Oliver Ho has spent the last 20 years devoting his life to creating some of the most intense and compelling electronic music out there. With a plethora of aliases, he hasn’t stuck rigidly to his roots in the UK techno scene but has navigated his way through many different genres. From the frenetic techno of the releases on his own Meta imprint, the off the wall house music made as Birdland, the grinding industrial of the Broken English Club and the heavily textured ambient of his Zov Zov project, the way he has used music technology has shifted constantly over the years. For the second in our Creative Technology? series, we sat down with Mr Ho to discuss his relationship with the machines he uses and to pick away at his creative process.
This year marks 20 years of you producing music. How do you feel your relationship with the machines you use has changed over that time?
When I started releasing techno records in 1996 I was using a completely hardware set-up, and recording single take to DAT tape. There’s an energy to that which is pretty special, you capture a moment in time in a similar way that a photograph does. There’s no editing or changing things. now I use a computer and hardware, so it’s a combination of both, I love the way I can slowly work on something, in a similar way that a painting slowly emerges. I tend to meditate on ideas a lot more now, which means I can get closer to the essence of what I want to say. Before it was a lot more random and chance played a part. Each way has its character and offers something special.
Do you feel that you have an emotional connection with the machines and software you use, or are they just a means for realising your ideas?
I mostly feel like they are a means to an end. I have an internal process and narrative that I am following that’s more important than machines. A lot of what I want to achieve musically gets formulated as a feeling or place inside myself before it gets made more concrete in the real world. So the music is almost like the tip of an iceberg, but no one really gets to see what’s under the surface.
Over the years you've released under a number of different aliases, do you gravitate towards different gear to shape the sound of different projects or is the distinction purely conceptual?
It’s purely conceptual, there are certain types of texture perhaps that I am striving for with different projects, but what i use to achieve those things can be anything, a guitar, vocals, synths, computers, samples. Anything.
Do you ever feel limited by technology - having ideas that you aren't able to realize due to the shortcomings of machines?
Never, it’s all more about creating a world inside myself, and translating that though into this world, so it’s about having access to a well of ideas, the main thing for me is making sure that well holds a lot of water/ideas.
Do you look for happy accidents when writing music, or are you always working towards a goal?
When I write music I sometimes look at it like breaking into a house, I need to break in though the back door, to catch myself unaware. If I can surprise myself by doing that, I can reveal something subconscious and less deliberate.