Moving On with O.G

Saturday, September 20th, 2008 | Interviews
Moving On with O.G

Here is the transcript of an interview recorded recently with New Zealand based musician, producer and composer Oakley O.G Grenell, enjoy!

I’ll just start by touching upon your family influences; some could go as far to call it a musical dynasty. With the achievements of your father (John) and the involvement of your siblings (Denver, Redford and Amiria) in other assorted projects, how has this developed your musical tastes and helped shape your career?

I guess having a musical father meant being exposed to all different kinds of music when we were young and growing up. My mum used to organise the festivals on Whitecliffs farm and that ran for about 15 years. So every summer we’d be surrounded by different types of musicians with all different instruments and our ears were open to the world of folk music, country music, blues, rock, reggae. All that kind of good stuff which then influenced us into picking up instruments. My brother Redford picked up the drums and I picked up the guitar, and we told our older brother to play some bass so we could create a trio. I guess my older brother’s album or CD collection influenced what we listened to after that. We also used to have lots overseas hostellers come work on the farm and get free board and stuff. So they’d also bring their music into the house and we’d listen to a whole bunch of stuff from overseas, it was quite an eclectic taste. The way it’s helped our career, I guess, is that over the last 6 albums I’ve released, everything has been slightly different, kind of picking up on different parts of the world of music and trying to put my spin on it, being a kiwi kid. The new album is all hip-hop, so I should really speak about that. It’s all the kind of hip-hop I like listening to really; the early hip-hop we listened to was Ice-T ‘Cop killer’ and stuff like that. You know, things like 2 Live Crew, Double J and Twice the T was the kiwi one. We used to do covers of Digable Planets when I was in third form, ‘Cool Like Dat’ and then the whole metal/hip-hop/rap thing came in, which was like Rage Against the Machine and the like. The soundtrack to “Judgement Night” which had a whole lot of collaborations between rock and hip-hop.

What were some of the musical influences that inspired you when were growing up?

Hendrix was a big inspiration. Just off the top my head I’m just going to throw names out there: Tuck Andress who’s the guitarist from the duo Tuck and Patti, Ben Harper was a huge influence when I was learning how to write songs. His second album “Fight for your Mind”, I think is one of the best out there. A guitarist called Bireli Lagrene who is from France. Producers who influenced me would definitely have to be The Herbaliser who played on the farm when we were very young, I was about 16. Jazzy Jeff I think is an amazing producer. I’ll just go to my Myspace and check what it says there, I’m pretty sure I’ve got heaps of them there. Ok so we’ve got J Dilla (AKA Jay Dee) who does the whole jazz mixed with hip hop, shuffle kind of thing. Questlove from the roots, D’Angelo, Salaam Remi, Jill Scott, Adam F, Elephannt Man, Beenie Man, The Neptunes, Dr Dre, Roots Manuva, Busta Rhymes, Mos Def, Madlib, Damian Marley, Method Man, Common, Mark Ronson, The Nextmen,, Sergio Mendes, The Cinematic Orchestra. Kiwi acts like Shapeshifter, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Open Souls. Overseas MCs, some people that I’ve worked with, Dynamite MC, The Eskimo Squad crew. I guess growing up in Christchurch we were open to the fact of hearing Christchurch reggae bands as well, like EST who are Excellent Soul Therapy influenced me a lot, also Bob Marley and all that kind of stuff.

Involved in many different projects yourself, including Departure Lounge, Eskimo Squad and of course your solo work. Do you find it easy to switch between musical styles?

After high school I studied jazz guitar for three years and in the second year (or possibly the first year), I started gigging and doing gigs and I really wanted to mix what I had learnt from the jazz genre (which really doesn’t sell any albums these days), and create something new with it. Taking the improvisational elements of jazz and throwing that into trying to make new styles, and creating. Drum n Bass was quite early back then, so we were doing it live in a band I had back then called Jam Fa. I remember talking to Johnny Hooves, (who is now a Drum n Bass producer, back then he was our drummer), listening to early Roni Size and hearing Dynamite MC. One of our early conversations in probably ‘98 or ‘99, was “wouldn’t it be cool to hear Dynamite MC on a hip hop track?” I actually got a chance to do that in the new tune, on the new album which he’s on; it’s called “A Day in the Life”. But we also did one on the first O.G album called ‘Bahm Bahm’.

