Getting To Know… Opolopo

Getting To Know... Opolopo

f: Hi Opolopo, it’s a pleasure to chat with you today, how are you?

Opolopo: The pleasure is mine. Thanks for having me.

f: Please tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from and how you started making music?

Opolopo: I was born in Hungary but grew up in Sweden. My father was a touring keyboard player and my mother played the piano, so there were always instruments and lots of music in the house. From a very early age I was fascinated by sounds and when my dad brought home a Korg Polysix and a Roland VP-330 synthesizer and I got to mess around with them as a 13 year old, I knew this was something I just needed to pursue.

f: Who did you listen to growing up and do they influence your music career at all today?

Opolopo: I grew up with my dad’s record collection. He was heavily into jazz and fusion/jazzfunk. So people like Jeff Lorber, Herbie Hancock and George Duke were a big part of my musical diet. And they’ve never ceased to inspire.

f: And what specifically got you into making soulful dance music?

Opolopo: I always liked the sound and production of club and dance music. But I felt the musicality was lacking and I didn’t really dive deep into it. I think it clicked for me sometime in the early 90s when I went to Bar Rumba in London. People were getting down to house music with jazzy chords and proper solos. The combination of hard-hitting dance grooves and soulful/jazzy vibes was just the thing I didn’t know I was looking for.

f: What was your first release?

Opolopo: I was in a band (Way Past Cool) in the 90s and we had an album released around 1995. First release as a solo artist was probably ‘Loophole’ at the end of the 90s. It was a drum and bass track that was later released on my debut album in 2003 as well:

f: Which of your own tracks was the biggest labour of love to create / personal favourite? 

Opolopo: That’s so hard to answer as there have been many that were a labour of love. But It’s always special and a treat to get to remix something from the old days where you get access to the original multitrack recordings. One of my favourites to do was D.C. Larues’s Do You Want the Real Thing from 1978. I’m a sucker for jazzy orchestral disco so this was an opportunity to nerd out, just riding a groove with some vocal hooks for 11 minutes. The fact that the original files were so flawlessly recorded made it even more special. It fills you with awe to have access to those wonderful performances in pristine quality. 

f: Congratulations on your new single ‘Fire’ with soul legend Jaki Graham on Fool’s Paradise, please tell us a little about how it sounds? 

Opolopo: It has a garage vibe to it with subtle break beat elements, bubbly analogue bass, piano stabs, Rhodes, clavinet and strings. But what makes the track, is Jaki Graham’s amazing vocals. Powerful delivery with lots of attitude and tons of soul. She really smashed it!

f: How did you get together with Jaki?

Opolopo: I was invited to a songwriting camp in London by Fool’s Paradise. They had this idea of pairing me up with Jaki Graham for a writing session. Of course I couldn’t say no to that, so I prepared some instrumentals and flew over. Together with Jaki and vocalists and writers Natasha Watts and Adrian Roye, we cooked up some magic in the studio right away and finished recording the track in one day.

f: You’ve collaborated and remixed the likes of Gregory Porter, Omar, Steve Arrington, Lisa Stansfield, Shaun Escoffery, The Sunburst Band, Roland Clark and Mario Biondi, to name a few. Who else would you like to collaborate with?

Opolopo: Chaka Khan and Charlie Wilson.

f: What’s your favourite piece of studio kit?

Opolopo: The fat lump of meat between my shoulders. That and a computer running Cubase pro 12.

f: Which dance track holds the most precious memories for you?

Opolopo: Hipnotic’s version of John Coltrane’s ‘Naima’ from 2001. That sweet combination of Jazz and House.

f: Having worked in the music industry for a couple of decades, how does the past compare to today and what needs to change for the better?

Opolopo: The gate keeping of the past has changed. The tools for making and releasing music are accessible to everybody and the potential for exposure and reaching a wider audience is huge. But this has also made music lose a lot of its value and it has become very disposable. And the chances of getting paid are really slim. Then, with the escalating rise of AI, everything is about to change again. I doubt it is for the better. But whatever happens, humans will always continue to create and perform. It’s the monetization that is and will be the thing to “solve”.

f: Who are your top 5 current producers?

Opolopo: There are so many good producers, but to randomly mention a few who are always consistent, in no particular order:

Atjazz, Cody Currie, Dave Lee, Emmaculate and Reel People.

f: How is the music scene in Sweden at the moment and which artists should we be on the look out for?

Opolopo: I don’t really keep up with the music scene here. It’s a small pond and there really isn’t much room for the more soulful aquatic fauna when it comes to dance music. We do have the excellent Crackazat living here though. He’s from the UK, but I’ll claim him for Sweden.

f: What else are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?

Opolopo: There are some exciting remixes on the way, including one for Millie Jackson. I have an EP coming out on Z Records later this year and I’m also working on a new album together with another amazing vocalist – Angela Johnson. It’s to be released on Reel People Music sometime next year.

Opolopo & Jaki Graham ‘Fire’ is out now on Fool’s Paradise.


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