I talked about Olly Vert’s album, Heavyweight Funk: The Get Down, in my last new music feature. We’re lucky to have Olly here on The Diversity of Classic Rock to talk about his music, influences, and future plans. If you’re a fan of psychedelic rock and funk, you’ll love his music filled with all sorts of experiments with fuzz, wah-wah pedals, and cool sounding panning effects.
Don’t just stop at Heavyweight Funk, also give his previous album Psych & Alternative Rock: Above The Clouds a listen. My favourite tracks are “Cyclone”, “My Ocean”, “Above The Clouds”, “Sky in My Pocket”, and “Summer Haze”.
If you want to hear more, check out this playlist of non-album tracks. My personal favourites are “Sonic Radio”, “Glow”, “You Know”, “Meteors”, and “Midnight Spin”.
His music is released through a production music label called Bibliotheque. What is production music exactly? Well, it’s music that is licenced to films, adverts, video games, anything really! It’s easier and less expensive to licence than using a typical pop song you hear on the radio, because with those you’d need the artist’s permission and because of its popularity it might cost you a lot more. Production music can be really catchy and if it makes it into an iconic TV show or movie, it will forever be associated with it. Cartoons like Spongebob and Ren and Stimpy made great use of production music. You wouldn’t have TV and movies without production music! Musicians like Alan Hawkshaw, John Cameron, and Keith Mansfield made lucrative careers in production music. And in the late 60s, The Pretty Things recorded production music for DeWolfe, the first production music label, as The Electric Banana. Hip hop and pop artists like Jay-Z, A$AP Rocky, Flying Lotus, RZA, and more! Crate digging is a big part of hip hop and producers will often look through record bins with an open mind and sample music that you wouldn’t expect to be sampled: obscurities and stuff from all sorts of genres, find bits from it to make into beats and give the song new life. Fascinating stuff!
If you want to learn more about Olly and his music, keep on reading!
Angie Moon: How would you describe your music to a new listener?
Olly Green: I’d say it’s expressive, energetic, fun, catchy, fuzzy & psychedelic. Oh, and it’s instrumental, so treat the guitar as the voice.
Angie: How did you get into psychedelic rock and funk music?
Olly: It pretty much all stems from an early obsession with Jimi Hendrix & John Frusciante of RHCP. Their use of guitar effects got a hold of me and I became passionate about sound exploration with pedals & production tricks. From there I discovered Funkadelic, who are hands down, the funkiest, most psychedelic band you can find – and I was deeply inspired.
Angie: How did you get started as musician?
Olly: Music was always something filling the house I grew up in, as my dad is a passionate audiophile. He was always blasting Santana & Yes records to test his speakers while I danced around the living room. So i was exposed to a lot of good music from a very young age.
I don’t remember why exactly, but when I was 6, I had the opportunity to learn the saxophone – which I did for a couple of years until I met my childhood best friend, who introduced me to bass guitar, as that’s what he played. Quickly we realised it wasn’t very practical both of us playing bass, so I switched to lead & found my happy place.
Angie: What are your other hobbies besides music?
Olly: Well besides making music, I am also a very passionate record collector. I work part-time in a record store and I’m sure most of my wages just go straight back in the till! I also love food (eating it and cooking it) – i’m vegan, so I really enjoy experimenting with all the amazing new alternatives which are coming out. I make the best crispy tofu, and I also make a bangin’ pizza. I also like to go for walks/bike rides in the countryside where I live. But I’d say 90% of my existence is revolved around music.
Angie: There’s a lot of fuzz guitar in your music, what are your favourite songs with fuzz guitar?
Olly: Oof, there are so many to choose from! There has to be some Funkadelic up there – ‘Super Stupid’, ‘I Wanna Know If It’s Good To You’, ‘Red Hot Momma’, & of course ‘Maggot Brain’, spring to mind. Eddie Hazel’s guitar playing and fuzz tone on those first few records is just out of this world. John Frusciante got some wonderful fuzz tones throughout his career, though possibly more standout in live performances. I do love the fuzz guitar at the end of ‘Dani California’. I love the fuzz tone on ‘Walk On By’ by Isaac Hayes. Then there are more modern artists like Tame Impala, I love the fuzz sound on ‘Desire Be, Desire Go’ – it’s like the guitar is collapsing in on itself. I’m also big into a Swedish group called GOAT. They have a song called ‘Let It Burn’ with one of the gnarliest fuzz/wah guitar solos i’ve ever heard.
