ALL VINYL ALL THE TIME Turntablist flare with dancefloor sensibility, Osmose has worked with a wide range artists such as Grandmaster Flash, DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, Sleazy McQueen, Ursula 1000, Kai Alce, Thunderball, Pato Banton, Boozoo Bajou, Nicola Conta, Mykal Rose, Collie Buddz & New Kingston, The Aggrolites and The Wailers (both versions of the group). Osmose plays a variety of styles from Disco, Funk, Soul, HipHop, Reggae, Deep House, to Beatdown style reworks & more, but always keeps it analog! With over 20 years experience behind the decks Osmose now spends most of his time touring North and South America with lots of records as well as producing vinyl only releases.
As of 2011 Osmose launched Smokecloud records, a vinyl only label in every sense of the word. The label focuses on soul & funk based dance music reworks and is geared towards DJ’s that play a diverse array of venues. Outside of vinyl releases on Smokecloud records, he also has vinyl out on the long running Whiskey Disco imprint, Canada's Friendly Monster records, Honey Disco & Pizza Night, Morgan Ave Edits / Downtown304 (NYC/USA), Editor's Kutz (Greece), Masterworks Music (UK) & Wall Of Fame (NYC/USA).
CMI: As a vinyl enthusiast from a young age, were you ever getting into to trouble for playing a record you shouldn’t have been? Were there many kids your age into them as well?
Osmose: No not really. A lot of the records were my mother’s disco & rock collection (more on the soft rock side of things). I had my own small collection as a child and my own little record player. I would save up money to buy 45’s or LP’s of things I heard in movies, TV, radio or at the local roller disco. It was more of a solitary thing. I don’t recall really interacting with other kids on the music / record tip.
Was radio a very big influence on your musical upbringing? Or have you always been a crate digger?
Osmose: Crate digging came later in life. I was always going to record stores though. Radio was an influence for sure. In the 70’s radio wasn’t completely commercialized so a lot of things would get played that would never even get produced today, let alone airplay on a major radio station. My Mom was a big influence. Her and her friend Debbie used to play Disco & Funk records and 8 tracks on Friday or Saturday night...I guess before they were going out. I can recall sparkly tops, high heels, glasses of white wine and long cigarettes. The hi-fi system was one of those that was like a piece of furniture with the speakers built in, the top would open and inside there was the record player, 8 track and FM/AM radio. Also, my mom was the first woman in Chattanooga to have a commercial radio license. The roller disco was also a big influence. I would hear things there that I would go and ask the DJ about then save money to buy the 45.
I know that you’re influenced by DJs from all kinds of backgrounds, like Larry Heard and Pete Rock, but was there anybody you saw in particular that made you go “I wanna do that?” or who were some of the first people you saw mix records?
Osmose: I used to go to a teen club in Chattanooga called Cracker Jacks on Sunday nights. It was on Sunday because it was a real nightclub through the week and the rest of the weekend. I can’t recall the DJ’s name but he used to play the adult nightclubs too. That was the first time I heard mixing...nothing crazy like I would hear in the mid to late 90’s, but still the songs were overlaid in a way to keep the floor going. Later, like around 95-96, I used to always stick my head in the booth at the original MJQ (when it was underneath the Ponce de Leon Hotel) (1). I only ever recall seeing Karl Injex in there (now co-owner of The Sound Table) as those were hazy nights, but I remember wanting to be in that booth. I really liked just seeing in there, the DJ booth.
Starting out as most artists do playing relatively small venues, what kind of promotional things were you doing back then? What were you doing to keep your motivation up after a dead night?
Osmose: You’re never too big to escape a busted ass night. It sucks but it also keeps you humble and grounded. You need those nights to stay rooted and in touch. Some hurt worse than others but I have gotten better over time dealing with them and there are positive things about them. I’m giving 110% whether there is anyone there or not. If I find myself slacking during a night like that...I try to turn that around asap.
Promotion wise I did any and everything I could think to do, lots of flyers hand to hand and on cars in midtown, Atlanta when that was still a solid REAL center of night life. I had plenty of late nights alone doing that. I had a friend named Brandon that worked with me at the studio and he used to help me with my sound system at the time, he would go out and help me put flyers up too. I took my lady to help a few times, but I didn’t like doing that as midtown was still a little dangerous at that time. This was in the late 90’s but you have to recall that through the 80’s Atlanta had one of the highest crime rates in the USA, so the city was far from scrubbed clean in the 90’s.
