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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


Eugene McDaniels – Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse
That record came into my consciousness in my twenties. I was living with a really great musician, a drummer called Tom Skinner. He bought it because he'd read an interview with Questlove saying it was his favourite record of all time or some other such hyperbolic statement. So Skinner bought it and brought it home. We checked it out and immediately recognised that it's a record that's been heavily sampled, we were both in love with hip-hop. I just delved into it, I was very fascinated by the DNA of it. His story was pretty interesting.

There's this myth, I don't know if it's a myth or a truth, it's quite plausible, but apparently the Nixon administration objected to the lyrical content on that record, and essentially it was dropped. Certainly the marketing for it wasn't particularly aggressive. And Eugene disappeared into obscurity, having had a relatively long career in music. He'd started out as a songwriter who'd written for Roberta Flack, I think when he started out he was quite a clean-cut crooner type. But he obviously got into other stuff, more raw-sounding music and folk. I think he was quite inspired by Bob Dylan. That record has an amazing cast of musicians; I think it's basically the band that became Weather Report. I'm always really interested by that – I feel like there's this long history in popular music where there are these incredible musicians, often with a jazz background, these guys that have that language, that ability and that craft and are open-minded enough to basically let go of all of that stuff, and they seem to often contribute to some of my favourite music. It kind of connects to the David Bowie record on my list, or the Kendrick record, Motown records, all the stuff that The Wrecking Crew did. All those guys were basically jazz musicians, but were really open and had sensibilities to other things. As a musician I identify with that since that's my background.

I find the ingredients on this record really interesting. You can feel the jazz sensibility there, there's a soul thing, there's a blues thing, there's a folk thing. It's like a real melange of stuff that then yields this really unique, special record.

A lot of the albums on your list are really rhythmic. Is that one of the first things you notice about a record?

I've definitely got an obsession with rhythm. I'm a fan of syncopation, as anyone who's worked with me will attest. It often feels like I'm battling people's fears of syncopation. Music is rhythm and harmony. I feel like in the West we're pretty obsessed with harmony and the harmonic tradition, there's this reverence for melody. Don't get me wrong, I think harmony is an exquisite language, but actually even as I think about with harmonic ideas, it's often the rhythm of how those ideas are presented that becomes the way that I connect with a melody. It has to do with its phrasing or the rhythmic phrasing in the melody. Rhythm is at the core of our lives, we all have a certain rhythm, it's there in our speech, it's there in our heartbeat, how we walk, how we breathe, it's a fundamental thing.

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