Along for the Wride with Ollie and the Kid
I was alive when the original Live Aid took place.. That being said, I was about 18 months old so my memory of the event is pretty hazy and I was probably more interested in chewing things. Despite my lack of focus in 1985, the 10th anniversary of the original event involved a rerun that was shown on TV and it is THAT screening I remember very well. The biggest musical extravaganza of all time.. Superstar after superstar gracing the stage at the Wembley and JFK Stadiums on that hot July afternoon.. As a lover of the ‘80s in general, Live Aid holds a very dear place in my musical heart and for 2 particular reasons: The first was the travelling hi-jinx of one Mr Phil Collins who did a set in London and then got on a jet and performed another set in Philadelphia before the day was out. Such was his global draw that with little effort, he entertained two huge stadiums filled with thousands of people with just a tinker of the ivories. The second was that of Freddie Mercury and Queen – The epic playlist of their most popular tunes.. the band’s issues and problems that had been overcome to bring them together for the event of the decade… and Freddie. Bold and centre stage.
It isn’t just Live Aid that Phil and Freddie have in common. As artists, they dominated their eras. Phil, often seen as a guilty pleasure, is an artist people seem to quietly adore.. That being said, my love for Collins-era Genesis is well known and I will own it until the cows come home. Whilst Phil was able to hold an audience with his impeccable drumming skills he also had his balls to the wall vocal commitment and frank lyrics of love lost and troubled marriages.. Freddie was a different performer. Freddie was flamboyant and his stage craft was a pure reflection. His personal vulnerabilities were there for the world to see and yet when he hit the stage, it all melted away. These men were great collaborators, fantastic songwriters and they had the upmost pride and dedication to their craft. Hard work defined their attitude towards their music. They were to the 1980s what Mr Pink was to the Reservoir Dogs – Fucking professionals..
Fast forward to now and the music industry lacks those sorts of characters. I would also argue that it lacks an appreciation for those characters too! Those people that give it all. Those artists whom live and breath their work. Those artists that find inspiration in not only the world around them, but in their musical peers and friends. Artists that want nothing but to entertain you – be that on a stage or in a music studio. Whilst this particular breed of artist is rare, they aren’t the dodo. They are still here and if you are reading this then there is a 99% chance you’ve heard of one of them. Mr Ollie Wride – Brighton based vocal artist, composer and one of the hardest working artists you are likely to ever meet.
Ollie’s work in the synthwave scene is extremely well known, well documented and often discussed. However, 2019 and 2020 have been a change of focus. His 2019 hit solo Album ’Thanks in Advance’ signified a shift in his stance – Ollie was going back to his musical influences. Those men like Freddie, Phil and Peter Gabriel who ruled one of music’s most rich and satisfying decades. ‘Thanks in Advance’ was a statement.. A love letter to music from a man who loves to work.
So it was with great pleasure that on a sunny Saturday afternoon I found myself relaxing in the back room of a not-so-quiet pub in the company of not only Mr Wride, but also one of his recent collaborators and 80s inspired musician, Sunglasses Kid. What proceeded was a 3hr conversation covering our mutual love for the 80’s, the collaboration between the two artists and Ollie’s new deluxe release of ’Thanks in Advance’ where he worked with not only Sunglasses Kid but a number of other artists in the synthwave scene to reprise his solo tracks.
Such was the interview with these gents that this article will form 2 parts. So please enjoy part 1 of Patrick Fakeman’s interview with Ollie Wride and fellow collaborator, Sunglasses Kid.
PF: So the new Deluxe album. The collab list is strong and it’s a who’s who of the scene. What was the a process to deciding who you wanted to include?
OW: So from the start it was always a conscious move to involve not only people I love, but artists who’ve got a certain degree of notoriety and quality about them. The original release of ’Thanks in Advance’ was meant to deviate away from the synthwave model so that left me with the question of how do we make it more inclusive a prospect for synthwave fans to buy into and worthwhile to putting the record out there again?
A lot of the artists reprising the tracks, I happened to already be friends with already. Ed (Sunglasses Kid) was the first person I messaged; we had wanted to work together for a while and I loved his stuff so we even started working on a bonus track on the record. I had a dream list who I wanted to approach. A couple of people didn’t get back to me which was a shame but everyone I picked had a distinct style that I loved. I also asked myself how do we make this as eclectic as possible so it stands away from the original album? – Ed took ‘Overcome’ and turned it into this unique Janet Jackson number which just works perfectly.