You also have your own recording label “Central Records”, we’re you always interested in that side of the business? Or was it a means to end, to help you accomplish your roles as musician and producer?

For jazz school (which was end of 2000 or maybe ‘99) I won a scholarship for best performer that year and got $500, so went out and bought a keyboard because I’d been listening to The Nomad’s ‘Second Selection’ and ‘Mezzanine’ by Massive Attack, and I really wanted to start mixing and actually try producing. Up until that point I was a guitarist and I was in a reggae band called Bunyip. We just did live gigs all the time and I hadn’t really done any studio stuff, so I went and bought a computer, got ‘Pro Tools’ and stuff. Created a little six-track E.P and then I thought: “How am I going to release it? What do you need to release it?” You need a record label and you need a distributor. So I made up a label called Central Records cause all my friends we called Goob central, so I just nicked that name, and called it Central Records. Pretty much wherever my laptop goes with me and my microphone, then that’s where “Central Records” is based.

It is hard to do the business side as well as the musical side, half the year is spent creating the album (and that’s a mission) mixing it down, getting it all perfect, the artwork, putting it all together, manufacturing it, and that’s only half the job! The other half is getting it into stores, promote it, sell it, organise the tours, do the gigs, try and make music videos, of which we have made 6 (I think) and they’re all on Youtube (just search my name). That’s not the greatest part of the music business, to be honest the best part is when you’ve created a track in your room (or with some other musicians) and you know it’s going to kill in the clubs or in a live band setting, and then of course playing that live and seeing people just go crazy! Which happened last weekend, at the Black Seeds gig, with the Live O.G Band, we killed it.

What were the influencing factors in your travelling to the UK to make music?

I grew up on a farm for the first 17 years of my life and then moved to Christchurch. I needed 5 years to explore it and become top of my game as a guitarist in this town. Then I did my O.E (Overseas Experience), as three of my friends were heading over to Europe, so I decided to do that trip. I had actually been a teacher of music in high schools for two years, then took seven weeks off. We bought a van and travelled through Greece and Italy, then it got too hot. It was the summer of 2003, and there were insane heatwaves. I didn’t have a guitar so I flew to London and started teaching and got my guitar, so that was the reason to go to the UK. A bit of O.E and wanting to collaborate with MCs over there, which I did. I secured the Dynamite tune, started some tunes with The Eskimo Squad guys and then continued to teach, gig, DJ, gig, do some guitar gigs, and produce heaps and heaps of music. I pretty much spent all my money on going out to gigs and I did that for four years. I’d spend six months in the UK for the summer, then I’d come back to NZ for six months and continually do that for four years.

Your second full length solo album ‘Moving On’ that was released in New Zealand earlier this year, is now coming over to Australia. How would you describe the album?OG Moving On

I’d describe it as the hip hop that I like. Coming from NZ, hip hop was something I was into, but it wasn’t a huge thing that I was into when I started producing the first O.G album back in 2001. But when I moved to the UK they had specialist radio shows and whole stations dedicated to dance hall and hip hop. That’s when I really feel in love with the styles and wanted to understand, so being a producer I wanted try every single style. So this is my young hip hop stage, and I’m in love with the beat! Just collaborating with MCs and vocalists is a great thing to do. The album itself sounds very jazz influenced, very kind of Dilla-based. I can listen to beats on there, and it can sound like a compilation of a whole bunch of different producers and MCs, but I’m a bit schizophrenic like that when it comes to making music. I get influenced so easily and that comes out in the music with all these different styles on one album. Some of them are harder tracks like ‘Babylon Creeps’ (feat. KP & Switch) where it’s a bit more of a gangsta beat, but all the MCs are speaking the truth. Then there’s softer ones,  jazzier ones like ‘That’s The Thing’ (feat. LA Mitchell), ‘Moving on’ (feat. Mark Vanilau), and Mara TK’s tune (’Where I’m At’). So I’d call it a very eclectic hip hop album.

