Okain is part of a wave of artists that began spinning records and producing music 15 years ago in Paris. His first release came in 2007, and launched the career of an exciting new voice in electronic music. Over the years, he has evolved into an accomplished artist with sets in Panorama Bar, Fabric, and some of the finest venues in the world. He has also participated in a lot of projects such as Handycraft, the alias he used to have in collaboration with Paul Ritch many years ago. But most importantly, he has shown a commitment to his very own sound with a steady output of records on labels such as Tsuba, Bpitch Control, and more recently Infuse (Fuse London). After relocating to Berlin in 2011, he has established his own musical imprint Talman Records, where he can freely release the music he loves. As a DJ, the Parisian has grown into an impressive and versatile selector that can pull from a wide spectrum of material from house to techno, both old and new.
Ahead of his exciting upcoming EPs and news, we caught up with Okain to speak about his career and plans.
1- Hi Okain, thanks for the interview! How are you doing today?
Very fine, thanks.
2- How did your NYE gig go? Apparently it lasted for 2 days, is Berlin’s endurance-oriented party culture something that you partake in?
NYE was really cool. It started in Berlin for a gig I did in Anomalie and I flew straight after my set to play in Malaga. It was nice to start the year in a sunny place. Yes, Berlin definitely has the longest parties. I am going out sometimes but I am getting older and I never stay until the end anymore really.
3- What are your favourite places to play in Berlin by the way? In fact I’m moving there soon myself, so any recommendations?
There are many places I like to play : Tresor, Kater Blau, Sisyphos, CDV, Watergate, Chalet, Renate & Panorama bar are some of my favourite spot to play.
4- Hope you don’t mind reminiscing about the past for a bit… I was wondering about the scene in Paris back in the middle of the 00’s. It’s amazing that the scene is so strong right now but I always feel like it must have been a fun time to be part of something a bit more “underground” — less people but perhaps more dedication… Or maybe it’s just romanticism on my part! What are your thoughts on this, your best memories and parties from that time?
Yeah, you are right. Early 2000 there were a few big parties running but things went bad in Paris party wise around 2006/07 until 2012. Now it s stronger than ever but it was not the case few years ago. Still, at that time it was nice to be a part of that scene. Less people were involved so we all knew each other and there was no competition.
5- And do you keep an eye on the French scene’s recent evolutions?
Yes for sure – I always have an eye on what is happening in France.
6- Let’s speak about your own label, Talman. I know you used to be a label manager but did you learn anything the hard way with this adventure? What would be your advices to someone starting a label?
I haven’t had any bad surprises, to be honest. I was a label manager for two labels before so I knew exactly what I would have to do. Advice-wise, I think it’s important to have your first 3 releases ready before you start the label.
7- How did the first VA on Talman come about? Are they all friends?
Yeah, all the producers on the first VA are all friends of mine and they make music that I play a lot in my sets. It will be the case again in few months when I release a single from two friends and great producers.
8- Your contribution to the EP is named “Belle Maison”, which means “Beautiful house” in English. But actually it’s a reference to a speech that you sample in the track by l’Abbé Pierre — a French popular figure that always sided with the disadvantaged — where he criticizes the dominant class’ hypocrisy. I feel like our music scene tends to be navel-gazing at times so it’s quite refreshing to hear someone tackling politics. Is it a subject that’s close to your heart?
Yes it is. Even if house and techno music is a club and party music, originally I think there is still place for a political message sometimes. I used another speech a few years ago with a release I produced under my real name, Samuel Thalmann. It’s called ‘Basic Economic’. It was on a vinyl only release on Alljacks.
9- Do you plan to keep the label open to other producers after this VA, or is it mainly going to stay your own outlet?
It’s not only about me anymore as I have an other release from two producers coming out before the summer but I will still release my own stuff on Talman. The next release is from myself and will come out in early May.
10- It seems like you’re doing less collaborations these days, is it a sign that you feel more confident as a producer?
I don’t really think so. It is just the way it was. I am back working with other people in the studio. Hopefully I will have a new collaboration out before the end of the year.
11- I read the article about the pains of DJing on vinyl, but I understand you remain attached to the medium, why is that?
Yeah, I am very attached to it. I think it’s the best way to collect and consume music. It’s harder to play them in clubs as most of the time there could be some technicals problems but that should not be a reason to stop releasing vinyl and buying them.
12- I’ve read that you’d love to collaborate with Q-Tip and make some hip-hop in general, have you tried your hand at it yet? One of your recent tunes is named “Boom Bap”, is it a hint at the kind of beats you’d be making?
I do make some hiphop beats sometimes, but I always kept it for myself. But who knows? That could maybe change in the future.
13- By the way, being French myself I have to ask… are you more into American or French rap?
Both! But when it comes to American rap mostly east coast and I have to say that I mostly listen to 90’s Rap. It s hard to find something that really excites me in hiphop today but it still happens sometimes.
14- Your next release is coming out on Fuse’s sublabel Infuse, does it mean we can expect to catch you in London anytime soon?
I am coming to play for my friend Alex Arnout this month and hopefully somewhere else soon!
15- Actually, what else’s in store for you and Talman this year?
Talman 05 in May and Talman 06 not so long after. The first from myself and the second one a collaboration between two producers.
Okain’s Magic Box EP (featuring a remix from Rich NxT) is out 19/02 on Infuse. Listen/pre-order the release here