Friday, September 13, 2013

Interview: Tunde Olaniran (9/28 @ New Way Bar - Ferndale)

Photo by: Kelly Ardito 

It wasn’t nerves or anything, but for the first time in a while I wasn’t sure what I’d say after the show…walking up to a performer, away from the stage.

TundeOlaniran is just an outstanding presence and not merely because of his elaborate costumes. The young artist is certainly approachable, don’t get me wrong, and quite affable in demeanor when he’s down at ground level. But up there on a stage, under boomlights and amplified with soundsystems, he’s something refreshingly strange and transcendent, akin to traditional ideas of an iconic pop star similar to, yes, Madonna (a key influence upon the Flint-raised artist). This is classy showmanship reimagined to zazz some vigor back into the post-apocalyptic-youths yawning through this post-Internet-era; an out-of-this-world play or surreal opera, swirled with flavors of 80’s dance-pop, neo-techno caustics, R&B balladry and almost rapper-esque reeling of compressed, declarative lyrics.  

Tunde’s musical style (or genre) goes all over the place, ...but then – that’s exactly “where” this singer grew up – from Nigeria, to England to Flint, MI. The young Tunde listened to Madonna’s Immaculate Conception repeatedly as a kid living in Germany. “I wasn’t quite old enough, then, to be finding things for myself yet,” says Olaniran, “and anything we bought that was English-language was through the store at the Army base nearby, filtered through this very narrow-viewed American culture. But somehow I got Madonna on cassette and I remember thinking: this is just an artist’s regular album, I didn’t know it was a Greatest Hits…”

“Being on my own and so young and dancing around, jumping around and playing out music videos and performances in my mind, like, ‘We’re gonna put on a show for you!’ I spent a lot of time by myself, growing up, pretending to be in certain moments and really having a vivid imagination, in my own world.”
In Tunde’s mind, in his own world, the creative landscape is always varying. His debut solo album has the telling title: Infinite Modulation.

“I know a lot of people probably have that same kind of experience as a kid, but having this rich imagination in my life and being alone a lot and doing music on my own, without a lot of external input as to what I should or shouldn’t be listening to…”

This assured not just a wild, wonderful vision and a diligent pushing of envelopes (in terms of what’s capable in presenting a live performance) but also a resolve – When inspiration strikes Tunde, it’s something like the Star Trek Genesis Device – terraforming the vision into full-fledged life, a new planet of pop, with a staggering swiftness and surety. He knows what he wants – and it’s often something you’ve never seen (or heard) before, so just let him bring it.

Piercing gaze, swooning vocals, and a commitment to choreographed dances, surreal set-pieces and ostentatious costumes – Olaniran shuffles through metallic techno-beats, spacey synth-loops, even some raw guitar riffs. It’s stokes some primal ceremony vibe with its riling rhythms but then jettisons to futuristic soundscapes with its more electronic elements. His voice, as soulful as something from the 60’s studios of legend and as anthemically arching and poignant as something from the 80’s pop paradises, is the bridge between, the eye of the storm, the thing that soars above all the varying modulations of his music (and his performance).

“I think I’m kind of a mimicker, actually,” he admits. “I would mimic anything, accents I heard, different characters in movies. I was in some choirs in school but never the one at Regionals. I was never the star. I became a good singer because I was always around really amazing singers through that choir. It wasn’t until I got into a really fun, funny rock band and sung for hours a night in bars, doing covers and just having that experience of being a lead singer …that, that was when I finally started just singing all the time and ended up getting a stronger voice. So, it was mimicking, and then bootcamp style, through choir and then a punk band. That got me whatever vocal experience I can claim to have…”

Olaniran thinks some listeners might not immediately realize the sizable influence up punk, metal and rock, upon his musical creations. His first band members exposed him to classic hard-rock and punk – from Sabbath, to Priest, to Fugazi (even though he complained, initially, on those long car rides on tour).
I get into phrasing, intonation.. just the character that certain voices and accents have on a track. And above all else, I love a killer synth!”

“Maybe it’s to my detriment, but I don’t set out to make a certain genre. It all usually flows back to the same well. Honestly, if the music is completely mine, and not as a feature for someone else, I only make music that I can imagine performing. I will be listening to the track and imagining how I’ll move onstage and what the choreography will look like.”

But the goal is to make it memorable.  I also want to make something that sounds a tad different than anything else but is still memorable in some way

Olaniran said some show attendees have described experiencing his live presentation as “spiritual.”

“Or…that they felt I was drawing from a deep ancestral well! Basically, if people are feeling themselves during my set, that’s the best encouragement. If they somehow feel sexier, more powerful, more connected, more dangers, that’s what I want…” 

with: James Linck & Miz Korona

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