Veteran house producer, Omid 16B, is the first artist to contribute to Waveform Live series. The Waveform Transmitter’s Simon Huxtable talks to the Alola label head about defining moments, streaming platforms, and musical appreciation.
Being a bona fide House legend can be a burden, but for Omid 16B it seems to suit him like a well-worn coat or a comfy pair of gloves. London born and bred from Persian roots has set him aside from the cookie cutter house pretenders that have come and gone; given him a glint in his eye and a belly full of grit and determination. 80s pop culture provided a rich and varied tapestry of influences, none more so than The Cure, Depeche Mode and the provocative and liberal New Romantics scene.
As Acid House began to turn the heads of a great many away from the traditional guitar-based rock and twee pop in the early 90s, Omid was there leading the way with Deep House imprint Alola Records followed by the shorter-lived but no less impressive, Disclosure in 1995. Fast forward to 2017 and Alola continues to grow in stature as one of a handful of labels to bring that original acid house pioneerism and passion to the Millennial ears of today’s dance floors.
DJ Mag famously wrote “Some DJs and producers have their finger on the pulse – Omid 16B IS the pulse.” and twenty four years later he is still doing what he was always supposed to do: making music, touring the World and soundtracking our lives with passionate, honest House music. Fresh from his tour to Japan, Omid drops in on The Waveform Transformer to talk about his new album, touring and life as a new dad.
Waveform: Hi Omid, it’s been a while since we last talked. How have you been? How’s the family?
Omid 16B: “Hi Simon, I believe last time we met was with Damien Pell, Amber Long and a few others. I was with Alex George for his first ADE, was a few ADEs back, I’m sure we had a few drinks together!
Ok the questions!? I’m in a good mood so take it all with a pinch of salt, not as seriously as the music!
The past few years I’ve been acting on impulses, saying that, I feel strong enough to take things on in my life where I guess in the past had left me with at least one excuse to avoid or forget.
I feel it’s clearer and I’m more focused since I had Leila, creativity is constant in all aspects of my life. Not just in making music, but everything I’m involved in daily.
Most of the time I feel like a ball; round, bouncy and playful! I feel honest, without trying to prove anything, strangely even within my own circles, which can sometimes be a surprise because of my brutal honesty.
Family is my life, it’s essential, it’s everything, it’s up, occasionally down, sometimes perfect, sometimes not, but that’s what family is, it’s not meant to be easy, I try and take it less seriously and stay neutral, I can mediate between certain situations and resolve it quickly!”
Waveform: As we’ve mentioned, you’ve just got back from Japan. How was it back on the road again and has the country changed since you were there?
Omid 16B: “Japan is a real mind shifting experience, more so this time than the past visits. Japan has its own sense of discipline and order, quite relaxed but very strong! You feel like the minority but you don’t ever feel unwelcome, there’s always so much to get done and so little time, but if you’re prepared to be part of their society and get with how they do things, it’s actually easier than you think.
Tokyo is fascinating, but Kyoto is a very special place, I can’t advise you enough, pay a visit even if it’s once in your lifetime. Their toilets are the best things ever! It truly takes ‘going to the rest room’ to another level…
Slowly your efforts feel effortless and your attitude becomes far more versatile, I mean the trust in society, it’s way more developed than anywhere I’ve ever experienced. You can loose your wallet on a park bench, only to come back the next day and find it exactly at the same place with extra cash.
It’s unusual and perfect in so many ways! You can’t help falling in love with Japan!”
Waveform: We noticed from your social media that your family came along with you. Was that helpful in grounding you, or did you find with them so close it was a distraction?
Omid 16B: “Having your family with you is definitely better for your neurochemicals. But it really depends on your attitude at the end of the day – if you’re comfortable with the situation it’s a lot of fun! Most of my friends like Desyn Masiello, Elliot Tordoff, Richard O’Gorman (Da Billa), Behrouz all have kids and travel with their families quite frequently so I’m not the only one doing it within my circle.
Of course, being on your own is sometimes easier for the obvious reasons but a little soulless at times. On your own, you don’t have time to wonder off too far or get it wrong! But when there’s more than one, you’ll simply go with the flow, and let your energy lead the way.
You learn not to waste time, not to be lazy because you can’t risk it, not to get what you want all the time but instead accept flexibility, be less vulnerable, more friendly, stronger and more active, so once you finally put your head on the pillow, you sleep like a baby!
