Peter Major AKA Opolopo is one of the champion contemporary pioneers of ‘Mutant Funk’, creating some of the most contagious B-lines and mellifluous melodies at this moment in time. Alongside the likes of Dam-Funk, Ad Bourke and Portformat, Opolopo is making the world stand up and listen to catchy tracks that fuse elements of Hip-Hop, Funk and House. This concoction is enough to make a truly heady mixture of styles and possibilities, executed masterfully on old AKAI’s, MPC pads and in the box production techniques.
With no formal training, just an instinctive effort to develop as a musician and artist, Peter Major now has three expertly carved albums under his belt, a whole wealth of remix projects, and is currently touring the South East Asia with partner and collaborator Amalia. His unique discipline draws strong influence from the golden era of early funk and synthesizer music a la ‘Quincy Jones‘ & ‘Jean Michelle Jarre‘ yet demonstrated in a refreshing new light. Our interview discusses Opolopo’s upbringing, musical persuasions and processes right before he jet off to the other side of the globe.
For those less acquainted, could you tell our readers who you are, where you’re from and what inspired you to write music?
I’m Peter Major, better known as Opolopo and I’m born in Hungary but raised in Stockholm, Sweden.
I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember thanks to my dad. He was a touring musician who also had a healthy vinyl addiction. That in combination with a mother who was a classically trained pianist made our home constantly filled with music, mostly the jazzy kind. I was “encouraged” to learn to read music as a kid but I was always more interested in coming up with my own melodies on the piano.
Early on I was hooked on the futuristic and electronic sound of the synthesizer. In -82 I saw a documentary on Jean-Michel Jarre’s Concerts in China. I was totally fascinated by the sounds. At this time the jazz fusion sound was also getting more and more synthesized. I started to discover my fathers fusion records in the quest for “synthesizer music” and I started to get hooked on the harmonies and jazz and funk elements as well.
The word Opolopo is Yoruban and means “plenty”, “much” or “many”. When I was looking for a name under which I could do the type of music that is closest to my heart, I wanted a name that reflected the music as well as it’s origins. Since most rhythm and beat based music is of African decent and especially since the roots of soul, funk and jazz go back to the slaves that were brought to America, I started to look at the language they brought with them. I found the word Opolopo that I felt was perfect on many levels. It’s meaning can reflect the diversity and richness of the music.
Do you have any formal musical training and what we’re you listening to in your youth?
I have no formal music training. Tried to take piano lessons as a kid but that didn’t go too well…
Some of my musical heroes when growing up were people like Herbie Hancock, Jeff Lorber, Earth Wind & Fire, Quincy Jones, Bob James, Gino Vannelli, George Duke, Chuckii Booker, Jimmie Jam & Terry Lewis, Mezzoforte, Casiopeia, Marcus Miller, Jean-Michel Jarre, Isao Tomita, Vangelis, Logic System…
What do you enjoy doing when your not making music?
I watch a lot of movies – preferably the science fiction kind and documentaries. I’m into design and architecture. I used to be an Art Director before doing music full time so I still like to muck about with graphics and layout. I love to chill in cafés with a proper espresso or make one at home.
Could you describe your live sets? What type of mood and feeling are you trying to evoke, or do you play for the crowd?
When I play with vocalist Amalia we do our thing as a 45 min – 1 hour show. We have all our tracks set up in Ableton. All the parts of the tracks are separated and I’m running as much as possible in real time, meaning midi tracks with plug-ins and very few audio tracks. This way we can keep things flexible and change things around if needed. We can extend sections or skip parts depending on the vibe from the crowd. I’ll play the bass line or chords and do soloing and vocoder stuff live. We also do totally improvised tracks where I build something from scratch and Amalia freestyles on top.
My DJ sets will be depend on the gig too but I like to tell a coherent story – well, coherent to me that is, haha! I like when it feels like a journey, when there’s some kind of narrative. But it’s always fun to throw a curve ball every now and then. I often run Ableton in parallel when spinning and do some soloing on top of tracks or switch to an improvised groove and build new tracks on the fly.
What environments do you prefer to create your music in? Where do you spend the majority of your time working on making music and what studio[s] do you spend most of your time in?
My home is my studio and I’ve tried to make sure it feels and looks inspiring to me but I wouldn’t mind having something like Vangelis’ Nemo Studios in London in the seventies and eighties.
Could you tell us a little about the equipment you use to produce and your creative process?
It’s all software these days. I run a PC with Cubase 6 and bunch of soft synths. I have an RME soundcard, KRK monitors and a pair of trusty old ears. I also play the bass every now and then and sometimes do some simple guitar stuff.
As for the creative process, I normally start out with chord progressions. Especially when doing vocal remixes I always first play around with new harmonies over the vocals followed by bass line and beats. But it’s usually a very non linear process where I jump around and constantly mess with bits and pieces until I feel it’s all done. I do try and get the song structure done before I get too deeply into the production side of things but sometimes I get carried away with the first eight bars and want to nail the sound before going further. I think the process is I let myself go with what excites me the most in any given scenario. It’s important to try and feel excited as long as possible to keep things fresh. Even though I’m quite disciplined by now it helps to sustain the excitement to finish and complete things.
A lot of your recent work has gone out on ‘Tokyo Dawn Records‘, could you tell us a little more about the labels ethos, and organization?
Ah, you’d have to talk to Tokyo Dawn about their ethos but I can tell you it’s a great, no bullshit label that do things the right way. It’s run by mastermind Marc Wallowy and mad scientist Fabien Schivre.
Your most recent body of work ‘Mutants’ is essentially a remix project, and tracks like ’1960 What?’Have received great response. How did this release come about, and what we’re the highlights of working on it?
It was Marc from TDR that suggested we do a compilation of my remixes. It’s really great to have them all collected on an album and breath some new life into them, see how they fit together in a context of their own.
Could you give our readers an insight into what your listening to at the moment?
I “go through” a lot of new music and some is Ok and a lot is bad. When it comes to actually listening to GREAT music (for inspiration and/or ideas) I mostly turn to the classic stuff. Soul, funk, boogie, jazz and electronic music from the seventies and eighties. That’s where it all comes from for me. But some current whole albums I’ve enjoyed are Brandon Coleman’s “Self Taught”, Debórah Bond’s “Madame Palindrome” and Union’s “Analogtronics”
Are there any producers your particularly pushing or working with currently?
Not really working with any producers right now but there’s an old collaboration with Simon Grey that needs to be finished some day…
The Summer is fast approaching, what do you have planned in the way of gigs, collaborations and releases?
Amalia and me are doing a South East Asia tour of Jakarta, Bali, Singapore and Manila from May 18 to May 26. I have bunch of DJ gigs here in Stockholm as usual but will also be spinning in Brussels at Club Bazaar on June 9.
As for upcoming releases: I’ve signed a deal with Dave Lee’s (Joey Negro) Z Records for a new album for late 2012 – very excited about that! I have some remixes to be released for Brian Tappert (Soulfuric Recordings), Doruk Ozlen (ZLN Muzik), Roberto De Carlo and Azymuth (Far Out Recordings). I have a track on a vinyl EP for Finale Sessions coming out on May 20 and a second one to follow. An EP with French rapper Grems is almost finished. I’m also working on an Actual Proof follow up to the “The Grit EP” on Local Talk. Hopefully we’ll soon cook some new stuff with Amalia too.
Any words of wisdom for our readers?
It’s all various shades of gray. Nothing is just black or white. Except for my beard, that is.