this one. A little different. And I got some dope features on this particular project. I think you’re going to like it. It’s still in that Lo-Fi Chillhop vein, but it’s going to be a little bit more upbeat. In a totally Odd Wilson way.
Listen to Odd Wilson below:
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