Words: Matthew Pollock
Photos: Cameron Brisbane Photography
As Glasgow-based producer Peter Ferguson, aka Wuh Oh, gears up to command The Poetry Club for a headline show this Friday (14th Oct) – a venue where he played one of his first live gigs just a year ago – it’s clear he’s made some serious waves over the last twelve months.
From LuckyMe tastemaker, Éclair Fifi, dropping his tracks on her NTS show to a support slot for DJ Shadow, there is a growing buzz around Wuh Oh and it’s completely justified. With a sound that daringly fuses the playful timing and funky sensibilities of jazz with swaggering hip-hop influences, distorted pop and the raw euphoria of electro, it’s not hard to see why people are taking notice.
“I really get a kick out of exploring those more complex elements in my own music, especially when it comes to strange samples and time signatures” Wuh Oh explains. “The best pop music always manages to retain a depth and complexity that makes it worth coming back to.”
Although Wuh Oh’s releases to date have been gaining him increasing exposure online (recent release ‘Wolverines’ has notched up a truckload of listens in a matter of months), those who’ve seen him live speak of some seriously impressive unreleased material – some of which has also been showcased in tantalisingly short online teaser clips.
“I’m sceptical about releasing everything in one go at the moment” he says. “Playing the tracks live is still a great way to experiment with them and change my mind about what works.”
It also keeps us on our toes, so ahead of his show on Friday, we caught up with Wuh Oh to find out what he’s got planned for the near future, and why he’s confident that, despite the buzz around his new material, the best is yet to come:
SynthGlasgow: Although you seem to be going from strength to strength gig-wise at the moment, you seem to have invested much more time working on new material too – why is that?
Wuh Oh: Yeah, I suppose I’m pretty determined to make sure I have plenty of material up my sleeve for whatever else might happen. It was really cool to see the exposure that ‘Wolverines’ got recently, but I’m especially excited about some of the stuff that remains unreleased. I wouldn’t want to be caught unawares when the right time to bring out an EP comes along.
SG: There’s been a lot of excitement about previews of your unreleased material; hasn’t that tempted you to release it straight away?
Wuh Oh: It’s tempting, but I’m sceptical about releasing everything in one go at the moment. Playing the tracks live is still a great way to experiment with them and change my mind about what works. I actually lost a lot of tracks recently when my laptop broke, so I decided to let some of them go. I did decide to rebuild a couple though, and they’ve turned out even better than the originals.
SG: A lot of your tracks sound quite radically different from each other. Do you still see them as part of the same project, or are you happy with a track as long as it works as a stand-alone piece?
Wuh Oh: Yeah, at this point I’m not necessarily interested in making tracks that ‘compliment’ each other or anything like that. Continuity in that sense isn’t really a priority for me: I can’t even remember the last time I listened to an album the whole way through!
As far as I’m concerned, each track has its own thing going on, rather than relying on signature sounds that conform to the listener’s expectations of my music. They do often end up sounding completely different from each other, which is cool.
SG: So, how do you approach the creative process?
Wuh Oh: Usually once I’ve come up with an idea I’ll try to realise it as best I can in one sitting, and then I’ll make an MP3 and listen to it now and again over about a month or so, thinking of ways I might tweak this or add that.Then I’ll bring all those ideas together in one final session, and try to incorporate them all.
I’ve found that one of the hardest things when you’ve already made a few tracks can be trying not to copy yourself – I’ll find myself thinking ‘I always use that drum pattern’ or ‘I always resolve a chord sequence that way’. Lately I’ve been setting myself little challenges like ‘write a hook using only two notes’ or ‘make a tune that never does the same thing twice’ to push myself into writing stuff that’s different from my previous music.
SG: That’s interesting; I guess musicians tend to talk more often about the effort to escape the influence of others...
Wuh Oh: Yeah, but the way I see it, nothing worth listening to is truly original. Everything has to be derivative in some sense, or else it would be unlistenable. In a way, it’s about referencing the cliché and then turning it on its head: ‘you’ve heard this…but what about this?’ (laughs). It’s not possible to completely escape from the music you’ve heard before; to some degree you’re always reinterpreting that stuff - hopefully in a way that’s new and interesting.
SG: It’s difficult to stay on the right side of that boundary though, isn’t it?
Wuh Oh: Of course, and we’re all familiar with the tale of the once-innovative musician who gravitated towards that kind of ultra-popular sound with mass appeal. I appreciate that it’s not easy to make that crossover from being fairly cutting-edge to producing music that’s massively popular, but I always wonder how musicians who do it can keep getting creative fulfilment from making one chart hit after another when they so clearly have the potential to do something more interesting.
That said, the best pop music always manages to retain a depth and complexity that makes it worth coming back to. I find it hard to resist analysing and deconstructing the music I hear – one of the drawbacks of producing music is it can be hard to switch that off. I’m a bit guilty of listening to a piece of music I like and trying to explain to my girlfriend just what makes such and such a moment really special or effective or whatever (laughs).
I really get a kick out of exploring those more complex elements in my own music, especially when it comes to strange samples and time signatures – but I’m wary of the risk of ending up making music for musicians: if people aren’t dancing, what’s the point?