Interview with South African artist Okayshades featuring an exclusive mix

Okayshades is Robin Brink, a South African DJ, producer and drummer thriving in the intersection of popular and esoteric sounds. Between the international success of his band Beatenberg and his professional studio work, Okayshades sees Robin setting out to bend and break rules.

Recently, Okayshades won the Poker Flat remix competition with a rework of Tim Engelhardt’s ‘First Contact’ and has contributed ‘A Little Less Traffic’, a wonderful deep house cut, to the Ambious Records compilation AXIOM Vol. 3

We are pleased to present an exclusive mix and interview with the multi-talented creative for you all to enjoy below:

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

I have a crazy memory of being a child and putting records on my dad’s turntable. I would literally put my hands on the records and sort of scratch them. The physicality of that musical experience definitely had an impact on me. So did the mere presence of drums, guitars, percussion, upright bass, saxophones, speakers and hi-fi equipment that my dad had collected over the years. 

Your abilities behind the drums are well known. What other instruments do you play? Anything you are looking to pick up in the near future? 

I started playing electric bass last year. It’s always been a dream to do so. I’m fascinated by the role that bass plays in music both harmonically and rhythmically. It sits right at the intersection of all the moving parts. I would love to lock myself up and study piano properly at some point in the future. If I did that I might just quit everything else haha!

Tell us a bit about the origins of ‘A Little Less Traffic’.

The initial idea I think I had a few years ago: writing a track over a droning bass which slowly oscillated between two pitches. Then came the beat, and the chord stabs. Then the main melody. I can’t remember how I wrote it but the actual lead sound also has some samples of my Kalimba. I like the way the tines can be saturated. The busy snare drum part I think I played in on one take on a drum machine or something – the way a jazz drummer would comp. 

What are some of the key pieces of gear/software you are using to create your unique sound?

Imagination and a tendency to bend or break rules is my strongest guide. At home, I have a Kalimba, electric bass, Korg Minilogue and a vintage Telefunken MD405 dynamic microphone for capturing inspiration when it grabs me: for example banging drum fills on with my hands on my desk. For production, I use Ableton Live, Pro Tools and loads of field recordings. I like complex sounds which are not necessarily ubiquitous. 

With the downtime from touring and gigs, what have you been focusing on in the studio lately?

Making electronic music is mostly a diversion: something I do for fun. Professionally I occupy myself working with singers, songwriters and other producers – mostly in a sort of pop and alt-pop environment. I love bringing ideas from electronic music (as well as world music and jazz) to the table when working on projects that strive towards a mainstream audience.

What are you looking forward to most when you can take your music back “on the road”?

Meeting new people in new places! And the feeling of doing good honest work. Life on tour can be a real grind but I find it satisfying.

As an artist, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene/industry that you would personally change?

It concerns me how many people are invested in music for the image. I’d like to see venues adopting different stage models where the crowd is not staring in one direction with their phones out worshipping the DJ. I far prefer the idea of eyes closed, in the dark, in a crowd – with a DJ somewhere in the corner. I think that’s probably a little idealistic in 2020.

Break down the news for us, what can we expect from you in the near future?

I’ve got a few more tracks and remixes coming out that I’m really excited about. The lockdown definitely gave me some time to finish a whole load of musical ideas I had floating around for ages. And I’m really keen to keep up the momentum. 

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