T.O.P. Interview: OKKRE (Editions Mego, Modern Obscure Music)

By Helena Markos

Photos: Teresa Espadafor

Interviewing someone is like reading a book. You meet artists you hardly know anything about their life and as time goes by you start indulging into a unique world that is unfolding before your eyes and you have no idea of where or how things will evolve. This is how I felt chatting with Uge aka OKKRE. An explosively extrovert character, full of positive energy and a continuous source of creativity. This “book” is one you definitely want to keep on reading.

Uge is an artist whose work reflects deconstruction, love, ambivalence and freedom. We first knew her as the half of the experimental duo, LCC. Now, OKKRE  breaks out to a solo career. She is an innovative musician, arising from her stunning land of Asturias, moving to the inspiring world of Iceland, where she spends almost three years discovering the magic of music production and connecting with her inner talent. Finally, she comes back to her roots, in Gijon, her motherland where she is willing to continue creating her own music, expanding her paths and vision.

Honest and pragmatic but at the same time a lover of contradictions. This is OKKRE, an amalgamation of life experiences created by her surroundings, soundscapes and friends, the main source of her inspiration. We talked about life, magic connections, music creation, spaces and her granny…(!) and we laughed a lot. A pure, real artist, passionate about life, who enjoys herself whenever there is an opportunity. OKKRE is someone you want to meet and connect with. This is why we love her music cause it might be the reason why it is so intense and powerful.

T.O.P.: It feels like you are an extrovert character, easy to approach and start chatting about anything. This is not very usual nowadays. Who is Uge and what does OKKRE represent? 

OKKRE: I am a bit the same in everything… well,

on a personal level I realise more and more that I have the same genes as my 90 year-old granny and we  have some very similar characteristics.

Although, she is coming from a totally different socio-economic background and she hadn’t had all these things we have nowadays, she has always enjoyed life to the maximum. Obviously, I have always been “kinkier” than her, because I have the chance to live in a more free situations, having always an abundance of options. I have had the chance to experiment more than she did. Nevertheless, I see so many aspects in me, which are very similar to hers. She is a very happy person, hard-working and she loves music! She dances all kinds of music.She is very sociable and she has always been positive. I remember the other day I was with her and my mother, and you know my granny normally uses hearing aid, and that day she did not have it on and she managed to listen to the music coming from the next room and suddenly she was up dancing to a song by Bomba Estereo! And she is 90 years old!

OMG the other day I saw her with my sunglasses on and she was like “Do you like me?” (laughs). You know now she lives in what used to be my bedroom in my parents home and I see it as another big coincidence in life. I many times wonder  how it is possible to have so many similarities with our ancestors. So, I think I am someone like her, I love having fun, I love music, I love dancing.

To be honest, both as artist and person I have been always a bit unfocused, I have also a small degree of dyslexia, attention deficit and verbal expression issues, but all these conditions made me the person I am today.

Someone was asking me the other day about the name OKKRE and what it actually means. The thing is that it means nothing in particular and kind of represents my polarised personality, that goes from one place to the other and most of the times ,it feels like there is no plan or destination; and you know what? This is absolutely fine!

I am a person who can listen to Camaron de la Isla and I can also listen to Opera which is one of my big passions. I listen to techno full on and at the same I can listen to Opera and this is how it is!

I see people as polyhedra, like solid figures composed of different faces, facades or aspect, that although at first they may seem antagonistic, they finally complement each other, shaping our unique personality.

But maybe yes, I don’t know, maybe there are people in this world who can act and behave the same way under all circumstances… please stop  me as I talk a lot…! (laughs)

TOP:…This is what we want!(laughs). Perhaps, this is what we seek in music, too; This contradiction which can create daring soundscapes…

OKKRE: This is how I feel, I consider myself a person who does not believe in any kind of labels, both on personal and artistic level. I do not believe in sexual categorisations either and I am very anti-everything, in terms of stereotypes. My social utopia would be a world in which we would not be discussing about these subjects. For me our body is like a continent.

