The Invisible 3 (by Tom Skipp)
The Invisible 3 (by Tom Skipp)

INTERVIEW + MIX: Dave Okumu (The Invisible)

With their brilliantly layered dense sound, The Invisible (Tom Herbert, Dave Okumu, and Leo Taylor) manage to marry experience from time spent among a wealth of musicians (including Tony Allen, Pino Palladino and Matthew Herbert) with a youthful, even angsty, energy and edge. Read on for an interview and mix. 

In June 2012 the trio released their second LP, Rispah. The record resounds with greater tenderness and depth than their (also excellent) self-titled debut showing a band who have matured through time together and able to work with creative cohesion. As Rispah came to be, Dave Okumu’s mother passed away. The resulting release handles the grief with honesty and integrity. Recordings of traditional spirituals sung at the funeral in Kenya have also been woven in.

A much under-championed musician and composer, also able to pen the most heartfelt and beautiful lyrics (“Don’t beat your wings in the hollows of my heart.”), Dave Okumu has been through a tumultuous year. Separate to his bereavement, in May Dave was severely electrocuted while on-stage.

We’re delighted that Mr Okumu’s now back to health and the band could join us for our September CDR London. To accompany the evening we shared a few words with Dave. He also kindly compiled a mix of productions played at the September session.

Dave Okumu (by Katya Ochagavia)

So, Rispah, what an exceptional album! Please can you tell us how it came to be? Any clues or info on how you, Tom and Leo write and record?

Thanks for your kind words. Making this record was quite a journey. Although we have a long history as friends and musicians, we had become a band back to front as the first album started as a solo project. In some ways we really only began to discover our identity as a band through touring and reinterpreting the record. When it came to the second album, we wanted to carry that ethos forward. We wanted to make an album that reflected that growth. We started to explore new material in breaks between touring, feeling out new ways of working. Initially we thought we might self-produce but found a wonderful collaborator in Rich File who ended up guiding us to the finishing line. Fairly deep into the process, my beloved mum passed away and that really came to define the tone of the record.

We try to keep the process of creating music as open and fluid as possible. We all have different things to bring to the table. Making records is just a process of exploring those elements together in search of something which feels like a reflection of who we are at that moment in time.

What do you think of Floating Points’ ‘Wings’ remix? How did that link come about?

We love Sam’s mix. He’s a gem. We met him through Ninja.

It’s been something of a challenging year. How are you feeling now? Back to full fitness? Any more usage for the nifty scooter you perched your leg on [see photo below]?

It’s been quite a year. What happened in Lagos was deeply traumatic but we have come through to the other side. An experience like that is life-changing. It has brought a certain clarity. I think we all feel transformed by recent events. I feel like the luckiest man on earth to still be alive and to have such wonderful friends who I can continue being creative with. I was beyond fortunate to only come away with a broken leg. It’s mending well. I’m beginning to wean myself off the leg caddy, though I maintain it’s a big look for 2012!

Dave Okumu (by Tom Herbert)

Presumably you’re looking forward to the October shows? Or have you some trepidation about a return to touring?

We’re all really looking forward to being back on stage together. Having passed through what we have, we are closer than ever. We know this will impact on how we perform. There is nothing but positive anticipation.

Having written and produced numerous songs for Jessie Ware’s recent album, please can you tell us what it’s like working together and how that relationship come to be?

Jessie is a dream, a total wonder. I feel so grateful that she has entered my life. I met her manager at a barbecue at Paloma Faith’s house. He asked me if I’d be interested in writing with her. I heard the track ‘Nervous’ which she’d made with SBTRKT and loved her voice. I started to write a song for her which would come to be the title track of her album. It was a really magical, organic journey from that point to becoming her producer then ultimately completing the record.

 

Are there any other developing talents/artists you’re working with or would like to? Projects in the pipeline?

I’ve started working on a record for Lulu James. I’d love to work with Kwabs. I’ve been working on some material with Grace Jones and Eska. I’m hoping to collaborate with Ghostpoet on some stuff. Hopefully Kwes and I will be doing something together in the future. I’d love to make more music with Floating Points. The list is endless really…

Over the past decade you’ve collaborated with some fantastic London-based UK musicians, from Jade Fox days to Finn Peters to Eska to Matthew Herbert, are there any projects or collabs that you’re especially proud of?

The Fox will always remain close to my heart! It’s impossible to single things out as I’m really proud of the whole journey. My peers are my greatest inspiration. I will say that recording Eska’s album felt like a dream. I felt like I wasn’t meant to be there, like I should be watching a ‘making of..’ documentary of that session in 20 years time. That was a ridiculously special experience. [If you’re not familiar with Jade Fox, check check!]

On a different note, what’s been on your stereo of late?

Actress, Jai Paul, Micachu, Hello Skinny, Jessie Ware, Grace Jones, Theo Parrish, Slum Village, Prince, Shabazz Palaces, Serge Gainsbourg, Silver Apples, TEED…

Finally, please can you share a brief (as long as you see fit) description of your current production set up?

My production set up is nothing to write home about. It’s a laptop, an interface, some mics and as many instruments as I can get my hands on. We are in the process of building a studio at The Laundry but the most important part of my set up will always be my imagination. I often find that limitations, technical or otherwise, cause it to come to life.

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As discussed, The Invisible embark on a UK tour in October. Rispah is out now on Ninja Tune, as is Floating Points’ exquisite remix of ‘Wings’. Info and audio for all these can be found here.

And from the Archives..