Osunlade is nothing if not unique. He's been a key figure in the house scene for almost 15 years but he's resolutely ploughed his own furrow. Not one to follow the crowd, Osunlade has forged his own sound of deeply soulful house music. Seeing as the great man was in town for a show on NTS radio I caught up with him to speak about his roots in commercial recording studios, writing the Sesame Street theme, his Yoruba spirituality and who's inspiring him at the moment.
Firstly let's talk about what you're up to these days. You're over in the UK at the moment and are doing a stint on NTS radio. Have you done much radio over the course of your career?
I have done quite a lot of radio in the UK yeah, mostly BBC with Giles or Benji b and now NTS which was a nice surprise.
What else is cooking for you at the moment musically, DJ wise and with the label?
There are loads of new releases coming from the label, Simpatico from Dj Fudge & Hallex M ft Omar just dropped this week on vinyl, my latest album Peacock was released on vinyl last week, I have a mix CD, the third instalment of the Offering Series releasing this month on R2, the new Afefe Iku album drops as well this month.
It seems like you started your musical journey in a very different way to most people in house music today. I believe the story includes writing music for Sesame Street and also working with Roy Ayers. Tell me a bit about your intro into the music.
My introduction was random, I’d moved to LA to try my luck in the business, worked with several artists for Solar Records, then Toni Basil (Oh Mickey) for a film project. While working with her, she was proposed to choreograph for Sesame Street, I was hired for the music. My career went on years producing R&B for several major labels. After some time I decided to leave the rat race and simple do music for music’s sake and not be in the BUSINESS of music.
When did you first make the transition into house music? What was it that inspired you to bridge that gap?
I’d always had house music as part of my spectrum. St Louis is near Chicago so the music was channelled to us as well. I would imagine my first experience of house music was listening to it on the radio in my teens.
I also believe that you're an ordained priest in the West African Yoruba religion. (I'm sure ordained is not quite the right word here but you get what I mean). Tell me a bit about that. How did you find this form of spirituality and what does it entail.
This question has been asked so many times its become a thorn in my ass..lets just say this..my understanding of spirituality is about balance. Yoruba for me is about nature and complying with its forces to centre and cleanse yourself. We are all priests internally, the rites of Yoruba are secret and ancestral however its manifestations are similar to most eastern and traditional cultures of the world. I found or rather Yoruba showed me that it was my path, there was no one experience that made this happen, at one point in my life, everything lead to it being the answer for me specific.
Also, why was it this form of spirituality rather than some of the more established forms we have in Europe and the US that spoke to you?
I was raised baptist and went to church, even sang in the choir when I was about 9 years of age..after a few years it didn’t resonate with me so I told my father I didn't believe in it, his response was it was his belief however it didn't have to be mine. My parents were very much be “be who you are, find yourself in the world” so I never had the pressure as maybe most do to hold onto the normal religious paths.
You moved over to Santorini in Greece a few years back. How's that working out? What prompted the move and how has this helped or hindered your music career?
Yes, 8 years now..its working out very well thank you..its home//no better on earth for me! the universe took me there, a current of events basically..its helped my career simply by being my place of peace. I can write without distraction, I can shut out the world and live the total opposite of the hustle of touring etc. there are no demands put upon me..again, its home!
What artists do you currently look to for inspiration within the house scene? Who’s records are always in your bag?
hmm, I'm loving Seven Davis Jr, there's always some Atjazz and Moodymann..I'm open really..the more obscure the better..I'm not really into names and who’s who..I wanna hear who’s gonna be who..its all about the curve 🙂
You seem to have paid little notice to fads and fashions in music over the years. How important for you has it been to just focus on doing your own thing rather than following the crowd?
It's THE most important thing for me, creating music and having the blessing of having a following, I think its a duty not only to myself but those who have connected with me to continue on the journey together..its so common that artists music change when popular, that spark or feeling of “this is my lil secret” leaves you disappointed. I'd like to think that by staying true to myself and my growth, the music will develop naturally and not spoil.
Finally, what advice would you give to any guys or girls looking to start out in this music business today?
If you create music..learn an instrument! if you are in the business of music, can’t help..you are evil!
Osunlade will be appearing at Sunsplash Festival on 7th June, tickets and more info here.
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