Since emerging on the flourishing German house scene over 10 years ago, Ray Okpara has become one of its most interesting and vital figures. Thanks to compelling releases on Mobilee, Oslo and Saved, Okpara has established a voice that speaks to his Nigerian heritage as well as his ability to carve out rock solid dancefloor groovers. Add to this the fact that Ray exudes love, creativity and a vigour for life and it’s easy to see why his reputation reaches far and wide.
Ray isn’t just releasing on some of the biggest labels in the business, either. He’s nurturing both new and established talent, pushing the music he feels very passionate about through his very own AMA Recordings (launched in 2010). Getting its name from Ray’s own middle name Amaefule, it literally translates as “your name will never get lost”. It’s safe to say there’s no danger of this producer’s name getting lost, thanks to captivating DJ sets and a keen ear for all things deep, trippy and hypnotic.
As if that wasn’t enough, Okpara has been spreading the good vibes through his party series which goes by the name of It’s Ours. As the name suggests, the events allow Ray to get behind the decks with his good friends. Recent events have seen Ray host the likes of Shane Watcha, Nekes, Okain and Marko Nastic in both London and Mannheim, where he currently resides.
Throughout his career, Ray Okpara has managed to make people smile through a collective love of house music, and there’ll be plenty more of that in 2017, that’s for sure.
Hi Ray, it’s a pleasure for the opportunity to chat today. I hope you’re well? A large number of my Facebook friends ‘like’ you and you have a whopping 50k plus fans! What would you say are the tracks that said, “I am Ray Okpara and this is my music“?
Hey guys, I’m fine and just at home getting read for sonar 2017 so packing this interview up and then its party time. I think my Brothers EP on oslo, Booty EP on Mobilee & Brainows EP on Soweso had loads of effect on the fans but never the less all EP’s had some influence of course. Lets see what happens with the ‘BLUE HUNT’.
You started DJ’ing in the 90’s, playing UKG. Has there ever been a temptation to write that style of music now there’s a resurgence in its popularity? If the answer is yes, what artist would you say are seminal to your direction? If the answer is no, where did the influence come from to include a drum and bass remixer on your landmark 30th release?
No not really, I have to say because I started as a DJ then producer and then more instruments so my musical journey has not seen the end and not sure where I will land. I love dnb & garage and most U.K innovated music styles, but why did I choose a dnb rmx? Because I wanted to start something new. My mastering man, for all AMA releases is Matthias Heinstein and the remixer aka Bassline Generation, he has been playing the remix and he told me he has been getting good feedback and more surprised are the guys asking if its a Ray Okpara tune. Maybe we start to keep this as tradition to drop some dnb remixes.
So I went straight to your Soundcloud and the Saro Carassi remix you did with Mobius Strum blew me away somewhat. For a techno track, you certainly ignored the contemporary rules of arrangement with the broken beat percussion? Was this a momentary vibe coming into play or did you purposely decide to break away from the norm?
Again, sometimes it all happens while its happening. We were working on this in Costa Rica in Nov ’16. We just turned of the kick and we looked at each other and said “hmmm this sounds cool too” so we finished the track with a 4/4 kick and made a second version as a broken beat mix which eventually got to be the one the label chose.
In these days with the Romanian sound you don’t have any boundaries anymore and you can just start with or without kicks, hi hats, claps, or and sounds – artistical freedom maybe?
Listening to the 30th Release, the Saro Carassi remix and the Chris Carrier & Gauthier DM EP for AMA, there’s distinct feeling in the music that has a twisted, mess with my head element to the vibe? How much of the music you release for AMA is for a dance floor and how much is it for DJ’s looking for interesting and individual arrangements?
I can only say that all music I release is music I play. It shows my record bag and shows my style can go from broken, dub, deep, techno, super housey – no boundaries is the code. I think everyone can find something here in the AMA bag but there are more straight 4/4 track/beats then broken ones.
Derrick Carter is my all time favourite. Classic was my favourite label and love the jacking Chicago vibes styles. lately less, but I play a Derrick Carter tune here and there in many sets. Hey, don’t forget an other all time favourite BRETT JOHNSON. I love soooo many tunes from him and finally I have him remixing my tune for this AMA 030 EP. Both Carter and Johnson are similar styles. It seem and is probably true that I have my roots in 2003 house music.
As I move through your Soundcloud, it’s clear you do not submit yourself to one style, you like to keep an open mind? What advice would you give to new producers when they’re trying to fit in and be relevant to a genre or existing trend in music?
Stay open minded, trends come and go. I still play stuff I was playing 15 years ago. Timeless we say and I’m always on the hunt to find these timeless ones but they get lost more easy in these digital days. Back then I would just look through my vinyl but now I have made most of them mp3 and cant find them straight away.