As someone who has seen the rise in the internet’s importance firsthand, what can you say about the role that social media plays? How do you balance your active social media presence with all of the label duties, multiple residencies, production, practice, etc?
Osmose: It has really helped me. I embraced it early on. Even before social media, I was on multiple music forums in the southeast and around the world. I don’t miss music forums at all. They were helpful to me, but people also used them as ways to be very mean and hateful to others, with no personal repercussions to themselves. I’m not saying that people don’t do that or haven’t done that on Myspace, Twitter, Facebook or whatever, but at least on these types of platforms you kind of know who people are for the most part. So they may think twice about pissing on something, or someone, for the sake of a good joke or some personal vendetta.
Social media is something I’ve just done in the background and have stayed consistent with it brand wise for the music I enjoy, play and produce. Its great promotion, it used to be even better as it seems all the platforms want you to pay for exposure now (which I don’t do for better or worse). I don’t get very personal in any of the social media. I keep it all about the music. When a new record is coming out I have to ramp up a bit work wise on it and that does take some time, but it’s just part of doing business as a one man shop.
There are many different factors that go into a great set, what are some of your favorite past gigs based on venue, crowd or occasion?
Osmose: There’s value and joy in all gigs I play. Some highlights are having pulled full nights at all 3 of the major LA rooftop venues (although I think there is a 4th now). The first time I played El Coq in Bogota (2). New Year's Eve in SF for Go Bang at the now defunct Deco Lounge (3). Every gig I have ever played in Victoria, Canada. The Motown Mondays night in Seattle I played last month was pretty nuts. The first time I played the Whiskey Disco in Detroit. The one that I probably hold closest to my heart is filling in for Cullen Cole at the new MJQ in Atlanta for “Chitterlings & Champagne”. I say new but it’s been in the present location since around 97 or so. That night is an extension of the 7 year run of a Saturday night called DEEP which was Kai Alce, Cullen Cole, Kemit and Just One (Justin Chapman). If I wasn’t playing and was in town, I was almost always at DEEP on Saturday night. I had a spot on a riser off to the side of the floor that I could hear and feel the music, see the floor and see into the DJ booth.
In your mano a mano art show interview, you mention that “a good DJ in the wrong environment is like a lost puppy, there’s not much you can do”. Is there anything you think would bring a little bit more understanding and common ground amongst everybody involved in dance music? From the DJs, promoters, club goers, etc, what’s one maybe common sense thing that you think would be helpful to reiterate?
Osmose: You have to vet every gig. You have to do your part to make sure that the venue, promoter, whoever is booking you knows what it is you do so that you’re not putting yourself in a situation where you can’t fulfill what’s expected. I probably go over the top on doing this and lose some gigs because of it, but I’m totally alright with that. I think this gets easier the longer you’re in the game too. Starting out and even a couple of years in you may want to take every gig that comes your way. You will learn a lot from doing that, but you’re also going to feel some pain and have some rough nights. Just remember that that pain is part of growth.
We have a lot of pride for our city around these parts, have you ever played here before? Is there anything that comes to mind when you think of Louisville?
Osmose: I have not played in Louisville before, but I have had the pleasure of working with your city’s own British transplant JP Source on two record projects in the past. I look forward to sharing a night of warm analog music at Decca on Friday July 28th. What comes to mind is the slugger!
Ethyene “Playin’ With Fire” Better Listen
JKriv “Handle It (JKriv’s RNT Dub) ” KAT
JKriv “Barefoot Boogie” Barefoot Beats
Fatnotronic & Joutro Mundo “Super Sexy” Hello Sailor
Ed Wizard & Disco Double Dee “Heatwave” Editorial
LNTG “Feelin’ Good” Tuff Cut
Pontchartrain “Nice ‘n Slow” Whiskey Disco
Nephase “Hills” Dance Around 88
Osmose “Broadway Kiss” Whiskey Disco
Osmose “Help Me DISCOver’ Smokecloud Record
DJ Steef “New Player (Old Rules Mix)” Numoment
Dimitri From Brooklyn “Without Rob” Razor n Tape
The Lower Haight Project “Eye in The Sky” WEP Communication
Dez Andres “As We Rock On (instrumental) ” Spills
Dez Andres “As We Rock On” Spills
Feature, Research and Interview by Ben Alexander.