After landing “Indigo” on Anjunadeep 12, Oliver Wickham swung by to chat about his new tune and backstory, and spun a mix as well!
As James Grant and Jody Wisternoff approached the release of Anjunadeep 12, they changed things up by scheduling a disc to drop each week in the lead-up and worked up fans into a frenzy along the way. Now, the complete package has landed in our laps and with it are plenty of new artists to explore, including Oliver Wickham. Gracing the compilation with “Indigo,” his debut solo single on Anjunadeep, it feels like the culmination of a long journey for this classically trained Canadian musician who has a long production history.
Oliver Wickham grew up with a knack for music and learned to play the piano at a young age, which set the stage for all that was to come later in his career. He never set out to create any one thing, just the music that fits the mood that he would focus on at that moment. While he scored films and commercials with deep and moody tones that could carry a story, lately he has begun to tap the styles of his electronic influences to dive deeper into a new realm.
“Indigo” is a unique song in the Oliver Wickham discography, but it is also true to his emotional form. Playful synths and a rhythm that’s driven mostly without percussion make for both easy listening while doing some work or getting up and moving your body to capture the mood. And with its light, floating melody and his own vocals adding emotion, it’s a perfect fit for Anjunadeep.
Looking to gain more insight into the mind of Oliver Wickham, we jumped at the opportunity to sit down and chat with him about his production style, backstory, and plenty more. Listen to his exclusive guest mix for the Winter Waveforms series and read on for the full conversation!
Stream EDMID Winter Waveforms 2021 || Oliver Wickham on SoundCloud:
Hey Oliver, thanks for talking with us today! Before we dive in, how are you and how has life been in Canada lately?
Hey! Not going to lie, life in Canada has been a little rocky with everything going on. We keep going in and out of lockdowns, and it’s been tough to work around it. I’ve been keeping busy though! I have music to thank for that.
Taking a trip back in time real quick, we know you got into music at a young age. How did your upbringing and culture play into that? Can you tell us a little about your musical focus before getting into electronic music?
My dad’s a pretty successful guitar teacher in Toronto. He was able to support a family of five through teaching alone which is extremely difficult. But I respect the hell out of him for making it work. So obviously I was around a lot of music growing up.
My dad put me into piano lessons when I was pretty young because he thought my hands weren’t big enough to start me on the guitar yet, and I was kinda pissed because I thought the guitar was way cooler. But looking back I’m really happy about how it all went down because it ended up giving me a huge leg up in producing dance music. Shout out to my piano teacher Maria Case. She is one of the kindest and smartest women I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.
What pulled you into the dance music scene? Was there a moment you decided that you wanted to pursue a career as a DJ/producer?
A bunch of things happened at once that led me there. My band in high school kind of fell apart when our drummer, who we all miss, had to leave the country. Right around that time Skrillex had just dropped “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites” and it was so unlike anything I’d been listening to at the time, I was really fascinated by it. I thought, man, my band is done, I wish I could make music on my own… maybe dance music could be that outlet. That plus getting a laptop and here we are. [Laughs]
Last year saw you break out and make a name for yourself in the electronic scene. Do you see this as a natural progression or a fundamental shift? Do you have specific goals in this realm, or do you just enjoy riding the wave of opportunities to expand your craft?
Yes, exactly. I try to go through the door that’s open in front of me rather than waiting for the perfect one to open. There’s no reason to believe that the room you walk into won’t eventually lead back to where you wanted to go in the first place. The goal is to just keep moving forward.
Before very recently I had been producing a lot of heavier techno, lots of which still has never been released. I’d love to be able to return to that darker and more hypnotic sound one day. But my tastes are very broad, and I love the deep house/ progressive vibe as well. There’s no reason why the two won’t eventually co-exist in my work.
You’ve just dropped your solo debut on Anjunadeep with the “Indigo” which is out now on Anjunadeep 12. It’s a truly luxurious track featuring not only your tunes but your vocals. How did this track come to be?
Well, I’d been producing a lot of instrumental techno like I mentioned, and none of it was finding its way to the outlets I wanted. So, I was like, man I need to take a break from this or else I’ll go crazy. And since the early days, I’ve been a huge fan of progressive. Random Album Title was the holy grail to me. So I thought I’d write something melodic instead. I wrote “Indigo” to be completely different from what I was working on before. Plus I really wanted to see how my voice would work against an electronic bed. It was the first track I’d sang on since playing in bands.
The crazy thing was that after I wrote “Indigo” I sent it around to a bunch of my producer buddies and instantly they were all like “WE NEED YOU TO SING ON OUR TRACKS” and I was like, whoa, I might have found something here. I thought that maybe I could use my voice as a way to leverage my position as a producer and sort of get my foot in the door that way.
You were also featured on Simon Doty’s Dear Ben EP. It’s a great story, too, that you sent the vocals and some instrumentals and Simon effectively wrote the track around your foundation. Did you expect that kind of response? Do creations for you typically follow from vocals, or melodies – or both?
I hoped so! Obviously, there was an emotion with Dear Ben that you can only reach when something so tragic happens. But I hope “Indigo” brings a different kind of emotion to the table. For me, it’s a bit more psychedelic, and more about that trippy hypnosis you get from a really good DJ set.
I almost always write vocals after I already have an instrumental in place because I’m more of a music guy. Usually, I care more about the sound of the words than about what they actually mean. Obviously Dear Ben was very different. But with Indigo, the words sort of came into my head half-formed and I ran with it.
I gave a listen to your composer reel with a focus on movie scores and commercials, which seem so very different. However, I found common threads throughout both. How do you approach each of those projects? How are they similar and how are they different?
Oh wow! That’s awesome. I always wonder how many people actually watch that. [Laughs] Honestly, I tackle those jobs differently every time. Different creative teams, different personalities, different solutions. You have to be a chameleon in this industry, and unless you’re incredibly successful, there’s no room for elitism or close-mindedness. You’ll have a very short career writing music if you feel like you’re better than a certain style of music.
I try not to think too hard about trying to make my scores sound “like me”. As a composer, your one job is to serve the picture/story. Other than a few choice moments throughout a film, you want your music to massage everything into place, not always be center stage.
We’ve talked a fair amount about your origins, broad musical background, and how that has led you to where you are today. Any advice for aspiring producers? How do you view the value of such a diverse foundation?
I had to learn the hard way how unimportant it is to try to develop your “own sound”. I know this goes against everything we’ve probably been taught about individuality and artistry. But I think so many young producers get hung up on this huge ego complex of making some kind of grand statement with their music. These aspirations are noble, for sure, but you need to balance it out with humility.
Focus on perfecting your craft, find artists you like and let them guide you. Your taste will shine through eventually, and when it happens you won’t need to force it. And yeah, listen to music outside your comfort zone! It’s a humbling experience being moved by a genre you never paid attention to.
What surprises are in store for us in 2021? What projects are in the pipeline and if you could cherry-pick your dream project, what would it be?
Man, there’s definitely more music on the way! I’ve been working on some new stuff with ATTLAS, so keep on the lookout for that. Also, I’m trying to embrace the whole streaming side of things, DJ sets, production streams. You gotta get creative in these times, and I intend to.
For a dream project… I would love to score a film using sounds from my electronic music. If someone heard my music somewhere and was like, “OH, I want that in my movie,” I would be insanely thrilled, haha. Also, video games. I’m a huge gamer and love a good video game score. If a track of mine ever ended up in GTA I think I could die a happy man.