Listening through the back catalogue of AMA, there seems to a common theme running through with all the artist. There’s either a squeak and bleep disjointed vibe and then there’s the rolling groove numbers. What approach are your bank of producers taking? Is there a theme and a vibe that you all want to keep or is this a natural cohesion of artists and styles coming together?
I just listen to music from artists in demos, of course it shows my taste in music. That’s the connection I would say which makes them all fit together but we have artistic freedom at AMA Rec. If I like a tune I like it but if I don’t I look if it can be changed with simple changes or I pass with that track.
AMA has an authentic style when referencing the music as genres. The House sounds like proper house… the Deep House has the hypnotic edge you’d expect to hear rather than the EDM interpretation… the Techno has imaginative percussion and soul as if it was born out of Detroit. How long does it take to sift through demo’s to find people who get it? Or do you already have people with your sphere of influence that send you music? Or, how often do you have to approach producers to bring something into the AMA fold?
I just wait till they send me tunes or I listen to some when I play with friends and they tell me its something new they just produced. Anyway, I get loads of demos but I don’t get too many good ones. I am open to all unknown artists or known, just good music in my ear is what i am seeking for.
The Marco Marset’s Dub Funk Mix of Steven Cocks “Raw Stuff” is sublime! I’m gutted I’ve only just discovered the track! What would you say are the seminal tracks of the label?
Seminal? you mean the best, or most recognisable or what do you mean? There are sooo many EPs and tracks. My favourites change here and there but I loved every EP at one point. I have to say this dub funk mix is a bomb I’ve played it soooo many times.
What advice could you give any aspiring producers in regards to sending their music to AMA? What makes an artist desirable from your perspective?
No advice they don’t know about. Make good music, send it as a download link, NO Soundcloud because I want to listen to them again in case I didn’t listen properly. There is always the second or third listen on tracks but with SC then I need internet. If I have them on my Mac they might get played later when I want to play them.
Your music has received support from the international and European underground DJ’s… and also from likes of Richie Hawtin and Dubfire? How important is it for the label to receive support from the electronic overground? How does that effect the perception of AMA Recordings?
Of course it is good that the big guys play it too, it gives the DJs who go through charts or playlists an eye for AMA but at the end I don’t care too much because I don’t think its always music for the big room.
What are the gut-wrenchingly laborious if not, tedious aspects of running a record label?
3 years ago when I was still pressing vinyl it was much more stressed. Right now I am in a cycle which is running good.
Apart from yourself and the artists, who would you like credit or thank for helping drive the label forward?
The distributor, the fans and the crowd helped. Also the PR companies who pushes AMA Rec because when I get more attention the label gets it too.
It’s remix hat pick time for you….. In the hat are three remix artists that are going to remix the next three tracks you release on AMA…. There’s Kevin Saunderson, Marshall Jefferson and Josh Wink…. You have to choose the most desirable out of three, knowing that at least one is going to remix your tracks… who do you want to win and why?
I would instantly pick Marshall Jefferson I love ‘Move your body’ and love all interpretations of the tune. I like his vocals on other tracks and he is a legend. So that would be my pick, I would love an old school vibe house track with pianos and vocals.
Ray Okpara ‘Blue Hunt’ is out now available on Beatport
Decoded Radio hosted by Ian Dillon presents AMA Recordings with Ray Okpara.
Decoded Hot Picks Chart Countdown
#4 Veerus – Arp (Original Mix) [Kitball]
#3 Einmusic – Blooming (Original Mix) [Einmusica Recordings]
#2 Cristoph feat Forest – The sign (Original Mix) [Suara]
#1 Andre Lodemann – Birth (Adriatique Remix) [Best Work Records]
01. Evans – Subtle Difference (Jos & Eli Remix) [EIN2]
02. Ran Salman – Nights Of Tel Aviv (Original Mix) [The Soundgarden]
03. Ziger – Purple Sky (Original Mix) [Sudbeat]
04. Nikko.Z – Movement (Original Mix) [Movement Recordings]
01. Nicke, R.MA, Juardo – Geneal [ama032] (coming soon)
02. Chris Carrier & Gauthier DM – All You Desire (Sithou Remix) [ama029]
03. Hans Thalau – Shine for me [ama027]
04. Chris Carrier & Gauthier DM – Rawhide [ama029]
05. Onno – Off_The_Grid (Okain_Remix) [ama017]
06. Ray Okpara – espionage [ama030]
07. Marko Nastic – Apendix Footwork [ama027]
08. Ray Okpara & Rick Sanders – GROOVE STATION [ama compilation 002]
09. Sek – TOMASH [ama031]
10. Ray Okpara – Blue Hunt [ama030]
11. Hot City Orchestra – Hot Box (Steven Cock Rmx) [ama023]
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