As an artist I always aim doing whatever it comes out of me in a naturally way. I do things I like without thinking a lot of where I am going. I don’t like conditioning myself in such a way. Maybe one day in ten years from now I might want to make a reggae-ton tune (laughs) which, I don’t think, but maybe! Maybe my body will need that and then why not? I just wanna say with that, that I am open to any challenges and new styles as long as it comes out of me and satisfies my mind and body.

T.O.P.: What is music for you? 

OKKRE: For me music is maximum freedom and works as a balance in life.

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I see it a way of expressing myself and releasing my creativity. From one side, as I am psychologist, I’ve got a part which is professional and reasonable and takes a lot of energy out of me, therefore I need a balance and music plays this role in my life. It is my escape and my safe space through which I can express my “craziness”, which I definitely need in life.

It is true that every time I feel more and more pressure. It is probably similar to what happened with you and Tales of Psychofonia. It started like a funny game and suddenly you end there are more expectations and sometimes you might find yourself against the wall saying “NOOO!”…( laughs)… cause you had never expected that and also you were not used to have other people expecting things from you either. For example, now I feel like everything starts getting more professional whereas, in the beginning it was nothing like that.

TOP: Do you think there is lurking risk regarding that? Are you scared you are going to lose something from yourself/ your purity or freedom? Or you feel confident enough to say “I will cope with this pressure no matter how big it is”?

OKKRE: Hmmm, to be honest with you, music for me is something very personal, very intimate which subsequently becomes something very vulnerable, too. With my job for example, I do not feel like that. I feel very confident, I have an established career and my studies make me feel quite secure.

On the other hand, music is something subjective and personal that you expose to others, no matter if they like it or not. For me, it is definitely not something technical and I don’t really know how to make music this way, either. I have no formal training I technically am self-taught. I think there is a super positive part in it ,which is a constant testing, because there is no marked direction, nor do you feel conditioned to anything other than experimenting and searching. I like expressing myself through “chaos”. So, if someone tells me “well, you have done this in the spur of the moment!” I will probably answer: “Maybe, yes! (laughs).

I remember the other day I was chatting with a friend of mine, a musician from Madrid who was freaked out with something I made and he said: “Fuck, how have you done this?! And I was like “Well, no idea!” I was driving him crazy! (laughs).

To be honest, I like experimenting, I like “dirty” sounds and not very clinical or normal ones. This is the type of sound that calls me…and I am getting lost in it! Sometimes, you obviously feel like you are missing something out or you are getting too lost and disperse but it’s not something that really affects me. I have an inner tranquillity and my main core, where I always go back is that I am making music because I like it!

Perhaps, I will be doing this for the next ten years and then I will probably dedicate myself only to Psychology or even the opposite, I will end up abandoning my professional career, you never know! Actually, now I am working fewer hours as Psychologist and more as musician, as the demands are going higher. I do not really know about the future and to be honest it does not really matter either. The main thing is that I do it for me even if in the end it might be quite stressful. The artistic world is quite frantic. You might suddenly have three or more events for same dates and you do not know what to do. This is very stressful especially for me that I don’t like stressing about things. But as it is a passion, I go like kamikaze. It seems like your filters don’t work any more and you find it difficult to say no, as I would probably do in other circumstances in my life.

TOP: You have recently participated in Sonar’s 25th anniversary project Sónar Calling GJ273b sending to Space a small capsule of sound which included the LCC tune “Adámas” which would be arriving there in 2030! How do you feel about it? 

OKKRE: OMG, imagine that! If one day Sonar will be 50 years-old, these sounds will be there and probably will be listened to by other forms of being. “Adámas” was one of the tunes of the first LCC record, with a more emotional content. It is a piece with many recurrent sounds and processed voices and I think it is one of the most representative ones. This participation of LCC and our last act in Madrid at the end of April was the official closure of this circle.

