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With his fingerprints on a litany of eclectic independent releases, Brooklyn-based musican and producer Oliver Ignatius is starting to step out on his own. As owner/operator of the Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen studio and leader of its companion collective, Ignatius took his time in crafting what serves as his proper debut in the form of single “Light and Dark.”
Channeling a wide swath of influences, “Light and Dark” has a distinct British feel to it as Ignatius’ vocals float above an ethereal sound with orchestra swells reminiscent of Blur’s “The Universal.” This all paired with Ignatius’ deft approach and ear in songwriting.
To go along with a stream of “Light and Dark,” we sent along some interview questions to Ignatius. Check it all out below and be sure to follow Oliver here for more and hit him up here should you be in need of his talents behind the board.
Hi, Oliver! Congrats on your new single and video! Can you tell us a little more on who you are and how you first got into making music?
Thank you! I’ve been making music as my primary vocation and passion since age 3. I play all the basic instruments but I prefer singing the most. I began leading bands professionally when I was in high school, and my group Hysterics was featured on MTV and courted by major labels. That was 2004/2005, and we got a front row seat as the bottom fell out of the traditional record industry. I started my recording studio Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen as a safe haven for passionate and soul-connected artists to affordably record and develop their craft under my mentorship, during this immensely difficult and confusing time for the record industry. The studio quickly blossomed into a fully fledged collective of hundreds of musicians. I took a hiatus from making “my own” music for several years to focus on producing bands and starting a family, and now at age 27 I’m nearing completion on my first real solo album as Oliver E Ignatius & the Emergency Management Squad. While the project expands and contracts on record, it’s flourished into an amazing 9 piece live band featuring some of the best musicians I know.
What’s your songwriting process like? Who are some of your biggest influences?
I usually find the best ideas come accidentally, and the worst ideas come when I’m actively sitting down and trying to write something of worth. It seems like a lot of writers feel that way. Sometimes it’s like a game of collection, stealing these little flashes of accidental inspiration and trying to turn them into something that’s functional as a song. And then it’s really just about trying to express a feeling and putting that into music. My biggest lifelong influence is The Beatles, and although I am a Lennon guy I think they were really all best creatively when they were together. One of my other major heroes is Sly Stone, who I think is one of the ultimate geniuses of popular music and whose music I can get lost in for a million years.
What’s “Light and Dark” about? How did it come to be?
“Light & Dark” was written during a sort of existentially confusing time, when my wife was pregnant with my daughter and I was working in the studio around the clock just to make ends meet with seemingly no end in sight. That was in the studio’s old location, which was actually a raccoon infested basement across the street from the biggest cemetery in Brooklyn. I had gone from being a total space cadet artist to trying to run this studio and stay alive, and I was frightened that adding fatherhood to the equation would totally drain me. Of course I ended up being totally wrong, and getting to know my daughter has been probably the most joyful, rejuvenating and personally energizing experience of my life. But at the time I was scared in general, and very unsure, and the song came out as an expression of that.
How did you come up with the concept for the video?
The video was actually shot at an event called The Harmonies, which was basically an immensely chaotic rock opera I wrote and that Mama Coco’s put on at the beloved, now defunct DIY venue Aviv. The Harmonies depicted a nightmarish near-future during which a despotic army is in the waning days of a failing military campaign to restore the harmonic equilibrium of the earth. It was very heavy and very trippy but also incredibly goofy and flat out strange – totally MCFK style. We hired our talented friends the filmmakers Eamon O’Rourke and Rafe Scobey-Thal to film it, and then the footage sat unused for about a year before we finally realized it would make a great compliment to “Light & Dark.” Eamon did an amazing job editing it and the result is a video which looks much more “intentional” than it actually was.
Any new Brooklyn-based artists/venues/purveyors of the arts you could turn our readers onto?
I have to give the ultimate shout to the Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen Community and all the great music coming out of there all the time! Don’t sleep on it! Special shout-out to perhaps my favorite working singer-songwriter today, Henry Kandel. Not wanting to be self-involved in only shouting out MCFK, in recent months I’ve been incredibly impressed by Guerilla Toss, who are not exactly new but seem on the verge of a brave new era.
Where can we follow you and where can our readers catch you live next?
Mama Coco’s has an active profile across the internet and social media, especially Facebook and Instagram. We hold a lot of community building and often wild art and music events that are generally top secret due to the stifling political climate we are in right now, but if you keep your ear to the ground you may hear of them. And hopefully the album will be coming by the end of the year!
Any parting thoughts? Open platform!
It’s a weird time to be making music, a weird time to be an American citizen, hell, a weird time to be a global citizen. I’m honored by the opportunity to throw my voice in the din. I think certain things like the experience of enjoying music and sharing it with people will never, can never go out of style, and as long as that’s the case, humanity can be beautiful. Otherwise, up the weirdos, up the freaks, up the normies, up the kung fu nuns, up the bejeweled space! We’ll see you when it’s time!