Each of the artists that worked tracks have brought a fantastic fresh perspective. There also had to be a purpose to the reprisal album – to make it endemic of the artists’ own style. Plus I want it to work at a party, in the car, and I believe it does. It has a universal appeal – bearing in mind it’s not come out yet! Haha!
PF: So the bonus tracks are an exciting addition. Tell me a bit more about those.
OW: What’s taken the longest is the mixing process of the bonus tracks. I wanted them to be bangers – to make sure that they’re saying something. I took the time needed to make sure they were right. One of the tracks, ‘Juliet’, which I co-wrote with Josh Dally has a real ‘Radio Gaga’ inspired feel that stands up on its own. The 2nd is ‘Stranger Love’, written with Ed and he’s been a sweetheart. ‘Stranger Love’ came about before the other track. Ed is very active on Instagram, vibes up different ideas and puts them out there. One day he put up one particular idea and it was only short but it worked perfectly with a visual reference. It was very evocative. So I got in touch with him and asked for some separates, spent some time on it, and the initial writing process came about very quickly. It’s indicative of the synthwave feel but with one foot quite in the contemporary, so it doesn’t sound like a synthwave track done a 1000 times before. And of course we tested it at the debut live show and it went down a treat.
SK: When Ollie approached me it wasn’t even a song. It was just a loop, no chorus. I had actually found these cool visuals and I wanted to put a soundtrack to those those visuals rather than the other way around. The other story to this is that we have this middle eight section on the track and in the early stages Ollie came back with these layered harmonies that were quite mellow but in my mind I pictured Ollie taking it to this huge anthemic moment..
OW: A tight trousers moment!
SK: Everything else in the vocal that he sent.. I was like, ‘he’s nailed it’ but as we hadn’t worked together before I thought, ‘well shit now I have to tell him there are parts that aren’t what I had in my mind’ so I sent him a recording of what I wanted the top line to sound like. After a few days Ollie came back to me and said ‘the chord structure isn’t quite doing it for me so i’ve taken the liberty of re-writing that part’ and I had no issue with that as what he had then done vocally was exactly what I had in my mind. So then it was a case of me reverse engineering what Ollie had done and recomposing it to fit.. So the middle eight, which I think is one of the most exciting and emotional parts of the song, is Ollie’s chords and some of Ollie’s ideas which I then reorchestrated and made it into the rest of the tune. It’s the most collaborative I have been with anyone and it’s been quite a unique experience for me to have a singer who hasn’t just provided their input and disappeared. It’s also helped me that Ollie had very high standards and has pushed for it to be better and better but the only place I felt the need to put my foot down was with his voice (in the middle eight) and the emotion he commands – this middle eight needs to be a big thing. So in hindsight I’m glad I pushed, as music and ideas can be so subjective and something you think is amazing, the other person might just not vibe with.
OW: I think that’s a common misconception, that maybe people think that i’m a nightmare.
SK: That wasn’t about my perception of you. It was about my experience collaborating with people where everything is great and everyone is in agreement but when you’ve got a creative problem that needs to be solved or a difference of opinion, that’s when you find out how well you work together. It’s great when everything is going well but you find out what sort of person each other are when you have a creative difference.
OW: You just don’t want to be working with an arse!
SK: Well yeah!
OW: No one wants to be too precious and I think that songwriting is about being malleable and not serving the individual but serving the song.
SK: Right! There is that moment when a song ceases to be your property and goes into the ether and you’re now both working to serve the good of the track. It’s an esoteric thing where a song didn’t exist in my head, Ollie’s head or any of the engineer’s heads but all of us combined have created this thing.
We both also felt that we wanted it to be of the highest standard possible so we asked Michael Oakley to help out on the mix. So there’s some of his DNA in there too as he beefed up the base and added some work to the middle eight. Another engineer we also worked with was Israel Medina, who Ollie has worked with before. He finessed it and polished it to another level. So it’s been a truly collaborative experience with some very talented people who has been very generous with their time.
OW: And we officially wrapped it today!
SK: I was literally on Skype with Israel last night at 2am and emailed it over to Ollie and thought ‘please let this be ok as the deadline is tomorrow!’.
OW: It knocked it out the park! You know, the hardest process has been the writing – Finding something that’s truthful, that’s meaningful and not just Deloreans and palm trees.
SK: And the funny thing is when I sent the initial track over to Ollie, and you know, you have to give it a title – I was thinking of Stranger Things and that’s why I called it ‘Stranger Love’ but it wasn’t intentional. Actually I think I remember saying ‘don’t worry about using the title’.
OW: Yes, I remember you saying that!
SK: When it came back he’d used the phrase like 40 times in the song!