TOP: How has been the story so far, since you have started your solo career? 

OKKRE: Its been a lot of work but I’m super happy. Right now it’s been almost a year since I started performing as OKKRE, Last year during the three days of Sónar festival, I performed four times, as LCC, I presented Bastet and as OKKRE I performed at the Mercat de les Flors within the Dance act Épica, directed by Aimar Pérez Galí. Imagine the intensity and emotions. Well since then I’ve been at boiling point, and at the same time I also started developing my latest project ARKHÉ, which has just been premiered at the LEV Festival, the weekend following the last concert of LCC in April. Two weeks full of intensity and emotion.

 

 

                                               OKKRE at LEV festival, 2018 

Now I’m in a process of scheduling more live acts of ARKHÉ, I’m going on a tour to South America after Sónar and then more events which will be announced very soon. And together with these wonderful projects, comes the one which was offered to me by Consonni, (Contemporary Art Producer Publisher). Within this project I am reinterpreting a text by Octavia E. Butler from her piece “Speech Sounds” for the Prototipoak festival and will be broadcast on a radio show from Azkuna Centroa. Ian Eomac did the part of the vocals. Ian gave me some recordings / samples of his voice which I saw them perfectly suitable for the reinterpretation of the text.

The truth is that everything goes pretty fast, sometimes I have the feeling that I do not have time to enjoy it as I like would like to, but…there we go, I feel very happy and grateful for the feedback I receive, especially after the premiere of ARKHÉ.

I feel very lucky to be able to share all these experiences with the people I love and are very essential in my life.

T.O.P. What is your source of inspiration: It can be anything, a person, a piece of art, a moment…anything that fires your imagination and creativity. 

OKKRE: I go through phases and artists. One of the artists who is lately huge inspiration and in fact I have played a sample of her words on my last xlr8r mix, is  Louise Bourgeois, a brilliant artist with a very complexed personal story but in the end, a very simple in terms of soul. There is a documentary on her, I definitely recommend, where she appears using a tuning fork to describe the different rhythms she goes through during the day. She uses it as a metaphor. “At eleven o’clock“, she says” it is the best time of the day when my rhythm is going tic toc tic toc  tic to. An hour later it starts going much faster like tictoctictoctictoc…when I start feeling tired it goes much slower…Then you have a cup of coffee and starts going faster again…then I put the tuning fork back and I find my normal rhythm. This is the moment when you can talk to me about anything.” By using this simple tool she manages to find her baseline. It happens you know, we all sometimes lose our rhythm and balance, because we are humans and even if you are very centred and rational there are always moments when you lose your stability, focus and reference point. Man, it is incredible! Such a simple tool and it works! I don’t know if all this comes from my thinking as Psychologist…( laughs).

In terms of music, now, I listen to much more genres than I used to. When I was younger I used to get fixated on certain artists although now I mainly go for labels and different styles.

Like I said, I love Opera as it gives me tranquillity and peace. It does something to me. I also like classic pieces of music, but man, Opera shakes me! It makes me overcome my limits forget about my “filters”, because everybody has them, and for me it works perfect for that purpose. It feels like I forget where I am for a while.

I am also inspired by spaces and places. There are certain places in this world that are milestones and work as reference points. For example, one of these places is my favourite waterfall in Iceland, where I lived for almost three years.

By that waterfall, I experienced something unique, it felt like I wasn’t in my body any more and that sensation was overcoming myself. It is a magical space!

Finally, I came back to Spain to do a Master’s degree, as I had been awarded a scholarship, which I didn’t really expect at that point. But I definitely wanna go back to that place and see my friends. Although, now my friends will be all with their children and families (laughs)…

TOP: How did you make the decision to move to Iceland? 

