The label head of the outstanding Omni Music, Eschaton, is leading the charge with some of the best underground Drum & Bass currently being released. The first ever mix for Inside the Rift was done courtesy of Eschaton, and I was overjoyed when I heard that he was releasing a brand new LP entitled Icaros.
Icaros, like much of his catalogue, tries to replicate and depict the mystical concepts and disciplines that are interwoven into practices like Shamanism and Buddhism. The album itself is a stellar blend of what we've come to know and love from the virtuoso (furious breakbeats, deep bass, and swirling synth layers) but with a touch of experimental flavor in certain spots.
Here, I speak with him about his inspirations for the album, his recent move, and what he's been up to since our last interview.
Prox: What is is the significance of the title of this release? How does it relate to some of the other titles on the album?
Eschaton: It’s all interrelated in a way, about subjects I am interested and passionate about (There's a reason Wilsh of Uncertified Music calls me jokingly “Hippy” instead of using my real name!). The LP covers the subjects of Buddhism/Shamanism and psychedelics. Icaros in shamanism are songs that “are used to enhance or subdue the effects of plant medicines, to evoke plant spirits, to invite the spirits of others or the deceased, to dispel dark spirits, or to protect those present, and to manage the ceremony” (I copied that definition from Wikipedia, ha ha, as I thought it would be easier). They're essentially, in a moment of extreme otherworld psychedelic confusion, ways for a shaman to guide a participant through phases and states, guiding them to different places using their voice, the sound of their vocal poetry. I'll try and not go too deep and silly with my answers in this interview, but may occasionally stray, being a hippy and all that (allegedly).
For me, Buddhist concepts sometimes fit neatly into shamanic principles and the psychedelic experience encompasses both in that they seem to describe visions from such experiences, or in the case of some shamanic techniques actually be the fruit of that experience itself.
Anyway, you get the gist, the titles flip between those 3 subjects that are to me intricately connected, and you can argue that everything is always connected (for example, Omni may not be here today if it wasn't for an Italian family in a remote Italian village that hid and looked after my Grandad in the second world war after he escaped from a Prisoner of War camp...so everything becomes the next thing and influences the proceeding reality). A few examples of titles and their meaning are “Dhamma", which means 'The principle or law that orders the universe, “Ouisia" means “true being' or ‘essence” and “Mestizo”, which is a branch of Peruvian Shamanism that gain their knowledge and power to cure from the vegetables, or plants of the region. That's just a few examples, but as you see, I don't just name a track on a whim, I carefully think about nonsense and name a track after it.
Prox: You’ve recently relocated to a new country. How did the culture of your new location influence the sound of the new album? Do you think it had any impact on the way you work?
Eschaton: It hasn't if I'm completely honest as the music is constructed from within. I either have the impetus to make it or I don't. The only thing that has changed is that I'm now using soft virtual synths and a midi keyboard due to the fact that I knew we would be traveling quite a bit over the next few years and need to travel as light as possible (by 'we' I mean me and my wife, I haven't got multiple personality disorder).
Over time it may sink in subconsciously and affect the sounds I produce or how I produce in general, so we'll have to wait and see. Plus, the plan at this current moment (but things change) is to be here for around 5 years and move on to somewhere more tropical (hopefully the Caribbean or Central or South America). It'll be interesting to see if it does affect the music I make though and it's something I'd never really thought of. There isn't really much of a drum and bass scene over here, there are occasional nights, but in general it has never caught on over in Malta/Gozo (I live on Gozo, not the larger main island of Malta). In fact Omni Music has never sold anything in Malta as far as I am aware (certainly not via Bandcamp). I'd like to try and change that, but more commercial house etc is what is played here (yawn). The sound of my throbbing bass and ridiculously otherwordly soundscapes will probably make the farmers run for the hills!
Prox: If listeners only had enough time to listen to one track to understand the “point” of this album, which would it be?
