Exactly one year since our introductory interview, Finland by way of London based one man act OENOS sat down with us once again, this time to discuss DIY ethics, personally executed methods, and evolution through learning new things. DIY has always been our thing, and we truly believe this ethos runs true and deep. Check out our angles on this topic in the interview below and stay tuned for OENOS’ new release! With Sami’s 2 new singles veering towards drone metal as well as promises of new upcoming offering being more “metal rather than post-rock”, the yet-to-be-detailed new full length from OENOS is definitely something to look forward to next year.
”How do you start something? You start it.”, says Brendan Fowler (aka BARR) on his album Beyond Reinforced Jewel Case from 2005 . How did you first get involved in making music all by yourself?
I started and got on with it – so well said Brendan Fowler! For context, I have not studied music, cannot read it, and the only lessons I’ve had was a few guitar classes at school. My playing-with-humans-experience was and still mostly is limited to a couple of school bands as a teenager. However, I had had riffs and ideas playing in my head for years but never wrote or recorded anything down so they were quickly forgotten – such a waste! It needed to end.
I was sipping wine one evening late 2016 and picked up an old guitar I had again after a long break. I thought lets give it a spin and see what I can do. Turns out I really enjoy creating and with the tools nowadays making music all by yourself is relatively accessible. I found starting alone, when I didn’t know what I was doing, the easiest and quickest way of producing *something* and get to going. Could always play with people later, I thought. In hindsight, I think I wanted to test myself too and also go out of my comfort zone.
Who and what do you think were the most significant influences on your development as a DIY musician?
Some years back, I remember being amazed to learn Cloudkicker and Sithu Aye both do their progressive metal all alone. I mean, to get that sort of complex music sound great sounded simply amazing to me. For some reason I had this idea that recording decent quality music would need to happen in a proper – rather than home – studio which is going to be pricey and far too difficult for someone who’s just enjoying the learning and creating process.
On a non-scientific imaginary graph of perceived vs actual difficulty of making music, this was me:
Luckily there’s loads of videos on YouTube to get advice from and a community willing to share their tips and tricks for all the people who want to do their own thing. I do have a few friends too who do their own music which is handy for bouncing stuff off and getting quick constructive feedback. The most important thing for me though is getting better slowly and not expecting perfection on the first go. When I listen to my first recordings now they sound like shit and I bet in a year I’ll be slightly embarrassed of what I’ve done today – which is absolutely fine and simply a sign of progress. Never stop learning!
Can you tell us more about the role of chance in your music making and self-managing process? How much of your creations depend on your precise planning and how much comes from making consecutive steps and exploring the unknown?
I plan very little. Most of the time I start playing something with only an idea of what sort of stuff, heavy or a more mellow, I want to do and that usually changes as well on the way. If I manage to produce something that I find sounds interesting it usually flows from there. The other week I wanted to write a heavy, fast death metal-ley track with proper pummelling drums and everything but ended up with Protos 0.5 – a mellow dark tune with no drums. Coming up new music is not that difficult for me but I struggle with finishing; just counted and I’ve got 23 partially written song sitting on my hard drive which I doubt I’ll ever complete.
I write, record and mix as I go to get to the closest to the final thing the earliest I can as I’ve found it keeps me going. My creation process is very much incremental and I even version control my music so I can always go back to a previous iteration it needed. The best productivity boost for me is when I have zero plans for a a couple of full days and therefore little limit of how much time I have to evolve a song. Slight boredom goes a long way!
How do you feel DIY ethics help the music community?
I’m currently working on a blog and plan on being extremely transparent and honest about my experiences of making music which is my way of helping out the community. I’m hoping that by me sharing my approach, number of plays, the money coming in from any sales/streams and all the things I’ve learned will help people be better prepared and know more what to expect, perhaps avoiding some mistakes I’ve made on the way. I’d rather not share the blog here as I want to keep it anonymous for the time being; it’s not a marketing blog for my music and I want to keep any kind of bias to a minimum.
The death of the music industry has been a hot topic for a while now. No-one buys music nowadays. Physical records are dead. Albums are obsolete. Everyone listens to playlists only – you hear folks say. There’s no money in music industry, either I’ve heard. Sure, it can suck! But I don’t think like that. To me there’s been a change in dynamics in a marketplace where you’re actually better off long term by doing most things yourself. I am not planning on making music my main income (I’ve made more money than I expected though as I had zero expectations, ha!), however, I think there’s an incredible opportunity in cutting out the middle man as you can easily release your own stuff and reduce the number of folks who would take a good chunk of your income.
Then there’s all the skills you can learn the basics of, and for some of them you can find use outside of music as well. To name a few things I’ve tinkered with:
• Recording [x]
• Mixing [x]
• Mastering [x]
• Analytics [x]
• Photo editing [x]
• Video recording [x]
• Video editing [x]
• Social media marketing tools [x]
• Website design [x]
• Software to help you with all this [x]
It’s a long list of stuff you can learn and improve on.
Is there a line between DIY authenticity and professionalism? Can both go hand in hand?
That’s a tricky one. One of the Oxford Dictionary definitions of a professional, now that I look it up, is “Engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as an amateur” therefore if you make a living out of a thing you’re pretty much a professional. I think as long as you’re not trying to fuck other people over and are doing your own thing they can definitely go hand in hand. I think it’s really cool to see individuals earning their living from what started as a hobby or an interest – but there’s a fine line where people for example start recommending and embracing stuff for the sake of getting an income rather than being honest about the value of them. That’s where I draw the line: trust.
This is just my impression but seems many people associate being authentic to perhaps sounding a bit rough and not well refined. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having great production values for example, yet doing completely your own thing. As long as you have the desire and come from the motivation of creating something unique in your own way, I consider that authentic.
Do you feel there are any correspondences between your DIY craft and everyday activities? What can you derive from your experience with music for your regular life?
I find myself asking “I wonder how difficult it would be to…” quite often and end up trying things to find out which has only become more frequent after I started dabbling with music. I never thought I could write music that I would be able to record by myself yet here I am only after a couple of years. It’s amazing what we human beings can do – in fact I believe majority of us can learn most things given enough interest and effort. My girlfriend says I’ve got a bit of an industrious mind, and sometimes my approach to things in general is quite scientific as I rely on data and work to prove or disprove a theory, hypothesis or do some myth-busting. It’s fun :-)
I’m currently experimenting with different instruments and started building one as well – an old Finnish instrument called Jouhikko which I’m sure will end up in an Oenos release. I’ve taken it as an opportunity to familiarise myself more with my cultural roots as it’s easy to become detached when you live somewhere else for long enough (my current home is in London, UK). I heard about a lady running courses on shaman drum – the Sami people in northern Lapland use these – building in the Finnish archipelago which sounds wicked and my kind of a project.
Finally, what are some of your plans for the coming year with OENOS? Recording and touring wise, what are you looking forward to in 2019?
I’m planning on getting a full length out early 2019 and of course, since Oenos is inspired by wine, sampling many many vinos all over the world. As I write, record and produce as I go, I’m ~60% done by now with the album. Someone called the project ‘Wine Metal’ so I’m sticking to that as the genre, haha. I’ve been recently getting into the video side of music too and there’s actually a couple of new songs on YouTube with some arty videos – check them out! No plans on live shows or touring, but you’ll never know. :-)