OKKRE: I had it clear that I would go to Iceland during a dinner at my place with  my flatmates and friends from the University. There was a moment when we were looking at a world map,  I remember. For a while, I kept quiet and then suddenly told them that I was moving to Iceland. I had this urge that I had to go there! I have always had many influences from that country. I had been listening to Sugar Cubes for years, reading its history… and it’s all there; ice, water and fire! all together in the same place, in this country…fascinating culture and history…and so I left everything behind to move to Iceland! At that time, I rejected the proposal I had from a professor of mine to do a Doctorate and teach with her. I rejected the scholarship she offered me, too. She knew that I have always studied with studentship cause my parents have always been humble people. She thought that I was probably a bit mad…but maybe I was a little bit! (laughs). My dad has only till recently that he stopped reminding me this subject (laughs).

I suppose that in Spain, a dad would prefer his daughter to become a University professor rather than going around for adventures. But I think that now he understands that he has a very happy daughter. My mum has always been very supportive and at moments of questioning and insecurity her response has always been “My daughter, if you can, do whatever makes you happy!” So c’est la vie! (laughs) 

TOP: That is awesome! You did not choose life, life chose you! (laughs)

OKKRE: Exactly! The result was…I fell in LOVE with the drum machine of my flatmates. There was a friend of mine came to visit me as she was freaking out as she saw me playing with my machines non stop! (laughs).
The first tunes of LCC came from that period and obviously I was using Reason illegally And then when you start getting passionate about something you lose the sense of time. My sister is a bit more spiritual and crazy than me in the sense that I am very pragmatical and I do not overanalyse things.

TOP: Interesting cause I would not say that you are very pragmatic? 

OKKRE: Well, yes, in a sense, I believe in the here and now and I also believe that we are energy which transforms instead of getting destroyed or vanished.

I remember once during a therapy session i remember a mother who was quite anxious about her daughter who kept asking her about death. I advised her to explain death to her daughter in a simple way. There are examples everywhere around us, in nature. I advised her to use the example of a tree which is born and then it falls back to the land. We die the same way we are born. It is as simple as that for me. The orange falls from the tree and it lands to the soil and finally it turns into something else. So my sister believes in reincarnation and past life and things like that. I only believe in the here and now, carpe diem full on! So, when I was in Iceland everybody was treating me in an excellent way and everybody “adopted” me without even managing a fluent communication (laughs). Most of the times, everything related to these type of linguistic errors was totally hilarious! And then my sister was always like “this happens to you cause you had already been there!” and I was like “eh??” (laughs)…

Well, then I  started thinking that my sister was probably right…I loved that place but the place loved me, too.

So back in Mexico, last December, I decided to visit the Pyramids. One of them represents the Sun and the other one the Moon, which I decided to go up to. There something very powerful happened. To be honest I think it wouldn’t be as strong as it was if I was with friends. I think that my experience was so strong because it was just me and myself. When I managed to go up there I finally experienced that incredible sensation of emotional shaking. I one more time realised the heavy impact that spaces have on ourselves. Especially, when you are alone, you reflect, sense in a way that you can only think of continuing being creative.

TOP: But I think this is because you are open to new experiences and influences…

OKKRE: Yes, probably. So somehow different pieces of the puzzle came together in Mexico where I also met some visual artists and we are now working on Chra‘s LP, which is going to be released on EDITIONS MEGO and includes remixes by Fennesz, Silvia Kastel, Shapednoise, Pita, Cherry Sunkist, Laica and myself).  So I asked from the visual art guys (Egroj) to do a sort of teaser video, as they do some crazy 3D stuff. Well, to be honest I do not really get all these technical side of it and the procedures and they often laugh at me because I am making electronic music and I am zero geek! (laughs) I do not have a fucking clue! Well, one day one of these artists, Jorge, sent to me a video. What happened is that suddenly a sequence shot appeared exactly the same as the one I extracted from an internet video when I started thinking about ARKHÉ and I also made a video connecting that representative space in my life, with ARKHÉ. My favourite place in the world so far is that magical and powerful Icelandic waterfall. When I suddenly  saw it, I did not understand anything, it was impossible, I was thinking: “Out of all these hundred and hundred of millions of videos  you can find on the internet how many possibilities we had to coincide on that one?” and even altering the movement in the video in the same way…very strong, besides, the video is not even for ARKHÉ, it is his own visual interpretation of that specific tune. I was so freaked out, I didn’t know if I had talked to Jorge about that place or not. In the end, he did not know anything at all about it and it was a coincidence and a great connection! I feel like there and then two important spaces in my life came together.

