Oxia chats to 909originals – “It’s the passion that gives us energy…”

Oxia has been a mainstay of the French house and techno scene for more than 20 years, with an array of releases and remixes on labels such as Kompakt, Hot Creations, Saved, Bedrock, and his own imprints, which over the years have included Ozone Records, Goodlife and his current label, Diversions Music.

Having released his first album, 24 Heures, on Goodlife in 2004, it would be eight years since a follow-up came along (2012’s Tides Of Mind), and Oxia is currently putting the finishing touches to his third long-player – expect to hear more on that in the months to come.

For a certain generation, he will be forever linked to breakthrough hit Domino, released in 2006 and arguably one of the biggest tracks of that year. Hailing from Grenoble, he’s also closely associated (and indeed has worked with) an array of artists such as The Hacker, Miss Kittin, Kiko and other residents of the southeastern French city.

His latest release is a remix of Dense & Pika’s Apache, which stormed dance floors upon its first release three years ago (and could well do the same second-time around). It’s released on Kneaded Pains on 14 October, and can be downloaded/streamed here.

909originalsEmer O’Connor caught up with Oxia to chat about his career to date, standout gigs, future plans, and the longstanding allure of Domino. Over to you Emer.

Salut Olivier! Ca va bien?

Salut, oui tout va bien. I hope you are good too 🙂

Your latest release is a remix of Dense & Pika’s Apache, a massive hit when it was released three years ago. What instigated your retelling of this tune? We also note that Dense & Pika recently remixed your track, Fate?

Well actually, we did a swap with Dense & Pika for the Apache track; they remixed my track Fate, released in December 2021 on Diversions Music, so I had to do a remix for them. They asked me to do a remix of Apache which I was very excited about, because I knew that I could take this track in a different direction. So I added an extra melody that wasn’t there in the first place, and that’s what inspired me.

My latest release, will in fact be, a remix EP of the track Connivence, with Nicolas Masseyeff on our label Diversions Music. It was the very first track that we reworked ourselves and released on our label in 2016. We also completed three remixes by Super Flu, Black Circle and Kiko, that will be released one week after my remix for Dense & Pika.

You have been closely associated with three labels throughout your musical career, Ozone, Goodlife and most recently Diversions. Do you think that these labels reflect different periods of your career, and if so, in what way?

Yes indeed. I’ve had three labels in my career – Ozone Records with Kiko, Goodlife with The Hacker, and the last one, which is the only one still active, Diversions Music with Nicolas Masseyeff.

You could say that it reflects the different musical periods of my career, knowing that the very first EP was released in 1995 on Ozone. This first period was rather techno-oriented, with a lot of influences from European techno, especially English and German, but also from the early American scene.

Then with Goodlife, which we created in 1998, there was a big American influence, especially from Detroit techno and electro, and there was a subtle mix between my rather groovy influences and The Hacker’s rather dark style. By the end of Goodlife in 2008, I didn’t have a label as an artistic director anymore.

So, it wasn’t until 2016, that I decided to create Diversions Music with Nicolas. My music had evolved quite a bit, with a more melodic feel, but also more tech house. When we created Diversions, we told ourselves that we wanted to release different styles – the main thing is that it sounds like us and we like it, and as we are quite close musically, it works perfectly.

How are you positioning the label now, and has that changed at all since you and Nicolas launched it in 2016?

Yes, it’s been six years already – it went by very quickly. In the end we didn’t release that many records, we took our time. But we do this label mostly for fun, even though we take it very seriously. Nothing is done in a calculated way, we work by feeling – when we receive tracks that we both really like, we release them.

It’s not that easy to take good care of the label, between our projects, our productions, the tours… maybe that’s why we haven’t released a lot of stuff. In that respect, not much has changed since the beginning, and musically we are still in the same state of mind.

How is the new album coming along? In what ways have you evolved your sound since your last long player, Tides of Mind? Have advances in music technology helped?

The new album is progressing little by little, I have almost all the tracks – well, mostly unfinished versions, there are still a lot of things to do on it and especially the mix-down.

As far as the album’s spirit is concerned, it feels quite calm and melodic overall, even if there will be one or two dancefloor tracks included. For me, the most interesting about making an album is the release of tracks that I won’t release as singles, not only for the dance floor, but especially for listening at home.

At the time I made Tides Of Mind, the technology was already well advanced, obviously it has evolved again, but I don’t think it has affected my production process.

Many of the tracks you produced in the past you would use in your sets – are you planning to scale back on touring or will you be gravitating towards more chilled gigs, perhaps along the vibe of All Day I Dream?  I’m a big fan of your track Shadows myself.