Sometimes I travel with Mum and Dad, my brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews, sisters and friends, it’s all the same, we all swap roles and make sure we’re ready to do what needs to get done without fail. We’re all human so we know it can’t always be perfect, but we certainly try to get it as close as we can!
It’s tough switching between the two roles, family and work, sometimes one feels less important than the other or visa versa. They say there’s an art to it and everyone has to figure it out for themselves, I guess I’m still trying to work that one out – that’s a whole different story!”
Waveform: Alola has been your baby for 24 years (see what I did there?!) and in that time the whole business model of dance music has shifted. Has the shift been wholly positive in your opinion? Why?
Omid 16B: “You can’t have a baby for 24 years, can you? Unless you’re raising a bonsai tree! The whole business model of dance music? It may seem like something different currently, but it’s the same thing repeating, maybe slightly more advanced. Slightly more cunning, slightly more available, slightly more easily, slightly awful perhaps?! Maybe its on its way to become even better than ever?!
It definitely needs a change, that’s for sure. I feel it’s what most of us are thinking and saying “can’t carry on like this, can it?” But wait, isn’t the darkest point of the night when there’s a second left before the light kicks in? Now it’s time to do that, to stick your neck out, to release those records you’ve been sitting on, to get in the studio, to make it happen!
Now is the best time for all those things you were waiting for, thinking you need someone else to make it happen. No, you need to make it happen right now, even if it’s doing it completely on your own. Did you know there’s another Alola Records in Nigeria? It’s not us of course but still, there’s another imitating us! What do I do about that? A part of me can’t take it seriously enough whatsoever but the business side of me thinks I should be doing something about it!
So, to answer your question simply, it’s only negative when you’re not doing something positive about it, and it’s only positive when you’re doing just enough to make it a little less negative. There’s always an order, an ‘unbalanced balance’, if you see something you don’t like then make it better, if it’s good already then you can’t help at least try and make it a little better or risk making it a little worse.
Waveform: You’ve spoken at length before about the use of promos to create hype and momentum for a release. The whole No More Free Promos campaign has gathered pace and we notice a fair few labels now employ this concept. With free music off the table, what tools should the modern label head be using to draw attention to their product in such a densely populated industry?
Omid 16B: “Finally, ha! If you really believe your music is good, it deserves to be heard more than most other tracks you’re listening to? Then you got to find a new way to get it heard, you couldn’t rely on DJ’s only, you still can’t!
Sorry to burst the bubble but it’s the DJ’s that are more likely to kill it once and for all, currently. Not…all but most of them. If your track is just a DJ track then it’s easy to expect almost nothing back, maybe a credit in small print on the back of a DJ mix cd? If you’re lucky!
But it’s only when your track has potential to cross over, to reach another group of listeners, get on a film, become an anthem or simply fall in the right hands in the industry, it’s only then when you get the once in a lifetime opportunity. You get nearly everyone’s attention, that’s what you get, and if you’re smart you’ll continue surprising them as much as yourself, you’ll keep it fresh and innocent at all times, you’ll be in charge.
For a while now, labels are gaining their fan base without relying on the DJs solely – changing how they promo…how they promote. You need to understand the importance of your music getting heard for the first time and forget about ‘who’ is playing it for a second. Don’t let that become your only excitement or something to boast about…one needs to add one’s own personal style in exposing it, to build it up as if there’s no one else better than you presenting it.
It’s better they hear it from you or a good PR company first, better than a DJ who is using your music as a weapon not to expose your talents. Go see someone like Dispersion PR. They’re all music heads and will only take you on if they love what you’re doing.
I’ve used a number of different strategies and continue to do so, it’s really down to one’s imagination. ‘Three Imaginary Boys – what a great album! The first album is always the best…why is that?”
Waveform: While we are on the subject, how do you see streaming and platforms such as Spotify changing the landscape for indie labels and artists?
Omid 16B: “I could be really horrible here, but I’ll try to curb my ego. They could be doing a lot more to be fair and I’m more negative about it than positive if you want to know the truth!
“Streaming is like a casino, the house always wins!” Omid 16B
Unless you’re in the casino every night watching the dealers, learning the dynamics of gambling, you simply walk out without winning enough or loosing more than you had to begin with. We accept the pay backs and never complain directly due to a few at the top ultimately enjoying the bigger paybacks. Seeing them win is what makes us think we may also win, maybe one day? Maybe? Maybe never! Maybe definitely!
