Meet James Ongley a.k.a Murder He Wrote. James is a UK producer who was recently in South Africa as part of Connect ZA’s/British Council’s “BassXchange” programme. He’s also getting ready to release his “Work It” EP on the 24th of March – which features an eclectic mix of house, broken-beat and ambient music. We caught up with him recently to ask about his EP, his time in SA and his hopes for his music career. Check it out:
1) I’m sure you get asked this question a lot, but how did you come up with your alias?
Ha ha. Well the short answer is it’s a play on words of the title of a detective show that’s on daytime TV here in the UK called “Murder She Wrote”. The longer answer is around the time I was writing my first few releases I was unemployed, so my life was basically: wake up, make beats, watch “Murder She Wrote”, look for a job and make more beats. So it kind of made sense to use the alias.
2) Please tell us about your upcoming EP.
Well it’s called the “Work It” EP, and consists of 3 tracks : “Work It” (ft. Lily Gray), “Eihsam Mokub” and “Push It”. I started writing it in December and then finished up with some final mix tweaks during my time at the Red Bull Studio Cape Town in February. My DJ sets are pretty varied and I tried to do the same with the EP (yet hopefully keep it vaguely cohesive) so across the duration it takes in elements of dub, broken beat, breaks, house and afrobeat. Thus far in terms of people’s favourite track it’s been evenly split so hopefully that’s a good sign I achieved what I set out to do.
3) The first song off the EP, “Work It” with Lily Gray, has a very trippy/atmospheric vibe to it. How would YOU describe your music t0 our readers?
Argh I hate trying to describe my own stuff. I know it’s a cop-out but I’d just say eclectic. In the past two years I’ve released stuff that would probably fit into the categories of folk, grime, dubstep, house, garage, hip-hop and ambient. I’m afraid I’m just going to have to wheel out the “make up your own mind” cliché.
4) What are your hopes for this EP? What do you hope to achieve with its release?
As ever, I guess the goal was simply to make some nice music I liked and hope it reached a wide audience. The promo copies went out about two weeks ago and I’ve already had way better feedback than I would have dared hope for from artists that I really respect so that’s been amazing. Receiving feedback from Todd Edwards[an American producer whose worked with Daft Punk] saying he loved the EP really did make my day/month/year.
5) What’s your favorite thing you’ve produced so far?
That’s a tough one. To be honest I find that I tend to listen back and hear the things I would have done differently rather than being able to fully enjoy my tracks. With that said I do have a fondness for my first ever release – a remix of “Black Dog” by Jennifer Left. I really like “Work It” purely due to how dope Lily’s vocal is and I have a bunch of unreleased stuff that I’m very much still in the enjoyment stage with, namely “The Flood” and “Heat Treated”. So watch out for those in the coming months…
6) What do you think sets you apart from other UK DJ’s/producers?
I guess that I don’t just stick to one sound. Like I referred to earlier, in a set you might hear me play funk, hip-hop, disco, grime, house, anything that I’m currently feeling. The same goes when I’m in the studio. On the one hand it’s probably a bad thing in that if you like one of my grime tracks you might be pretty disappointed when the next thing I release is a straight-up house record, but on the other hand at least I’m not likely to get bored.
My next release is probably going to be a remix of a track called “Gotham” by Kimi for Numerology Records, I’m in the process of writing a nice, chilled down-tempo EP and I’m also going to be doing more tracks with Lily Gray. Aside from that I think I’ve almost finished another EP that’s on a kind of Bmore /UK funky vibe so I need to start sending that out to labels and see what leads on from there.
8) Besides other forms of music, where do you draw your inspiration from?
In a weirdly inverted manner the weather always has a massive effect on the music I’m making. For example if it’s the standard UK winter vibe of pouring rain and grey skies and I’m feeling really rubbish I’ll probably end up writing my happiest sounding tracks ever and vice versa for sunshine. Another thing is visualising a scene from a book or a film and trying to transpose the elements into sound. I doubt it really comes across when people listen back to the tunes but as a mental exercise I find it so useful in terms of getting over writers block.
9) You were in South Africa recently, as part of the BassXchange program. Are there any South African artists that caught your attention? Anyone you’d collab with?
Yes! There were lots, but off the top of my head I’m really feeling everything I’ve heard from Moonchild and Dank. I also saw dope sets from Wildebeats and Daddy Warbucks and recently purchased Maramza’s latest EP – which has been in heavy rotation ever since. More recently I caught The Brother Moves On a few times in the UK and they were incredible. Collaborating with any of them would be awesome.
10) Where can our readers download/buy your music?
11) Last question: when can we expect you back in South Africa?
I had such an amazing time back in February, so hopefully soon! I’m currently in the very early stages of putting together some kind of tour in late September/early October but failing that I’ll definitely be paying a visit to Cape Town Electronic Music Festival in 2015. So I’ll be arranging some shows around that kind of time too!
Follow me on Twitter: @RofhiwaManeta