Google+ Beathearts: The Beathearts Opolopo studio sit-down


The Beathearts Opolopo studio sit-down

Peter Major a.k.a. Opolopo is one of the Swedish underground scene's best kept secrets. He's been touring and releasing music for over a decade. Three albums deep and remixes on labels all over the world but back home in Sweden he's still pretty much unheard of. We ran into Peter at the Fasching Jazz Club in Stockholm before our recent interview with Mark de Clive-Lowe. We decided to hook up at his studio a couple of weeks later and had a chat about his influences, the creative process behind a new track and got to listen to some new tunes.


The first time we got word of your music was when you started dropping these great reworks on the Bugz In The Attic forum at the turn of the millenium. We were especially taken by the unexpected gospel garage rework of Diana Ross I will survive. It’s maybe not the most obvious choice of track. What’s the story of how that track came about?

I thought it would be an interesting challenge to take a stigmatized track that has been played to death and is probably every DJs nightmare request, to a totally different place. The original may be cheesy to many people but there’s nothing wrong with Diana’s vocals. I wanted to put them in a new and modern context. Even though the remix is what people may call broken beat or bruk, it’s heavily influenced by soul and jazzfunk from the late seventies and early eighties. I wanted to fuse the modern beats of broken beat with the arrangements, sound and production of artists like George Duke and Earth, Wind and Fire with lots of percussion and rhythm guitars. For some people it made the the trick. A lot of people who claim to hate the original are seriously feeling the remix. Others can’t be bothered to even give it a listen due to their feelings about the original. It turned out to be a bit more controversial than I thought…

Did you add the Hezekiah Walker-inspired gospel choir or was that on Diana Ross original vocal track?

It was on the original track. I might have doubled the choir though from a passage later in the track but I can't remember. It was like seven years ago.

We first got to know you as a seminal producer of remixes. Was that how you got started releasing music?

In a way, yes. Around 2000 I started doing remixes for the majors, mainly in Australia. But at the same time I also had my first original releases for UK drum'n'bass label Vibez Recordings.

Last year we talked to Yam Who? (Andy Williams) where he walked us through the organic process of reworking a track that he uses. What's your take on the remixing process? How do you go about reworking a track?

When doing vocal remixes I always first play around with new harmonies over the vocals usually followed by bass line and beats. But it’s usually a very non linear process where I jump around and constantly mess with bits and pieces until I feel it’s all done. I do try and get the song structure done before I get too deeply into the production side of things but sometimes I get carried away with the first eight bars and want to nail the sound before going further. I think the process is I let myself go with what excites me the most in any given scenario. It’s important to try and feel excited as long as possible to keep things fresh. Even though I’m quite disciplined by now it helps to sustain the excitement to finish and complete things.

What does the creative process behind an original Opolopo track look like? Is it a jam session where you pull out the best parts or more straight forward song writing?

It's pretty much the same as when doing remixes though remixes are in a sense easier as you have some limitations and boundaries set by (usually) the vocals. It's easier to get started. With an original track it might be a little riff or an inspiring sound or a beat that sets me off. After that the actual process is similar to doing a remix.

You’ve got a quite unique sound combining warm old school rare grooves with influences from the broken beat scene. How did you develop your sound?

It all comes from the people I grew up listening to. (See below.) I was obsessed with electronic and "synthesizer music" as a teenager. I would seek out stuff in my dads vinyl collection that was electronic and synth heavy. Since he was a big Jazz Funk/Fusion fan, the music I "discovered" was mostly of the jazzy and funky kind. That's why I was so attracted to the Broken Beat thing when I first heard it because, to me, it was kind of a clubby extension of late seventies, early eighties Fusion.

Who were your musical heroes when growing up?

Herbie Hancock, Gino Vannelli, Jeff Lorber, Earth Wind & Fire, Quincy Jones, Bob James, George Duke, Chuckii Booker, Jimmie Jam & Terry Lewis, Mezzoforte, Casiopeia, Marcus Miller, Jean-Michel Jarre, Isao Tomita, Vangelis, Logic System.

We're huge Jam & Lewis fans as well. Maybe you put the re-edit thing behind you but if you got a call from the Flytetyme studios which of their old tracks would you like to rework?

Actually, I still do re-edits from time to time when I need versions of tracks that are easier to put in a DJ set. Hm, let me think...come to think of it I've actually already done a re-edit of a Jam & Lewis track! It was Herb Alpert - Keep your eye on me (1987). Let me play it for you.

Wow, what a track! You need to put that on wax. The groove is up there with your version of 1960 what!

Thanks! But nowadays I only put these together for my DJ sets. They're not intended to be released.

Another great Jam & Lewis track it would be very interesting to hear your interpretations of is Change - Change of heart. There are so many connection to your sound on that track don't you think?

Yes, you're right about the sound but I don't know. If it ain't broke... But it would be cool to remake one of the old Alexander O'Neal tracks. And also Amalia's record has a very old school Minneapolis inspired sound to it.

