The Oddness: 'Digging Through Afro-Disco From The 70s Is A Favourite Pastime'

The Oddness debuts at Club 77 at Tempo Comodo
Henry Johnstone
The Oddness: 'Digging Through Afro-Disco From The 70s Is A Favourite Pastime'

The Oddness is the nom de plume of Warwick Ferguson, a Melbourne/Naarm producer sitting at the forefront of the downtempo/organic house scene in Australia. Having released three wonderfully odd albums and a stack of original cuts and remixes on the likes of Sol Selectas, Beat & Path and Eskimo Recordings, Ferguson has also taken The Oddness to some of Australia’s premium festivals - performing live as both a solo act and with his 3-piece band.

Chuggy, trippy and groovy, The Oddness' sound is a perfect fit for Tempo Comodo, which is why Ferguson has been tapped to play the party's 1st Birthday on Thursday 6 April. Ahead of the gig, we chat about his creative process, live show, and digging for Afro-disco vocal samples.

Your latest EP release, ‘Anywhere Everywhere’, consists of a pair of mid-tempo chuggers and two downtempo yet still dance-able 100bpm cuts. What was the inspiration for this EP and how did it wind up on Cosmic Awakenings?

I’ve always loved the label and sent them a couple of tracks around a year ago but didn’t hear back after a few weeks so signed them to another label. Then of course they got back to me as soon as I had done that! Lemurian, the label boss, asked me to put together a fresh four-track EP for them. I’d half finished some new music so I worked them all together to come up with 'Anywhere Everywhere'.

How do you discover your vocal samples? Is it through good old-fashioned music digging? There must be an almost unlimited supply of music to source from, particularly with this kind of sound.

There’s no certain approach, really. Sometimes it’s taking small sections of acapellas or spoken word recordings and twisting them up into something fresh, or chopping them up into small phrases and playing them through a drum pad. Sites like Splice are really good for getting royalty free vocal samples, but I’ve had some samples I’ve used show up in other people’s tracks, so am trying not to use that approach as much now. Digging through old afro disco tracks from the 70s is a favourite pastime of mine, there’s some gold in there.

Speaking of this kind of ‘sound’, the merging of slow dance beats with traditional/world music, which goes under a few different kinds of descriptors – organic house, ecstatic dance, world music – how and when did you first come across it which then gave birth to The Oddness?

Five years ago when I first started to produce as The Oddness, I initially started doing more broken beat / instrumental  hip-hop kind of vibes but the 4/4 crept back in. My first album, 'Culmination', is a bit of a mixture of the two. I’d been following a few overseas labels that had been doing that kind of stuff like Shango and Pipe & Pochet and really enjoyed making it, but didn’t really hear it anywhere in Australia. Uone and his label Beat & Path were a big supporter of my music early on and encouraged me to keep pushing in that direction.

How does inspiration for creating music manifest itself in your process? Do you have to get into the studio first or does it come via everyday life?

I set aside time every day for music, two hours in the morning when I first get up and usually most of the day Saturday every week. I don't push it if I’m not feeling it, but I always make sure the time is there. It's kind of regimented but I actually need that. If ideas pop into my head or I hear something inspirational throughout the day, I’ll take notes or leave voice messages for myself that I can refer back to when I get in the studio in the morning.

Why do you think this kind of dance music works so well at slower to mid-tempos?

It has lot to do with how you construct the tracks. Two different tracks at the same bpm can feel slower or faster. I make sure when I’m putting the pieces together I have elements on the 16th - either percussion, hats or a chuggy bassline. It gives them heaps more energy and gets asses moving.

Can you tell us a little bit about how your live performance works? What equipment do you use and is it a live show or DJ hybrid?

I mostly perform live but the setup changes a lot depending on the gig. Most of my gigs are festival spots, which means I get to bring along a bit more gear and have the support of a stage manager to be able to pull it off. I’ll use Ableton to launch clips with Ableton Push, which I also use as a keyboard for synths, and also a Moog Sub 37 for pads and arp lines. Depending on the room available I also use a sample pad to play percussion fills. Around a year and a half ago I started playing with a 3-piece band with Timmus on drums and Dylan Jarrad on guitar and percussion. This has opened up a whole new world to me and we’ve done around eight festival slots. It's my favourite way to perform.

Can you recall a couple of live gigs that have really stood out?

For pure enjoyment, both times I’ve played with the band on the Snakepit Stage at Esoteric Festival have been wild. It's my favourite stage in the country, the crowd there just gets completely loose. Our set at The Town festival last year was another really memorable one. That festival is completely individual, so much creativity goes into it and the line-up was really diverse and more band focused which was great to experience.

I got to play on a rooftop in Istanbul last year which was definitely one of my highlights. Wide Open Spaces festival in the Northern Territory is up there too - getting to play in the middle of this huge gorge on Eastern Arrente country in the Central Desert as the sun went down on the final day was mind blowing.

Do you work in music full time or do you have another day job?

I work full time as a motion graphics designer at Channel 10. I'm really lucky to have a creative and enjoyable job, and honestly, I like the stability. Plus they have been really supportive of the music part of my life, giving me time off when I need it for travel and gigs. I’m actually leaving there next month though after 11 years to become a partner in a production company. I'll be concentrating on series development for TV and streaming which is terrifying and exciting at the same time.

What can we expect from your upcoming set at Tempo Comodo’s 1st Birthday?

I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve got a lot of new music I haven’t played out before and some fresh promos that I can’t wait to unleash. I create a lot of bootlegs and edits, and give most of them away on SoundCloud, but I’ve got a few special ones I keep to myself for my sets.

What else is coming up for you on the gig or music release horizon?

Release wise, I've got an EP coming out on Berlin label Monada as well as one on Dialtone from Mexico with great remixes from some of my favoutites like Dibidabo and Sangeet. I've also just done a remix for Erhan Yilmaz who I just discovered recently, whose music has really blown me away. I had a release recently on TRNDMSK with vocals from Byron Bay singer Ellika and the remix package for that is coming out soon with two huge ones from Unam and Uone. I’ll also be taking a break from gigs through the middle of the year to write a new album.

It’s Sunday afternoon at home. Which album are you reaching for?

Either 'Nice Place, Bad Intentions' by Luca Musto or '3 feet High and Rising' by De La Soul.

The Oddness plays Tempo Comodo's 1st Birthday with Pink Language & Phil Smart on April 6. Full event details are here.

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