I am extremely sensitive and at the same time very rational. I fall in love with everything; The Pyramids in Mexico and the waterfalls in Iceland.

I also fall in love with my friends, they are big source of influence and inspiration. I feel  extreme love for them!

 

TOP: What is your viewpoint about the experimental electronic music in Spain? 

OKKRE: Experimental music is always listened by a minority and that happens everywhere in the world but maybe in Spain even more. And that’s because there is lack of tradition, agencies and media covering.

We do not have a solid axis from which Spanish artists are internationally supported. There is a lack of promoting artists abroad. Considering the amount of festivals we have in Spain, we do not really take advantage of our artists. There is mainly a culture of importing  rather than exporting comparing to other countries, UK for example. But the positive side of it we become more flexible and we search our path in our own way. We become more inventive. 

Having said that, I thought of a doc called “I Hate New York” by Gustavo Sánchez, where I participated for the soundtrack with a track that I produced for LCC, published in Editions Mego together with other artists like ARCA’s, Richi Sakamoto among others. There is a woman, from A.Warhol’s surroundings, who appears on that and says that whoever knows what they want beforehand, they do not experiment. Only when you do not know where you are going is when you are actually in a process of experimentation.

Only when you don’t know where you are going is when you are actually in a process of experimentation.

 

 

TOP: Would you tell us few things about your music design for Èpica and the idea behind it?

OKKRE: Our intention was to break some of the stereotypes around techno and the stage art. During the performance I am not seen by the public. I am out of the theatrical stage. The dancers are blurred with the audience and the scenery and lighting generates a disorientation perhaps uncomfortable at first, but liberating in itself.

There is also something very beautiful and rare in Èpica; Aimar the director aimed to deconstruct this stereotype in which there is a main dj or producer, who everybody is looking at and is the centre of attention. There is no such a thing in Èpica and this is quite innovative and revolutionary. And also another remarkable thing is that the whole  technical part of it is consisted of three women!

Behind Èpica lies the idea of deconstructing Techno, in such a way, that makes you contemplating it as an experience. Performing at a theatre, where the audience is not necessarily coming from a techno/rave culture. I had the unique opportunity to recreate something that is very beautiful and special and that you can only manage in a club whist dancing; A feeling which I would describe as sister/brotherhood. It is when you feel that the bodies are set free from their own selves and you enter into a kind of symphony where you end up forgetting who you are. With or without drugs, that is not really the point. The most important is the dance itself, which makes you feel like that.

Many times, for example, when I am dancing, I close my eyes and this happens cause in a way you are going out of your body in order to live an experience. Your soul is free and at this unique moment the souls of everybody are connected as everybody is in that space for the same reason. Isn’t this beautiful?

But Epica is of course much more than a techno session in a theatre, it has a dialogue and a concept that should be explained much better by its director, Aimar.

TOP: Which venue/space was the one that made loads of impact on you and you would always be happy to be part of so far?

OKKRE: I have to admit that I never played in a festival like ATONAL  till last year when we presented Bastet as LCC together with Pedro Maia.

Unquestionably, is one of my favourite festivals in terms of spaces they use, sound system and line up. Among all festivals Atonal is  the one with the kind of techno I like, the line-up I like and everything is exactly of my taste. In Spain, I do not know if something like that would work, but I don’t really like being judgmental because life and people are unpredictable and this is a lesson that I have realised since many years now.

