Musically, there are names whose mere mention conjures up not just a type of music but a feeling that goes along with it. Osunlade is one such person, his name having long been a by-word for soulful house music. Though his productions are not exclusively centered on house, you can be assured that if you pick up an Osunlade release or remix it’s going to be dripping with soul and emotion. Getting his start in the music industry while still in his teens, he began working with high profile artists as a producer, though after ten years he felt the pull to delve into his own creative passions and so founded Yoruba Records as a platform for his distinctive productions. Since that time, Osunlade has given us six full length albums, a myriad of singles and remixes, and mostly recently a Defected In the House mix, all infused with that unmistakable, rich current of soul that runs through all of his work. LWE tracked down the producer on his island home of Santorini to talk about his passions outside of music, why his last album will be his last house album and what his dedication to Ifá means to his music. He also put together our 123rd exclusive podcast, a wonderful blend of influences and inspirations that will perfectly soundtrack your long summer days.
LWE Podcast 123: Osunlade (117:27)
01. Ire Ire, “Ellegua” [unknown]
02. Black Truth Rhythm Band, “Ifetayo” [Fetayo]
03. Afefe Iku, “The Arsonist” [Yoruba Records]
04. La Lupe, “Guaguanco Bembe” [Fania Records]
05. Dave Grusin, “Condor” [Capitol Records]
06. Bvdub, “Morning Rituals” [Home Normal]
07. Yellow Magic Orchestra, “Computer Games-Firecracker” [HTF Records]
08. Aretha Franklin, “I Get High” [Atlantic]
09. Miguel Migs, “Close Your Eyes (feat. Meshell Ndegeocello)” (Yoruba Soul Mix) [OM Records]
10. Annette Peacock, “Survival” [Aura Records]
11. Gal Costa, “Da Major Importância” [Philips]
12. Chuck Jonkey, “Kecak Ceremony” [Jonkey Enterprises]
13. Can, “One More Night” [United Artists Records]
14. Madhouse, “8” [Paisley Park]
15. Prince, “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker” [Paisley Parker]
16. The Last Poets, “Wake Up Niggers” [Douglas]
17. Herbie Hancock, “Trust Me” [Columbia]
18. Slum Village, “Raise It Up” [Wordplay Records]
19. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., “Simple Girl” [Quite Scientific Records]
20. Jon Hassell, “Empire III” [Editions EG]
So your website shows what I assume is a picture of you, very young, playing the drums. How old were you when you were first introduced to music?
Osunlade: As early as I can remember, there was always music going in our house and at an early age my father encouraged me with several instruments.
Was there ever a question in your mind that you would do anything other than music?
What formal training have you had and to what extent are you self-taught?
Formally trained on the piano, but mostly I’m self taught and also from what I learned via other musicians I collaborated with in my early years.
You’ve taken quite a different route than most producers in electronic music, in that you started off somewhere a lot of people would like to end up: producing for big name artists on the global stage and then heading in the direction of independence. What was it about this part of the industry that turned you away from it?
Everything about it turned me off, the music itself was dictated by whatever song or artist was hot at the moment, the business is just that… business. It really has nothing to do with art at all. After so many years I just felt that I’d lost myself and the passion for why I create music in the first place.
Your own discography goes back to the end of the 90s, but were you producing your own work before this? And what sort of things were you making?
I was producing my own work but then I was focused more on producing others. Most of the music I created for myself then was very personal and to date none of it has been heard. The styles varied from soul to funk mostly, but there were the occasional house ditty and/or jazz groove. It was all experimentation for the most part.
Where does the name Osunlade come from? Is that your birth name and what does it mean?
The name derives from the Orisha (Yoruba deity) Ochun. It means Ochun has the glory and it is my birth name.
It is well documented that your adoption of Ifá marked a massive change for you musically. But in what other ways did it affect change in your life?
It simply brought me peace and understanding of self; the musical change is simply a form of that as it’s all part of the same goal: to evolve and attempt becoming a better human.
Are there any sort of principals or guidelines you need to adhere to in regards to Ifá with your music?
None in particular. Again, it’s a way of life, not a sort of religion that consists of rules or guidelines. It’s more about your connection with nature and the ancestors, so your truth and connection is yours alone, hence the only rule being the balance you obtain and the terms you adhere to in accordance with nature.
It has been said that your Pyrography album is supposed to be your last house album. What are the reasons behind this? What direction can we expect future Osunlade albums to take?
It is true and the reason is simple. House music has taken a turn that I think is less the direction I want to explore. There are too many DJs who are now supposed producers: less talent and more technology. The genre as well as the people who support it have lost the respect of the music it comes from. It’s the only music that has a million versions of a song, countless re-edits etc. It’s just simply non-musical and for me, it’s been a great vehicle. However there are so many other things to do musically that have the longevity beyond what house music has. Also, it takes me two to three years to conceptualize a full length project; that’s a long time and a lot of energy to see that, upon release, it’s been file-shared and had unauthorized versions produced. Again, it takes the creativity of music for music’s sake away. I’ve just completed my next album; it’s quite different. I don’t know a genre to say that it fits, but it holds, funk, jazz, ambient and other things that I’ve not heard together in one piece of music before. I’ll leave it to those who understand it to label it.
How long have you been living in Greece now and how much of an impact do you feel the more laid back lifestyle has had on your music?
I’ve been here for six years now. It’s my sanctuary; the island has definitely had a big impact on everything in my life as it’s very quiet and peaceful. I think the biggest influence is heard on this new album as it sounds like you’re on an island, or so I’m told.
According to the RA DJ pages, another inhabitant of Greece is Afefe Iku. There have been claims that you and the reclusive/mysterious/never seen producer are indeed the same person. Would you care to shed some light on this matter?
There is mysticism surrounding Afefe Iku as it’s how he prefers it. All I can say is that he does not live in Greece and I simply respect his privacy.
When did you start doing the Yoruba Soul Radio shows? What do you enjoy about this format as opposed to DJing to a crowd?
I started doing these actually when I was a teenager. A close friend and I would create our “radio shows” as competition and after some years I decided to share them with others and the response was great, just to see so many people enjoying music they either hadn’t heard in a while or had never heard. I enjoy this more than anything because it’s my music, the music I was raised on, the music I enjoy most… things I listen to at home. Being in a club is about partying etc and I’m totally not interested in that at this stage in my life. I’ve done it for about 13 years and it just doesn’t interest me anymore.
When did you assemble the Yoruba Soul Orchestra and how often do you play?
The Orchestra has been together for, say about six years. We don’t play as much as we have in the past as members have side projects and tour and/or work on other projects, so it’s quite an effort to get everyone in the same place at the same time. We mostly record together as oppose to playing out as it’s a big unit and these days it’s just difficult to book a live gig that works. Hopefully that will change with the release of the next album project.
You also have other creative outlets: your photographic book on Burning Man. Is photography a serious outlet for you and can we expect other publications from you on your photography?
I hope so. Photography is a great outlet for me as it is external and I become the voyeur. Unlike when creating, it’s about my vulnerability. I have dedicated most of the photography to Burning Man as it’s the perfect scene to shoot, however this year I will start on portraits and other subjects.
What can you tell us about the mix that you’ve done for us?
The mix is more a radio show of music I enjoy and some unreleased material from the label; its quite eclectic and free in genre.
What can we expect from Osunlade over the next year?
My focus at the moment is on the new album project; it won’t be released until later this year, so hopefully I’ll have time to put together a proper tour and some videos to support it. Other than that I’m just taking each day as it comes and enjoying it all.