“But that also came with limitations, and Chinese music is not the easiest to digest, nor to sample.”
Attempting a trilogy project is always a brave, and often gruelling, undertaking. Creating a trilogy using only music from a country you’re not native of would seem next to impossible. However for Onra, it showed how sharp his musical ear truly is.
He released Chinoiseries part one almost ten years ago. The French producer started the sonic journey with a crate digging trip to Vietnam, a country where he has ancestry. From there he explored record stores all over the Far East for this series, trying to give a different image of Chinese music.
“I just really wanted to have fun with this type of material for the very last time. I dug deeper than ever and I have tried to do as many different rhythm patterns as possible, from various influences like Hip-Hop (from different eras), to Bossa to Indian Music to Psych Rock, Soul, etc.”
We caught up with Onra for a brief chat about the closing chapter in his Chinoiseries, ahead of the official launch on March 11 in The Sugar Club.
It’s been ten years since the first Chinoiseries record, how have you changed as a producer, and I suppose as an artist as a whole, in that time?
I haven’t changed my production methods that much. Obviously I evolved a lot ’cause I feel like I was only just starting 10 years ago, even though I was making music for a long time.
But I only had the MPC for three years, I think and was still learning how to get something out of it.
As an artist, I just have been introduced to many other styles of music, so I guess that also has some kind of influence in my sound at some point.
A trilogy in any art form has a common thread. How do you keep that familiarity as you change as a producer?
I keep the same concept all through the trilogy. I have been really strict with it, 100 per cent Chinese music, samples from records, MPC only, 32 beats, one interlude each eight tracks, etc etc. I simply followed bunch of rules that I have imposed to myself.
So, even if I changed as an artist, the fact that the rules are still the same, makes you keep a certain consistency.
So did you travel to China each time to find samples, or was it one trip that you stocked up on records?
First trip was in Vietnam.
Second trip was Thailand and China. And for the third, I have been collecting from everywhere across Asia: Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Phillipines, China, Vietnam, etc…
I repeat, I only sampled Chinese music from China. It doesn’t really matter where I find the records actually, it is still Chinese music.
A lot of producers don’t attempt projects that are solely represented by music from a certain country. Has it been difficult over the trilogy to stay true to the culture it represented?
It was easy ’cause the concept was clearly defined and there are rules to follow. But that also came with limitations, and Chinese music is not the easiest to digest, nor to sample.
I had to buy tons of records to make that third album happen because I was looking for intricate samples and original textures, to differentiate it from the first two ones.
You’re back on All City. Can you give a little insight into how that relationship came about?
Back in the Myspace days, Mike Slott hooked me up with All City while they were doing the 7×7 series and someone dropped out of that project, so there was a space available for me.
I already had some kind of buzz in 2006/2007 so this project was a good thing for both of us. After we met a couple times, I offered them to work on my next album ‘Long Distance’ and they were into it, and that’s when we really started working together.
They’ve been doing a great job!
Onra will play at the release party of ‘Chinoiseries III’ on Saturday March 11 in The Sugar Club. Click here for more on that, and tickets.