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  • Ray Pham

A chat with ophélie




With shy beginnings in the south of France, ophélie's journey as a DJ and producer has led them to Berlin, along with residencies at local institutions Refuge Worldwide and Kwia.


Ahead of their show at OHM for Patterns of Perception on 19 April, we sat down for a chat about artistic exploration, authenticity, and overcoming self-doubt. Plus, we got some insight into how music from the UK scene and beyond has helped them craft their uniquely layered, liquid, polyrhythmic sound.

 


Starting with your journey, it sounds like you've navigated through various phases from DJing to producing. Can you walk us through how it all began?

Yeah, it's been quite the journey. I was actually involved in music before stepping into the DJ scene. Initially, I found it challenging to see myself as an artist, especially with my shyness. Access to equipment was limited too, which made practising difficult. I started with records, but with just one turntable, practising wasn't easy. Moving to Berlin was decided by my passion for music and partying. I know: classic. But even then, I hesitated to go into DJing. I began working at the door for Boiler Room in Stattbad Wedding to be around the music scene, and was working for some booking agencies for a really long time. I kinda just knew how to play but didn’t really know what to do with it. 


Eventually, I played a couple of small vinyl gigs in bars a while ago, thanks to my friend Laura who always pushed me, but I was so anxious playing and ashamed at every mistake that I thought it's not for me and stopped for some years. It took some friends pushing me to start playing publicly (thanks to Gigsta for inviting me to her Fictions party in 2019, and Solaris on her Rinse FM show). Even then, I still had some self-doubt, and I didn't feel comfortable playing myself. It wasn't until it was a bit into the pandemic when Richard from Refuge Worldwide asked me to do my first show there in early 2021. And then I started doing more regular things, and it started happening more so I thought I could take it a bit more seriously. 



When did you feel you gained the confidence to pursue this path?


To be honest, I'm not sure if it was a specific moment. It just kind of happened over time and saying "yes" to opportunities and realising I needed to push myself to improve. Even now, I'm not entirely confident, but I think I've come a long way.




Your musical journey seems to have been influenced by various styles and locations. Can you elaborate on that?


Sure. Growing up in the south of France, my exposure to electronic music was limited. I had a group of friends who were also into electronic music and raves and we would attend parties and festivals together. Living close to the border in Spain, I often went to free parties nearby, but it was mainly hard techno. Labels like Warp and Ninja Tune caught my attention initially and then slightly later on, I got really influenced by labels like Hyperdub, DMZ, Tempa, PAN, and The Trilogy Tapes among others. Moving to London introduced me to grime and dubstep, while Berlin exposed me to its techno scene because I was going to Berghain in the beginning when I just moved here. .

A very influential moment for me was going to Freerotation for the first time in 2013, and seeing artists like Surgeon, Peverelist, Objekt, DJ Spider, Jane Fitz, or Shackleton, and feeling so inspired, and I thought about it for months afterwards. And then seeing Donato Dozzy and Voices from the Lake in future editions.


How have these experiences shaped your approach to music?


They've definitely had an impact. The experiences really opened my mind more to the kind of sound I wanted to go towards, and especially to the kind of communities and events I wanted to be a part of. France was a bit limited in terms of electronic music and I was really craving more. So when I moved to London and Berlin, it was like a whole new world opened up. The music scenes are so diverse, and it really influenced my sound. Even now, I like to experiment with different styles, and I love discovering music and scenes from all over the world, especially from outside the Western axis. It makes me realise how little I know, and it keeps me inspired. I want to learn as much as I can, from as many different sources as possible. But the UK sound remains one of my first loves and influences in electronic music.




The scene in Berlin has also evolved quite a lot with a stronger focus on UK influences. How has this changed your sound?


Yeah, I'm really happy to see that there’s more of this Berlin. I feel like there were always a few parties pushing different and more experimental sounds, but it's nice that it's becoming more common now. I was always going to Atonal and Versions, and also Room 4 Resistance, which always had a bit more of a different sound which wasn’t always your Berlin techno and a warmer community than a lot of other parties at the time. There was also Wax Treatment, which was more dub-focused, which I also loved. Even though I love the UK sound, I do not see it represents the most of what I play. I like to try and play stuff from everywhere and mix genres.



Your recent EP "Pipa Pipa" seems to have a nod towards the UK sound. Was that intentional?


Yeah, I guess you could say that. My first release last year on the Italian label “Early Reflex” was less so. But this EP was influenced by the early 2000s dubstep scene, which I liked growing up. But honestly, I'm still figuring things out as a producer. I'm open to trying new things and experimenting and seeing where it takes me.




