Oneohtrix Point Never's Post-Modern Make-Out Music

[caption id="attachment_19267" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Oneohtrix Point Never photo courtesy of Motormouth Media. Photo: David Black "][/caption]

As Oneohtrix Point Never, Daniel Lopatin has quickly built a catalog full of zero-gravity drones, daunting ambience and even the occasional warped vocal (like the one on the astounding title track on 2010’s Returnal). Evoking the likes of Tangerine Dream and Robert Fripp, he’s won plenty of favor from critics and fans of outré electronic music. But how do the rest of us find a way in? It’s within that context that the unsettling and stunning Replica, out last week on his own Software imprint in association with Mexican Summer (a label more associated with pot-friendly rockers like Best Coast and Dungen), acknowledges that anticipation while somewhat mocking it. Just check out the cover, a greyscale and pathetically crude image of a skeleton remarking upon its own reflection. But it’s actually a pretty funny -- he’s adjusting a snappy bowtie and has an unruly mop of hair that appears to be made of spaghetti.

Safe to say it’s an appropriate image for Lopatin’s most accessible record as OPN – whether it’s his witty and active Twitter presence, his new art & lit zine Cool Drool, the ‘80s synth-rock he channels with Software partner Joel Ford as Ford & Lopatin (formerly Games), he’s learned to toy with the idea that this often academic and forbidding music needs to come from standoffish loners. Instead, Replica is simultaneously approachable, tragicomic and certainly bound to a bit of control freakiness. Hive and Lopatin discussed Replica, fusion mixtapes and where he fits into New York City’s fraternal order of indie.

Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica by Mexican Summer

I find it nearly impossible to describe OPN in terms of genre, so let’s suppose I’m invited to a Lopatin picnic and someone tells me, “Daniel’s a musician.” I say, “Oh, cool…what kind of music do you play?” How do you answer this question?

I get this question sometimes and I usually say "ambient music" and they say "Like Enya?" and I say "Yes." It's fine. I don't really know how to explain it without sounding like Geoffrey Jellineck.

How would Geoffrey Jellineck explain what your music sounds like?

“It’s so artsy I love it. I'm sad today.”

In regards to electronic musicians, I’m always interested in hearing the point at which it was decided “I’m not going to write a bunch of songs on guitar about myself.” Which artists made you realize, “This is what I’m going to do”?

Terry Riley, my dad's fusion mixtapes, hearing Legowelt’s Beyond The Congo, hearing Double LeopardsHalve Maen, hearing Oval and Fennesz records.

Did your father ever make other kinds of mixtapes, or just fusion ones?

They weren't mixtapes, they were dubs of records. They were good, but I’m not sure he prized them that much. I was obsessed with them. He definitely made them intentionally, to listen to them.

What’s the genesis of the name “Oneohtrix Point Never?”

I can't remember how it happened exactly but it’s my homage to Magic 106.7, Boston's continuous soft rock.

Does that sort of music play any sort of role in influencing your work either as 0pn or F&L?

I didn't listen to it at all. It was just around, like the Red Sox and Greek pizza places.

"I like when people find uses for my music, it’s very gratifying. It doesn’t matter what the use is as much as that people find it useful."I saw in the liner notes of the new Real Estate album that you play synths on “Out Of Tune.” I never would’ve guessed that – how did that come about?

I'm friends with Ducktails’ Matt [Mondanile] -- we all know each other and they asked me to jam on a track. I like ripping straight organ / electric piano style leads and chords, it's fun to get out of your normal headspace and I love not having to call the shots.

Do you consider yourself a part of New York’s “indie rock scene” at least peripherally?

There's a lot of melting pot energy in New York for sure, but it's hard to say to what extent I'm part of it.

No matter where a song begins, is there a point where you start saying “this is for 0pn” or ‘this is for Ford & Lopatin"?

I rarely write for F&L without Joel [Ford] so its easy, when I'm working alone it's OPN. OPN is more jammy and collage-y and less about straight songwriting so it's easy to decipher the difference.

Is there any sort of unspoken competition going on between F&L and 0pn?


Do you consider Replica more accessible than your previous work?

There's some really challenging pieces on this one that make precious records sound like new age / ambient so I think it's more compelling and more arranged, but perhaps a bit more difficult. Definitely not as heavy chill-out as Returnal.

Replica definitely doesn't sound as heavy or daunting as Returnal -- did the attention both Rifts and Returnal received put you in a different headspace, whether just in mood or ambition?

Returnal was recorded a while ago, in August of 2009, and I was emotionally haggard then, and the record sounds like that. I feel like a different person in terms of energy.

What’s the ideal situation for listening to Replica? Let’s suppose someone told you they used it for make-out music. Would you take that as a compliment or be concerned about them?

Super compliment. My favorite record of all time is a make-out record -- My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. I like when people find uses for my music, it’s very gratifying. It doesn't matter what the use is as much as that people find it useful.

Keeping a funny Twitter feed would appear to be “playing against type” for music often associated with serious, academic appreciation. Do you consider it as a necessary outlet for your personality outside of 0pn?

I just get bored with people's self-aggrandizing Twitter feeds that are all about their brand, and that is not limited to bands. I'm sure there are serious academic Twitters too. I just can't take Twitter seriously, I don't know why.

Are you at liberty to tell us where the samples from “Up” and “Child Soldier” came from? What about them stuck out to you?

I would but honestly I didn't keep track. The drums in “Up” are so striking it was hard not to notice that when I heard it. “Child Soldier” is cobbled together from lots of different stuff. With “Child Soldier” I had kids playing violent video games in mind like. And it turned out having this psychedelic marching band vibe. Which makes sense.