Creating an emotional connection between your track and your listener is the ultimate goal of any musician. You’re creating art, after all art is meant to be lived, breathed and emotionally intoxicating.
Ownglow, who came through on Pilot Recordings, has just released his debut Hospital EP: A Walk To Remember. Four tracks deep, the short-but-perfectly-formed body of work can easily be described as a journal entry; a personal piece of a disgruntled puzzle that has been complete in the mind of Sam Reeves and remained a mystery to the rest of the world until recently. It was that complete picture in his mind that Sam held onto and undoubtedly believed in that lead his passion for music through the uncertainty of following a dream.
Ownglow’s drive and ambition is impressive and motivating to say the least. His days start at 9am, finish at 2am, and usually consist of at least two new track ideas to play around with. When we spoke, the remnants of a large coffee and two Red Bulls were still floating around and energizing the conversation. The conversation starts with his own motivation and personal observations in D&B….
“Drum & bass for me felt like it was losing a bit of its soul, and a bit of its charm,” he explains to me. “When I started listening at age 15/16, the tracks all had this ethereal haunting edge to them and they weren’t overly processed. I’ve been trying to get that back into D&B and get it away from the ‘I’m gunna slam everything out and make it as loud as possible.’ People resonate more with music that has some sort of meaning or something you can identify with; usually the feelings the artist had when they wrote the music. There’s a few artists however that have been really pushing that envelope, Pola & Bryson, GLXY, Dawn Wall for example, It’s exciting to see that roughness and emotion coming back ”
How were you able to express such a personal story through a collection of tracks, especially when your story is filled as many hardships as yours?
A Walk To Remember was seemingly nostalgic, but also a sublime melancholic and depressed story. It was the story of me leaving home, dropping out of school at 15, going to LA, being homeless for a year and half, and finding a way to move to London and getting this real experience of signing tracks to UKF and Hospital. It’s just trying to cover all of those grounds and compile a story that actually flows and makes sense. Angels Sing was sort of an ode to the experiences I had in LA, and how fake and pretentious and plastic it was at times, and then that journey I took down to San Diego, and how real that was. So I tried to mix the commercialism and the plastic feeling with the sublime feeling of moving.
Can you briefly explain the story of leaving home?
Basically, I started getting into music through gaming, I did some professional COD tournaments when I was 13 and this led me to writing my own tracks to cut to my own gaming montages, inadvertently this is how I discovered dance music for the first time, other gamers were using tracks from channels like Monstercat and as I started to investigate, which is how came across channels such as Liquicity and UKF, which is when I fell in love with DnB, specifically when I first heard B Complex – Beautiful Lies VIP, unbeknown to me at the time it was the contrast between the samples and the process, nostalgic whilst also being forward thinking.
I chose to drop out of school in my sophomore year, and my parents “disowned” me for a bit. I bought a train ticket and my mind was made up – this was going to happen for me, I went to LA at 15 years old.
Originally I wanted to go into astronomy, so my parents were thoroughly shell shocked when I left home to pursue music. But once they saw me making progress, and understood how passionate I was, they came around.
Now you’re living in London. Do you think your creativity has evolved from that move?
I do but I have also realised I’m a complete sucker for wanderlust, I get it all the time. So when I’m completely broke I travel to different parts of the UK to be able to write what I’m feeling. I can’t write when I’m stuck in a room or a studio. I have to be on a train or a bus, something where there is a constantly changing environment. It adds to a different aspect of the tune and adds a different depth and texture. It’s better than writing when staring at a wall for 8 hours. There’s a time and place for the technical tedious stuff that needs to be done in a studio, but other than that, I can be anywhere.
With such a dynamic history, how do you keep yourself afloat, and motivated?
The problem is, at my age, there are people who talk a lot. People who want to do stuff, and they aspire to do it. It’s remarkable, but they don’t actually have the drive to do it in the end. The work that they don’t put forward is almost resentful. I think that makes me sound pretentious because I am 19, and I still have my 19 year old inhibitions, but I think I’ve got a bit more life experience gained through the hardships that I experienced when dropping out of school.
Tell us a bit about the EP album art.
I’ve had an interest in graphic design since I was 13. I ended up going to Stanford for a design seminar. I flunked out of that of course, alongside all of my music classes, apparently formal education is not the one for me. It was a very tedious way of going about learning.
I came to Hospital’s attention through a redesign I made for a Danny Byrd’s track, Changes. I did the art as a sort of tribute to Danny and that track in specific, and sent it over to them via Twitter, I was like “look at this Hospital please hire me”. And they were like “this is sick can we see more of your art?” and I was like “here is my art…also…here is my music!”. I think they got so fed up with me sending demos that they decided to sign me.
I’m not a fan of over the top designs, I’ve never been a fan of anything but minimal concepts. But for the design of this EP, I wanted something that represented the complexity of it, but also how minimal it was. I found no better subject than my hometown. So I took the mountain from my hometown, created a 3D model of it, traced it, and just did some nerdy shit to make it look somewhat decent.
What’s next for Ownglow?
Long term, I’d like to be part of breaking drum & bass. I want to make it something that it has never been before and introduce a new ethos and welcome in a new generation into the production and consumption of it. I want to make music and soulful things that people can relate with.
Also, shout out to Blake who featured on the EP, she absolutely smashed the vocal, shout out UKF for constantly supporting me, Hospital for actually taking care of me, and yourself for this interview.