Okain is a man who’s moved around a lot. Aside from a touring schedule that’s brought him around the world, he grew up in Paris, enjoyed a stint in New York and is now firmly based in Berlin.
As likely to feature a jacking house aesthetic as it is more down-tempo sounds, Okain’s is a discography that’s absolutely bursting with myriad colourful flavours. His latest on Infuse is a case in point. Starting off on a relatively minimal tip, it also features enough up-tempo prowess to get the floor moving in unison. With the release set to drop over the next while, we put a few Qs to the main man…
“I made enough money to buy a pair of cheap turntables and a two-channel mixer.”
You grew up in Paris in the 90s, which seemed like a really great time to experience house music. How do you look back on those days?
I was not really able to go out before 2002 as I was too young to get inside the clubs, but I remember hearing Daft Punk homework when it came out in ‘97. The whole city (and the world) was listening to them and I started to listen some great mix from house and techno Djs on local radios like Nova or FG. This was my first contact with electronic music.
I believe you also listened to a lot of rock music thanks to your dad. Is he someone who passed down his love of music to you then? What does he make of electronic music and the music you make? And have you brought him clubbing before?
Yes, he definitely pass me his love for music when I grew up but it was mostly Jazz. He was not into rock so much. He was a painter and he always approved what I was doing even if the loud sound of me practicing mixing in my bedroom made him go mad a few times. He came to see me play in club years later just before he passed away. That’s a great memory.
You also spent a lot of time as a youngster in New York learning English. What made you opt for New York to learn English? Was that a music decision as much as a language one?
My mum sent me to see my aunt who was living there during one summer and she found me job in a supermarket close to her house. I didn’t learn so much English but I made enough money to buy a pair of cheap turntables and a two-channel mixer. I used those for a long time until I could afford a pair of Technics.
What were the big clubs in NYC then and how did you find the scene compared to what you knew in Paris?
I was 16 at the time and it was impossible for me to go to any clubs in NYC but I had already snuck into a club or two in Paris like L’Enfer or Le Rex. I was really fascinated about nightlife and I couldn’t wait until I got older so it would be easier to discover other spots.
Now that you’re based in Berlin, I guess New York, Paris and Berlin are all very different. What do you like the most about each place? And the least?
I think the nightlife in Berlin is inspiring a lot of cities around the world for a long time now. Paris or Amsterdam now host longer parties like Berlin always did. I think the crowd in Paris is a little bit younger than Berlin. I can’t talk much about NYC as I don’t go there often.
You did some collaborations a while ago with the likes of Paul Ritch. Would you guys ever get back in the studio? And how did you find that process?
Only a few people know this, but I actually recently recorded a track with Paul for the first album of his new project. I also use a new alias for this collaboration but if you dig a bit you will find it. It’s already out. It’s always very special to work with Paul. Our relationship goes way beyond music as we almost grew up together.
How are things going with your label at the moment, looks like Talman is doing great?
Yes I am very happy and it went better than any of my expectations. After the first releases by myself I invited some other producers to join me on it for the first time last year. I started this new series called Retro Future and there is more to come this year. Before the summer there is two new releases planned. One from myself and one from a collaboration of two very good artists that I can’t reveal yet.
Your latest is out on Infuse and features a remix from Rich NXT. How did you meet the Fuse guys and what makes it a good place for your music do you reckon?
I first met Enzo [Siragusa] about 8 years ago and we always stayed in touch through the years. I always liked their party and the music they were playing. I tried to go there every time I was in London. I like the way they do it: music and quality on top of everything. When they started the label I was also supporting their releases in my DJ sets. Naturally once I felt I had some music that I thought they would like I sent it to them.
Do you get to play in your hometown of Berlin much? Is it a very competitive place in that regard?
I really like to play in Berlin. There is some very nice parties and it is changing all the time. It s also a place where a lot of people are visiting every weekend so you always have a new crowd.
How has your career progressed since you moved to Berlin?
Berlin has changed a lot of things for me. One of the favorite things I experience living here is the fact that I could afford my own music studio outside of the house. Something that I could not even dream of having in Paris before.
It looks like you’ve some really great gigs coming up – is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing that you’ve maybe not played before?
I am always excited to play; it doesn’t matter if it’s a place I already visited or not. You never really know what to expect and that makes it very exiting in general.
What more should we be looking out for from the label and your own productions?
Two new releases on Talman before the summer. One from me and one that I can’t reveal yet. I got one solo EP on Infuse coming out and I also finished two remixes for Paolo Rocco and Acanalar that will be out before the summer too. I have a track coming out on the new VA from Signatune Limited with Djebali, Reda Dare and Politics of Dancing. Also a few more things that I can’t announce now – but 2018 will be a busy one for me and the label.
Okain’s Magic Box EP is out 19th March on Infuse. Listen/pre-order the release here