Next in line for a release on Jon Phonics’ Astral Black imprint comes Manchester based muso Opal Block. A coherent, eloquent fellow, Opal Block and has been a prominent figure in the affirmation of Astral Black over the course of 2013, lending his hand to the mastering of a number of other releases on the imprint, as well as pushing his own pursuits in the form of ‘Tyson’, his debut release on ten track cassette tape.
A dazzling expedition into the electronic corners of Hip-Hop, ‘Tyson’ demonstrates a genuine, production based versatility from the young Mancunian and will definitely leave a wanting taste in the mouth of listeners.
With support already coming from the likes of Eclair Fifi, Scratcha DVA, Bobby Tank and more, this surely won’t be the last we hear of Block. The man himself was kind enough to sit down and answer the necessaries for us, doing so in typically fruitful fashion. We chat about his wider influences, the label, the esoteric veil he’s been wearing and much more. Enjoy.
Hello, Opal Block! Lets get straight to it, have you been hiding in the cupboard or the basement?
Haha, I’ve been living in a closet wearing an esoteric vail, scared to come out for fear of rejection that the YouTube kids will pick on me, in fact scrap that, I’ve been living in Chester where there is a zoo, me and 2 terrible fuckin’ night clubs. It’s close enough to Manchester though and it is rather lovely and Roman in the day.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I drive a Clio, I love jumpers, I hate my phone and my laptop gets very hot. I’m a huge dj easygroove fan, I collect drum breaks. Protein with carbs. I’m nearly 6ft, my hair is soft but I need new trainers. I hope all of this helps.
Your debut release, ‘Tyson’, doesn’t sound at all like a debut release in terms of quality. Has it been a case of marinading before cooking – not rushing a release?
You know what, you are right there. I was explainin’ this before. I’ve been making Hip-Hop for so long but the thing is I’m a muso, not just a beat maker. I’ve always made other music that didn’t fit within the Hip-Hop aesthetic but rarely showed it to people. As a creative chap you always want to try new things and step outside the sphere. I sing, I play the piano and I also play the drums. I may not be a virtuoso at these instruments but with the right amount of emotion and Ableton (love that thing) then it means I can create and push ideas that perhaps haven’t been touched on before. So to answer your question really is, I’ve been building up various ideas over the years and Jon Phonics decided it was time to unleash some Opal on the world.
The cassette seems to alter perceptibly around track five, ‘String Doll’, mellowing out almost – was this your intent prior to making?
The intent comes with making varied music. However I feel and the ideas/influnces running around me at that time can dictate my outcome, from location to friends and associates. I find it’s all in shifts throughout the year. There are peaks and troughs to what I make in terms of upbeat and mellow stuff. The hangovers and good ol’ Northen weather help in the winter to create more mellow stuff. The project I feel represents the various moods I go through. Jon helped with the structure as well when crafting ‘Tyson’, it’s always great to have a like minded person there with their opinion you can rely on.
I know you lead the mastering of Astral Black’s previous release from Jaisu – has the relationship with label boss Jon & Astral Black been long standing?
I met Jon at the Hip-Hop school of beat making also known as Louis Den in Birmingham in 2008, we both managed to get firsts! I liked his music and his demeanour. He also had very prominent bass drums I remember fondly. After several meetings, gigs and full blown conversations about synths, rappers and women it was a done deal, we were mates n that. I’ve been mastering and mixing stuff for Astral Black and will continue to do this in the future. I mastered the previous Jasiu release which you should all check out because it’s dead good.
Where can we next see you and what can we expected from a typical Opal Block set?
We plan to do some more Astral Black parties up and down the country. An Opal Block set will involve me being on the 1’s, getting on the mic, getting topless and playing exciting stuff which will usually involve Jungle towards the end of my set. I am, however, also putting together the live set which will be a whole host of boxes and gadgets including the talkbox which as I see it lends to ANY track.
Hopes, aspirations and dreams for 2014?
I hope to enjoy, aspire to improve and dream of unlimited garys in 2014. What a terrible answer haha. Cheers for the interview though and yeah 2014 will involve more music from Opal and more releases from Astral Black.