Eschaton: A currently untitled track that's not on the LP but has already been remixed by Booca. This sounds like an odd answer but the reason is that it reflects the whole LP's construction. The LP was conceived as being a celebration that the label has been running for 5 years, so I wanted to make something special, something much grander than I had done before. As I've been a bit excessive with Omni anyway, it was always going to be a hard task to pull off, ha ha. It was originally entitled “Opus Project” when I first started drafting ideas for it, but about half way through I saw someone else had released something called Opus (I can't for the life of me remember who now), so it lost that unique sparkle for me so it then just became 'Untitled work in progress'. As I wanted to make it epic, my original idea was to have remixes and original tracks all sequenced together in a long journey and to make it not repetitive. I had the idea of multiple universes and how one decision in theory can cause reality to branch off and exist as a new reality of it's own, similar but also very different. So with that in (my silly hippy) mind I sent the samples of all the half started and barely started projects to the remixers. I thought it would make the remixes much more interesting if they were remixing something that was yet to reach it's full form, how better could I express the theme of multiple realities starting from a common point. Now I think most of you have probably fallen asleep, but I'm nearly there with my answer....So I sent all the samples off and the remixers started doing their thing, and I set about finishing the original tracks, (giving them strange names etc), and it struck me that the originals worked well as part of their own universe and to place the remixes with them may ruin the flow that seemed to have evolved as I produced. So I took the decision to release the originals as a separate entity, it's own universe in a way, and then have other 'universes' of remixes released later. As it had been an evolving process, it meant that the untitled track I sent to Booca never actually made the cut, it was an idea that was destined to sit there unloved. The great thing is though that the remix is great, so the fluid evolution of the LP to me is reflected best in the fact that that remix exists, as it perfectly demonstrates the theme I had decided upon. Phew.
If all goes well there should also be another remix of it, which I'd imagine will be completely different in all ways imaginable.
Prox: How does Icaros differ from some of your previous LPs? What was the overall feeling and energy you attempted to capture for this project?
Eschaton: The main difference as mentioned in the novel above was that this evolved as lots of standalone ideas that converged instead of purposely meaning to all be together from their inception. So although I had a vision for this LP, it wasn't as set in stone as say “Drum and Space Volume 1”, where I already had the basics set out and knew where it was going. This was just going with the flow and seeing what happened. There you go, I can do a short answer and not waffle on.
Oh, however I didn't answer the second part. Feeling and Energy?.. I would say it was to capture the falling into raw states of bliss, being, ecstacy and so on, I wanted it to reflect the yin/yang that Omni stands for, the serenity of atmospheres and pads contrasting with the raw energy of punctuating beats. But I guess that's the same thing I always do, with varying degrees of success (Or no success depending on your point of view!).
The track called “Psilocybe” was one I worked on over a period of time to get it to reflect the title I had chosen (one of the only instances where I have named a track before it's started in order to give me an idea or blueprint to work on when producing it). It's a very long track and goes through different phases, the basic idea was to reflect the progression and stages felt/seen/experienced through Psilocybin. I didn't want the track to be rushed when listened back, so the length and progression was deliberate, unlike in the past where I have laid out a new tune to gasp in horror at how long I've accidentally made it and have to start chopping huge chunks away, ha ha.
Prox: This album also features some collaborations with Parallel. What would you say he brings to the project that you couldn’t have accomplished alone?
Eschaton: As mentioned before about standalone ideas, that's how he came on board as we have regularly worked together and I was busy starting new projects and looking at what previous ideas had been laid out and never expanded upon. That's where I found a few projects that Brandon had sent me a long time ago to work on, and at the time it never happened. I had the enthusiasm and ideas suddenly to get them moving so that's what I did. A couple of the tracks though were ones I had started myself and I was sitting down to start working on the beat tracks to give them more variety, edits, and groove and I thought “hang on a minute...I should send this beat to Parallel”. So off they went and a week later they sailed back into my inbox and hey presto I got the tracks finished. I actually forgot to tell him that I had found the earlier tracks we'd been working on and finished them so I think it came as a bit of a surprise to him when I remembered to tell him about them (They were from about 3 years ago, lol).
Going back to the actual question (sorry about that), Brandon is a connoisseur of beat edits, along with people such as Enjoy, so it's nice to throw beats their way, let them play with them while I concentrate on other areas of the tracks. I can send him a break with some very rudimentary edits I have done myself and he sends me this incredible monster of a beat back with incredible ideas I just hadn't thought of doing. It's great to have someone who can make an original bland drum pattern I send into something that just makes me go “wow, how did he do that?”. I've got plans to get more of Brandon's music out there as he's an incredible talent and I respect him hugely, he's both an incredible producer (better than he ever gives himself credit for) and a brilliant guy. Sorry, I've turned into the president of the Parallel fan club there, and I've probably embarrassed him if he's reading this! If anyone else wants to join the Parallel fan club you get a free poster and tea set.
Prox: The Ohm Series is another impressive collection that you have on the label. How did this brand of electronica become a staple in the Omni Music catalogue?
Eschaton: Well, like myself, a lot Omni artists do experiment with other styles and I heard great stuff, so I decided to take the plunge and release them. My tastes are eclectic having grown up with electronic music and listening to Acid House etc since 1990, so it's great to work with other styles that influenced me and don't fit the main label. Back in the early days (pre-jungle/drum and bass), a DJ played breakbeat tunes, house tunes, techno tunes, and so on all in one set as they all were parts of the same scene. It started to fragment around 1992, so jungle/drum and bass evolved while house/techno/ambient all evolved on their separate paths. The music was all still incredible to me though as they all started life from the same point (I can see a reflection of my crazy multiverse/Icaros LP idea here, that was unexpected).