Angie: What was writing and recording Heavyweight Funk: The Get Down like?
Olly: It didn’t really feel like a writing process – it just kinda happened naturally over the course of around 12 months. I would meet up with a friend of mine and jam, him on bass & me on guitar. I think I ended up with around 18 hours of jams recorded on my laptop. And I’d just listen back to them, and pick out maybe a 30 second segment and think “there’s a song in there”.
So I’d deconstruct the ideas from our jams and reformat them into cohesive songs, and build them from the ground up. Other times I would just pick up my guitar and start playing, and a song idea would immediately reveal itself. I can usually hear the bassline in my head before it’s even recorded so i’m usually pretty quick to recognise if my idea is gonna groove or not!
I had a lot of fun recording & mixing the album. I would always start with the drums. Unfortunately i’m not a drummer myself, nor in a position to record drums at home – so all my drums are manually programmed using various samples. Once I was happy with how they sound, I was running them out through an old 70s reel to reel tape machine to inject as much character into them as I could. But in terms of the guitars, most of the parts were just improvised when the time came to record. Of course, I had certain riffs planned out but the solos & repeating riffs were very freeformed on the spot.
Angie: What music inspired that album?
Olly: A tonne of music from the 1970s… Funkadelic, William Onyeabor, Cymande, Santana, Idris Muhammad. And some modern artists like Khruangbin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.
Angie: You recently released one of your albums on vinyl, what makes vinyl special to you?
Olly: Yes, it’s coming in October and i’m extremely excited about it. I think vinyl is special because it’s a substantial piece of physical art in its own right, and that’s before you’ve laid it down on your turntable to even hear what’s on it. They sound amazing – my theory is that digital VS vinyl is like the difference between hearing the music & feeling the music. Vinyl just hits different. Plus now you’re able to get pressings in wonderful unique colours, it’s a real joy and excitement taking them out of the sleeve and admiring the design of the whole package. Much more of a thrill than hitting play on Spotify.
For what it’s worth, my record is going to be on Orange, Brown & Cream starburst coloured vinyl, which I aptly names ‘70s Sundae Swirl’ – I really can’t wait to see how they turn out! (Pre-orders are still available at time of writing, from ollyvert.bigcartel.com – and extremely limited to 250 copies!)
Angie: You said you were releasing a new album, can you tell me what that’s gonna be like?
Olly: The new album is going to be a fuzzed up, beat driven, dub/beat tape style remixed version of the Heavyweight Funk album. As the majority of my music is written and released for Bibliotheque Music Library (my music is used a lot in Film/TV etc) I thought it would be cool to have alternate versions with a more modernised feel to appeal to a totally different audience. So think of the upcoming album more as a companion piece to the last one.
Angie: How do you think you’ve evolved and grown as a musician since you started?
Olly: I learned to listen to what the song needs rather than what my fingers want to play. Less is more. I’ve also become much more focussed and competent on improvisation – through the countless jam sessions with friends or making loops by myself and seeing what comes out. Also from a production point of view, I learned how to get the guitar sounds in my head to translate into reality, with the use of various effects etc.
Angie: What’s your proudest accomplishment as a musician?
Olly: I’ve had some extremely proud moments in the past through bands i’ve played in over the years, playing at some very prestigious venues across the UK, but actually having an album in my own name and signing off the vinyl order – receiving the test pressings and spinning it through my 70s Wharfedale speakers.. that was a very proud moment. I’ve always dreamt of hearing my music on vinyl so I feel i’ve achieved a huge goal there.
Angie: Any words for your fans?
Olly: I’m just stoked there are people out there who enjoy my music enough to take the time out of their busy days to listen to it. So if you are already one of those people, or if you are going to become one of those people after reading this interview, thank you, it means the world.
You can follow Olly on Instagram.
Shoutout to Patrick and Jeffrey from Maryland for supporting the blog!
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[…] Psychedelic rock musician Olly Vert from England. […]