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Baker's Dozen

Serious Vibe: Dave Okumu Of The Invisible's Favourite Albums
Danny Riley , March 10th, 2016 10:59

Before he plays Convergence festival, the prolific singer and guitarist speaks to Danny Riley about the albums that have shaped his musical life, including D'Angelo, Aphex Twin and "diminutive funk goblin" Prince


Prince – Sign "☮" The Times
Always a good place to start. Sign "☮" The Times might have been the first record that I actually bought. I seem to remember owning that album and 3 Feet High And Rising. I had them on cassette, I'd bought them from somewhere like Woolworths. That was basically when I really first started immersing myself in music, putting on headphones and disappearing. Whether it was travelling around London on my way to school, I was just listening to music whenever I could. Sign "☮" The Times, without wanting to be melodramatic, I feel like it saved my life. I was having quite a difficult time at that point; I'd been through a lot of change, I'd moved around a lot. We were living in Newington Green and I was going to school in Hammersmith, so I had this gruelling journey every day. Just the usual shit, not particularly feeling like I fitted in. I had this album made by this alien called Prince, and I just couldn't believe what was happening in my ears and my mind. It just felt so exciting, and I listened to that album every day for a few years, so that goes back a few years.

Music can be a sort of escape.

Exactly. And I suppose what I've also found in my identification with music is it's something deeply, deeply reassuring. I've always been quite frightened of escape because you always have to come back to reality and that can be really harsh if you're escaping a pain or a difficulty. I've found when I've had a deeper connection with music it actually goes much deeper than escaping. There's a sense of identification. What I've found with artists like Prince and Grace Jones in all their strangeness and uniqueness was just this very clear message to be yourself to the utmost. I remember even aged 11 I just had this sense that Prince could only have got there by totally committing to being himself. That made me feel good about the idea of being myself, even if that was uncomfortable in my current predicament or context, it sort of bolstered me up. I felt by connecting with this music I was connecting with a message that was saying: "Be bold, do your thing. All this joy that you're experiencing is coming from a person committing to their vision which is unique to them." I've always found that incredibly exciting and inspiring to this day. All my favourite artists have that quality.

I would almost say that Prince is probably my favourite living musician. And that's not to say that I love everything he's done. I guess it's just about what he's done for my life, and also the level of craft. It sends shivers down my spine in the same way that it did when I was 11. So in that sense I do feel a pretty eternal debt to that diminutive funk goblin.

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