Of course, I want to keep producing dancefloor stuff and playing for the dancefloor. I still love it, like my remix for Dense & Pika, or the one for Popof, released at the beginning of the year, or Fate, released last December. You can see that they’re made for the dancefloor.

On the other hand, I have always liked to do softer things – like the track Shadows, produced with my longtime friend Yannick Baudino. This track could have been and almost was for my future album, but then we decided to send it to Lee Burridge, because we thought it was in the spirit of All Day I Dream. They took it for the summer sampler 2021, we were really happy about that, because I really like the label.

You recently played at Castelul Peles for Cercle – such an incredible setting in the middle of the Carpathian Mountains. Your set was pitch perfect. Was that a particularly memorable gig for you, or do you have any other favourites that you can describe for us?

It was an amazing experience to play in this setting, even if it was very cold. It was a really special experience to play for Cercle, I really like them, they are a great team.

Also, it was cool to do it in Romania, because it’s a country where I often performed and enjoyed many great times. The audience is really fantastic. But it’s always difficult for me to say which gig was the best. In all these years, I’ve done so many great parties, most of them are good for different reasons.

We need to touch on Domino, with over 46.5 million views on YouTube and such savage dancefloor memories from 2006. Pivotal tracks can often be restrictive to some artists, as they feel they are forever associated with a certain track at a certain time. For others, it can be a liberating experience. Looking back at Domino more than 15 years later, how does it feel for you?

Okay, we can talk about it. 🙂 It’s pretty crazy that this track has become a kind of classic and that people are still so happy to hear it all these years after its release. I still can’t believe it.

Yes, it’s true that when you make a track that becomes so popular, people tend to associate you only with that track, even if you’ve made hundreds of others. So for me, it’s been great, because this track has really changed my career, and I’m happy about that. But sometimes it can be frustrating that people don’t really know my other tracks as well.

What was it about the sound you created that made Domino the huge success that it was, in your opinion? Thinking back to that era, minimal techno was the big sound, but it was starting to become quite melodic…

I don’t really know. It’s always difficult to know or understand why this or that track works so well. And that’s the case with Domino, it probably came at the right time and made an impression on people. A lot of young people often tell me that this is the track that started them listening to electronic music.

Are there other tracks in your catalogue that you believe are superior to Domino, that weren’t as successful? If so, which ones?

It’s all relative really, everyone has their own opinion on different tracks. There are tracks that I’m just as proud of, and even though they did very well, none of them reached the level of Domino. Like Harmony for example, or even Shadows – not to mention the tracks that we will be releasing on Diversions with the remix, Connivence. There are certainly others.

We saw a photo on your Facebook recently of you with Miss Kittin, Yannick Baudino, The Hacker, and
other Grenoble artists. Do you have a close relationship with other young artists from Grenoble – would you work together regularly?

I obviously know other young artists from Grenoble, but I’m not as close with those as the ones you mention. Maybe one day I will be, I’m always very open. In relation to Miss Kittin, The Hacker, Yannick and also Kiko, we are close friends – we all started at the same time, and we helped each other a lot, which created an emulation, and inevitably created strong links between us. 

I understand that at the start of your career in the 80s you co-hosted a funk radio show, do you still have the opportunity or inclination to do radio or is it something you’d like to get back into? 

Yes indeed, you are well informed. I started very young like that, through the radio, and we did this funk show. We were young teenagers. It was a great experience and I continued for several years. I don’t really know why I stopped but I don’t plan to do it again, even if I thought I’d enjoy it.

Listening to your music, it’s clear that you draw inspiration from a wide range of styles, from Funk to Disco, Soul, New Wave, Pop, Rock, Jazz, and Classical music. Do you get much opportunity to go to any gigs yourself during the year, or is it all work, work, work, for you?

I was influenced by many different styles, it is undoubtedly for this reason that I did different things, and that I do not stay in a very precise style. Unfortunately, I don’t do as many concerts as I would like, I often find out too late that such and such an artist is performing near where I live, but I’ve always listened to a lot of music at home.

Does your passion for creating music and performing still burn as strongly within you today as it always has, and if so, what is your secret?

My passion for music is still very strong, even if it fluctuates over the years. Perhaps we are a little less enthusiastic, because with the vast experience we acquired, we no longer have the same feelings. However, I still love making music and playing out as a DJ and that’s the secret, I think – it’s the passion that gives us energy.

[Words by Emer O’Connor. Photo by Sebastien Veronese]

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