From Paris to Berlin with Okain
The first minute of Okain’s 'Delta Street' is pure functionality, House music in a semi-literal sense as it slots into surroundings. Perhaps factory music is better, as it proceeds to act like an AI conveyor belt, smoothly introducing new, progressively jacked out elements. If you’ve been to one of the many warped nights Okain has played at venues like fabric and panorama bar, listening to it can easily trigger vivid memories of rising pressure, developing excitement. His slow-burning style illuminates the musical processes behind a comment Dan DeNorch made about Berlin’s minimally decorated venues, stating that they act like theatrical experimental test-stages; "it’s blank, so you can put anything in there and it’s not gonna be weird."
Though he has been based in Berlin since 2011, Okain’s career began in his native Paris, where he landed his first residency at le Sans Sanz aged 17. Rising alongside a tight knit, unpretentious group of Parisian selectors, Okain developed skill as an open-minded sonic architect, something he would go on to apply to both the running of his own label, Talman, and releases on other high calibre imprints such as Tsuba and Bpitch Control. With all this bass knowledge, we thought Okain would be the perfect brain to pick on hearing danger in club culture.
Are you developing any releases at the moment?
I have a new release on my label Talman Records coming out right now; it's called Mind Flow. I also have a track on Reda Dare's Signatune LTD which is out now. It's a various artist release, SGTLTD04, featuring music from Djebali, Reda Dare, Politics of Dancing and myself. Finally at the end of June my EP called Tryptophan will be out on Be Chosen.
When did you first feel concerned that your work was affecting your hearing?
It started about eight or nine years ago when I got long lasting tinnitus. It came just after I did three gigs on a weekend in Spain.
Do you wear earplugs? How long have you worn them for?
I wear earplugs when I go to clubs and I plan to listen to music for a long time. I started to do so a few years ago now.
If you could hold a residency at any of the clubs you have played, which would you choose?
There are a few clubs that I would be happy to have a residency. Luckily some of them already invite me regularly. It would be too long to list them here but I would be happy to be a resident in a club that has a really good sound system, an open minded and mixed crowd and a simple lighting system that doesn't do too much.
I am lucky as I am already playing a few venues that regularly match these criteria.
Is there a stigma around hearing protection in dance music?
I don't think so but it's true that most of the DJs are not using any protection (including me) during their performances. I personally try to keep my monitor more quiet than before; same with my headphones volume. I will always use earplugs as soon as I stop playing.
Have you noticed a difference in attitude towards ear protection between Paris and Berlin?
In Berlin you will find earplugs at the bar for free in every big club now. This is very handy because sometimes you can end up in a club without planning it in advance. I don't know about Paris but I hope they are doing the same thing.
Do you think tinnitus is a larger issue in House and Techno than in other genres?
I don't think so, I know that a lot of Rockers that have hearing and tinnitus problems too!
Written by Will Soer