With various outstanding releases on labels such as Partisan, Brouqade, and BodyParts, among others, Berlin-based Oshana has crafted out a distinct niche for herself in recent years and in 2020 she embraced her dedication to music by launching her own label, Psionic, releasing music consistently top-of-the-line. As an artist who was born in the United States and who also developed and polished her skills in Berlin, her music has a truly worldwide resonance. Her eclectic musical background fuels her verve for electronic experimentation in her music yet her productions and DJ sets incorporate the futuristic and warm melodic synth sounds she loves, while preserving the booming groove of her musical heritage. Having that in mind, she recently released her first full-length album, ‘Disciples of Dystopia,’ on her label, which gives a distinct perspective on the italo disco and hip-hop influences that shaped her artistic journey.
We are delighted to welcome Oshana just as her US tour is about to begin.
Hello, Oshana. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. We spent the afternoon listening to your freshly released debut full album, ‘Disciples of Dystopia’, and it is absolutely amazing! This LP actually welcomes a wide range of inspirations and doesn’t shy away from mixing up tempos in each of the tracks it contains. Can you tell us more about it, and how long did it take you to complete it?
Hi! It’s my pleasure and thank you! I’m very happy you like it! This album has been a goal of mine for years – I was always waiting for the right moment where I felt compelled to write it and, for me, the time came during the first lockdown. I experienced so many emotions and finally had the time and headspace to create a body of work that was fully representative of me and all the influences that I’ve had over the years. A couple of tracks were finished 1-3 years prior, but most of the album was written over 6-12 months. I also took breaks in between, which is one of the reasons why you hear a range of tempos and moods throughout the album.
What gear would you say was the most important part of the process of creating the “Disciples of Dystopia” LP?
While I used a range of gear, the two pieces that were most crucial were the Roland MC-505 and Yamaha RM1x. I used both machines to kickstart ideas and draw inspiration from.
Your own record label, Psionic, was launched last year, marking a new milestone for you. What prompted you to start the label in the first place, and what is the core idea? Do you have a favorite release or one that holds special meaning for you?
The main reason I started the label was to have a platform of my own where I could have complete artistic control as well as priority in terms of how and when my music was released. The idea was to present timeless, powerful, and cerebral music, irrespective of trends, from artists with a unique and identifiable sound. I love all the releases so far, but my favorite would be the first release as Astral Travel. It was the first official collaboration between Anthea and I, and it was particularly special because of the effect she’s had on me and my career. Her never-ending faith and encouragement have been a constant source of inspiration for me to continue pushing forward.
You are affiliated with the Paris-based record label and agency Yoyaku. What role has the label played in the development of your music and how has the association impacted you as an artist?
My relationship to Yoyaku was an important building block in elevating my profile when I decided to go pro. I learned a lot about myself and my fundamental beliefs as an artist through that connection. At the time, it opened many doors for both of us. However, the period post – Yoyaku was most instrumental in developing my music. Going solo meant that I could explore parts of myself that I had forgotten, and it allowed me to have the space and freedom to be my own artist without feeling pressured to conform to someone else’s brand image.
In a time when electronic music was booming in the 1990s and ’00s, growing up in the States certainly gives you a significant edge. How would you compare and contrast the current perspectives on electronic music and rave culture in the United States and Europe?
I agree. Growing up in the states during that time is something I’m especially grateful for. In America, it’s the limitations that gave me a particular edge, whereas, in Europe, it seems to be the opportunities. For one, in the US, you can’t even enter a club until you’re 18 years old, 21 in most cases. In Ohio, where I’m from, bars and clubs close around 2am, which means that most of the action is happening at afterparties or illegal raves (that was especially true in the late 90’s-early 00’s). The scene was also much smaller in Ohio, which meant that promoters and DJ’s across genres of electronic music worked together to support one another. However, the other side of it, was that it was incredibly difficult to build a successful club night, which is why so much support was needed. Losing money was the norm, so it was a passion project for most people in the scene. Being restricted meant that you had to be more imaginative and creative about the parties you threw and even the music you selected. On the other hand, in Europe, it seems to be the opposite. Without age restrictions, you can start raving at a much younger age. The industry seems bigger and, as a result, you can earn a living from touring. The other side of it is that people are spoiled for choice, here. In that way, it’s very segmented. But, in the wake of recent events, one thing they both have in common is their fragility. People from both sides of the pond are moving back towards that sense of community, like the one I experienced in Ohio, to protect the scene and everything it stands for.
I have observed that the Internet has had a significant impact on music over the past few years, with YouTube, Shazam, and Boiler Room all enabling greater access to music and Facebook and Instagram making artists’ work available to a wider audience. What are your thoughts on the Internet and social media in general as help or hinder to artists?
I’m not big on social media, to be honest. The idea of documenting my private life and having to scramble around for content seems tedious and contrary to the way I like to live my life. I also question why it should play any role in how successful an artist is. But, I do see its value helping to engage with, identify, and grow my audience. I’m also particularly grateful for the way the internet has helped us to connect with each other. When I started my career, the idea of touring in Europe and connecting with my favorite artists seemed totally out of reach-a pipe dream. I couldn’t even imagine the life I’m living now, and I will never forget that feeling. It’s humbling to think about how far we’ve progressed and how important the internet has been in accelerating people’s careers, especially mine. It wasn’t that long ago that people had to rely solely on word of mouth or writing their phone number/email address on a record just to put themselves out there.
Do you start creating music with a specific concept in mind, or do you improvise until something sticks?
In most cases, I would say the latter. But, this album was totally different. I did something I’ve never done before – I came into the studio with a theme in my head, Dystopian. The sound design, mood, and approach were heavily influenced by it. I purposely wanted to create something raw, imperfect, and full of emotion. Setting an intention before I entered the studio was an entirely new experience for me, and my ideas flowed together much faster and cohesively.
I know you had a daytime job in finance in New York before relocating to Berlin. Did you always know that music is what you wanted to do with your life, or did you have another plan? When and what was the game – changer for you that made you realize you could DJ for a living?
I’ve always known. Even when I tried to convince myself otherwise, something always pulled me back. There was never a doubt in my mind, even back in New York, that I was meant to be pursuing music. It just wasn’t as feasible because the cost of living was so high in New York. The ultimate game-changer, though, was when I started to tour more frequently. At a certain point, I was experiencing these highs being on tour, connecting with people on the other side of the world, and pursuing my real passion in life. Having to be in the office, early on a Monday morning, became more and more daunting for me. There was a huge disconnect, as I felt that I wasn’t living the life I was intended to live. So, after a string of successful releases and building up a decent amount of savings, I decided to make the move. I haven’t looked back since.
Is there a spot in Berlin that you particularly enjoy visiting? A secret hideaway or a place where you can recharge your batteries?
That’s a tough one. I normally leave Berlin to relax, but if I can think of anywhere-probably just outside of Funkhaus. I have a studio, there, where I like to relax and sit by the water in between or before studio sessions to clear my head and focus on nature. It’s beautiful there!
What else inspires you besides music these days?
Film and art. Over the last few years, I’ve become a huge movie buff-I bought a wide-screen projector and have an even wider pool of movies to choose from, now that I’ve started working for Warner Bros. It’s a gift and a curse.
Words by Monika Zander