Yes, for some reason Prince and old Prince productions have popped up alla over the blog and Twitter communities the last 3-4 months. Any idea why? Maybe he's got new material coming up?

Hehe, I don't know. Maybe it got something to do with all the controversy surrounding The Time reunion? The old Time members are trying to get back together for a comeback but Prince doesn't want them to use the name. So they call themselves The Original 7even (based on the seven original members: Morris Day, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jesse Johnson, Jerome Benton, Jellybean Johnson, and Monte Moir). They're planning an album and have released the first single Trendin October last year.

Parallell to that there's another conflict with Prince's other constellation The Family that Prince apparently also stopped from using the original name. They had to change to fDeluxe and Prince also put out a song dissing them and saying he was going to take back what was his making in the first place.

Almost like a non-violent Biggie-Tupac beef all over?

Haha! Yes, a Minneapolis funk beef. There a so many stories and rumors floating around. It's funny because he's such a brilliant artist but I don't know, he seems to have very special ideas of how to control his music.

On a more constructive tip you need to check out Wax Poetics magazine's Prince special edition including mixtapes from Dâm-Funk and FA.

Ah really? Didn't know that. I'll check it out!

What are your inspirations today? Could you drop three albums or tunes that have recently blown your mind?

It's hard to pick whole albums but there are many producers I rate and a few tracks that have floored me in some way. Production wise, quirky tracks like Stagga's Time Warp and Dorian Concept's Yorktown Recreation gets my face all scrunched up while my head is seriously bopping. But then there are other producers like Simon Grey who's impeccable, more traditionally rooted, productions style and insane musicality blows my socks off in a totally different way. His Research remix of Reel People's Second Guess comes to mind. Other people whose music and productions always touch me in one way or another include Atjazz, Deejay Kul/Soultechnic, Kaidi Tatham, Zed Bias/Maddslinky, Domu and Reggie B who's productions are always worthwhile to pick up.

Are there any musical genres and styles you’re curious to discover?

No, but I'd like to invent some new ones haha!  Of course there are many types of music still out there to discover but there are only so many hours in a day and ultimately I'd like to spend most of those making my own music.

Any dream collaborations?

Yes - with Ridley Scott for the soundtrack to Bladerunner II, haha!

From what we understand you collaborate a lot with other producers from around the world but we’ve rarely seen any joint productions with the Swedish scene. Ever worked with people like Mad Mats, Melo, Adam Beyer, Cari Lekebusch, Jesper Dahlbäck, Rasmus Faber or Pure P?

I've done some session work for Ture Sjöberg, aka Beatfanatic. Rasmus Faber helped me in a big way by releasing my second album in Japan as part of his "RF Presents" series for JVC Victor Japan in 2007. Mad Mats' signed me as Actual Proof last year for his and Tobias Lidström's new house label Local Talk. I did "The Grit EP" for them.

Tokyo Dawn Records is such a great source of quality releases. How did you meet Marc Wallowy and end up on Tokyo Dawn Records?

I go back quite a few years with Marc from when Tokyo Dawn was a strictly non-profit net label. He was one of my first supporters when I started doing my own thing around 2005. We used to go back and forth on ICQ sending tracks to each other. It's been great being part of the new rise of TDR. Marc and Fabien Schivre are doing great things!

How do feel about music you've done in the past, do you ever listen to your old records? How do you feel that you've evolved musically over the years?

Like everybody else I cringe at some of my own stuff from the past but most of it is fairly consistent as in having a certain aesthetic and foundation that I still subscribe to. I think I'm more focused in my productions nowadays though. I'm aiming more for the dance floor than I used to which many times means less is more. That used to be, and still is, a really hard concept for me but I'm trying, haha!

On your Mutants album there’s a remix of Rogièrs track Home. He’s such a great artist and we loved his debut album Life & Music. We discovered Rogièrs when he was on the epic tour with Platinum Pied Pipers (Waajeed, Saadiq). How did you hook up with him?

I think that was through Eleonora Cutaia's PR agency Ahead PR. They hit me up asking if I was up for a remix. I love Rogiérs voice so it was a no brainer!

We know you started off as a graphic designer. Did you do the cover for the Mutants album?

Nah, that is actually a French rapper/artists called Grems. We have an upcoming EP, I can play you some of the tunes we're working on.

We heard the mixtape he did with Lefto. There are some crazy beats on there. Pretty experimental.

Yeah, he's extremely creative and is putting out a lot of stuff. In fact so far I think he's better known as a graphic designer in France. One of his records we worked on was actually released as a book with a complimentary CD.

We just love the track Opolopo's Run, which we featured in our top selections of 2011, what’s the story behind that and why didn't that end up on the Voltage Controlled Feelings record?

Ah, thank you! That's a track that happened real fast. I was just messing about with that Ostinato "sequencer" bass line and gated Linn drums. Then the chords and the rest just came naturally so I just finished the whole thing without any specific release in mind. I actually made it after the release of Voltage Controlled Feelings but it could totally have been on there.

And of course we need to ask you about the Gregory Porter “1960 What?” remake. Fantastic track, you wanna give us your story on that?

