They seemed to emerge out of nowhere last year - but as OC reveals here, that was after two decades of groundwork
The Manchester-based duo of Ben O'Connor and Jon Verde have been working together for a full decade now, but they only made their production debut under the name OC & Verde at the start of 2016, with Symphony. Hot Since 82 snapped up the track for his Knee Deep In Sound label, and the pair haven't looked back since.
Their follow-up, Maasai, was awarded Essential New Tune status on Pete Tong's Radio 1, and went on to be No 14 in Beatport's year-end tech-house chart for 2016. A further boost from Tongy came when he tipped them as Ones To Watch at the start of 2017, and their music is now regularly played out by heavy-hitters such as Skream, Steve Lawler, Sasha, A Tale Of Us, Yousef and many more, and has appeared on such respected labels as ViVA Music, Glasgow Underground, Suara and Bedrock.
With a new single Flauta/Gitarra about to drop on Waze & Odyssey's W&O Street Tracks label this Friday (20 October) and a collaboration with Eli & Fur in the pipeline to boot, we figured it was time we found out more... so we grabbed Ben (OC) for a quick chat.
Let's start at the beginning, and how the two of you came to be working together...
"Jon used to have a design and print agency that printed the flyers for the club nights I was promoting and DJing at back in the day, about ten years ago. Jon and myself got talking about music, DJing etc, and he told me he produced some stuff and wanted to get into DJing, and I was really looking to get into producing on top of my DJing. So we went into Jon’s studio - which at the time was in the back of his mum and dad's garage! - and we started messing about with stuff. And after a few failed attempts and 10 years of graft, OC & Verde was born!"
Tell us a bit about how you work. Is one of you more the ideas man and another more the engineer, or is it a 50:50 split? And do you tend to work physically together in the studio, or remotely?
"When we started out, I was the DJ and Jon was the producer. Jon had around 500 or so unfinished tracks of all genres, literally from French house, Daft Punk-sounding stuff to sort of indie tracks with him singing on - I still laugh about them! But he also had quite a lot of housey tracks and really melodic, progressive house stuff which was what my ears picked up on. So initially I was probably the ideas guy and Jon was more the engineer, as I got him to focus on the house music and brought my influences from techno and prog house into the mix. But now, 10 years into working together, we're much more on the same page musically and ideas come from us both.
"Jon’s working on ideas all the time, so how we work now is Jon will probably have three or four melodies on the go, then I’ll come in and pick my favourite and we’ll get to work that way. We never work remotely, really: we're in the studio three or four days a week if we're not touring. The only thing we do remotely is gather vocals and samples - we send ideas or tracks for inspiration to each other on email all the time."
What benefits do you think working as a duo brings, as opposed to operating solo?
"The benefits are always having someone to bounce ideas off, and having someone to chat to when travelling! Airports and train stations are pretty boring if you’re on your own, so it's always better to have a mate with you - especially if you’re hungover."
Your tracks/remixes have featured on Knee Deep In Sound, Bedrock, Suara, Glasgow Underground, ViVA Music and Selador. That's quite a range of labels, so what's the common thread to OC & Verde productions, would you say?
"Yeah, it is quite a range of labels. Our music is pretty unique sounding, I think: we get told a lot by other DJs, promoters and fans that we don’t sound like anyone else, which we absolutely love. So that kind of explains why we’ve been on such a wide range of labels. Our music has been supported by Soloum, Adam Beyer, Hot Since 82, Pete Tong, Steve Lawler, Tale Of Us, John Digweed and even Deadmau5 has been playing our stuff.
"Our latest EP Flauta is being supported by Nicole Moudaber and Pig & Dan on the techno side of things, but also Bill Brewster has been playing the tracks on the completely opposite, Balearic side of the spectrum. We love that! It's great to get support across the board like that off so many different styles of DJ, because it doesn’t happen for a lot of artists. Most get boxed in under one sub-genre these days, and we haven’t had that: we’re not tech house, prog house, melodic techno or what ever the next in-fashion genre is, we're just OC & Verde."
That's also quite an impressive CV for such a short space of time. Bit of a whirlwind for you.... or just desserts for a lifetime's preparation?
"Just desserts, really. Like I said, we’ve been working together for 10 years, and before that there was another 10 years of us working separately. DJing in empty bars and clubs warming up for other DJs, putting on our own nights, producing under different names trying to get signed… you name it, we’ve done it. The last year or so has been a massive whirlwind, but it took a lot of graft to get here."
You've had a lot of support from Pete Tong. How important is radio to artists breaking through today, do you think? And Radio 1 specifically?
"We think it's still massively important. Pete Tong’s support has been huge for us, and got our music out to so many people that we couldn’t have done ourselves. Also getting music played on Radio 1 by Pete Tong is an honour: he gets sent the best of the best music-wise week in, week out, so to get the nod from him as being Ones To Watch for 2017 and an Essential New Tune is massive. So yeah, radio is very important for us."
I notice you're playing at Gorilla on 10 November. As a former Megacity 0161 resident, how's the house scene in Manchester these days? Still healthy?
"The scene in Manchester is very healthy right now. Gorilla is a wicked venue, we’ve played there twice now and every time its gone off! Hidden is another great venue - they put loads of wicked parties on, and obviously WHP is the dominant force in the city, along with Albert Hall. And the people are nuts and always up for a party, so yeah, the scene is thriving in Manchester."
You seem so far to be mostly a DJ/production duo - I can't see any reference on social media to a club night or label of your own? Am I missing anything?
"At the moment, we're just focusing on our productions and touring. We have talked about our own label, and it will come at some stage, but at the moment we’re happy with the labels we’re signed to and have a few more releases coming on that we’re very excited about.
"As for our own label and club nights, that's gonna happen - just not yet. Watch this space!"
Speaking of upcoming releases, you've got an Eli & Fur collaboration coming up… tell us about that?
"We had a track that we were working on that we really wanted some vocals for, so we contacted the girls to see if they would be interested in working with us. Which they were, so we went down to Red Bull Studios in London and put this track together called Sweet Perfection. It's a bit deeper than our normal stuff, very melodic, with the girls' trippy vocals. We’ve signed it to Sharam from Deep Dish’s Yoshitoshi label and Sharam himself is gonna do the remix on it, which we’re very excited about!"
Finally, what else is going on with OC & Verde right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"The Flauta EP is already starting to gather some pace on the promo and getting great support. Then the Eli & Fur collab is out in November and then in December we have an EP called Sacrifice coming out on Octopus, which is one of our favourite techno labels. The track's already being hammered by Adam Beyer so we are super excited for that one! Lots of new music to come!"
Words: Russell Deeks
Flauta/Gitarra is out on W&O Street Tracks on 20 October. Catch the duo DJing at the By Day By Night Freakshow at London's Steelyard on 27 October, and at Gorilla, Manchester on 10 November.
Tags: OC & Verde, Hot Since 82, Pete Tong, Radio 1, Knee Deep In Sound, W&O Street Tracks, Eli & Fur, Gorilla, Octopus, Yoshitoshi, Sharam Jey, Red Bull Studios, Nicole Moudaber, Pig & Dan, Bill Brewster