But you know, in Spain, If there is not a bit of light, no way it can work out! (laughs). And man, the thing is that I hate light! (laughs). In terms of music, light doesn’t fit with me. Nonetheless, Equinox for example, they did a live with plenty of lights but that was beautiful and it was amazing cause the space and everything was just right! The sound quality is mind-blowing! It reaches everywhere, at every single corner of the space and was immaculate, just right. It’s so amazing. And a story to laugh at; While I was doing the sound check, the bass was that heavy that my laptop was moving away from me! (laughs) Every few minutes I had to drag my laptop back, as it was constantly moving away!!!! ( laughs) 

You keep learning though, as I figured out that there are special pads you can place under your equipment which I also used at LEV festival . Totally necessary because we had a wonderful sound system that made us all and everything vibrate! It was a pleasure for me to enjoy this perfect production, for the debut of ARKHÉ.

TOP: Are you planning moving somewhere else, for example Berlin?

OKKRE: Not really, I have my family and my friends in Gijon and for now I feel happy here. But never say never like Romeo Void’s song!

TOP: You have led me to my next question about your influences…

OKKRE: To be honest it is almost impossible to list them all. There are countless artists and labels that I like…I am the fruit of the music and experiences throughout my life.  There are some artists that I have always appreciated and they have been decisive in vital decisions.

For example, when I was about 17 years old I was fan of  Sugar- Cubes. One of my favourite songs is their Vitamin and  somehow because of them I started reading a lot about Iceland…

TOP: Sometimes it seems like life gives you signs for the future but you don’t get them at the time…

OKKRE: Yeah! And I remember when I first saw Bjork I was 22 years-old at Sirkus, a legendary club, that was considered very underground. But finally, the Government shut it down due to drugs etc. But when I went there, I was like “what are you talking about?!” I am from Asturias which is a bit like Berlin, in the sense that it seemed like there aren’t any laws or anything and at Sirkus you could normally sit on the toilet to have a piss at 4 o’clock in the morning! (laughs) and I was like “This is not dark at all!” (laughs)

So that night we were in a party and it was so much fun and everybody quite drunk! She was tiny and very drunk and I looked huge next to her! (laughs) and she was with a bottle of cava in her hands and she passing it to me…and I was like pardon me?! Is this Bjork!? (laughs)…Somebody that influenced so much was there, right next to me sharing her drink with me. Well, life indeed brings you so many surprises…

TOP: Which record, artist or style of music would work as a healing power on you? 

OKKRE: Turandot has a very intense and unique impact on me as it is the favourite opera of my mum and some how it had been always accompanied me in life. That’s why when I listen to her the whole body moves me and makes me shudder.  Opera has an intense and unique power on me. I love opera, it makes me feel overwhelmed and at the same time it relaxes me.

David Bowie is one of my favourite artists and big love, too. You see, I listen to music that has nothing to do with electronic music. David Bowie’s Diamond” for example, could be one of these kind of records, precious to me. Also, the ambient part of his album “Heroes” they are tremendously powerful and emotive!

There is also a super freak one that I associated to a unique space here in Gijon, an arcade from the ’70s with local shops from that decade, including the bowling alley that was wonderful. Many times I used to meet there with my friends. We went to eat and to play bowling and billiards. One of the last times was when Gala-Free from Desire” (!) sounded  through the corridor while we were smoking and that song made us all dance wherever we were, on the street, in the corridor, everywhere! Those who were inside the shops saw us dancing and we called them through the glass and without hesitation they came out to dance with us! This song has something! It has this ability it is a generational hymn (laughs).

…And yeah, flamenco shakes me! Camarón de la Isla is my favourite flamenco singer and his music transmits an immense sensitivity. La Leyenda de Tiempo” could be a healing song for me.  I love the lyrics (Federico Garcia Lorca) and they speak to me! “Como El Agua” as well, is definitely a big reference.