S/T 008: O’Flynn Is Injecting The International into the UK’s Legendary Dance Music Scene

image from Stamp The Wax London

Since expanding from its original homes of Chicago and Detroit, electronic dance music has embedded itself in a myriad of different cities and countries. And while Berlin and Ibiza have established themselves as the international capitals of clubbing, no place has innovated on house and techno music as much as Britain. Across the last three decades, the UK has seen different movements arise; the insufferably-named IDM of Aphex Twin and Autechre, multiple variants of Larry Levan’s garage music, and the infusing of Jamaican sound-system culture with dance and hip hop that led to grime and drill have all come from England, and grown into worldwide phenomena. Each of the UK’s extensions of dance music all contain one key similarity, despite their distinct aesthetics: they all base their sounds in the manipulation of Western ideas. Whether it is disco, ambient, or straight-up manipulations of house and techno itself, the backbone of almost every great electronic movement to emerge in the UK has taken the form of modifying an already-known form of Western music, and pushing its boundaries to form something so unique it becomes a new genre in itself.

That precedent is what makes British producer and DJ O’Flynn’s music so unique and incredibly engaging. Instead of simply continuing the tradition of innovating on the club music of the past, O’Flynn has found a unique pathway into success through the inclusion of sounds from beyond the Western world. The result is a rare form of dance music that bubbles with natural life; his tracks are filled with triumphant horns, groovy guitars, warm vocals, and an ever-expanding arsenal of percussion from around the globe. By taking these international sounds and moving them into a four-to-the-floor structure, O’Flynn is able to harness the passionate, celebratory nature of Latin and African music in a way that adheres to audiences’ nightlife expectations, turning any venue he plays at into a musical tour of the most exciting sounds our world has to offer.

For this week’s Sound Over Time interview, we sat down with O’Flynn to chat about his musical influences, his motivations for making music, and more.

Listen to O’Flynn’s newest single “Talia” here:

Your music isn’t exactly traditional house or techno music. A lot of them feature an emphasis on guitars or brass, like on “Sunspear”. Where did you get the influence for the sound you’ve settled into?

O’Flynn: I’m inspired a lot by Justice and Daft Punk. I used to want to be Justice, and I think the Cross album is a masterpiece. They had this tour documentary called Across The Universe, and I thought it looked awesome. I don’t think I’d be as mental as they were, though [laughs]. Daft Punk, I’ve loved their albums since I was young. I’m also really influenced by The Streets. I’d read somewhere that he made his whole first album [Original Pirate Material] on a laptop, and I couldn’t believe it. Even with Justice, I thought they had some crazy technology in making that Cross album, but I’m pretty sure they just made it on a computer.

In our interview with On Go Academy, they mentioned how the best part of being a musician is seeing other people respond to your music in different settings. Do you agree with that?

That’s everything. I don’t make music for myself. I used to, but nobody cared about it because it was so self-indulgent and complex. It wasn’t enjoyable for other people to listen to. The moment that I shifted to making music I thought my friends would play at parties, people started to give a shit about what I made. It’s so much more enjoyable to give something to lots of people than to create for yourself. That crowd reaction is why you spend months, or even years on a track, and put in all the hard work. People who come and see you perform deserve it; they’ve spent their hard-earned money to come watch you, and so the least you could do is put blood, sweat, and tears into every song you put out.

I think there are a lot of musicians who don’t have the confidence to believe that they can make a song that doesn’t get forgotten.

I have that problem, so I can understand that. I always have voices in my head telling me that I won’t ever be able to recreate my most successful moments. When I start feeling that way, though, I get through it by telling myself that it’s out of my hands. Just work hard to consistently put out great music, and you’ll hopefully get lucky.

Have you ever had a moment when working on music where it felt like everything just lined up perfectly?

It doesn’t happen very often! You can write something really emotional, but it won’t work if there’s no melody or vocal countering it. Not just any melody or vocal will do; it’s very bizarre how it works. You can have something musically that makes sense, but it just won’t resonate unless you put something else on it. That’s why I call that moment where those two elements come together magic: you can’t explain it, you don’t know the reasoning about it, but it just connects.

So is chasing those moments what motivates you?

Yeah. Striving to be my best has always been how I’ve approached making music, and I understand that sometimes I’ll reach it and sometimes I won’t.A lot of the time, I can’t even tell if I’ve reached it. I’ll make something that I think is just okay, but when I play it for other people, it gets a great reaction. That’s the reason I’ll put some of my songs out, even if I didn’t originally plan to do so.

I think the title track on “Aletheia” is a fantastic driving song. Especially around sunset.

Thanks. When making tracks I’m always striving to give people something that can make their day better in any way possible. That’s the end goal of all of this; putting in all this hard work isn’t about me or anyone else who makes it. It’s about how the people who listen to it feel. That makes the music worth something. If someone is driving and they decide that listening to a song I made will make that drive more enjoyable, then I’ve done my job.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Follow O’Flynn on Instagram and Twitter @oflynnmusic.

Follow Sound Over Time on Instagram @soundover.time and on Twitter @soundover_time.

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