For The Record: Octave One

It has been a dream of mine, to experience Octave One steering ‘The Mothership’…and this dream became a reality a few days ago

For The Record SA had a chat to the Burden Brothers after their performance at the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival.

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Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your seriously crazy schedules to answer a few questions…

A pleasure Brad, thanks for helping to bring us to South Africa. It really has been a memorable experience.

Your first visit to South Africa, right…what have you heard, what did you expect?

Yeah. We really didn’t have many/any expectations, as this is our first visit to the continent. It has been a really interesting experience. The visible inequality in the city vs. The Township [Langa] we visited is something we won’t forget.

We’ve enjoyed the hospitality of the locals and it has been great to meet new fans this side of the world.

Unpack your experience in Langa a bit more…

Well we’ve travelled a lot in our time and it is a strong reminder of what’s going on around the world, when you visit a place like Langa and see how different it is over there, compared to life in the city centre [of Cape Town].

I’d even liken it to our visit to Israel a while back. It’s just kinda overwhelming to see the kinda inequality still prevalent around the world.

To be honest, we experience this back home too…so the similarities are also quite strong.

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It’s quite a story as to how the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival booking came about; had you heard of this festival prior to the booking enquiry and the [thriving] electronic music scene in this country?

We heard that Richie [Hawtin] had played here before…Kevin [Saunderson] too, so we were aware of the love for the music we relate to, but still we weren’t sure about what to expect and it’s been a pleasant surprise to be involved with this festival [especially considering that its roots are from DEMF/Movement]

Of course the #BringOctaveOneToCTEMF2015 campaign was on the internet, which was pretty cool too…

I’m not a fan of Richie Hawtin, I find his music to be very incisive’ and a tad unemotional. Kevin’s set was pretty special for me though…

Look, Richie is not playing the same style of music he was back when he started many years ago. You must understand that when he was a kid, he was playing the kinda stuff we relate to, but because he is playing a lot of these global festival [gigs] now, his sound has changed some for sure. But really, as artists, we should evolve.
Yeah, Kevin is Kevin. Relevant and representative to what Detroit stands for.

We grew up listening to the likes of him and Juan and so on. We were all just guys, buying gear, making music and learning from each other. It somehow just so happened that we’re now all travelling the world playing the music we made in our parent’s houses.

Speaking of artists from the D, what’s your take on Seth Troxler?!

What I love about Seth is that Seth is Seth! It’s not some gimmick or an act. That is exactly how he is. He’s genuine. We love that about him…of course he too grew up in front of us. He worked in a record store and knows the fundamentals of what the music we make is about and what Detroit stands for. You cannot fault that!

Reading up and familiarising myself with you gents, it’s clear you’ve been playing/producing music for as long as some of us are alive. What was the catalyst that got Octave One off the ground?

Initially we just wanted to make music. There was a time where we were making records [cos that was our dream]…to make a record and play that record.

Fortunately our records then got sold and to be honest, at one stage, we could put out a record which we maybe thought wasn’t even that good, but we were able to sell 3000 copies of that record and live off the sales of that and continue making more music.

The scene changed [as you know] and record sales plummeted dramatically, which meant we needed to start playing out more, to make this career viable…which is kinda how Octave One, the live act started.

Sounds like there’s more to this story…

Yeah there is actually. It so happened that our record label planned a tour and we had booked a number of artists, including a few live acts for this tour. At the last minute, one of the acts pulled out and we needed to have one more live act, so I decided to fill in.

Event day came and Lawrence was on the bill as a DJ set prior to me…I stepped up for the live set after him and a few minutes into the set, I realised that ‘hey, I really can’t steer this ship on my own’…so called Lawrence up on stage to assist and this is how Octave One [the live act] happened.

When you look back at the two decades+ you’ve been doing what you love, what stands out for you? [whether it be a moment in a club or a moment in the studio]

I think the important thing about Octave One is that we play the music we make. Promoters cannot ask us to turn it up a bit, or tone it down, cos honestly, we cannot. The music we make is the music we play. It sets us apart from the rest.

Yeah we can improvise when playing out the tracks, but it’s still our music. So when you book Octave One, you’re booking us for who we are.

Thing with DJs generally is. You’re basically ‘propping up’ another artist, by playing their music, whereas we are basically advertising Octave One and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Also, back in the day, when we bought a piece of gear/equipment, it would probably have taken us months to save up for that piece of equipment. So, we’d study that piece thoroughly, be able to work it back-to-front, as we valued it dearly and we knew that it cost us a lot [financially and in terms of time and effort] to procure it, so it made us so much better at what we did.

You’ve been working on your album quite a bit recently…apparently it’s done now?

Yeah, the album Burn it Down is finally finished. How it works is, when it comes to production, all five brothers are involved in this process, so we’d either be in our studio in Atlanta or at the studio in Detroit [where our brothers stay], so it’s always a bit of a family gathering when we’re working on the album.

We’ll release it on all three formats and it again includes tracks featuring Ann Saunderson, who was the vocalist on Black Water.

Which one of you is older? Usually, older means the one calling the shots…how does that work for you, when you’re out playing or when you’re in studio?

Lawrence is older than me [Lenny], but we each have our parts to play in this project. I’m the technical one, so I do the set up and all things to do with the gear. We trust each other implicitly and this is what works best…focus on what you’re good at and allows the other to bring their part.

Finally, Detroit continues to produce/nurture new and exciting electronic music [Techno] artists. For me the likes of Jay Daniel, Kyle Hall, Luke Hess etc are the go-to guys right now…who are the artists you really look forward to hearing play out and who’s making waves in the scene currently.

Yeah, we’re watching Kyle and his boy Jay quite closely, but we enjoy seeing the guys who don’t really travel much [and only play at home] a lot more.

When we’re travelling and the likes of Juan [Atkins] and Derrick [May] are on the same bill as us, we tend to step up our game just a little bit more. It’s a thing about representing Detroit…we wanna always be our best, more so when we’re in the company of our peers from the same city.

 

Hold on please…before you go, tell me, who was Nicolette? [Track title on Here, There and Beyond] 

Hahahahaha. We don’t share our secrets. There’s Burujha too actually. These names meant something at a point in our lives, but that’s all we’re prepared to say on the subject right now.

Thanks so much for this chat man, really has been very very good to meet you and share some time with you

An absolute pleasure Brad, any time. Let’s hope we get to hang out again soon.

 

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