All the reviews I have read are positive and praise your ability and versatility, are you personally happy with the album and how it has turned out?

Yes, I am personally happy with the album, it’s the best music I have ever created, and I’d be so much more happy if was more well received,  because I haven’t had amazing record sales. I don’t think anyone is having amazing record sales these days, but I would love more people to hear it. That’s what getting out on the road and trying to promote it is all about. So we’ll be coming over to Australia to do that very soon!

Anything you see coming on the horizon that people may not currently know about but will soon – as far as trends or up and coming acts?

O.G with Dynamite MC in BrisbaneUpcoming acts: you’re going to hear a group from Wellington called Electric Wire Hustle, you’re going to hear a lot of my band (The O.G Band), you’re going to hear The Departure Lounge, which is my other band and the next album I will be doing, coming out late ‘09. Production-wise there’s a guy in Auckland doing a whole lot of dub-step called Optimus Grime.

What plans do you have for the future musically or otherwise, as in projects you will focus on?

I really want to focus on The Live O.G Band; we played some gigs in the weekend with Black seeds. I had my live eight piece band – that was awesome! Future projects I’ve got are organising a tour for the live band and do the summer gigs, we’ve Parihaka sorted out. I run a festival called “I-nation” which will be happening again on March 21st 2009. Musical projects we’ve got include the next The Departure Lounge album, which will be the first that is studio recorded, featuring Mark Vanilau on vocals. The year after that I will be releasing the next O.G album which will be 2010, and I don’t know whether that will be hip hop, drum n bass or dub-step yet, maybe switch it up a little bit? I’ve got heaps of unreleased tunes, but have to sub-categorise them. So basically an album a year, and get influenced musically. I’d love to do more travelling, experience music from different parts of the world and collaborate with musicians. I’d like to spend more time in Australia over the next couple of years and spread the music around there. Just going to carry on doing what we are doing!

-Title Track from the new album “Moving On”-

Known upcoming Tour dates for NZ and Australia:

02/10/08 Good Luck Wellington
03/10/08 Palmerston North
04/10/08 Phat Club Nelson
10/10/08 Double Happy Chch
09/11/08 Southern Amp
27/11/08 Beach Rd Sydney
29/11/08 Earthcore Festival Victoria
05/12/08 Prince of Wales Melbourne
02/01/09 Mussel Inn
10/01/09 Parihaka
21/03/09 I-Nation Festival Whitecliffs
You can check out more of O.G at:
“Sunsets will guide our path its clear our future bounds no end
Bridges have burned, they have burned oh cleansing fire
So I will live, reality dawns its all over now
Im moving on and I aint got no time to waste.”
(Moving On – O.G)

Interview, etc… by Yossarian

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6 Comments to Moving On with O.G

Moving On with O.G
September 20, 2008

[...] Go to the author’s original blog: Moving On with O.G [...]
September 21, 2008

Big up to Australia/New Zealand hip hop!!!

Check out US newest and hottest rap producer at


[...] 2009 about to go off Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 | News If you can remember/scroll back to an article on this site from last year, about the New Zealand musician/producer/all round nice guy: Mr. Oakley [...]

[...] OG told us this would be one to watch out for, so when you first hear the name Electric Wire Hustle maybe you would think of Common’s ‘Electric Wire Hustler Flower’, unless your like me and just typed it into Youtube, however to no surprise this is just one of Electric Wire Hustle’s many influences, which include J Dilla, Deangelo, Slum Village, Badu & Miss Hill to name a few. Comprising of (above from left to right):  TaayNinh, Myele Manzanza & Mara TK, collectively EWH are mapping their way through Australasia as innovators of sound. [...]

[...] I’m not suggesting that soul and blues music are not represented in Australasia, but it’s been some time since a pairing like this has come along. The first time I came accross this pairing of artists was when we interviewed Oakley not too long ago [...]

[...] may have noticed  a bit of info on our very good friend (see ‘Artists‘ link above) O.G (A.K.A Oakley Grenell). He is a man with many musical/creative talents that always seems to have a [...]

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