ITW : OXIA

Well-known from everyone for his huge success-track « Domino », Oxia came to play in Brussels for the Hedonism party in the Brussels’ young club, the Zodiak.

He agreed kindly our interview before to make everyone vibrate during his performance. As if the mood of the Zodiak club was traversing Oxia, that guy knew what to play. Much more techno than usual, he could feel the public. Such techno set that we were wondering how he would place his famous « Domino » which is much more melodic. But he marvellously did it under the whistling of everyone.

Expected to play two hours, we had the winter hours coming during that night and he surprised everyone by playing one hour more, for the pleasure of everyone.

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In the backstage… 

Hi Oxia, how are you?

Fine, what about you?

All good thanks, and welcome to Belgium! Are you excited to be here? And have you played here before?

I played a lot in Belgium, and still come regularly. It’s really cool every time.

I played several times in Antwerp; but my agent knows better – you should ask him !

It’s hard to remember all the parties.

What do you think about the Belgian audience?

Funny actually! (laughs)

No, seriously, they’re good people with great culture. Techno music and Belgians… it’s a long story!

What do you like to listen to at home?

I listen to a lot of styles. Lately I haven’t really had the time, but generally I listen to pop, jazz, funk or electronica. In fact, I shared podcasts called “Home Selection” on my Mixcloud or on my Soundcloud. I listen to at home featuring stuff that I’ve selected. It’s definitely not electro – or at least not dance floor. It’s really soft.

Is that where you draw inspiration?

Probably in part, yes, but there are plenty of other inspirations too. Everything I’ve listened to once or am still listening to now has inspired me, even unconsciously.

With the permanent flux of new releases and new artists, you must receive a lot of demos. Do you have certain criteria that you like to hear?

Frankly, it’s really a feeling; when there is a track that I love, it’s not always the same recipe. It’s the same with my productions and what I do in my sets – I love a lot of different things. I could mix rhythmic music for 45 minutes, then suddenly drop some melodic stuff. It’s the same when I’m listening to new music.

Are there some emerging artists who have attracted your attention?

I have a really big problem with the names (laughs) – given my advancing years (laughs). But I can tell you what we are releasing on Diversion Music, my label with Nicolas Masseyeff. They are young artists, not really famous yet, who blend a lot of sounds. We just signed Miguel Lobo from Spain, for whom I did a remix. And there is also Lewis Gimenez. I’m following those two a bit, but otherwise it’s difficult to say because I don’t always like everything from an artist. Sometimes, I like one or two tracks and not the rest of their work. Hard to give you names.

Let’s return to you! You’ve been in the music world for 20 years, haven’t you?

Yes, I started when I was 4! (laughs)

Don’t lie, please! So, you must have experienced plenty of things that you couldn’t have imagined when you started.

Indeed, I couldn’t have imagined the direction my career would take.

It must be a dream come true! Despite these achievements, do you still have dreams that you would like to realize? Collaborations or festivals?

With regards to collaborations, it’s really hard to give you some examples because there are plenty that are impossible, like working with Radiohead, for example.

But there are plenty that I would love to do, like working with the singer RY X, who did a project with Âme. I’m a big fan of that singer and I would rather work with singers.

There is also guys like Guti who is a real musician, with a project more jazzy. I saw him at Sonar and it was really nice.

Seriously, I could give you tons of names.

And what about festivals?

Actually, I was talking about that with my manager, earlier. Time Warp is one I haven’t done yet that I would like to do. There is also Exit in Serbia and definitely Dour! It’s very large and alternative, which is what I like. In fact, Dour contacted me about doing a B2B with Miss Kittin or Agoria, but that hasn’t happened yet.

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Do you feel the need to disconnect from nightlife sometimes?

Sometimes, but not much. In fact, I haven’t been on holiday for more than 10 years. Every time I go somewhere, I’m playing music and even if I’m trying to enjoy the place, it’s not real holiday.

