We’re honoured to have the Cambridgeshire-based electronica producer Oscuro feature in this edition of our Insight Interview series!
Known for their incredible work ethic and producing stunning works of ambient and chilled electronica, Oscuro is no stranger to the underground community. With a catalogue of music stretching back to February 2015, we’re proud to present this fantastic interview with the man himself.
Please tell us about yourself in a few words (who you are, where you’re from, what you do etc.)
Hello! My name is Lewis and I produce electronic music under the name Oscuro. I currently live in rural Cambridgeshire UK, I have lived here for the majority of my life but I also lived in the south for several years while studying.
What’s the origin of your artist name?
I was flicking through a Spanish dictionary and the word ‘Oscuro’ jumped out at me, when I read the definition it said it meant ‘Obscure’ which I thought fitted the kind of music I was working on at the time, which was more experimental in nature, I have since learned that it really means ‘dark’ so in a way I chose it by mistake! Over the years it has taken on a new meaning to me and represents all the people I have met and the experiences I’ve had along the way.
How long have you been writing/producing electronic music?
I started to really focus on music production in 2012, and the first couple of years were very varied in terms of genre, the first year I was working on a PC with 512mb of RAM! Which was insanely frustrating, I got a proper computer in 2013, but most of that year was spent getting used to new software etc, it felt like a step backwards as I had gotten used to some weird work arounds using my old system, I feel I started to get some decent results by 2014 and after a few years pursuing a slightly different sound to the one I’m known for now, I moved towards chillstep/future garage at the beginning of 2018.
What is your current approach to starting a new track?
I usually start out on the piano (or MIDI keyboard triggering a VST piano!) playing around with chords and melodies until something sparks some inspiration, recently I have been experimenting with creating some pads and ambiences first and going from there, I like using the freeze function in Ableton’s stock reverb to make pads and then blend them with long crossfades.
Tell us a little about your current studio setup.
It is very simple, I am lucky enough to have a dedicated room, which I have tried to make an appealing place to spend time, but aside from some basic MIDI controllers, and guitars etc I don’t have any hardware synths or outboard gear as yet. I have a pair of KRK Rokit 6 monitors, and a basic Focusrite soundcard, I’d love to explore the world of hardware but at the moment I don’t have the budget!
I would say learn to love the process of creating tracks, that way you are not hyper focused on the end result, if you enjoy the process, chances are it will come across in the music you create and that will draw people in.
Do you have a favorite piece of studio gear?
As mentioned in the previous answer I don’t have much in the way of studio gear, but recently I’ve been enjoying mapping the volume of an orchestral string patch to a fader on the Novation launch control to add more realism to my string parts. I also pick up the guitar (Fender telecaster) quite a lot as it’s my first instrument, if that counts?
Who are your major musical influences?
Bonobo has been a huge influence, the way he blends organic, real world sounds and instruments with electronics, is so inspiring, I particularly enjoyed ‘The North Borders’ album. Four Tet is another big one, I never get tired of his albums. In terms of influences within the genre I produce, I’d have to say Andy Leech and Vesky were the two artists that inspired me to transition to my current sound. Later I discovered Tim Schaufert who has also been a big influence, I admire his meticulous approach to production and his tracks are such high quality.
There are just so many talented producers in the scene, you don’t have to go far to find inspiration, I’m always blown away by what I hear on soundcloud or YouTube when I check out the recommendations, or check in on promotional channels.
How has your music evolved since you first began writing/producing music?
I feel my music has evolved a lot, some of that can be heard in my released music, but the real contrast is from the music I initially began writing in 2012, which was a lot heavier, inspired by the likes of Skrillex and Noisia, I enjoyed working on that stuff but I most enjoy working on the subtleties of music and I feel I have more scope for that in the music I write now. The constant has always been melody, I try to always have something singable, like a melody or hook, that makes you want to listen again. The biggest shift has been that I now try to serve the melody or core musical idea as much as possible, a good musical idea is so precious, it deserves to be showcased in the best possible light and that is what I am striving for these days.
Do you have a particular single or album you’re most proud of?
I wouldn’t necessarily use the word ‘proud’ but I really enjoyed working on my Album MMXVIII which is really a collection of singles that I wrote and released throughout 2018, it was so liberating going through that process of writing a track and releasing it quickly, getting feedback and moving on, after two albums using the classic industry model of having the album/EP finished before pitching ‘lead tracks’ to blogs for review etc. I enjoyed how each track happened very organically and I feel I captured a certain time in my life with the musical elements of those tracks.
Any particular artists you’d like to work with?
I am a solitary creature and I do struggle a bit with collaborations, but I get very sad about missing out on the magic that other artists bring, I am most excited to work with vocalists as I find writing songs very rewarding and I have come to feel limited by working with vocal samples.
What’s on the horizon for you musically?
As mentioned above I would like to explore more songwriting, so it’s really about pushing myself out of my comfort zone and trying to make and nurture new relationships in order to make that happen, I have experimented with using fiverr to work with other musicians too, which has been exciting. I generally want to move my sound forward and explore new things.
Any advice for those looking to start producing chillstep? Is there a particular setup or process that may help those artists?
I would say learn to love the process of creating tracks, that way you are not hyper focused on the end result, if you enjoy the process, chances are it will come across in the music you create and that will draw people in. If you are coming from being a fan of the genre to making music then try to retain the kind of perspective you had as a listener, don’t get too technical too soon, try to make the music that you would enjoy listening to as a consumer.
What are three singles you would recommend we definitely check out?
Three tracks I’ve been enjoying this week are: