INTERVIEW

Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never talks Stanley Kubrick and new album ‘R Plus Seven’

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The music of Brooklyn based Russian émigré Daniel Lopatin as Oneohtrix Point Never has always been challengingly yet supremely amorphous, and the shape (or lack of) of his career has somewhat mirrored these idiosyncratic sonic maelstroms he has created. For almost every new record released, it has had a new home to percolate in, in the form of a new – or different – label. From No Fun and Arbor to Editions Mego and Mexican Summer via setting up his own label Software, Oneohtrix Point Never’s music has never stayed comfortably in one place for too long, its journey an evolutionary and expanding ether.

For his latest LP, ‘R Plus Seven’, Lopatin finds a new home yet again at the perfectly fitting residence of Warp Records. On the ever-shifting OPN, he speaks to me from Boston the day after his birthday and nursing a hangover. “My only sort of analogy is the NBA,” he says. “Some players stay on one team their whole career and other ones sort of bounce around until they find the right fit. It’s kind of tedious to talk about because at the end of the day it’s just about me making my best educated guess as to what is going to be a good business decision. Artistically, sure, because you want to work with people that understand what you’re doing and give you a lot of rope, but that’s never been a problem anyway. So, I’ve been really lucky and I’m very grateful to all the people who have given me an opportunity to put my records out. All my records are different so I just try to find the right home for whatever phase I’m going through.”

Many attributed 2011’s ‘Replica’ as something of a breakthrough album for Lopatin’s project, but as he moves up the career and exposure ladder by signing to a brainy, electronic super-indie like Warp, coupled with a recent soundtrack inclusion on Sofia Coppola’s latest film The Bling Ring, I joke if 2013 is the year that OPN crosses over into mainstream cultural consciousness. He replies sincerely, “I hope so. For me I always align myself with the sort of view that the art on every single level… erm…, how do I say this?” He stops. “My hero in life is Stanley Kubrick and the first thing I learnt about Stanley Kubrick when I went deeper was while he appreciated European art-house cinema he never felt like those were the kinds of films he wanted to make – the idea of his films were, the scale was bigger, and he wanted to imbue lots of very complicated ideas and I think that’s one of the ultimate ways to exist as an artist is to attract as many people as possible.  So, yeah I hope so, I’m trying to inch my way closer to everybody, it’s a dream of mine.”

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Much of OPN’s music is a trip. Be it through the melting, gloopy visuals that so frequently accompany the tracks, or the unpredictable nature of the records being void of anything in the way of conventional structure, they are – for want of a better cliché – a journey; a passage; worm-holes within worm-holes. But the travelling life of Lopatin himself is rarely a creative impetus for such musical outputs. “My life is stuck between – what I would say is – mundane and tedious,” he says. “Somewhere in-between that. So I wouldn’t say I live a particularly adventurous life. I do a lot of travelling, but the way that travelling pans out is almost like my sense of adventure is handcuffed to the hotel that I’m checked into. I’m more of a cerebral traveller than anything else.” Likewise, absorbing sounds on the road isn’t something Daniel digests in order to reflect later through the channel of OPN. “Music isn’t necessarily a burden or something I dislike, but it’s so compelling and so intense for me that I really have to commit when I’m listening to music. I find it hard for it to ever be like wallpaper.  So I just end up wanting to listen to people talking or having a discussion.”

Moving on to speak about the creative process of ‘R Plus Seven’, he offers, “I wanted to make a record imbued with mystery, the kind of feeling I remember feeling watching The Shining or watching E.T or watching Eyes Wide Shut for the first time and not really understanding the narrative flow and having to question my dream state versus my reality state.  I wanted to capture that a little bit.”

He continues to offer insight into his thought process behind the record and its lack of narrative role, one which seems is wholly in debt to the craft of Kubrick. “I don’t like to connect musical practices with narrative practices at all,” he says, “because it’s really castrating – it’s castrating something that’s kind of an intuitively ephemeral thing. So when you want music to be like film, I think it’s a little strange, what I want it to be is to be an impression or a characterisation of narrative in that moment. So it’s very rare that I’m ever interested in a story, I’m more interested in a way a story might feel or the overall flow to it. For instance, [Kubrick’s 1975 film] Barry Lyndon is a very slow-burning kind of unravelling of a man’s sense of time. I like the idea of having a musically poetic idea to show the distance between a man standing on his two feet and having a sense of self to being hobbling on one leg and having nothing,” Lopatin concludes. “As much as this record is a journey, it’s non-specific for sure.”

Fascinatingly, parts of the new album broke off from an idea its creator had for an Opera. “I wanted to write an opera, even though I didn’t know how,” he says. “I wanted to and the idea was basically: a composer begins to write his opera – there’s a lack of symphonic orchestra, it’s very choral – and as he starts writing it and the score starts reassembling itself and his voices, his characters start to kind of antagonistically deny the composer’s right to write this opera. Then it starts morphing and mutating into something sentient. I wanted to tease that out [in this record] because I wanted to, but I might never make an opera, so the record has the idea in it of the voices as being sentient or trying to change morphologically from what they are told to be to what they want to be.”

Visuals have been as synonymous with OPN’s musical adventures as the music itself or the project’s creator. They are an integral, irrefragable essence found at the core of the creative process. I enquire about Lopatin’s visual experiences and whether he visualises the creative process from birth. “Yeah, although it’s always a little bit depressing,” he tells me, “because I find the visual expression is a bit like a valley I can’t cross and so the things I imagine and the things that I hear and the things that I wish for, very rarely can I activate them. So I live in that [visual] state for sure, but it’s also a little melancholic for me when I do that because you realise that the distance between the seeing and the manifesting is sometimes an impossible distance. The things I see are so much more interesting than anything I could in any way make.”

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When picking his baker’s dozen (favourite 13 albums) for a Queitus feature a couple of years ago, the visual power of many of the records he picked (Edward Artemiv, Brian Eno, Herbie Hancock, Terry Riley) was somewhat inescapable, the visual draw of a record clearly holding a great deal of allure for Lopatin it would appear. “For sure,” he says. “I probably bought most of my records when I was seventeen or eighteen years old and that’s when I started going to record stores a lot and you just spend time flicking through – I bought so many bad records that had amazing covers. In a way, that’s very astute of you because I’d never considered it; perhaps there is something there, maybe I’m drawn more to the idea of a record as an entity in the world as much as I am the music on it.  I’m a sucker for really creepy, really strange, really phantasmagorical art and I’ll just want to have it on my wall.”

Lopatin’s interest in sci-fi is well documented and the transporting, other-worldly nature of the sounds and ambiences on his records has been omnipresent throughout his career. I ask if making something sound like it’s from another place/planet links to the desire of making the listener feel like they are being taken to another world. “That’s so interesting,” he ponders. “I’ve never really considered that. I spend so little time thinking about what happens inside other people’s heads, especially considering my ambivalent sense of what happens inside me, that it’s almost kind of asking too much to craft an experience for someone else. But I know that I experience awe and I want that from music. When I make a record I stand back and say, ‘does this record have weird, addictive properties? Is it seductive? Does it leave me in awe?’ and unless I feel like something about it has seduced me, I don’t want to put it out because I can only hold myself to my own standard of what awe is. So I took quite a bit of time with this record because there were multiple attempts at making a record that would give me chills, you know, and it just didn’t work out for a while, so I just wait for that. I wait for that moment when I feel that and when I do I trust it and I hope that other people will too.”

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