Öona Dahl has a remarkable dedication and passion for electronic music which shows if you have ever had the fortune of witnessing her DJ sets or by listening to her superb production ability. Her music has graced labels including Hallucienda, All Day I Dream, Anjunadeep, and Watergate. and it is easy to see why. With an open mindset, as well as a vast range of music knowledge, she knows how to connect on a higher level with her audience. Testing traditional musical limits with extended mixes, isochronic tones and melodies, Öona’s breadth of skill behind the decks is hard to match.
I was lucky enough to grab some time with Öona to talk about her music, the scene, and her musical background. When I spoke with Öona she was wrapped up in a fleece enjoying the cold weather and doodling on her iPad. Something that is probably not that alien to most of us who are in the depths of those cold winter days and nights. I asked Öona what first got her into the sounds of electronic music… “My mother raised me on disco and 80s dance so I’ve always had an attraction to electronic music starting at a young age. In the mid-90s I discovered house music on Kiss FM. I think my biggest discovery was when I was 10 and I found Bjork’s ‘Post’ at a garage sale. I bought the record not even hearing it, just by looking at the art.” Öona then went on to speak about some of her early influences… “Opus III, Future Sound of London, Sasha & Digweed, Madonna, Orbital.” I know I can certainly relate to all of those names, and if you have not lost your mind to some of Madonna’s early tracks on a dancefloor in your youth I feel you may have missed out…
Öona is a graduate of The International Academy of Design and Technology for Digital Media and Recording Arts. I asked her to tell me a little about her time there and how it helped shape her as an artist today… “I was always equally into video/graphic design and music editing so I decided to Major in Recording Arts with my minor in Digital Media. Studying both had expedited my skills for navigating in a digital era. Recording classes in production were mostly Protools-based. From music theory, graphic design, video production and even recording live bands it covered a wide variety of skills I use now. Immersing myself in the art world and by being out there experiencing it first hand has really shaped who I am today.”
If any of you follow Öona on social media you will know she loves her psychedelia and likes to get out and about in the city and in nature. I asked her how her surroundings have influenced her sounds over the years… “Location plays such a huge roll in my music and art… from tracks, videos and even my DJ sets/mixes. I’m equally inspired by nature versus the city and feel both have something to offer when it comes to diversity.”
“When working on my album I like to rent AirBnBs in nature to really get away and immerse myself in the environment.”
Öona continued… “Back when I was living in Berlin I was making more melancholic and minimal textures with my music. I feel being in the city along with the winter spells influenced this style, and not sure if I would make music like that anywhere else. It’s important for me to sometimes switch up my comfort zone to beckon new ideas and emotions. Besides my surroundings, I think the most influential aspects of my art is imagination, spirituality and psychedelia.”
Those of you familiar with Öona’s sound will know it touches on many genres from electronica through to minimal and techno. I am personally not a fan of genres but I understand that it helps us describe a sound or style, and as humans, we need labels to help us describe certain things. I asked Öona her thoughts on genres and labels… “I agree with you.”
“I love all styles so it’s important to me that I show this through my music. Putting “titles” on anything can be a form of separation but it can also be a way of discovery, I see the pros and cons of both.”
Öona went on to add… “I remember first discovering dance music and the excitement I’d have when I would be able to label Drum N Bass vs Trance. Music genres tend to connect people with like-minded perspectives. It’s fun to imagine we all have an internal frequency we resonate with. One of my attractions to electronic music is it can be anything you want it to be, any sound you desire is possible as long as you can transcribe it.”
Moving onto Öona’s production time in the studio, I asked her if she starts out with a particular sound in mind when she is putting together a track or if she just lets the ideas flow… “It’s always different, actually! Sometimes I’ll go into the studio feeling moody and I’ll want to write something with a high BPM and a deep bassline. Times when I have no priorities like finishing a remix or mixing work I’ll have a clean mental state and just let the music take its course. When I go into the studio and have no idea what I want to do or make, I’ll tend to start with a beat and go from there. Once in a while when I have a story or plotline in my head of something I’ll make the emotions of the track shape around the idea.” I went on to ask Öona what some of her favourite studio gear is and she replied with, “Access Virus TI Snow, Elektron Analog Rhythm MK2, TC Helicon Voicelive 3, and Livid Ohm RGB.”
Whilst on the subject of studio gear I asked Öona if she could own one piece of hardware what would it be… “The ARP2600 because there have been so many times where I’m like “what is that sound?” it’s usually the ARP.”
I asked Öona what had been some of her most rewarding moments in the scene over the years… “My first album, touring the world, creating music with and for people who have inspired me.” I then moved on to ask what we can expect from her over the coming months in terms of new music… “December I have a track coming out via XLR8R Plus and I’m also doing the XLR8R Podcast. I have an EP and DIY music video with Kirsty Hawkshaw (Opus III) coming out on her label Wellhead. Hallucienda is doing a vinyl edition release of my album ‘Holograma’.”
As we moved towards the close of time chatting together I asked Öona about what she likes to get up to in her downtime… “My downtime is being home and making art or doing something especially with music. Also swimming, video editing, video games, reading, eating, yoga.”
Finally, as we approach that time of year, I asked Öona if she had any New Years Resolutions planned for 2020… “I have resolution lists, this way I’m more than likely to get at least one of them done if not all. Release my sophomore album, melt all anxiety, get an art space studio and do ayahuasca in Peru.” Something I feel I might need to adopt as an idea!
I would like to thank Öona Dahl for her time and wish her all the best (along with the whole Decoded Magazine Team) for 2020. Like many of you, we will be looking forward to more new music from Öona.