Glasgow DJ OOFT! discusses his debut album
After years of soundtracking some of Glasgow's best parties, DJ and producer OOFT! is set to release his first full length album, Intricacies of Modern Life
Intricacies of Modern Life, the debut album from Glasgow-based producer OOFT! – aka Ali Herron – is the culmination of years of experience both behind the decks as a well practised house DJ and in the studio crafting his signature disco-heavy edits. From his collaborations and performances with friend Graeme Clark (aka The Revenge), to residencies in some of Glasgow's best clubs, to running his own Foto Recordings label, Herron has unassumingly gone about building a solid foundation for this vibrant, first full length record. A stirring journey through ten tracks of elegantly-formed yet floor-focused dance productions, its completion finally came about after a couple of setbacks and several years of effort, Herron explains.
"I had it in mind, maybe around 2014, that I felt ready to start working on a full album, and that my writing and production skills were finally up to scratch," he begins. "However, when I actually started I realised it was going to be a lot more work than I originally thought – the songs I was making basically sounded shit!" he admits. "I also got the impression that nobody really gave two hoots about it – in terms of agents, or promoters – so at that point I decided to just work on the songs without the pressure of thinking 'this is going on the album' or whatever."
This independent approach saw Herron continue to work on the record for another couple of years; he then spent "the first few months of 2016 finishing the tracklist and putting the final touches to each track, before sending it all off to Rob Etherson for mixing and mastering." Eight months later ("with a good portion of manufacturing delays for the vinyl!" he adds) and Intricacies of Modern Life is finally set to see the light of day. It's a hypnotic, assured debut, that draws on a myriad of moods and sounds – from the jittering, urgent snare-driven Proteus Maximus, to the tropical, sunshine-soaked World Keeps Turning, and the slinking funk and sweeping synths of the title track – rather than relying on any one specific influence.
"Musically, I was purposefully trying not to take in specific influences," Herron agrees. "You can go after a certain sound that someone else is famous for, but you'll never quite get there (or if you do you'll still be disappointed). As this is my first album I really wanted to try and put all my musical experiences into the tracks, from my early disco editing days, through to more original compositions and less sampling."
Herron's time at the now defunct Carbon Music in Glasgow – both as a customer and later as an employee – played a major part in the formation of his own musical tastes. "I was a regular customer there from the shop opening, in around 2001, I guess. [I was] spending most of my student money on 12"s there each week. They stocked a lot of 'London'-sounding stuff which I was into at the time: tech-housey bits that guys like Craig Richards and Terry Francis were playing at the early Fabric parties.
"I eventually started working there part time in 2003," he continues, "and a real widening of my musical tastes happened while I worked there. In addition to all the vinyl, the shop also played the music inside Urban Outfitters – Carbon was located inside [Urban Outfitters], on the 2nd floor – and sold a broad range of CDs. A big part of the business was selling music to bars and retail stores as it was just before the digital music revolution kicked in, so shops always needed a fresh supply of CDs. That meant you could be playing a banging 2manydjs mix CD one minute, then some introspective Emiliana Torrini acoustic songs the next. I learned to appreciate music more generally from that experience."
Intricacies... was crafted in Herron's own home studio, which, he says, "I've built up over the last ten years or so. It's a mix of some nice analogue synths and various other bits and bobs all running through Ableton Live – it's the only sequencer I know how to use!" When asked to single out a favourite track from the record – from a production point of view – he exclaims, "my favourite ones are the ones that came together the easiest! Proteus Maximus, the title track Intricacies... just edging it though is probably World Keeps Turning. It's got a nice mix of sounds, from classic dance organs to more world-music type acoustic stuff, plus big pad strings. I love a good pad sound!"
Herron also enlisted the services of the well-known Dublin-born, Amsterdam-based vocalist/producer Stee Downes on the track Keep on Pushin'. When asked how that collaboration came about, Herron laughs, "I can explain that easily – I cold-messaged him on Facebook! I had the Keep on Pushin' track ready and thought his vocals would work well over it. Plus I haven't got much of an idea of how to actually record vocals and I knew he'd be great at recording his own stuff remotely. So I spoke to him and he was up for it. A lucky break, I'd say."
There's also the second track on the album, DSRV; which, The Skinny ventures, is a personal favourite. A beautiful slice of deep house propelled by a marching beat, layers of saturated synths and icy kick drums, it's the kind of track you can imagine making serious waves on the dancefloor. "With that one, I was working with an 80s sample, playing it a lot slower and pitched down than the original source. It gave me an image of (what I'd imagine it would be like) travelling through the deep sea with no obstacles or anything around," Herron explains.
"That in turn," he laughs, "led me straight into my love of dubious Sean Connery films, The Hunt for Red October being my favourite. The DSRV is the wee rescue submarine they scoot about in during the film – a little glimpse into the very random nature of how I name tracks!" According to Herron the album title took a bit more thought.
"I was thinking about names during the recording period and this kinda popped into my head from nowhere. I thought it fitted with the conception and recording processes and had a nice ring to it. I was also thinking about how these days it can be difficult to go down the path that you want in life, through having to work a job that isn't 'you' in order to make ends meet; trying to project a great-looking existence through Facebook or Instagram; etc etc. All these things tied in and the album title just felt right. However, the clincher was when I asked my wife what she thought of it and she said it sounded 'a bit wanky'. Sold!" he laughs.
Intricacies of Modern Life is an exciting debut from a Glasgow artist carving out his own electronic house-defined sound, with the added strength of offering multiple cuts that guarantee to set a dancefloor alight. Herron agrees emphatically that a major factor of the process was to keep sight of tracks that would work well in a club environment.
"My biggest DJ heroes are Harri & Domenic, consistently playing great music every week for decades. They were, and still are, a massive influence musically as they've stuck to their guns and kept current, without following fads. I wanted [Intricacies of Modern Life] to work well as a whole, but the individual tracks still need to have that punch for the dancefloor. I'm a DJ first and foremost so that has always informed the way I make music. I don't really see that ever changing."
Intricacies of Modern Life is released via Foto Recordings on 19 February. OOFT! plays all night long for the album launch party at The Berkeley Suite, Glasgow, on 17 Feb – details here