I don’t know what we can do to go back once something is out there. It’s impossible to wipe it off the planet and pretend it didn’t exist. I can give you three open solutions that will fix it in a switch, but that’s a whole different answer, and I don’t want to put my life on the line…just yet!
We’re at a stage collectively where we can introduce a number of solutions, the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) Ben Turner, Mark Lawrence, Greg Marshal have all played a massive role in offering stronger ideas and feeling peoples concerns in today’s trends within the industry, they’ve created a platform for more of us to get together and tackle some of those issues!
I can’t thank people like that enough for doing those things most of us are too lazy to do. That’s not all we should do but it’s a great start. Meeting up with as many labels, agents, bookers, promoters and artists consciously is the key, to hear everyone out as much as possible.
This wasn’t the case ten…twenty years ago. There is a far wider sense of community now even though there’s a few publications, radio stations and clubs who lost their true reputation through the years, they can fix that of course, it’s never too late, one needs more interest in supporting new acts and music, introducing more spice, more flavor, instead of the obvious set-menu week-in-week-out.
One online music mag gets rid of the numbers game and another takes the chance to take it up, isn’t that funny? …see the balance in that? They’re constantly swapping roles, a little bit of something in everything.
I’m writing a book about this all! Working title is ‘The Energy Investor’. Part of my book talks about the musical side of an artist that brings about a more natural presence and is able to fix the broken elements starting with just himself/herself!
What ever is going on out there, its going on, when did you stop thinking or believing you’re not responsible for what’s going on? We all play a part in it, even if it’s a small part!
Waveform: Let’s take a break from the serious stuff for a moment and shift focus to what connects us primarily; music. You’ve made no secret of your appreciation for bands such as The Cure, but what was it about their sound that drew you in?
Omid 16B: “It was their look actually…well to begin with! I went to LA for the first time on my own aged 16. I had earned the ticket from my parents who promised they’d let me off on my own after school ends and ready for summer holidays!
I stayed with my uncle but had complete freedom all summer. I convinced my uncle to rent me a guitar and amp from Guitar Centre, so I could continue playing the guitar whilst in America for my summer holidays.
One day I met a son of a close friend of my dad’s, over in LA. His name was Daniel and he was also a Commodore-64 freak like I was at the time. Only thing was he had a poster of a band on his wall, all colourful, and all the members of the band in make-up, strange hairstyles and clothes. It was THE CURE. They stood out, I’d never seen a band like that before! It was only until I came back to the Uk I started to discover their music and fall in love with them!
‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘A Forest’ were the two tracks that drew me further into their sound! Their sound had an edge and sense of sadness in the most beautiful way. I can never thank The Cure enough – especially Robert Smith – can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me alone!
The band and all their different members have given me a guideline, gentle reminders to always do what I feel and that’s the whole point. They not only inspired me for many years they also schooled me to some degree. There’s nothing more rewarding than meeting the people you once thought of as gods! If you can still love and respect them the same as before, that’s when you know it’s real love and not just awe!”
Waveform: How would you say the music of your youth informs your own creations?
Omid 16B: “It’s only a tiny gap when separated, but it’s mostly with me, always. It’s the ultimate reference for me, it’s a reminder of what I can feel deeply, as a child, innocently! See, I believe in things some would say is crazy, but it’s got as much proof as any other belief. I believe music, like art and like timelessness, is our only clue! Clues to remembering. Clues to who we were, and not to forget where we left off.
When you hear something made 30 years ago or something made 200 years ago, if it feels good and touches you then nothing about it is old – it’s timeless! It’s a clue to tell you how far you can go, even in the past, to bring about something better, more inspired, more tuneful, less broken, more than before, maybe even something completely different. You can hear something from a year ago, and although it’s more current in the sense of when it’s made, it feels cheap and old in comparison.
Based on that alone, good music shouldn’t be your only reference. I try to listen to as much as possible, even if I don’t like it at first – only then you know the balance of expression in its complete state! Only then when you’ve heard something worse you’re sure you know why something can be better!
Remember those album tracks you hate to begin with but utterly love so much after 10 plays?! Think about it. You will only get a better taste in music if you give everything a go! If you got one thousand promos, see if you can listen to as much as possible, starting with the labels and producers you’ve never heard of. Give more time to the unknown, it will make the known parts more worthy or add more worthiness to your list of reference!”
