After a successful 2013 with a number of releases, remixes, tours and worldwide exposure, Tasmania-based producer Akouo seems to be going from strength to strength. We recently caught up with the man behind the buttons to chat about early career aspirations and influences, all things production and how he likes his eggs cooked in the mornings.
OP: This year seems to have been a real breakthrough year for you with a number of successful releases, remixes and a bunch of tour dates, what are some of the things that you are most proud of and that you feel have taken your music to the next level?
AKOUO: The thing I’m most proud of is being able to take my music on tour and making it a viable career, which is something I’ve fantasized about since I was a kid. It’s also been a huge buzz to hear my music played on radio all around the world. And I think my decision to start working on solo material (as opposed to solely making beats for rappers) at the beginning of 2013 was the best move I’ve made. It’s allowed me to inject a lot more of myself into my music.
OP: Your new single Last Time was released on Tuesday through Die High Records, how did you link up with those guys?
AKOUO: The lads from Die High contacted me via the Internets mid-2013, saying they were into my tunes and were keen to release some free music through the label. I was already aware of them and a fan of their other releases, so we locked it in.
OP: What helps keep you grounded and focused on doing what you want to do and staying passionate about your music?
AKOUO: It’s easy to stay inspired with the Internet, there’s always so much good music rolling out every day. I come from a place where it’s more of a DJ culture than a producer culture, so the internet has kept me sane and focused. Since I was young, I was always rebellious against things I was told I had to do from school, chores and later jobs. Music on the other hand isn’t something that anyone is forced to do; it’s a choice, so I think that’s why I’ve always been passionate about it.
OP: Who or what inspired you to first create music and how did you first get into music production?
AKOUO: Back in the day, I was into all sorts of stuff from Led Zeppelin to Hendrix, and started playing guitar at 12 but when I hit college I started listening pretty much exclusively to hip hop like People Under The Stairs, DJ Shadow, Cypress Hill, Gravediggas, etc, and experimenting with DJing and beat making. When I started watching videos of guys like Thes One, Exile, Dilla, 20Syl etc, that’s when I really knew that production was what I wanted to focus on.
OP: When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Was music always number one or did you have dreams of being an astronaut?
AKOUO: I think I was keen on being a doctor, priest (funny considering I’m now atheist) or talk-show host when I was really little (laughs), but since 12 years old, I’ve been fixated on being a musician.
OP: Where is your favourite place to play when on tour?
AKOUO: Workshop in Melbourne 100%. Melbournian’s have a certain passion and understanding of tasteful underground electronic music that’s unmatched in most other cities I’ve been to so far. Aside from having a kick arse layout in general, Workshop is also super welcoming and supportive of new artists/DJs.
OP: What is the best/worst thing about touring and what are a couple of must have items or guilty pleasures that keep you sane whilst on the road?
AKOUO: Worst things would be hangovers and early morning flights sitting next to old people that want to converse with you. Best things have to be finding dope new artists, making friends and after party D&Ms.
OP: When heading to a cafe, how do you take your coffee and eggs? Are you a flat white and fried kind of guy or do you roll with a piccolo latte and some poached bad boys?
AKOUO: Skinny latte & poached eggs, no question.
OP: Sometimes it seems like you guys get a bit neglect in Tassie on the tour circuit, what’s the local music scene like there? Who are some local artists that we should keep an eye out for?
AKOUO: It’s tough down here; there just isn’t the population to pull crowds to niche electronic music touring artists. More often than not you’ll get more to see a local punk or metal band, than you will an international artist with millions of fans. There are a few crews like Our House, Opcon and Recreational Thugs that try and keep the niche scenes rolling but in the end, you’re always gonna get more bros turn up to a Will Sparks set, than you will tasteful crew to a DJ Revolution set. So promoters just aren’t willing to front the big dollars and take those risks in order to build that culture. Some electronic artists you’ll hear more of in the future are guys like Kowl (the side project of Cal of Scientists of Modern Music), Tiger Choir, and DJ Dameza.
