Oneohtrix Point Never Interview



In an age of Logic, Ableton and Reason, it’s refreshing to find an electronic producer who is so fiercely loyal to hardware. In this case, it’s Dan Lopatin a.k.a Oneohtrix Point Never, and his Roland Juno-60. A patron of otherworldly synth-drone, Lopatin could lazily be lumped together with Leyland Kirby, Grouper, Emeralds or Tim Hecker, but his talents stretch beyond that. Having recently helped score the Sofia Coppola flick The Bling Ring, his inclination for the poppier side of things can be found in his 2011 project Ford & Lopatin with Joel Ford. Although more accessible, a dystopian colour still abounds on their LP Channel Pressure, something that is undeniably prevalent in Lopatin’s solo work under his OPN guise.

Having released several full length albums as well as a comprehensive collection of all his material since 2003 (Rifts), his next record, R Plus Seven, is coming through the British independent electronic institution that is Warp. A seemingly perfect fit for Lopatin, it is described by the label as ‘com[ing] as close as Lopatin has ever gotten to anything resembling traditional song structure’. I caught up with the man himself to discuss all things film, synth and Gang Starr.

I remember scoring one sex scene in the film which involves a hand gun. In the morning I was so stoked to work on it, I was like “Yeah we’re gonna score a sex scene this is great,” and I get in there and I’m like: “How the fuck do you do this? This is unbelievably difficult.” I think that they are two different beasts ultimately.

How has writing an album for Warp differed from Mexican Summer or Editions Mego?

Replica was the only one where I was on a label but usually I kind of just write and then present stuff to people. So this was kind of the same, I recorded at home and it more or less had legs and I shared it. So it was much simpler than Replica in way it was just working at home on my own.

How was Replica different?

I feel like a lot of my stuff is very dense vertically, a lot of ideas on top of each other, and with this one I tried to invert the axis and excavate; create room so that these musical objects could exist in a space and communicate with each other in a very clear way. That was really the only real thing that I was interested in, structure, everything else just intuitively came out of just jamming, sitting at the piano and playing and writing songs.

How did it feel having to construct sounds based on images on the score for The Bling Ring?

Even if you’re a connoisseur of film, until you’re scoring a film you really have no idea how to work sound for image. It’s just a very different language, it’s very acute, you really have to work against the image at times which came pretty naturally for me I would say, but other things like the timing aspects of scores are very interesting and different to anything I usually concern myself with. I remember scoring one sex scene in the film which involves a hand gun. In the morning I was so stoked to work on it, I was like “Yeah we’re gonna score a sex scene this is great,” and I get in there and I’m like: “How the fuck do you do this? This is unbelievably difficult.” I think that they are two different beasts ultimately.

Do you find it limiting in the way there are time constraints?

I like it, it’s very athletic in a way, scoring, you don’t have a lot of time, you really have to understand the picture, you have to really pick your battles when it’s time to be subtle and when it’s time to go into something more thematic.

Is it something you would go back to if you were offered the chance?

Not necessarily, it would really have to be the right picture I think, it’s more about committing to something that you really believe in and if you have that then the rest falls into place. In film, there’s so many moving parts, there’s so many gatekeepers between you and the film itself, and even just to get to the director you have to go through a lot of sound editors supervisors, producers etc. So it can be very tricky if the relationship’s not right and if there’s not a mutual understanding.

Did you have to run your ideas past Sofia Coppola during the creative stages?

Well this was odd because she didn’t initially intend on there being any score, she just wanted music soundtrack, so Ryan the music supervisor who I scored the film with basically said: “Trust me, let’s do this, I think we can do it.” Just from vibing in his studio a couple of times, talking about ideas and watching the film, we just did it. And then once we had a whole bunch of cues, he presented them to her, and she was pretty stoked.

That one that my dad had and gave me, the Juno-60, I know it so well that I almost prefer not to play it anymore because it’s just like cheap tricks, but it’s also a sentimentality there, you just know it so well, your fingers just feel a certain way when they touch it.

How did your fascination with synths begin? What do you see in them that’s unique to anything else?

