Keep Calm and Chill; An interview with Oliver Tank

Photo by Aislinn Lowe
Oliver Tank burst seemingly out of nowhere with his own brand of incredibly textural glitch pop with his debut EP Dreams in late 2011. He followed that up with the stunning sophomore EP Slow Motion Music in late 2013 which included collaborations with Ta-Ku, Hayden Calnin, as well as long-time friend and music collaborator Fawn Myers.
The last five years have been huge, and at times, daunting. Outside of winning rave reviews across the globe for both his EP’s. Oliver’s whirlwind rise in profile was kicked off by winning FBi Radio’s Northern Lights competition which saw him flown over to Iceland to perform at Iceland’s Airwaves Festival, he was also included in Triple J’s “2012 Next Crop” on top of being nominated for an FBi SMAC Award in the “Next Big Thing” category in the same year.
2012 was kicked off with a bang, with supports with Active Child, Youth Lagoon, Bonobo, Megan Washington at the Sydney Opera House and Julia Stone, plus his multiple sell out headline shows, which were followed by performances at The Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City as well as headline shows in the UK, before coming home to support Lana Del Rey nationally. 2013/14 saw the dream run of supports continue, completing national tours with James Blake and Lorde before his own national run and appearances at Falls Festival.
All the while Tank has been slowly and quietly working on his debut LP, OT. Combining real instruments with computers, Tank creates heartfelt, vivid soundscapes that have to be heard, to be believed. His LP showcases his delicate song writing and beautiful soundscapes.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Tank to discuss the whirlwind of activity, Limp Bizkit, dream collaborators, and more.
You are from Australia, correct? Are you still living in Sydney?
Yes born and raised in Sydney and still here. Currently living in the Inner West which is not too far from the city.
When did you realize that making music was something you had an aptitude for and wanted to pursue?
I just never really had a passion for anything else. I started studying a Bachelor of Arts degree at Uni where I majored in music. It was a lot of fun and I really developed a passion for production whilst there. I wasn’t sure I’d have a job waiting for me at the end of the degree so I just told myself to keep making music and hopefully I’d have something going for me as an artist by the time I finished. That’s pretty much what happened and I never looked back.
I read that the first album you purchased was by Limp Bizkit? Are you familiar with the Limp Bizkit/Sunoco Gas station 4/20 performance hoax?
No I’m not familiar but I just looked it up and it looks quite funny. I remember getting their album Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water and thinking it was so cool how much they were swearing. I think was like 11 at the time. I did really enjoy the album back then and occasionally I go back and listen to a few tracks.

Was your Snoop Dogg cover the first time people took notice of you musically?
I had gotten a few random people interested in my music with some tracks I’d released before that, but yeah I would say that was the main one that people were into. I remember hearing it on the radio for the first time and being so stoked that I had made it on there. It’s a song everybody knows but I put my own spin on it. It’s always easy to get people’s attention with a cover like that I think.
So you’re obviously a fan of hip-hop. Have you had an opportunity to collaborate with any noteable hip hop artists yet? Who would be your dream collaborator?
I’ve worked with WZRDKID down in Melbourne. We have a track called “Cold Clocks,” which is really cool and I’d love to work with them again. In terms of dream collaborations I’d say Young Thug, Devin the Dude, Andre 3000, Anderson Paak and T-Pain are some artists I think I could make some really cool music with. Maybe one day those dreams will come true.
You’ve had the opportunity to play some large festivals. What have those experiences been like?
They’ve been good. I’ve noticed that for some of the bigger festivals you have to compete for the crowd’s attention. At my own shows I can play chilled out music that requires a bit of patience from the audience. Not at festivals though. I just try and do a bit more of an upbeat set and get the crowd dancing.
You’ve also toured alongside James Blake, Lorde and Lana Del Ray? Were you able to interact or build a friendship or kinship with any of them?
Not really they were all super busy with press and stuff. I did get to hang out a bit with each of them and just see what life is like for these huge artists. That alone was super inspiring. They are all so talented and unique. Lorde did say she used to listen to my music back in high school which was cool.
Is there an artist currently that you totally envy?
Not really, I like to see artists succeed. Sometimes I wish I had the same success but I wouldn’t say I envy anyone.
How has your sound evolved from the first two EPs to OT? Are there new techniques your are trying your hand at? Have you purchased any gear that you are putting to good use?
Overall I think the songwriting and production has gotten a lot better. OT is a lot more polished and professional than the first two EPs but I think it still has that Oliver Tank sound and authenticity that people associated with my music. I went through a bit of a gear buying phase recently where I bought a lot of hardware on the production side of things. I’ve been using a lot of this hardware lately to make music as opposed to the first two EPs where I used mostly software and samples.
What were you hoping to accomplish or communicate with OT?
I just wanted to talk about my personal struggles over the past few years between releases and show people that I was getting better and that no matter how bad things look there is always a silver lining. It took me a long time to make the album. During this time I had come close to giving up. Whatever I was working on never felt good enough to share with people and it made me lose my passion for making music. It was a difficult time for me personally but I felt like it inspired me to finally finish the project and I had some real emotions to draw on for inspiration.
Did you work with a producer or engineer on this album at all or do you still do all your own production work/engineering?
Yes, I worked with Jono Steer down in Melbourne to finish the album. After years of self doubt and constantly cycling through songs for the album I decided I just had to pick my 10 favourite drafts and go down and work with Jono and not come back till they were done. The tracks were at varying degrees of completion. Some were almost finished others were really rough ideas. Jono mostly helped me finishing off these tracks. It was great to have someone to bounce ideas off and help me on the production and songwriting side with things that I wasn’t as confident about.
What made you determine that self-releasing this record was the best approach?
A few labels were interested and if they’d made me a compelling offer I might have considered it but I don’t like the idea of not owning my music and I didn’t particularly need an advance because most of the work was done. I decided to self release it with the help of Stem Disintermedia Inc because that way I’d own the release and have complete control. There are some upfront costs via this approach which can be expensive but in the long run I believe it was the best strategy.
Will you be touring in support of OT and what destination are you most looking forward to performing at in the future?
Yes. I have been touring this past week. So far I’ve done a few East Coast shows in Australia. They’ve been really fun. Sydney was particularly special. The Australian tour is happening for another three weeks. It’s great to be playing live again. I’m probably looking forward to the Melbourne show the most in a few weekends time. They’ve always good to me down in Melbourne.
What are your loftiest goals for your musical career?
I would love to be an inspiration for other artists in a big way, kind of like what Flume and Flying Lotus have done. Almost created their own sub genres. Other than that I just want to help people with my music all over the world. Become a more successful artist and play shows at the biggest festivals and most iconic venues on the planet.
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