Drum and Bass still retains some links to other styles every now and then, you can hear the influence, so to me it's natural to enjoy the music I release on the Ohm Series. Artists such as Pete Rann have featured on there, as well as Aural Imbalance who is a genius at producing downtempo ambient house tunes, that have the same feel and breathtaking beauty as his DnB pieces, in fact they're musical cousins when you listen. AP Organism is another recent signing that demonstrates that DnB and other styles intertwine. He is known as part of Deep Space Organisms that had releases on Cadence Recordings and Within Records back in the early 2000's. It's great to hear something different every now and again really. I'm pleased with how the Ohm Series is going, but perhaps because it's so eclectic it has struggled to garner support from DJ's in the relevant fields as Omni's reach is into DnB/jungle so it's been hard to get them promoted efficiently. But I will continue to release as I'm a great believer in striving and not giving up, in the hope that things will work out. In any event, it's given people like K-Chaos and Fushara an avenue for their more avant garde “hard to pigeonhole” productions and I'm really pleased to have a release by KY that is in a much more traditional song structure (the kind of songs that could save whatever on Earth has happened to the majority of chart/pop music, so I really want them to do well as they truly deserve it). So, I'll sum the Ohm series up seeing as I've babbled again with this answer. The Ohm Series is diverse with no particular leanings to any particular style, you can find deep Ambient music, Deep House, Jazz Funk inspired Breaks, Deep Trance, Post-Modern Psych-Rock Breaks (just made that up) and everything in between. So if people haven't checked it then I (in a rather biased way) think they should :)
Prox: What’s new over at Omni? Could you give some information on recent and upcoming releases?
Eschaton: Well recently we've had some great releases from artists such as Ziyal, Derek Carr, Total Sceptic, newcomer Chaos Spy & Pink Eruption, Acid Lab, Zebedee, Oclock and J-Plates (and possibly some more that have been released since this interview). There is also a fantastic LP called Icaros from a strange guy who doesn't know how to name tracks so that people can remember them. We've got some fantastic music coming from regular artists such as Scale, Greenleaf and Brijawi, From, and Jiva. Further into the future we have some great experimental releases from Culturno, Daniel Knoxville and also the fabulous Gen that previously released on Fokuz Recordings back in the early 2000's, which is a huge honour for me. If all goes well this year we should get our 100th EP out and hopefully our 50th LP out. It's not set in stone, but we'll see how things transpire. There are some more collaborations between myself and Parallel, and with any luck, some material from myself and Aural Imbalance. If we can stretch to an LP, we'll make it number 51 ;)
There are the other Icaros universes to come into fruition too, as well as quite a few top secret projects, that I'm working to get out. They're top secret in case they don't eventually happen, so I can't look like a prize pumpkin by shouting about them from the rooftops for them to fizzle out into nothingness ;)
Prox: Who are some new artists you’ve found yourself listening to since we last spoke?
Eschaton: I’ve been listening to a lot of the same artists to be fair as it's a big job running the label, so I spend probably 75% of the time listening to what artists send me (or mastering what artists send me). The remaining 25% leisure time is the other non-Omni stuff, mainly music sent from other labels for promotion that I can include in my regular Omni Session mixes. It's difficult to hear everything around as there is so much music, but I always make a concerted effort to listen to anything that comes out on Offworld, Monochrome, Odyssey, Audio Theory, Cadence, Next Phase, Pinecone Moonshine, and Danger Chamber. I could go on and on as there is a lot of good music out there, and a lot still not to be heard (so if you're a producer with great music not yet heard and it suits the Omni vibe then please get in touch). Crikey, that was a short answer, I never saw that coming.
Prox: Final Thoughts?
Eschaton: Only to thank you for the interview and also thanks for not imposing a word count as I would have only been able to answer 2 questions, ha ha ha. I've prepared 2 mixes for the readers. The first is a drum and bass mix that was supposed to be done to promote the Icaros LP as well as some favourites from the past on Omni Music but I got completely carried away (and a little narcissistic!) and forgot to put the Icaros tracks in until quite a long way through. The second mix is largely tracks from the Ohm Series, mainly on the trance/techno/deep house tip as they were the ones easier to mix together. Hopefully for anyone unfamiliar with Omni Music it will be a nice (and rather long) introduction to the music we are passionate about. For anyone familiar, they'll know what to expect :)
Thanks again for the opportunity to allow my bizarre brain to say things it probably shouldn't and I'd like to wish you and all your readers all the best :)
You can learn more about Eschaton and the Omni Music family, here.
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