As both a producer and purveyor of electronic music for over a decade, Om Unit has played a key role in the emergence of a culture that now befits those currently considered to be residing at the top of the pile. Visionary and refined, his sound is a testament to an intimate understanding of what is required to make a great record for his audience and with numerous releases forthcoming on new imprint 'Cosmic Bridge', 2012 could be one of his busiest years yet. With this in mind I managed to catch up with him, albeit delaying his plans to make a few pancakes, on everything from growing up in rural Berkshire to playing alongside Zomby in Utrecht:
"I produce as Om Unit and I make electronic music in London. I've been producing since the early 90's and have released on a variety of labels. 'Civil Music' is my main home but I've also released on 'All City' and 'Terrorhythm' and I've put out remixes on Ninja Tune too. I also run a record label called 'Cosmic Bridge' which I started up last year. Oh yeah I'm a DJ as well - I usually play out across the UK and Europe and I'm also involved in 'Tempo Clash' alongside Kutmah, Kidkanevil and Blue Daisy. We hold parties at our residency in London and are starting to throw a few in Europe too."
Despite growing up in a 'little village called Cookham', it was here that Om Unit first discovered Jungle:
"I'm originally from a little village called Cookham in Berkshire and where I lived, there was nothing. The culture...there was no culture at all do you know what I mean? It was Jungle and Hardcore that hit me as a kid first in early '91 though - it inspired me to start making my own Jungle tracks and from there, I really got into music. Since then, I also got into deejaying and while I was at University I started to take music much more seriously. I began producing under the name '2Tall', my first proper venture into doing music properly, and I'd make tracks just using turntables and scratching. I actually made 3 albums under that alias; 'Beautiful Mindz' with Dudley Purkins and Georgia Anne Muldrow, 'Shifting Tides' and 'The Softer Diagram'.
The flurry of terms often banded about in the hope of defining some of today's most upfront sounds are something that Om Unit considers irrelevant when thinking about his own:
"I make electronic music. That's all it is. There's a lot of terms that get thrown around but electronic music is where I'm at and always have been, there's no other way of putting it."
That's not to say Om Unit doesn't consider electronic music to be in a good place however:
"Right now reminds me of about '97, it's a similar kind of vibe. You walk into a record shop and there's a massive selection of electronic music and it's very healthy. It's especially great because people can do what they like as a result of the internet, communications and social networking, all of which allow everybody to do their own thing. If you're good at doing your own thing, you'll get the recognition so it's a great time in that sense. The flipside is that there's a lot of music available and as an artist you have to go beyond just making tunes now. You have to know what to do to get your music into the hands of people that actually want to hear it - that's the difference now."
As well as releasing on Civil Music, All City and Ninja Tune, OM Unit has also released on Plastician's 'Terrorhythm' imprint (in 2010), a move that he explains came about 'very organically':
"I guess he was just a fan. My music got passed to him by chance and he started playing it on his Rinse show. He really liked some of it and asked if he could put it out. It was all very organic, I didn't even send him a demo or anything. He was just a big fan. I guess he's open minded and even though he'll play mostly dubstep and grime, he'll still drop whatever he likes the sound of."
As a deejay, Om Unit regularly plays across the UK and Europe, a key factor behind his decision to opt for Serato in the digital vs vinyl debate:
"I release all my EPs as vinyl but I don't play vinyl so much personally. I tend to play Serato because it's convenient with travelling and a lot of promo stuff I get sent is digital. I do think vinyl sounds better but i don't know if that necessarily justifies carrying lots of it around. We do runs of 300 vinyl on my label and that's services vinyl demand for our stuff. I do still play records occasionally but i don't have a religious standing on it - I'll play whatever is available to me, I'm not particularly militant."
Looking to the future, Om Unit has a number of remixes forecast to be released in the not too distant future although it is work on his own 'Cosmic Bridge' label that should excite most in 2012:
"We're looking at two releases on the horizon. One is a 7'' and digital release on All City called 'L.A. Refixes' which consists of two remixes - one is for Daedelus and one is for Om'mas. The other is a release on Planet Mu - it's a collaboration between myself and Machinedrum under the name 'Dream Continuum' and will be available both digitally and as a 12''. There's more stuff im waiting to hear news on too and I'm also working on my new EP which should be out in the summer. I've got a remix coming on 'Fat City' for Illum Sphere as well and then there's also my label, Cosmic Bridge - we've got about 4 or 5 EPS from different artists out in the summer to look out for."
...and 3 Quick-fire Questions to finish:
What was the first record you ever bought?
"The first record I remember buying was on Flex Records. It was 'Gwarn (Remix) by Three Disciples on a 10'. I loved Ragga Jungle back then and its one of the last real social movements of UK music that still has such a strong social context. As a kid it was just great music that really spoke to me."
What has been your favourite gig to date?
"My favourite gig so far was probably last year - I played in Utrecht in Holland alongside Zomby and a guy called Doshy. It was just good vibes; the people there knew my music, it was a big crowd of maybe 300-400 which to me is a big crowd (laughs) and I just felt at home. Everything went right. Author also played and they were sick!"
What has been your favourite track of 2012 so far?
"It sort of depends where I'm playing and I get dozens of EPs sent to me every week, it's really hard to pick one! Okay, one of the best i've had is by this guy called 'Vaider'. It's called 'Falling' from his 'Falling EP' on Totem Records. It captures a lot of sounds - it's kinda somewhere between dubstep... its a personal choice really. I'm guessing it's probably not everybody's cup of tea because there's no snares but I love it!"
2Tall Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/artist/2Tall
OM Unit Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/artist/Om+Unit
Cosmic Bridge: http://www.cosmicbridgerecs.com/