OW: Ha! I saw it as being about a dysfunctional relationship, a love you can’t do without. ’Tear your hair out’ love but you can’t live without it. I don’t usually write about relationships so with this I wrote it though a 3rd person perspective.
SK: And you can easily wrap this around other relationships too. When I heard it I thought that you don’t have to even hear it as a love song. There is a sweet spot with lyrics where people can map them to their own experiences to connect with it in multiple ways.
OW: Right. And I generally don’t like to be specific in my writing. Often I will write about characters but I certainly don’t like to be too specific.
PF: And it’s fantastic that all this comes from just a short melody that SK, you were kind enough to put out into the world and with a title that came about because of.. well… Netflix!
SK: On that Instagram point though and ideas in the early stages, there’s a fear of giving them away, but there’s also the ability to create mood boards that give other artists ideas, inspiration and hooks with room for the idea to change.. All the while you’re not being too attached to it. When Ollie said he wanted to sing on it, I had very little emotional attachment to it. So when it came to points like changing the middle eight, I felt like whatever does the job and gets us to where we want to be.
Networking and collaboration with artists has come from putting things out there. It’s almost like open source music making rather that just working behind closed doors. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the internet. The first thing I noticed about sites such as Myspace and other social media over the years is the power to network, share ideas and be a collaborative.
PF: Exactly.. And Ollie, I know that before the first live FM-84 gig you met Col in real life only a few days before!
OW: Correct.. Myself and Col had an online relationship long before we met each other. And that has been the model for most of my creative relationships.
PF: And of course the deluxe edition is being released exclusively on physical format.
OW: I’ve got a lot of flak for making it physical only but it’s how we used to do things. From a practicality standpoint, people already own records but this is for die hard fans – not just something you can rip from the internet. It’s a huge investment on my part and NRW’s part and we had to know there’s was a demand for it. I’ve redesigned the artwork, it’s got brand new tracks not just reprisals and large format prints. So it’s not an excuse to make a quick buck – it’s an endgame.
PF: So.. the big question is when is the date for shipment?
OW: First of March! Wow that’s soon, You heard it here first!
PF: And how does if feel to have your work out there for someone else to reinterpret?
OW: I was excited! I’m seldom fearful and it was quite liberating. I’d spent 2 years on and off working on the original record. It took a long time to thrash it out and make it all I wanted it to be so I was committed to it and then it had a gestation process. So now with the deluxe version I wanted to give the artists as much creative autonomy as possible and I didn’t want a regurgitative version! They know what they’re doing and I believed in it every step of the way.
PF: So It must have been quite a moment when you get the email back from one of the artists with a demo or version of your track. Take a breath and hit play..
OW: Absolutely! It’s quite a profound moment when you think ‘I hope this has worked as well as I think it will’. But that’s always the gamble when you throw mixes out into the world with another driver behind the wheel. There is always the apprehension there. But I knew that based on the decisions I had made and the people I had chosen, I wasn’t going to go wrong – They know their onions, as my drummer used to say! I was expecting a certain quality and sensibility as these people are brilliant. Plus I was also happy with the work that I had already done as people had bought it, it had cemented itself and I believed in it. I thought ‘I’ve given you the keys to a pretty decent car’..
PF: Just don’t go and crash it!
OW: Ha! Yeah, just don’t crash it. Which seems to be what I’m in the business of!
PF: So how much did you send over to them in terms of stems?
OW: In most cases, it was the vocal, the BPM and guitar stems if they wanted them. I didn’t know I was going to do this when I was doing the album. I wanted to create a record that encapsulated what I grew up with, my influences and those tracks I heard when I raided my dads record collection. There’s a narrative to it, a story. It was a relief to get the original release out there and then start looking to the future. It was in a discussion with Michael Oakley where he made me see it could have more longevity, beyond the existing release. Not only were these songs that come to life when played live but we had a chance to create something even more inclusive. The Midnight had done a remix album but I wanted something a bit different – And the people i’ve worked with has been a calculated decision. I’m such and audiophile and I have a huge appreciation for music producers and my contemporaries so this is done out of a passion. It’s easy to become precious about songs and this was a way to give them a shot of adrenalin. If the person with the control has the foresight (and I knew they all would) then the result can be something wonderful.
NRW has also been such a support in getting right behind the idea of the deluxe record – putting me in touch with people I didn’t know, and 98% of the people got back to me! I think the fans are going to love it – I do.. and if I don’t love it how can I expect anyone else to? You have to have a passion and self belief for what you’re doing. It’s been like Christmas when I get the email with these tracks back!
