Having just released his slow jam crooner EP Altruism and about to take it on tour next month, Oscar Key Sung is chasing the ephemeral of electronic music, the omnipresence of aesthetics, remixing his own beats and the beauty of combining heavy dance music with celestial elements.
This killer illustration of Oscar is by Alejandro Aguanta.
HAPPY: You’ve described your sophomore EP Altruism as “A bit of a mess”. What do you mean by this?
OSCAR: I think I was referring to the whole process when I said it was a bit of a mess, not specifically the EP. What I meant by that is a number of things all at once. I think a lot of the time, with pop music especially, everything fits into one genre the whole time, one strict style. Everything’s a ballad or everything’s a banger. I think my music tends to go around and not be one strict thing at a times.
OSCAR: There was a lot of stuff that I was drawing on, and also those artists. I really like cold music that’s all about the beat. Heavier dance music like Jersey house, techno music and deep house. It doesn’t really have much emotion to it in a way. It’s very cold, strong and structural. But I also like very amorphous, celestial, beautiful music as well, like string or soul music like Peven Everett. Stuff I really enjoy. So there’s different influences, and bringing them together I try to combine really emotional elements with really cold, aggressive elements.
HAPPY: I can hear those emotional and cold elements throughout your latest EP. How did you go about writing, recording and mastering it? I heard that one song took you a year to write!
OSCAR: A lot of my songs take a long time to write! There’ll be this a spurt where the initial idea comes together quickly, then it’s a case of coming to terms with bringing those ideas to their totality or finality. There’s a lot of times when I’d write a song on piano and sit on it for a while, then combine that song I’d written with an instrumental beat or something that I’d made, and bring the two together to make them work. There was a lot of that vibe on this EP. I wanted to write the songs as much as I could first, then develop those ideas rather than re-write them too many times like I’d done in the past, or probably will do in the future.
I also worked pretty closely with a guy named Andrei Eremin. Once I’d written the songs and produced them out I brought them to him. He helped me finish them off by bringing his ears to them for mixing. He adjusted things and changed things like EQ to make them sit in the way that he can achieve that I don’t focus on as much; it’s not my strong point. He mixed the last EP as well.
HAPPY: A few weeks after releasing your lead single Premonition, you then dropped a remix version. Did you feel like you still had more to explore with this tune, and do you often feel like that with your music?
OSCAR: Yeah, I think if I had endless time I’d do remixes of everything. Finding time to finish things off can be hard. But I think with that song it was a funny thing where I worked really hard to make an interesting tension between the instrument and the vocal, but once I stripped away the instrumental I realised that the vocal on its own was quite strong. It was fun to just remake an instrumental around the vocal, rather than the vocal from the beat.
A lot of the time I don’t put out most of this music, but I’ll download acapellas or get acapellas from friends and make beats around that. Once you’ve already got that structure in place and those melodies and rhythms are innate in the vocal bed, creating an instrumental to it is actually really quick. It’s a fun activity to do to one of my own songs, rather than somebody else’s.
HAPPY: So do you enjoy remixing your tracks as a bit of a pastime, you don’t necessarily always release them?
OSCAR: Oh no, I make a lot of remixes of other tracks that I don’t release that much. But I think it is really fun remixing your own stuff as well.
HAPPY: As well as remixing, you’re a singer, beatmaker and producer. Is there one particular role you enjoy most?
OSCAR: That’s a hard one. No, I like all of them!
HAPPY: Nice! I heard that your parents were fashion designers and this seems to have influenced you; you seem to have an eye for aesthetics. How do aesthetics and fashion influence your creativity when it comes to making music?
OSCAR: Yeah, I guess aesthetics are very omnipresent. Design is everywhere and its influence is constant. It’s like the whole thing of as soon as you start becoming aware of anything, like when one of your friends becomes pregnant and you notice pregnant people everywhere! It’s like you just start thinking about it more and more until it becomes an unconscious thing that you notice all the time.
I think fashion is interesting because it’s similar to electronic music in the way that things that are new and fresh are really attractive; that special new thing. It’s funny because a lot of people have described that as being vapid or meaningless. But, I think that’s the beauty of it. Chasing the ephemeral specialness and the fact that something is really fresh at one point and then you lose interest in it and find something else. That’s a really fun process for me; it’s not an empty one. It makes everything really fresh. But I think, in terms of how it influences what I do, it probably reflects my mindset.
HAPPY: Like aesthetics and fashion are part of who you are, your identity, so it naturally flows into your creative outlet?
OSCAR: Yeah, that’s right. It’s like the whole thing of picking a wine to have with your meal. It needs to compliment it. In the same way, artwork, fashion and style all need to compliment the sounds. Nothing exists in a vacuum. It all affects.
HAPPY: It all needs to make sense as an aesthetic whole? Like with your music, performances and videos, they all seem to align as one.
OSCAR: Yeah, exactly.
OSCAR: I have more work coming out with Banoffee, which is cool. More work coming out with HTML Flowers, he’s a rapper. I’ve been working on a lot of vocal features too. And Andrei and I have more work coming out as well. There’s other stuff that I’m doing that I probably shouldn’t chat about cos’ I don’t know when it’ll come out. But yeah, there’s a few other things in the works.
HAPPY: You’ve recently been performing at clubs and festivals throughout Europe, Japan and the US. So how do you feel about touring your latest EP back on Aussie soil this June?
OSCAR: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it! I really hope there will be some nice crowds and people get into it. It’ll be the first time I’ve played these songs while they’ve been released. It’ll be really nice to see if people like particular songs. Tracks like All I Could Do that I put out ages ago, I used to play it live in the exact same way before I put it out. Then after it was out and people really liked it the energy was always so much huger when I played it. It’s exciting playing released music.
HAPPY: Is there a particular new tune that you’re hoping everyone will like most?
OSCAR: I’m not sure. We’ll see. I’m very, very curious. I’m anxious to see how they go.
HAPPY: Well we don’t want you to feel anxious, we want you to feel happy! So Oscar what makes you happy?
OSCAR: What makes me happy? There’s a lot of things that make me happy… I’m tempted to just say sex (laughs). I think it’s nice when everything is under control. I feel happy when everyone I care about is doing okay, I’m on top of all my deadlines, I’m busy and I’m healthy. When everyone is healthy and okay that makes me happy. There’s a lot of people that are important to me and important that they’re doing well. It’s good when everyone’s alright. That makes me happy. That makes me relaxed.
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