Om Unit, a man who throughout his extensive career has dedicated his time to underground hip-hop and bass music, travelling the world as a producer and DJ to critical acclaim. He’s a Red Bull Music Academy alumni, has forged his own label, Cosmic Bridge, released three LPs including one on the legendary drum and bass label Metalheadz.
Jim Coles aka Om Unit spent some time with Danny de Reybekill for BABMAG as he prepares to give a guest lecture at Birmingham City University and perform a unique set of unreleased music for Listening Sessions at the Dark Horse in Moseley on Friday 10th of May.
“I think there’s a wisdom to navigating the music world with authenticity.”
As someone who is clearly no flash in the pan, do you have any words of industry-wisdom for those producers and artists who are looking to forge a sustainable and long-lived career in music themselves?
Well, perhaps I don’t know about the industry as much as I should, maybe that’s been one way of keeping momentum. I’ve found there is a skill in balancing the connection with the ever-shifting landscape in music and art/technology and then also not letting that dictate your art too much. I think there’s a wisdom to navigating the music world with authenticity. My advice would be creativity first, and the rest comes later.
In a recent interview you mention that you “don’t make drum and bass like the masters”, but also speak about how people took real influence from your projects as Phillip D Kick. Is your humble nature in your approach to music part of why you have become such a well respected name in the electronic music scene?
Maybe some people did take influence, but this was back in 2012. There certainly was a phase in the past few years where a lot of people were trying different rhythmic patterns and weirder stuff in dnb, our Richie Brains project on Exit Records for example. I think a close group of others and myself were certainly influential and it was a good phase. I think that now time has passed a lot of the more experimental stuff has become naturally more and more self-referential and homogenous – ironically becoming perhaps what it was fighting. Now we can see a lot of people in that world returning to making more dance floor dnb again, with perhaps a refreshed sound palette.
It needs to be said that my work for Metalheadz was an homage to that sound as a fan of dnb, not a permanent allegiance to the scene.
I myself was never that close to it, and still find it a little strange I get boxed in as a dnb artist. It needs to be said that my work for Metalheadz was an homage to that sound as a fan of dnb, not a permanent allegiance to the scene. I enjoy playing the occasional dnb show in ‘dnb mode’ but really I prefer to play an eclectic journey through 140, future bass, footwork, jungle, 160 and other stuff too.
I must say I don’t think I’ve been particularly humble over the years. I’ve certainly said too much on Twitter and Instagram for my own good a few years back. People know me for being quite straight talking on key issues in art and music and now I’ve learned to curb it, except for what I think might be genuinely useful and try to let the music the talking. My focus is on positive news on my releases – the one new one being the Mahakala project which is me doing more modern jungle stuff for example, but I’m also working on new Om Unit material as the primary focus.
I have to say Birmingham has a serious history that is probably not talked about enough…
With pioneering and influential names like Mala, LTJ Bukem and Krust all passing through for regular sets in Birmingham and new artists being nurtured and given a platform through the Listening Sessions events and community, do you think the second city holds something unique with regard to underground electronic music?
I have to say Birmingham has a serious history that is probably not talked about enough, for example the Custard Factory alone was such a legendary place! I am not that well versed on what is happening in Birmingham at the moment, as it’s been a while since I played a proper show there but I’m looking forward to the show on Friday!
You’re someone who’s recognised in the sound design and production world; do you have one bit of information you’d impart to anyone who is developing their sound right now?
Ask yourself; what do all your favourite artists have in common? I would postulate that they all most likely don’t sound like anyone else.
Having recently jumped in the mix for Sherelle on Reprezent Radio, what are your thoughts on the regenerated radio scene of late?
I say radio is the king, it always has been that way I think but the democratisation of radio since the internet radio station has become a viable business has helped changed the face of music appreciation. With apps like TuneIn radio you can basically listen to anything at any time, which brings other challenges in terms of focusing on what you really want, but I think the freedom of listening choice compared to 10 or 20 years ago is vast and honestly it’s a wonderful thing! For example stations like NTS and Noods alone you can hear such a massive spectrum of music, curated by people who do it for the love of sharing their findings, without sponsored messages and playlisting. It also to me is far more interesting than this mindless algorithm dictated by streaming platforms!
You’ve hinted at over 30 new unreleased tracks when you perform May 10th at the Dark Horse in Moseley. What can we expect from this unique set of unreleased productions for your Listening Sessions performance?
It might be a bit of an excursion from what is expected. It will not be a full hour of dance floor stuff, rather a mixed bag of ideas, works in progress and forthcoming music.
Can you tell us what’s coming up in the next few months for you and your Cosmic Bridge record label?
We have a few more bits on the way for 2019 for sure, some killer stuff actually that stands out from the crowd, which we’re just finalising at the moment, stay tuned at @cosmicbridgerec on Twitter and cosmicbridgerecs.com
Off the back of a recent US tour, Jim Coles (Om Unit) will be sharing his knowledge in the Parkside Lecture theatre at Birmingham City University (BCU) from 5:00pm-6:45pm. This event is open to all – not just students of BCU.
After the lecture Om Unit will be playing at a FREE event alongside a host of other great artists, details of which can be found via the link below.
Books (Detuned Transmissions), Arttu UK b2b Hertz Couture, Elkie b2b Goosensei, Untrodden Grove, S4CP, Hosted by NATTY D