Welcome to the Rocktopia Interviews Section (* For Members Only)
Interview with Ikil Oriion
22 March 2013
Interview by Steve Swift
He seemed to come from nowhere, arriving on a wave of screams and a fiercely cold shouldering of the music business, riding the skank but with an agitational punky energy, Ikil Oriion seemed to be his own imperfect man.
"You either do it yourself or you can't exist” he explains. “So I've always tried to be the quarterback of the team; it's not just me though, there's a bunch of people working behind the scenes, but I knew what type of record to come out of the gate with and who to assemble as my production team. When you're trying to do something that's. not conventional, there's always going to be a certain level of pressure, but being in a pressure situation, that's where magic happens. I've never heard any record from an artist that's. too complacent that I thought. 'I fucking like this record'. In terms of the songwriting aspect, it was all over the map, I spent time in Tokyo, Brazil, I used to live in New York so a lot of the foundation was laid in New York, but I recorded it all in LA! There are different flavours that I wanted to showcase and coming from New Orleans, it's like when you cook food, you put a little bit of this in it, a little bit of that in it, it's the spices that makes the best recipe. I was deliberately stubborn in social media, so for the last 2 years I've been getting the record as tight as possible. I want to make sure it's unique and original. Even if I was signed to a label, I would fight for creative control. The music industry is formulaic; I grew up listening to the Clash, Bad Brains, Fishbone, Public Enemy, sometimes I think 'am I the only one who can see what's going on?' I have to do something to push the art forward. It's a lifestyle, a culture that I was fortunate to grow up in. When you're growing up, you're seeing a lot of things outside your front door - racism , oppression - the good old boys are still kind of in control music is a spiritual thing when you come from New Orleans, it's s melting pot and I'm showcasing that on my record; Bowie never stuck to one style. It's about testing the water. I'm one of the few artists I see fighting to bring art back, the artwork, videos, the whole conceptuality."
Ah, but he isn't alone , he has the company of a Neville, a Fishbone, Don Letts, all artists with a pedigree who can help him to sell this labour of love.
"If I was not a talent, I could not get in bed with any of these artists.” His modesty is becoming. “The timing is right for this record to come out, people are crying out for something new, consciously and unconsciously. My producer is Norwood Fisher, one of the founders of Fishbone; he had his vision, it's not a trendy record, it has balls and legs to stand the test of time. If we get too complacent, we can't really grow. I'm thinking 3 to 5 years down the line what my sound will be. Hanging around with Fishbome, you skank, New Orleans has a polyrhythmic approach. Ska, Blues, RnB, I grew up with. It starts and ends with the songs. My influences, Elvis Costello, Bono, Joe Strummer, it stars with the songs. I don't play an instrument or write music, it's all by intuition, a vibe."
He is able to just take his time though. Two years on one album is a luxury few can afford.
"We did it old school, with Fishbone, I've never come across anyone who’s got that musical knowledge. Try everything and see what really works. We had a definitive vision for the record, a lo fi sound, but current to what’s happening right now. It's soft, it's hard, it's ugly, it's beautiful, it's hot, cold, you got that tension, that's what makes records great. There's so much going know sonically, like something. Frank Zappa would do back in the day. The majority of people just don't get it. At the time I was going through a lot personally, I was questioning who I was - I wanted to speak my mind. On the new record I'm working on now, it's definitely more streamlined, more pushing the envelope, more electronica. Come along for the ride; you won't be disappointed! I have my moments when I see people putting out records and I think 'This fucking crap?' but music is like food - people got different tastes, but when you chew on something sustainable, you can always go back to it. Record sales are up, Depeche Mode come out with a New record, something's happening . I 'm in a really good position to be a bridge between the older and the younger generation. I’m hoping I can fill that void. I wanna uplift people. "
Ikil turns the business on its head, he sells songs, his vision, not a genre. He doesn't make it easy for you.
"It's about creating your own scene, like Andy Warhol. There's many artists thinking what I'm thinking, but they may not have the guts or the capability to express it. It's like water, you can be adaptable; I take it all in and incorporate it, being the storyteller, you got to take it all in. I don't sit down and feel like I have a need to write. I'm looking for the next thing-how can I reinvent myself? It's very challenging being independent...it's interesting, but still scary because it's unpredictable. I'm trying to weather the storm and maintain a sense of calmness. I'm just sitting still while it plays out. And let's see who's standing at the end.”
Money on Mr Oriion. He’s a man with an unshakeable belief in himself, a man who believes he can bridge the musical gap between then and now. Some may call it deluded, others may find it enervating. Chances are, he will always be who he is. He’s in London and Brum in mid April. See his website: www.ikiloriionofficial.com or details.
Watch his YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/oriionstartv for a better look.
Click HERE to read the Rocktopia album review for "Paranoise Void".
Listen to the album for the mark of the man.
Hair/Makeup & Photography: Groupie Chick