When I go to Ibiza with friends, we’re all partying and I’m seeing people that I don’t see the rest of the year like promoters – so I’m never really disconnected. However, it’s not a problem for me.

Let’s talk about technique. Do you have any formal training?

I actually don’t.

I tried piano. I’m a really bad piano player! I took classes about 20 years ago and I wasn’t bad, but I’m mainly self-taught.

I learned a lot on the job, and have been helped by my friends at Grenoble: The Hacker, Kiko and now, with Nicolas Masseyeff, who is living in the south but who I’m working on the label that we founded together, Diversions Music.

What is your process to create a track?

I get naked, actually! (laughs) The ideas come faster!

No generally I don’t have any rules. Sometimes I start with the rhythm and then find something melodic. But then I might find another rhythm and I’ll change everything.

We’ve read somewhere that you’re really slow at the production phase…

Yes, my slowness is due to my indecision. I’ll do 10 lines of bass and then not know which one I prefer. So yeah, I’m indecisive and very slow.

Which program do you use?

That, I cannot tell you (laughs)! Oh okay, I could… I’m working on Logic Audio.

Did you already think about doing life performances?

Actually, Oxia, at the beginning, it was a live performance, we were 2 guys doing the performances together. It was at the beginning of 1994 and it lasted some years, until 1999 or 2000. I kept the name Oxia for my project. But doing a live perf’ alone, I rather stopped to keep going as a DJ.

I restarted a live perf’ for my last album in 2012 because everyone was telling me that it was the occasion. Actually, I remember playing it in Belgium, at the festival “Les Transardentes” in Liège.

But a live perf’ is so much work. It was not so fun than DJing cause it’s asking a lot of concentration if you want to do impro. You have to remember every detail, every effect, and after a perf’ like that, you’re just exhausted.

The big question: VST or hardware?

Both! There are tracks that I do with plugs and virtual synth, but sometimes I use hardware and some external synth.

Is there a particular synth that characterizes you?

The Virus. The basis of Domino is made with it.

The key of success!

Falling back on the Domino subject …

Ok, I’m leaving now … (laughs)

How do you cope with the international success of that track?

How do I cope it? Pretty well. It’s quite cool to have a track like this in your career. Even if I’m a bit tired of listening to it now.

But we did some remixes lately, which was refreshing.

Of course, it’s a pleasure when 25-year-olds come to me saying: “I started listening to techno thanks to your track”. But, fortunately, people are also talking about other tracks.

Are you afraid that Domino is hiding your other tracks?

Too late! (laughs)

When you have such a track, as popular, it erases the others. But if you are curious, you can go listen to the others.

So, ‘Domino’ was released 10 years ago. How would you define your current musical universe?

It has always been complicated to identify my style because I’m doing a lot of different things.

As well Domino than more recent tracks, like my last EP that I produced on my Label, one year ago, there are melodic sounds for “Secret”. But on that same EP, I also produced two tracks that were much more techno or tech-house. I like to do different stuff. There is always a common base for every track – often a groovy rhythm – but I make extremely different stuff, it could be in the melodic details, so it is really difficult to describe my own universe.

The night life is well-known for the alcohol, drugs and other fantasies …

Me, nooooooo (he said, putting his beer away)

Come on, it’s only a beer.

How do you handle yourself in that temptations world?

Everyone have his temper, I just handle it, I’m aware and don’t let me influence. It happened that I cracked for some drinks more but never into the whole.

I did it when I was young but it’s not interesting me anymore. I know how to party when I go to Ibiza with friends, but I really am handling that part of being into night life, contrary to others…

Is Ibiza still the place to be for a DJ?

Despite the changes in recent years, with the arrival of the VIP and so on, there are still people interested in music. Ibiza is still the place where everyone in the world is coming, so you can see people from all around the world, and you can be seen by the whole world. So I take a lot of pleasure from going to play there.

Interview by Fanny Seligmann & Cédric Dhooghe
Pictures by Pascale Cholette, Cédric Dhooghe & Input HFDC
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