Waveform: B4LP, the new album is your first new music since Like 3 Ears and 1 Eye, in 2008. If my review of the album sampler is anything to go by, this is likely to be a big hit with the fans, so I suppose, on behalf of them I ought to ask why the long hiatus?
Omid 16B: “Not much of a secret anymore, but in the past year I’ve been quietly releasing music to experiment on myself, without making a fuss about it! I wanted to experience the lack of demand, the lack of attention, the lack of appreciation maybe? to actually understand if I’m doing it for the real reasons of doing ‘something you love’.
Not for money, not for the girls, not for more comfort, not for exposure, not for power, not for gigs, not for any reward but to give and offer only for very little sometimes in return, maybe only to continue doing what I love doing! This was the major shift for me as an artist, the minor point that turned everything around and burst my bubble.
Though every year, I had an albums worth of new music, I realized it wasn’t quite the message I felt I was trying to say, maybe it still wasn’t for the complete right reasons. Who knows?
It felt too clean…not dirty and real enough. It felt over done sometimes, I knew things shouldn’t take that long, if they are on impulse, they just happen! That slowly changed when I started to let go, when I gave up trying to figure it all out, I was risking a possible ‘zero outcome’? Maybe.
But, I started to feel what I was trying to say by doing this album the way it happened, when I completely let go of what it’s supposed to mean to me. I had to pretend I’m hearing things for the first time. I had to listen and leave my judgments aside. I had to be braver than ever and take risks and chances on things I was always frightened of, due to rejection or what others think!
I realized the order, I felt what needs more work, what needs to strip back. Only then, things became clearer. Now the album feels naked and transparent. It’s complete, not fractional! The music will speak to you in many ways, that’s why I’m toying with the idea of adding ‘my book’ – ‘The Energy Investor’ to the album so you can read it whilst you’re listening to the tracks. Maybe as part of the limited physical release!
‘B1toC3’ is an album that has potential to change how you see things. Of course it can make a few cry, make a few laugh, make a few smile, make a few free again and dance, maybe touch everyone’s heart softly, even the ones who may have trouble to begin with!”
Waveform: Tell us about the album, the story behind the sounds, if you will.
Omid 16B: “Boy this one took it out of me I tell ya! It’s a collection of old and new fantasies, ideas that are on the edge of including a little bit of everything. Some tracks I’ve literally left with just one sound and drums, minimal in its structure but optimum on its energy and release.
I’ve taken more out than left in, I’ve removed more than added, I’ve gone very deep to find the roots of ‘why’, the roots which are the only thing that need be strong. The rest is a matter of taste and what mood you’re in when you listen, if you’re in a good mood it will make you moodier, if you’re in a bad mood it will make you happier.
I’ve left a little space for each person’s imagination to fluster, I’ve not given it any easy way out, I’ve allowed you to have your own personal experience with a few doors being opened for you, but ultimately I’m allowing the music I’ve made to give you more ideas, more invitation to your senses, additional involvement for a sense of completion, a direct cause to follow with an effect, a platform for reference to feelings and not just an image that will fade away.
Here’s a little paragraph/poem from my book I’ll share with you …
“If you want to make a good tune?
If you want to make something unique?
You got to leave your knowledge behind,
You got to feel like it’s the first time.
The first time you ever heard a sound,
You must leave everything you know behind,
For this instance you got to be totally naked,
Totally innocent again.
Act as if you have to but don’t forget you’re acting,
Say it if you have to but forget how you used to say it,
Touch it if you’re welcome but remember you’re always connected,
Make it all, make you feel, there’s nothing else to think about!”
‘The Energy Investor’ by Omid Nourizadeh
Waveform: Your first album came out in 1998 on Sven Væth’s insanely good Eye Q Records. It was, and still is for many, something of a marker post for dance music with its sophisticated sound and depth. 20 years on (and with a few more miles on the clock) B4LP sounds as if it could have been made at the same time. It’s a rich and musical collection which seems to transcend time, something that has become synonymous with the 16B brand. When you set out to write an album, how much attention do you give to the idea of creating a legacy?
Omid 16B: “I’m always interested in what’s timeless, but leaving a legacy? Not so sure if that’s what I’m trying to do?! Although it’s good to leave a legacy, it’s only good for you whilst you’re alive. Once you’re gone, who cares?