OP: You seem to pump out tunes pretty regularly so it seems like you have a pretty solid work ethic. What goes into your creative process and how do you keep yourself motivated when you start to hit walls creatively?
AKOUO: The great thing about beat making is that you can manipulate whatever sound you want, whether chopping a drum break or sampling/remixing other artists, there’s so many ways you can take each particular sound. So just sitting down and turning on your drum machine or computer, you have an unlimited amount of places to begin your next tune. I just personally find that exciting as hell. That said, sometimes you spend 7 hours trying to make something worthwhile and only come out with a few rough sketches or nothing at all, but that’s a good thing, it means you’re not willing to make mediocre music.
OP: You’ve released a number of successful remixes over the past year or so and always seem to reinvent a wide range of genres into your own sound. What are you looking for in a tune when you select it to produce a remix?
AKOUO: If it’s an already released track that I want to make a bootleg rework of, I look for tunes that have open, spacious sections – accapella sections especially, or sections without drums. I like to challenge myself to transform the overall feel of the track, to give a complete different perspective on an already outstanding original track.
OP: For all the gear heads out there, can you run us through your set up and what you use to produce your music?
AKOUO: My setup is quite basic. I use PC with FL Studio 9 and Pro Tools 9. Mackie HR824 monitors and Focusrite Saffire Pro 40s pre’s. For microphones I use AKG C414 BXLII and Rode NTK, among AKGs and Shures. Plus way too many instruments.
OP: We noticed that you’ve linked up with the Melbourne crew, The Operatives. How did that all come about and are there any potential collaborations with any of those guys in the near future?
AKOUO: I’ve been aware and a fan of The Operatives for the past couple of years since I brought down A13 for a show in Launceston. I’ve also known Amin PaYne and Able8 for a little while now so when JPS asked if I’d be keen to be a part of the collective, I was super keen. I’m actually making my Operatives show debut opening for Flying Lotus at Mona on 1st of March, so I’m extra psyched for that. I’d love to work with some of the guys on the roster during this year, but we’ll see what happens.
OP: Until recently you have been releasing your own music independently online. How do you see the online shift in music distribution through Blogs/Soundcloud/Bandcamp and the like in the last 5 years or so affecting artists globally for the better or worse? Do you think this shift has the potential to lead to music saturation through quantity over quality approach?
AKOUO: There’s already an over saturated market right now, I mean, I try to catch up with everything that’s coming down my Soundcloud stream feed every week to find the goodness but it’s hard, you can’t catch everything and you know that if you don’t listen to it now, you might never take the time to hear it again. In saying that, it’s really handy if you’re looking to find any and all music that’s been released by an artist in the lifetime of their career, it’s literally only a google, Youtube or Soundcloud search away.
OP: You’ve put together a playlist of some artists you’re digging at the moment. Talk us through a couple of these tracks and why they stand out for for.
AKOUO: My taste has always been dominated by hip hop, but I’ve found myself listening to all types recently including house, post-trap and indie stuff. 20Syl is plain killing it more than ever right now, so I had to add something from him. Boeboe, Jailo and Big Wild are guys I’ve only just discovered and I’m especially flipping over their material right now. Doja Cat is an exciting female MC coming out of LA. I dunno, I guess all of these artists are releasing stuff that’s exactly what I’m after right now.
OP: What labels out there are currently killing it in your opinion?
AKOUO: Soulection, Symbols, HW&W, Die High, Luckyme, Truthoughts
OP: What’s in store for the next couple of months for Akouo?
AKOUO: I’ve got the film clip for Last Time coming out in a few weeks, I’m about to head off on an Australian tour, plus I have a bunch of official and unofficial remixes coming out. Eventually the EP will be out on Die High as well. So it’s gonna be really busy.
OP: Any final comments or shout outs?
Shouts to Orange Press for the continued support!
Catch Akouo touring nationally soon including the March 1st date at Mona supporting Flying Lotus and Om Unit. Look out for the full EP to be released later in the year via Die High Records.
In the mean time you can stream and grab a free download of Akouo‘s new single Last Time below and check out some the playlist he’s kindly put together for of us some tunes he’s digging right now.