Published on October 22nd, 2014 | by Lex0
Artist Feature 010: Omar Charles
This week we explore the deeper connections that electronic can bring to both ones conciousness and inner mental imagery, through an interview with the very talented producer Omar Charles from Toronto, Canada. His past releases exemplify a throughly thought provoking exploration of emotional influencing music, with sweeping basslines and smooth melodies alongside cut-up vocal edits that only but add to the overall ambience. His latest release is titled ‘The Fall’; a track where one must let themselves be fully absorbed into its existential beauty, drifting away into the sounds. Find out more about Omar Charles in the interview below:
How old are you & How did you get into producing music / how long for?
I turned 22 earlier this month. I had started messing around with music in my early teen years by playing with random programs such as Virtual DJ. I used a Virtual DJ demo to mash, chop and screw my favourite instrumentals just for fun which eventually lead into me experimenting with DAWs. Since I also was writing lyrics at the time, I decided it would only make sense to begin making beats just as a cool side hobby. I’ve only been taking music production really seriously for a few years though.
What was the reasoning for using your name ‘Omar Charles’, rather than an alias?
When I was just making beats for fun and throwing them up on soundclick and myspace, I thought it was necessary to have a cool producer name but I had a lot of trouble coming up with something that I felt wasn’t corny or a lame flip of my actual name. I even tacked “The Producer” onto my first name at one point and was unhappy with that so I thought about using my real name. Soon I began to really take producing seriously and I managed to snag an interview at The Remix Project, which is a Toronto based incubator for young creatives founded by a really cool enterprising dude named Gavin Sheppard. I was there in hopes of getting accepting into the program and getting some direction with production from their mentor at the time, DJ Ajile. They asked me what my alias was before I played them some beats and I told them it was just my own name and they said that it sounded like a strong producer name, so I feel like that gave me the push to just ditch the idea of alias’ completely (at least for all of my main work so far).
Who are your musical influences?
During the years when I was just a kid who loved hip hop and messed around with it for fun, I was avidly listening to A LOT of Little Brother, so 9th wonder is definitely still an influence for me, especially since I started to look into soul music and related subgenres for sampling purposes when I began making beats.
Another big influence who continues the experimental, sample based hip hop trend is J Dilla who I’m a huge fan of. He made some incredibly timeless music in such an fashion that was innovative for his time and his ear for picking up minuscule aspects of music for sampling was impeccable. 40/40 (Noah Shebib) is also someone who’s style of engineering has definitely had it’s effect on me (not just cause we’re from the same city either). AFTA-1 is also another person who fits into the same vein as those I mentioned earlier.
Those guys are people who will always influence me but as for right now in the moment, I’ve been HEAVILY into a lot of darker future garage music as well as other electronic producers who have emerged onto the scene like Mathbonus for example.
If you could compare yourself to an already established artist, who would that be and why?
I’m not sure any comparison’s I could come up with would do me or the artist justice haha.
Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration? What is your usual songwriting process / software?My inspiration comes a lot from the people who influence me but also the mood that I’m in combined with how I think about moments in time when I”m in a specific mood. I approach music as a way to convey a type of vibe or mood and bring that out in the listener. In terms of songwriting process, I usually start to play around with random sounds that I have as sort of a warm-up and then after that I begin working with a sample or a melodic idea. Once I work out something strong enough to stand by itself that can also be easily manipulated with mixing, I work out the appropriate drum patterns from there.
What would you say is your signature sound or style?
When producing for other people, I don’t think I really have a signature sound or style, however I’ve been told by people who listen to some of the hardcore rap instrumentals I make are often pretty dark or utilize a lot of trippy sounds. That’s likely to change though cause when I started out, I was heavily into 9th wonder-esque sampling as well as very simple electronic melodic lines so as I grow as a producer and as a person, the moods that I bring to production and attempt to make the music exude will change as well.
I really don’t know if I can say that I have a signature sound for songs that I personally release and I’m not sure it would be a good idea to confine myself to arbitrary labels just yet cause I’ve only put out two tracks. People who’ve heard them though, have referred to them as very chill, dream-like and smooth, which is nice and pretty accurate I guess.
