Meet Oliver Nickell, a 19 year old producer who is based in San Francisco and crafting some of the most interesting music I've heard for a long time; it's truly experimental as you'll see when Oliver explains his musical process for the new album, 'Splitting Branches'. I first heard one of his tracks in 2011 when he teamed up with other JUSTBEAPERSON favourite, Beat Culture (check out last year's interview) and created 'Stuck Down the Wrong Rabbit Hole', which was a whimsical, ethereal effort that was incredibly assured. Bursting with talent, Tree will be big! Have a read of some of Oliver's musings about the new album and a quick Q&A, don't forget to listen to and download the album at the bottom of the page.
What Splitting Branches means to me: I wrote, recorded and produced Splitting Branches about a year ago while I was 17 and 18 years old with the help of a few friends. I was coming out of a heavy drug haze from high school in Santa Cruz and headed to a fresh start at college in San Francisco. During the year and a half of time that I was writing and creating this music, I left behind everything I knew and loved; all my friends, my family, the town and community I lived my entire life, even my ex-girlfriend of some 4 years who is ironically featured on half the tracks in this release. I made all this music during a time where I chose to completely split myself apart from everything I knew and loved, everything I called familiar. This is the documentation of that period.
75% of the sounds I recorded on Splitting Branches were made with either real instruments or homemade organic found sound sampling, consisting of anything lying around my house. I started making my music out of unconventional objects like my dad's grand father clock, a toaster, car seat belts, scissors, eggs, an air compressor, feedback, lots of gameboy haha, my coffee grinder, beer bottles, my little dog barking, and the list goes on and on. It was a ton of fun making this music and a very experimental process for myself as a song writer. I was stoked to have the chance to blend so many strange sounds together with so many different genres. Before I started Tree, I was in a band in middle school, and then a dubstep DJ and even in a little rap crew during high school. By my senior year of high school, when I started producing music as a laptop musician, I decided it was time to blend everything I knew together into one big project. Splitting Branches is the initial result. Some of the tracks I love, some of them I hate. It all depends on my mood and what side of the bed I woke up on. Finally I have detached myself from this art and am ready to share with the people of planet earth.
First off, where are you in the world right now and what've you been working on?
Im currently in San Francisco and the last year has mainly been dedicated to finishing Splitting Branches and mainly focusing on my Debut EP with Apollo / R&S Records. A few weeks ago I was in London working on one of the tracks in the studio, im still trying to finish it though, its been taking me for ever to get it right.
Could you give a brief history of your career as an artist so far?
I was in a band that played shows all throughout middle school. I was in a rap group in highschool then I switched over to being a dubstep. At the age of 17, I had already played shows alongside artists such as: Skrillex, Nero, Datsik, Zeds dead and many more in the dubstep scene. By 18, I spent the year redefining my sound, and I licensed music with MTV, moved to the SF to start the multidimensional art project "tree collaborations," as well as joining forces with European label R&S. Now Im 19 and Im finishing my debut EP set for june 2013.
Who did you grow up listening to?
the gorillaz, Nas, Binary Star, TV on the Radio, flying lotus, & nosaj thing
What would you say was the perfect environment or situation to listen to your music in?
Up in the tallest tree you can find!
What's the strangest subject you've written a song about?
Probably some old raps I wrote about fighting police officers while I smoked crack.
What other artists are you into at the moment?
Some of my homies: Synkro, Submerse, Mist Glider, Aeropsia, Nutrik, kasket and Docko
Where would you love to tour?
My game plan is to hit every continent in the next 7 years.
Finally, what's next for you, future plans and such?
The Spltting Branches Remix Compilation comes out for free in April. Its pretty awesome I got some incredible producers from around the world to each remix a different track from the release. Then my Debut EP will be out on vinyl and itunes in june. Got a few new videos for that release!
Also I started writing my debut Album right now, Really stoked to finally be working on new art!