PF: 2020 looks to be a busy year for you.. Then I thought about 2019 and 2018 and realised that those were equally as busy.. you’re just a hard working guy! How do you feel about 2020 in terms of the live shows, the album and the writing?
OW: I love being busy! The first thing is getting the deluxe album in to the hands of paying customers. As far as my solo thing goes, it’s very much in its infancy. Like when we’d been touring with FM-84 we had a pretty clear understand of what people had been listening to as the album had been out a long time. But with this, I had to understand the conversion rate. It’s a gamble, or can be. Camden was a good move as I got residual fans and it’s a wonderful feeling to have that. It could be soul destroying if people didn’t express a desire to attend the gig or left because they heard songs they didn’t know but I had people singing all the words back me – Which was a lovely feeling. We had people from Japan, Poland, the US and Canada – It’s crazy and amazing. It filled me with confidence though as I was on tenterhooks about the night.
Camden was my biggest event thus far but this new venue for April, Lafayette, is run by a guy who knows what artists need and it’s been a joy to arrange. It’s over twice the size and brand new. The next live show move had to be well placed and it had to have a cool vibe, and what better way to continue your solo venture than putting it in a brand new venue? It’s accessible in Kings Cross and it’s like a mini theatre. It has a mezzanine balcony, designed like a Bauhaus theatre and it’s below the Universal offices. So my focus is on that and equally the big Glasgow gig with Le Brock. Nina is also joining me in London and fans have been keen for us to do something together for a long time now. I’m a big advocate of strong women and balancing the diversity of the support acts.
I’d love to do something State-Side too. I think I could confidently go to LA, Chicago and New York but there’s an astronomical cost with that. One thing in my mind is when people came to see FM-84, we had lighting designers, trailers, a lot of planning, so the last thing I want is to be in the position where i’m doing it half arsed. Even with Camden, I wanted to give people what they have the right to expect. I put a lot into the lighting and the band. There’s a distinction between what I want to do as a solo artist and the FM show. There’s more live playing – guitarist, drummer, i’m on the keys too and of course, the outfit changes! For me though the key is always ensuring it’s quality, not quantity. I put everything into it and I don’t want to take it to the other side of the world if it can’t be everything I want it to be. I don’t want Ollieoke!
PF: That authenticity of the act is a key part of it for you then?
OW: Sure! I don’t want to run around for an hour against tracks. I want to give more than that – the fans deserve more. Especially in the US where people travel a long way and get really pumped. It has to be better than other things they’ve seen. I’m fortunate to be part of FM-84 as there’s an existing scene and whilst the big artists are trying to break it – it goes back to inclusivity. Our FM shows have involved more than 1000 people in attendance and if I want to pursue the solo route I have to feel comfortable doing it and make it the best possible experience for every single person.
So this year will include more selective shows, that’s down to funding. I’ve started to work on Michael Oakley’s next record, I’ve also got some work with Jessie Fry. I’ve also started working on a follow up record and I’ve got a lot already in the tank. So there might even be a second record at the end of the year, if it works out well. If I feel the need to do something I will. I love to work. There is also the new FM-84 record. I’d like it to happen sooner rather than later but it has to be at the right time. If it was up to me you would have it by now but ultimately it’s a collaboration with 2 people involved. We both have to be excited about it and Col’s busy with his other live ventures.
In part 2 of the interview we will break down the artistic collaboration that went into Ollie’s movie trilogy, lessons learned from the music industry and dream collaborations.
A huge thank you to Ollie and Ed (Sunglasses Kid) for their company and giving up their Saturday to not only speak about their craft, but also spending the evening out and about making us ache with laughter. You are both true gentlemen and talented bastards.
Ollie Wride’s 2019 album ‘Thank you in Advance’ is available now and the 2020 limited edition deluxe version with new material and reprised tracks is available on pre-order. You can grab both albums on the New Retrowave Bandcamp page. The deluxe edition is extremely limited so don’t miss out – Grab a copy whilst you can!
Ollie has 2 upcoming live solo shows in the UK – Glasgow on the 10th April where he will be supported by LeBrock (you can purchase your tickets here – Get them quickly though as its the only Scottish date!)
Sunglasses Kid is working in his second full album, entitled ’Sophomore’ which will be out later this year (TBC). The album features some exciting collaborations with Meghan McDuffee, Star Cassette, Iversen, Jay Diggs, Ollie Wride and more. Do also note that there are still some copies of his debut album ‘Graduation’ on vinyl available. Grab one here on his Bandcamp page.
Catch you next week for part 2..
Now you’ll need to excuse me, I have to return some video tapes.