My dad had all these jazz fusion tapes that he had made, like Return to Forever’s Where Have I Known You Before and Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Birds of Fire, I heard those records and I was fascinated by sounds because I couldn’t really understand them, and when you don’t understand where something comes from, it’s like magic. My dad had a synth in the basement and it just looked crazy, all the controls, it looked like a cockpit to an airplane, and when you’re a little kid it’s just fascinating. And as you start learning it, the magic takes on different aspects, but it’s like a malleable thing that you can impressionistically work with. And then each one has its own little secrets you can nerd out on, and uncover which kind of fits my personality.

I kind of love and hate them in a way, I never was able to overcome a certain proficiency threshold with them, and so a lot of it was where I was became a total nerd with it and at some point it just became tedious and ridiculous and very far away from the things I wanted to focus on, which are more in the field of ideas, and less in the field of experimenting with sounds. If you put me front of a modular synthesizer I could come up with something but it would be kind of a joke, just intuitively generated music. I never really bothered become a real serious student of synthesizers so my attitude to those are kind of smash and grab in a way, just use them, start with whatever’s happening, see where I can get to, try not to spend too much time with it.

Are you learning things every time you go back to it?

That one that my dad had and gave me, the Juno-60, I know it so well that I almost prefer not to play it anymore because it’s just like cheap tricks, but it’s also a sentimentality there, you just know it so well, your fingers just feel a certain way when they touch it.

With synthesize-led tracks comes the obvious comparisons with sci-fi. How conscious are you of this when you are composing?

The thing between technology and sci-fi that is contentious to me, is that the best science fiction was written on a typewriter, the things that were incredible about it were written up here (points to head), so when people ask me about technology, which you’re not but I think it begs the question, it’s just dull for me because it’s like you’re gonna find the most generic pallate for hypothesising on the future if you’re relying on contemporary gadgets and gizmos to dictate those things.

I’m definitely not in denial for my love of science fiction, but if I was so lucky as to pick to score a film, I would probably do something like a psychological thriller because I want some kind of disruptive aspect to emerge. There’s nothing more eerie to me than Cliff Martinez synths on Sex, Lies and Videotape. I think it’s so incredible, and his guitar stuff on that too. But you never hear those sort of textures straight up, and those movies which just focus on human psychology, and it’s puzzling to me, it works together so well.

You mentioned in your Red Bull lecture that DJ Premier and RZA have been big influences on you – how much of a relevance would you say hip-hop has on your work?

I have these very acute memories of this tape that my friend Eric made, and it had a bunch of Wu-Tang on one side from 36 Chambers and Old Dirty Bastard’s solo stuff, and had a couple tracks off Moment Of Truth. But yeah I just remember driving around my suburbs listening to that tape in that inebriated state of mind when you can really zoom in and break apart the layers that you’re hearing, I could put Guru over here, and I just heard Premier for the first time. Something snapped and I was like ‘these are the strangest, most oblique sculptures, the way he puts these very simple samples together is like a body and an appendage’.

There’s one track where you can hear birds chirping very slightly underneath everything else, and I was just like ‘this dude is like the best producers I’ve ever heard in my life’. When he wants to be, when he’s doing something legit. To me it was just as interesting, if not more interesting than the stuff I was told I was supposed to like. Moment Of Truth to me was just perfect from start to end. That’s when I really started thinking about sound as pastiche, as an abstraction of music, but not necessarily music as you expect it to be. And the oblique way of incongruent shapes and ratios of sounds that feel so wrong in normal music, felt absolutely right for my brain. It was just my awakening.

You also mentioned how you had a hard time listening to and appreciating rap lyrics – could this be part of the reason why your music is solely machine based?

Yeah it’s definitely a reason why I’m not a rapper (laughs). It’s just the way my brain is wired, it’s that I have this dithering effect on semiotic content, like I get it if I’m really paying attention but even when I’m really paying attention I tend to smear it, I’m just really more about sound. I just think that my brain lends itself to that kind of listening.

Oneohtrix Poitn Never’s album R Plus Seven is out on 30th September on Warp Records

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