Multi-instrumentalist, multi-style fusionist, serious banger merchant, not actually a real octopus: Meet Jon Morgan AKA Octo Pi.
Chances are you’re familiar with him already.
He’s the drummer with Collette Warren’s Collette The Dots band (alongside the likes of Hugh Hardie and Intrigue Music founder Ben Soundscape) and his back-cat dates back to the early 2010s on labels such as Global Domination after winning a remix competition with Drum&BassArena to remix DJ Fresh’s chart smashing Gold Dust. Since then he’s proceeded to make a string of appearances on Viper, Soul Deep Digital and Audio Addict before Sinai and Carasel’s AFT Records snapped him up and recently released his debut album King Of Camouflage.
An exceptional 13 track document, King Of Camouflage is a serious statement of intent. Spanning Jon’s full stylistic spectrum from slinky deep steppers to wily jungle slammers: it galvanises the many-shade sonic mission he’s been on for many years and does so with a sense of consistency and flow not all D&B albums achieve. Get to know…
Let’s go back to the start of your life as an octopus. 2010, right?
Yeah man. I’d just moved to Bristol from Wales because my wife got a job here. The first six months I wasn’t working so I had a lot of time on my hands and ramped up the production. I entered the Drum&BassArena competition to remix Fresh’s Gold Dust and won. I came up and did a live set on D&BTV with Ulterior Motive which was amazing and through that the label Global Domination picked me up. I’d say my style was a bit more jump up oriented back then but something in it attracted Viper who picked me up a few years later. Brendan (Futurebound) has been very helpful to me and given me loads of great opportunities. He always surprises me with the tunes of mine he signs. Quite a few of them have been ones with me singing on like Eraser.
So many producers in D&B sing! Calyx, Calibre, Fred V…. Did you know you could sing already or did you need a vocal?
I guess I knew I could pass it off. I’ve played drums, guitar and bass and done some solo acoustic stuff at open mic sessions. My brother and I have been in bands all the time growing up and I’d do backing vocals a lot so it felt more natural to go ‘sod it I’m gonna sing myself’ than wait for a vocalist. It’s not easy; I’m dubious about putting my vocals on things and always want to work with other vocalists. But I’m getting more confident. I write a lot of my tunes on guitar and transpose them to Cubase.
Interesting way of writing. Do you do that with all the styles you cover including the heavier stuff?
Sometimes! The majority of the tunes I’ll start writing a beat and have an idea of a bassline but I spend a lot of time working out a melody on the guitar because I know the notes and chords so much more fluently on a guitar than I do the keyboard.
So this is the meaning of the name Octo Pi? You want to have enough hands to play all instruments in the world.
I guess! That was a drummer thing really though. Imagine playing the drums with eight arms? Imagine playing a set with eight decks?
Mind blown. Let’s chat about the album…
I’m so happy with it. It took me over two years to bring together and I was proud of how it sounds like an album and has a flow to it. It’s not just a collection of tracks.
To have that consistency is an achievement when you cover as many styles as you do
I spent a lot of time on the arrangement and flow and dynamic. Originally it was going to be 16 tracks but we narrowed it down because it works so much better as 13 tracks. It’s more direct.
Long albums can put some people off a bit
Yeah brevity is important. It’s too easy to include as many tracks as you possibly can on your album and there’s such a constant flow of tunes that you’re always in danger of getting lost in the noise. The aim is to reach for timelessness. A theme helps shape the album, too.
Yes, the King Of Camouflage. A reference to your ability explore any corner of drum & bass?
It wasn’t meant to be but yeah you’re right. It’s an octopus thing…. They’re really good at camouflaging themselves.
Ah true. There’s only one octopus I know who’s collaborated with Kumarachi, though…
I’ve been a big fan of his for years! He’s killing it! If I like someone’s tracks I hit them up on Facebook and Phatty is one of my favourite tunes of all time so I hit him up and I pestered him to do a remix on it. We struck up a conversation and got on really well so have done a few collabs. We did the Flow Drop track for his EP which was originally meant to be on my album but he wanted it so we did Don’t Just Stand There on my album. He’s a really fun guy to work with and it’s an honour having him on my album.
More people need to send messages like that! Spread the positive vibes!
I think so, too. Drum & bass is all about communication. It’s one of the only styles of electronic music that really feels like it’s got a family feel to it. No other music makes me feel like the same way drum & bass makes me feel. Those moments when it hits you hard and makes you just go ‘wow!’ We all feel that and connect through that feeling. I used to be a bit shy getting in touch with people but came to the realisation that as long as you’re being real and legit and not being a massive dick about it then it’s all good.
Amen. What a great way to end interview. Leave us with some future hype please…
We’re working on a remix album right now, which will be revealed as soon as it’s all in place. There’s some incredible artists doing remixes so I’m really happy about that. I also have a single on Audiomission’s Gyro Records, I’m working with DJ Hybrid at the moment, a few more bits with Ben Kumarachi and more bits with Dr Meaker too.
Of course! I’ve known Clive for years. I wrote Fighter with him and did the bassline and drums. So we’re working on some other bits for the future, too. So yeah lots of stuff, I’m feeling really inspired at the moment.
Get inspired: King Of Camouflage is out now on AFT Records