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Searching: Om Unit

With the hype surrounding his early 2010 remix of Joker’s seminal ‘Digidesign’ single, the name Om Unit became one uttered throughout dancefloors nationwide, as the slowed boogie tempo, stuttering beat and chopped synthline (a melody that now has its place safely secured in the online-annals of UK bass music) made for a fresh look at the already heaving dubstep canon.

The creator behind the remix was one Jim Coles, a South London-based producer creating some of the more exciting bass music amongst the flurry of splintered genres that continue to spill out from London and the UK following the much reported ‘dubstep explosion’. Previously known as the DMC team champion DJ 2tall, Coles’ step into production came years earlier as a junglist teen, yet it is the Om Unit moniker that caught the attention of the likes of Plastician’s Terrorhythm imprint, Fabric Records and Dublin’s All City, with all three releasing Om Unit tracks over the course of 2010.

With critical acclaim and a growing fan base in the bag, Om Unit has hooked up with London’s Civil Music for perhaps his strongest release to date, the powerhouse of retrospective electro-bass that is ‘The Timps’ EP. Hyponik caught up with him in the lead up to the release, which saw the man himself raise points about the influence of hip-hop and grime on London’s youth, the music media’s responsibility to artists, and his future plans for the Om Unit project.

So – tell us a bit about your background in music?
I started making music when I was about 14 or 15, using computers. I started out using Tracker software, on the early 486 PC’s, so it was like coding! Before that I learnt piano, flute and drums when I was a kid in school, but I wasn’t into any one thing up until jungle came around, so initially I was making jungle/hardcore, and that type of stuff, just for myself really.
I started djing when I was 15, just bedroom stuff, and then I started playing out when I went to university back in ‘98, and since then I’ve pretty much done the same thing. I’ve got a background in teaching too, so I’ve taught youth music workshops in London for the past 8 years or so, and now the Om Unit project is something I started last year, so pretty much 2010 onwards. Before that I was working under the name 2tall – involved in the turntablist world for a little while.

Are you still into turntablism at all?
Not really – well, I know a few people who still do stuff, and I check them out, but I felt that I did what I needed to do in that world. I felt a transition to opening up to other ideas, taking other influences, as I think I was quite blinkered for a long time, so I missed out on alot of good music. For example, I stopped listening to dance music after 2000 maybe, or just before. I completely turned that side of me off and went down a strictly funk, hip-hop and breaks route.

So can you tell us a bit about your studio set up – do you play any instruments or sample yourself at all?
I sequence and use outboard gear, I play stuff in and sample myself, chop it up yeah – but I do a bit of both, I like to use everything really. I love analogue synths, they have a better sound, but it doesn’t really matter what you use, I just prefer to use analogue sounds. There are certain things you can do with VST’s that would be very expensive, so you have to make a little comprimise – so it’s the best of both worlds.

And obviously now you’ve got the new EP out on Civil – can you tell us a bit more about that release?
That’s ‘The Timps’, it’s basically studio jams I did a while ago that materialised into a release. There were a few things that I did, a few ideas, and they’re all kinda plus 130bpm, a slightly retrospective feel, I definitely took in a lot of Detroit influences. It’s me jamming out on synths basically. Quite repetitive, just kinda grooves, no big switches or big 808 stuff going on. There’s two great remixes, one from Salva, one from Hrdvsion.

The Hrdvsion remix is great I think…
Yeah it’s great, really cinematic, really nice in headphones actually – there’s alot of deep spaces in there. I would say the Hrdvsion remix is more of a bona fide electro take on it, I think he’s a really talented guy. And the Salva remix is quite ‘hot right now’, it’s got a very current sound to what people are feeling at the moment. It’s a monster, and i’ve had people like Gaslamp Killer and Girl Unit supporting that mix – so it’s got quite a broad reach. I’m really pleased to have Civil behind it actually as I think they’re a good label and, apart from being good people, they understand how to work a record.

Do you have any more plans to release on Civil? It’s definitely more of an artist label, rather than pushing the brand of a label…
Exactly, that’s exactly the reason I decided to go with them. I’m not into the whole label brand thing so much. All though it has its pluses, you’re always going to be a ‘so-and-so artist’. That’s fine and good if that’s what you want to do, but I like the freedom of being as autonomous as possible.

Om Unit – The Timps EP (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO TEASER 2011 CIVIL MUSIC) CIV019 from Civil Music on Vimeo.

I guess also, that ‘so-and-so’ thing can lead to politics within a scene…
But that’s really the fault of bad journalism.

True…
That’s really the modern journalists problem, because they really like something that maybe pops up on the screen, they’ll feel it for half an hour, then forget about it, and whatever they can Google in two minutes, they’ll copy and paste, and then move on. I like this term ‘churnalism’ – it’s not journalism, it’s ‘churnalism’. And that’s something which frustrates artists, but we have no control over. That’s the job of the companies that these people write for, to direct their writers and journalists as to how to carry this out for everybody’s good. Right now I’m seeing a hell of alot of lazy writing, which leads to politics y’know?

So what’s next for Om Unit – what are you planning to get done in 2011?
I guess working on the next EP for Civil which will probably have a slightly different sound from ‘The Timps’, with a view to doing more stuff for them. Forthcoming, they’ll be a remix for Starkey’s next single on Civil, a track called ‘Lost In Space’, there’s also a 7” coming on all City which is remixes for Daedelus and Om’mas which they’ll put out in the next two or three months. Then there’s a mix for Illum Sphere for his remixes project which is gonna be on Fat City later in the year, and I’ve just about finished one for Marcus Intalex for his summer album. And, I guess, all heading towards maybe an album, we’ll see. I don’t want to say too much about an album but at the very least they’ll be another EP for Civil.

Om Unit’s ‘The Timps’ is out now on Civil Music.

Interview: Louis Cook