Name: Olivier Raymond
Occupations: DJ, producer
Current Release: Oxia's Fate EP, featuring reworkings by Matt Sassari and Dense & Pika, is out via Diversions. The EP follows on the wake of several remixes for Joseph Capriati, Agoria, and John Digweed.
[Read our John Digweed interview]
[Read our Agoria interview]
If you enjoyed this interview with Oxia, visit his official management website. He is also represented on Soundcloud, Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Although I had already started making music in the early 90s, I really started producing in 95, and our first record came out in late 1995. I say ‘our' because at the beginning there were two of us in OXIA (Stéphane Deschezeaux and me) before we split up in 2000 and Stéphane let me keep the name.
Since I was very young I had been attracted by music. I must have had my first little synthesizer at the age of 5 or 6. When I was 7 or 8 years old, during a Cerrone concert with my parents, I told them: "I want to do that as a job". A few years later at the age of 15, we started to do a radio show with Stéphane, dedicated to funk. So those were my first influences.
Then I listened to a lot of other things, soul, new wave, pop, rock ... And then house music came along, but for us it was a bit of a continuation of funk, so we didn't realise right away that it was a musical revolution. Then the first Detroit techno tracks came along, and that was a real revolution. I loved the new energy, the electronic sounds … and since then electronic music has never left me.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Yes, you're inevitably influenced by what you hear and what you've listened to, especially in the beginning. That must have been the case for me, but I honestly don't really remember how the process went, it's been far too long. (laughs) But I know that Stéphane and I listened to a lot of music, so we were certainly subconsciously synthesising everything we listened to and trying to put our own spin on it as much as possible.
And our touch is probably more and more asserted and evolved. Knowing that I like a lot of different things in electronic music, and that I don't like to stay locked in a specific style, I don't create barriers and always do what I feel. So often it gives different things, either more melodic, or more groovy, more techno or softer ...
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I grew up in Grenoble, with a strong funk influence. I guess that formed my appetite for rhythm, groove, harmonies and basslines. I was probably also influenced by the mood of the city, the people who surrounded me (and still surround me).
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
To be honest, I don't remember having any challenges. Maybe just making the best music I could, with passion, giving it my best shot with sincerity. And I think that hasn't really changed over time.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Yes, at the beginning all the current techniques, the plug-ins etc didn't exist, so you had to buy equipment. I had to save a lot of money to be able to buy all that, which I did. So I bought my first synths and samplers.
It's a very long time ago, so I don't remember everything, because I sold it and bought others as I went along. But in the beginning I worked a lot with the ASR10 sampler from Ensoniq. I was mostly creating my rhythms with it. Then I had a Juno 106, and SH101 that I still have, but also an Acces Virus, a Nova, a Machinedrum ... And until 2006 I worked with an old Atari computer for the sequences.
Then I switched to a Mac and started to work first with Cubase and then with Logic. And I started to use the first plug-ins. I don't remember which ones, there were a lot of them. For me it was perfect to mix software and hardware, it offered even more possibilities, especially for effects.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Not really. If so, it happened really gradually, so I didn't really realise it. It's true that there may have been some plug-ins that offered certain possibilities that the hardware didn't. But I'm not sure that it really changed my way of producing.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
It's true that collaborations are always enriching. You learn a lot of new things, both in terms of creativity and production. For example, I learned a lot from my sidekick Nicolas Masseyeff, because he is very good at sound processing and mixing. The best thing for me is to be in the studio together, that's where the chemistry is really created, it really creates an emulsion.
Then to finish the tracks if we don't have time in the studio and when we don't live in the same city, we can share files … That's what I do sometimes with other artists.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
My weekdays are not all the same, because I don't always do everything in the same order. And it also depends a bit on what I have to do. Some days I don't work in the studio, because I have other things to do, such as interviews, listening to promos when I have to play the weekend coming up, managing things for our label, listening to demos etc ... But usually I do that when I get up and as soon as I'm done, I go to the studio.
But sometimes I get an idea for a track when I wake up and go straight to the studio. I also often go to lunch with friends and spend some time with them. But I don't set myself a schedule.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
There are several of these things that may have marked my career and for different reasons. As far as my tracks are concerned, there are probably several, but the most important one is probably my track 'Domino', which has become a bit of a classic. The record is still talked about today, 15 years later, so you can say that it really marked my career. But it's too old to tell you what motivated it and how I made it, I don't really remember.
As far as performances are concerned, it's the same, there are a few. But the one for Cercle in Romania was quite striking. A lot of people talked to me about it, and still do now more than 2 years later. It's true that with Cercle we have the advantage of reaching several thousand people at the same time, and that's quite exceptional.
It was actually quite special, I had prepared the music really well, but I also wanted to keep the feeling for the people in front of me on the dance floor.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Honestly I never really think about it, and every time I go to the studio it's a bit different, even though I'm usually still in the same mood. But sometimes inspiration comes more easily, without knowing why. It's something inexplicable for me, and besides, I don't need explanations. It's certainly something that may have influenced me and inspired me, unconsciously. Something that happened in my life, an encounter, a film ...
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Yes indeed music can heal and above all do good, even if sometimes it can hurt, but I think that often it is more the lyrics that can hurt, not the music itself. Music creates emotions, and sometimes they can be sad, melancholic ... But personally I never felt hurt.
Afterwards, everyone takes the music as he feels it, trying to listen to music that makes you feel good, everyone feels it differently, and it's often inexplicable.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Everybody gets inspired by something, someone. History is an eternal cultural wheel. As an artist, the point is to transform it into your own thing, not to copy of course, and also without sampling artists without the artists' consent.
Art is very subjective and I can’t judge each individual’s behaviour towards culture, especially in such a judgemental era. We should stay open minded and happy about social progress. Art and music are crucial for counter culture and freedom of expression.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Obviously, as a musician our sense of hearing is extremely sharp, often even "hypersensitive". In a live setting, it’s extremely linked with visual art, lighting and visual production now plays a huge role in how fans consume live electronic music. But there is also smell, being in a crowd. Something we completely re-discovered after the pandemic, back in the clubs. It really amazed me to be honest.
Also, what made me fall in love with electronic music, is the fact that this kind of instrumental music doesn’t dictate what to feel with lyrics. You can use your imagination, travel in your mind in a complete free way, mentally, visually.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Yes of course art can have repercussions on everyday life and play a social and political role, but I think it is really for engaged art, because the artist seeks to make people think and sometimes to change the perception of certain things, to evolve ... For example some films could have make me change my mind about such or such things, open my eyes ...
But as far as my music is concerned, I'm not looking for that at all. Especially without words, it would be difficult. I make music to bring emotions and happiness simply.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
It's hard to say. Everyone feels music differently, so for some it can express positive things and for others more negative things. Just like life and death.