That’s why I’d rather leave something timeless regardless of what or how much attention I get for it, how much credit I get for it right now, doesn’t matter, as long as it feels like it was meant to be exactly like it is. It stands more chance, it may last forever?
I never forget the time me and Desyn managed to blag our way in to Ushuaia in Ibiza. Sven was playing, not sure if he likes both men and women, but he was giving me the eye so I recall I acted on my impulses and sneaked in the booth, as he raised his hands dropping a massive track. I don’t know why, but suddenly I got the urge to tickle his arm pits, I had to make a run for it soon after as it didn’t go down too well with security or Sven come top think of it, ha ha!
I never forget what Desyn said to me right after. “Omid, he didn’t like it because he saw you had something in you that he didn’t” Without taking it too seriously I guess I brought out the ‘ME’ in me!
Nowadays it’s fashionable to have a hundred people in the booth looking like a zoo on drugs. I’m not interested in energy that’s forceful. I’m interested in natural force and an edge when it feels good, honestly. Less controlled, less demanding, more confident in nature without any subdued arrogance! Non-traditional perhaps but only experimental for reasons I’m not even aware of.
That why my live mix for you is unedited and as raw as it can get, it’s showing everything, even the mistakes that lead to harmony and perfection even if it’s for a few minutes. Part of any artist’s suffering is when you’re holding on, its believing what you read, it’s hearing only the things you want to hear, making only the tracks that you think they want.
Some of my peers still feed off it and, in my opinion, they’re fucked (to put it gently). They’ve got to a stage where their infrastructure is surrounding itself with “YES” men, “you’re the best” men, telling them what they want to hear…far from the truth.
My only advice to them is to wake up and face what I set myself to face, isolation, no help, no love at times, no lies, no reasons left to continue. Only then will you express the truth and the real love you have for what you’re trying to say, you’re not saying it because you have to, or need to, or must?
You’re not even trying anymore, it’s just flowing out and your job has simply become to allow it to flow, as much as possible! Conclusion? No more legacies, just new fantasies with more chance at becoming timeless.”
Waveform: Omid, I’d like to thank you for your time today. It’s always a pleasure to speak to you and we hope the new album sells by the bucket load! One final question if you don’t mind… If you could name one moment time which defines you as a person, what would it be and why?
Thanks mate, you always bring the best out of any artist, thanks for picking your questions wisely!
I guess what I should share with you is something that happened to me recently, it defines what stage of my life I’m at as a person!
It was a day after Thanksgiving and I was in LA. I wandered into Starbucks after going swimming. I went to the counter and the lady said, “what can I get you?” I said, “what do you recommend?” She said “a Latte? Maybe something to eat?”
I said, “a latte is great, coconut milk please” She said, “what size?” I said, “you choose” She said “Grande?”I said, “Yes, that’s great!” She said, “what’s your name?” (To write my name on the cup for when it’s time to collect)
I said “ My name…is JUPITER”
She smiled, almost laughed with a sense of control but continued to write ‘JUPITER’ on my cup! She then said “6 Dollars please.” I reached in my pocket and realized I’d left my wallet at my hotel and only had 3 dollars on me! I said, “sorry I’ve only got 3 dollars on me, I’ve left my wallet at home accidentally”
She smiled and said, “don’t worry about it, I got you, it’s ok, give me what you have.” I was grateful, to say the least, and promised to one day come back to pay back the three dollars she covered for me. She said again “that’s cool, honestly it’s not a problem” Again we smiled.
About 5 minutes later, they called my name “Jupiter” to collect my coffee, I saw and felt everyone smile!
Some almost smiled as if to say “we know that can’t be your name but good one, nice try” and a few smiled and seemingly felt were saying “what drugs were your parents on when they gave you a name like ‘Jupiter’?”
We all smiled and laughed for a second, I enjoyed that latte very much!
We are very proud to present the inaugural set in our Waveform Live which Omid has kindly recorded for us. It was recorded live in Omid‘s studio, fully hardware based, with a bunch of his friends who he affectionately refers to as The 16B Band. You heard this here first, and you won’t hear it anywhere else. 100% exclusive, from Omid, to you. This is the first in a series of sets which give artists we love the opportunity to break free from the constraints of a DJ set and explore their sound more fully. Omid describes his set as being “raw and naked”. So, the true ethos of a live set. Enjoy it.