Well, that was something I initially just did for myself. I loved the original but every time I played it I felt that this could also totally work in a house set with a little "help". So I basically just tightened up the timing, filtered out the bottom end, added a new bass line, added a four-four kick, hats and some percussion. I didn't want to mess with the integrity of the original - it's such a powerful track with amazing vocals and overall vibe. So I kept the messing about to a minimum. I sent it out to a select list of trusted DJ's and then put it on my Soundcloud for listening only and made sure to link to the original so people would discover the original artist. The reactions were nuts. The day after I got a mail from a representative of Gregory's marketing team. I thought "aw shit, here we go..." But to my huge surprise they loved it and thanked me for supporting! They asked me if they could use it and turn it into an official remix and the rest is history.

Our first though when we heard the track was that it sounded like a part II of Jori Hulkkonen's remix of Olli Ahvenlahti's classic 70s jazz-funk track Countenance. Were you inspired by that track when you put the Gregory Porter track together?

No, actually not. Never heard that track. I'll have to check it out. It's pretty funny though that a track like my version of 1960 what? get so much attention. I put that together very quickly. There are other tracks I'm much more proud over production wise or musically but never get that much attention. Some people say I didn't add anything of value and shouldn't take credit for the track and I really don't. I did it as an ode to Mr. Porter and always make sure to link to the original tune for others to discover.

Well, a big part of the purpose of the re-edit scene is to present and celebrate great perhaps unknown gems from the past to a whole new audience. And if anything you've definitely done that.

Yes, well hopefully I've inspired at least a few people to pick up the original record.

We haven't been fortunate enough to catch Opolopo live yet but from the clips we’ve seen we have high expectations. What is your live set-up like? Fixed set? Jam sessions? Invited guests?

It's a bit of both. When I play with Amalia we have all our tracks set up in Ableton. All the parts of the tracks are separated and I'm running as much as possible in real time, meaning midi tracks with plug-ins and very few audio tracks. This way everything is quite flexible and I can mute parts or change sounds and beats easily. I also cue the sections of the tracks live so we can vamp on certain parts or skip sections if we want to. I'll play the bass line or chords and do soloing and vocoder stuff live. We also do totally improvised tracks where I build something from scratch and Amalia freestyles on top. On occasion we've had live soloists and percussionists as well.

When I DJ I like to run Ableton in parallel and do some soloing on top of tracks or switch to an improvised groove and build new tracks on the fly. Me and Amalia have an upcoming tour of South East Asia that we're really looking forward to!

We need to ask you about the name Opolopo, how did you choose that?

Haha, yeah that's a question that comes up a lot. Many years ago when I did remixes, the Swedish label I worked with wanted to send a showreel to Japan for a production job over there, so I did some tunes and they said great stuff and wanted to release it. I was like "Oh ok?" it wasn't really the idea, it was more to show them what kind of sounds I was into but what the heck. So I needed a name, I couldn't have my own name and not the name I did remixes under. So I tried to find a name that worked and started to look into the roots of the music I was doing. The black music and the history of african slaves coming to America and the language they brought with them, Yoruban. I found the word Opolopo which means "plenty". I thought that suited the album which was quite diverse, different styles. And it looks good graphically with the o's. It's also a palindrome i.e. pronounced the same backwards, and I didn't think about that until a friend of mine pointed it out to me haha! And after that it got stuck, haha!

And finally, what can we expect from the Opolopo studio in 2012?

I've signed a deal with Dave Lee's (Joey Negro) Z Records for a new album for late 2012 - very excited about that! I have some remixes to be released for Brian Tappert (Soulfuric Recordings), Doruk Ozlen (ZLN Muzik),  Roberto de Carlo and Azymuth (Far Out Recordings). I have a track on a vinyl EP for Finale Sessions coming out on May 20th and a second one to follow. An EP with French rapper Grems is almost finished. I'm also working on an Actual Proof follow up to the The Grit EP on Local Talk. Hopefully we'll soon cook some new stuff with Amalia too.

That's it. We're looking forward to all your upcoming project in 2012 and hope to hook up soon again! 


After our sit-down we got a sneak preview of some of the tracks that are coming up from the Opolopo studios and we can tell you we're in for some treats. We're especially looking forward to the EP with Grems. A track called Paris blew us away. More on the dubstep electro side it revealed a somewhat more darker, dirtier and more electronic side of Peter's production. Ace!

Beathearts presents an exclusive download from Opolopo:

Speaking of Prince, Jam & Lewis and The Time here's Time, a Minneapolis inspired track from his first LP Omnifarious. The album was only released on CD in Australia and is long time deleted. Peter told us that the plan is to re-release some of these tracks as freebies in the future, but for now enjoy Time, an Opolopo funk jam from 1999.

Download: Opolopo - Time (Beathearts exclusive)

As a bonus here's a track Peter & Amalia put together to promote their upcoming tour of Jakarta, Bali, Singapore and Manila.

Download: Opolopo ft Amalia - Gado gado funk

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