You mentioned feeling like an imposter in the music scene. What gave you the confidence to pursue production?


It's been a journey, for sure. I’ve been producing on and off for some time, but also I never felt like I could really do it. I’m super introverted and playing gigs definitely helped boost my confidence. But even now, I still struggle with feelings of self-confidence. Recently, I was diagnosed with autism and ADHD, so now I realise that kind of blocked me a lot before with self-confidence issues. There's a bit of sadness and regrets that come with the fact that this has likely prevented me from doing the things I love the most for a long time.

Even though I still suffer from a lot of doubts and anxiety, I now realise that this is the case for a lot of us, and I try to not limit myself as much anymore. But now i’m trying to say whatever, and embrace it and to not let it hold me back so much.

How has performing helped you overcome your introversion?


Performing is like another way of expressing myself. I used to strongly rely on alcohol to help me cope with social anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, and now that I don't drink as much anymore, it's nice to have something else to do with myself. I'm still introverted, but I enjoy playing because it's still a way for me to go out without having to socialise too much. I feel really good about it at the moment and want to continue this.





Speaking about playing, what's been the highlight of your recent gig experiences?


So this year I’ve been selected as part of the roster for Gravity Network, which are 10 artists from Europe. Gravity Network is a project funded by the EU to help develop electronic music culture across venues in Europe. I think a few of their members were there when I played at Atonal and later invited me to join the 2024 roster, which was really nice to hear. Through this we have gigs across Europe, so there was one in Georgia, and then will be in Prague, Warsaw and Amsterdam. It is nice to get to play abroad. My most meaningful and special gig experience of last year must have been to play Atonal, a festival I have looked up to for years and would never have dreamed of playing at, and I'm really thankful to the booker, Paul for giving me this opportunity and supporting me in the last few years. I also got to play at Unfold again a couple weeks ago, and this was such a fun time. It's my favourite party to play and attend in London, and the whole team is so nice. With London I always had a strong connection with the UK so I'm happy that I get to play there more now.


With such diverse gigs, how do you prepare for each one?


I do prepare a lot. I think a lot about the party and the other artists on the lineup, and because I like a lot of different sounds and I have a lot of different music. I’m also not so organised with it so everything is a little messy and it takes me a long time to prepare for a gig. I’m hoping I can be more organised at some point. Because I’ve been going out for more than 10 years, I have a little bit of regret for not starting DJing earlier. But now I already have a good experience for clubs and what I like at a party, so this helps me a lot to prepare my sets.




And what kind of set are you gonna prepare for Patterns next week?


I am really excited for this one! I have a lot of respect for your party and the sound you've been pushing in your events and podcast series for many years, so thanks for having me. OHM is also probably my favourite club to play at in Berlin, and I've never played an opening set there, which I usually love. I’m excited to open as there's a bit of freedom that comes with it, and it's nice to just set the tone for the night from a blank canvas. I'm not sure yet what vibe I'll go for, but I'm sure there will be some IDM and dub influences, some halftime stuff, probably some deeper things and a lot of percussive-based sounds too.


I love opening sets too for that reason. What excites you the most about your current journey?


Yeah, I think it's just quite exciting. Now that I've let myself play a bit more and take it a bit more seriously. I try to stop thinking too much now and intellectualise too much whether I'm an artist or not, and just let myself explore and do the things I enjoy.

I'm still feeling a bit ashamed to say or think I'm an artist. But I’m excited to see what’s to come and I just don't think I only want to DJ but also explore other things, like perform a live set someday.

It sounds like an exciting path for sure. What's coming up ahead for you?


Right now, I'm focusing on making more music and experimenting with different sounds. I'd love to explore live sets someday, but I'm taking things one step at a time. I'm just grateful for the opportunities I've had so far.



Lastly, tell us a bit about your love for dogs and what's your favourite?


I love this question. I think I've just always loved dogs, because they're the best comfort and support animal that I can think of. They are reliable, predictable and just want to eat, chill, and hang. I'm probably better with dogs than I am with people. In regards to my favourite kind, I'm actually not sure what that is. Some of my favourite dogs are my friend Melissa's dog Winslow and my friend Soyoon's dog Okja (a cute dachshund). But yes I hope I can get my own pup sometime.



 

Catch ophélie weaving her unique layered and rhythmic sound at OHM on April 19th. For more info check out Resident Advisor.


Image credits: Inès Berra Viola

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