There are also often times when I’ll be playing around with different notes and progressions and I’ll end up letting whatever I come up with lead the composition process instead of going into it with a specific idea in mind. Sometimes you have to let the music be the brush that paints the picture and afterwards you attribute the meaning and vibe to your finished piece.
What do you think about online music sharing? Do you ever give your music away for free? Why?
I think online music sharing has revolutionized the way we see and distribute our content much for the better. Record label heads and old school music pundits will disagree because they see it as a means of hurting their bottom line or dialuting the product. But thats mostly because they have failed to adjust. Even though we’re waaaaay post-napster and in the new age of media distribution, they still relied on archaic means of promotion, distribution and outreach and have always been slow at catching up to the artists who have been smart enough to keep up with the leading edge of distribution methods that bring content directly to the fans without middle men and extraneous expenses. Slowly but surely there have been more and more artists who are finding ways to monetize their craft into a decent living while sharing music online and content for free. There are even a few wealthy artists out there who have gained that revenue just from knowing how to make smart investments while ensuring that they own as much of their creative capital as possible and knowing the necessary music business math.
I did give away my first release “Don’t Go” for free after hitting a certain amount of streams. I’ll probably do the same with “The Fall” once I feel like I’ve pushed as much as I can for plays on it.
What do you think your listeners will get out of your music?
The goal really is just to give people something they can actual feel. I want the music to evoke some sort of emotional and mental response in the listener. I haven’t been making songs with the intention of having them be some shit that you would blast in your whip or turn up to at a party or have playing in the background while you do w/e. I’ve been aiming towards just creating vibes and emotions that you can attach to pivotal moments in your life or that make you reflect on important occurrences. Even the titles of the songs I’ve put out so far kind of denote that. Don’t Go is really supposed to be like an aural manifestation of the emotion you feel when someone you care about is walking away from you. The Fall isn’t just a nod to my season of birth but it’s about feeling that envelopes you as you experience what it’s like to fall for someone. People can attach those meanings to the songs or attach the songs to other experiences they have which ultimately will change what they get out of it and that’s fine too.
Nostalgically chasing a fleeting moment from your past, connecting with an aspect of your current existence, those are the things that I’d like people to experience when they listen to current style production because being able to do that is one of things that makes music magical and allows a song to transcend from just a bunch of notes and sounds, into something that helps to define a parts of our lives, no matter how transient some of those part may be.
We love your latest release titled ‘The Fall’ what were you thinking about?
With that release, I was honestly just focused on surpassing Don’t Go while pushing myself further in terms of my ability to create a piece that can evolve and change. With Don’t Go, you can see how the song transforms and
progresses and I wanted to see if I could take that even further. Beyond that I think you can see what else I was thinking about in the previous question.
What support do you have so far from this release?
Sunken Sounds and Museache have picked it up along with Raps & Hustles. Honestly, just a few websites are privy to it right now but I’m aiming to gain coverage on a few more. Ideally I’d like to be featured on DoAndroidsDance as well as Pigeons and Planes , if not with this release, then hopefully with the future ones.
Is your outlook for the future based around solely production, or do you plan on incorporating your music into live performances?
I’ve thought about this a lot lately because the door has really been blown open for producers to make their own way without having to work with vocalists. I might get into live performances in the future if I feel like I can make the music to suit that context, but as of right now, I feel like keeping things generally a bit smoother, sonically.
What are you currently working on (an EP? Album?, can you give us any hints)?
Life definitely has a way of dividing my time up so I don’t really see a full album on the horizon, however, I’m definitely giving the EP thing a thought. Maybe after a few more singles. I’m also always working on potential hip hop records for locals and the occasional international act.
Who else have you produced for? What was your favourite track to work on / who with?
I’ve produced for some local hip hop acts like Rob GF, Jake Bluez and Terrell Morris (formerly known as T.City). I think my favourite record(s) to date is probably still in the works, so, that’s all I can say about that.
What’s your favourite track to listen to / include in your mixes at the moment by another artist?
My favourite track to listen to right now might just be J A Y E E M’s “I Like The Way You Do”. I’ve had that in rotation for a while now.
What are your future plans / goals / aspirations?
My future plans will probably include an EP as well as being able to release music on a label if I’m lucky. Ultimately though I’d just like to continue releasing dope music to people and building up my credit as a producer and beatmaker.
Listen to Omar Charles’s latest track ‘The Fall’:
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