Waze & Odyssey Talk UK Rave, "Bump n’ Grind," and Jacked-Up House
Waze & Odyssey's Firas Waez and Serge Santiago.
Photo by Dan Wilton
When Waze & Odyssey dropped a bootleg of R. Kelly's "Bump n’ Grind" in 2012, the pair's garage rework was so piping hot, it actually brought major label Sony Music running to give it an official release with the blessing of R. Kelly himself two years later. It was one of those rare moments when an underground dance music act breaks through to the mainstream by sheer force of sonic bravado.
Not that the London DJ-production duo is shrugging off its underground roots anytime soon. Weaned on pirate cassette tapes during the U.K. rave '90s, the pair is keeping that era's DIY ethos and spirit of experimentation alive with the W&O Street Tracks label and a production sound as classic as it is forward-looking.
Ahead of an intimate performance at Bardot Miami on Saturday, we here at New Times caught up with Waze & Odyssey to chat about their musical roots, globetrotting, and new production work.
New Times: How did the two of you first hook up as a collaborative duo?
Waze & Odyssey: We met up for coffee and talked music. We thought that the dance floor missed a bit of skip and energy in the four-four and decided to hit the studio together to see what we could cook up. A few days later, we were both pretty excited by the results, and the rest is history.
What glues you together creatively? And what does each of you bring to the table individually?
Working as a two means you're constantly developing and changing. In the studio, you can bounce ideas off each other. In the club, we'll be showing each other our latest record purchases right there and then. We both use laptops to sketch ideas and loops, then get together in our studio to see what's happening. We have pretty similar tastes, but each of us has our own little musical niches that we bring to the table, whether that's in a DJ sense or production influences.
How do you think U.K. electronic dance music culture shaped your musical sensibilities? Were you very active in the rave and club scene while growing up?
It's been nearly everything. We have both worked our way up from being ravers, to handing out fliers to putting on nights to DJ'ing and then producing. Both of us were into our rave cassette tape packs back in the day — it was almost a rite of passage. To be honest, you couldn't get a better formative process. It's all about experiencing it and being in touch with the scene, from working in record shops to watching the sun come up in a field somewhere.
Besides your home base of London, we hear you spend a great deal of time in Los Angeles. Has the underground L.A. Beat scene been at all influential for you?
When we first started Waze & Odyssey, we were told we had to write a blog. The idea of writing some generic rubbish put us off, so we made up a little bit of a story where we had said we had grown up in Chicago. It was kinda funny and threw people off the scent a little. We actually live in London, though we get to spend a lot of time in L.A. when we are touring. There's a great scene and some great cats in L.A., and we've got to play some great warehouse parties for Cooper Saver and the Lights Down Low guys. Seeing that warehouse spirit in L.A. was amazing and definitely not what we expected when we first came over. We like the grittier venues.
Did you have a special concept or vision in mind for W&O Street Tracks when you first set out to launch the label? What is your criteria for picking artists to sign and records to release? Are you looking for any particular sonic ingredients or aesthetics?
It started as an outlet for our own tunes. Then, friends started sending us music and it all developed from that. There's no criteria as such, if it sounds good and works, then we want to help share that release with everyone. Street Tracks is about good electronic music. For us, it's about releasing music we want to play and support. In terms of sonics, we're definitely experimenting a little more. We have some really cool stuff lined up in the next year — watch this space.
Were your surprised when Sony Music approached you to release "Bump & Grind 2014"? And particularly at getting expressed approval from R. Kelly himself for the sample?
The record kind of took on a life of its own. It was a bit nuts, to be honest. We were surprised when Sony got in touch and had to think long and hard about whether we wanted to do it. Things like the video, we wanted a big say in, and remixes and that sort of thing, but we were really happy with the way it turned out. It's just gone silver in the U.K., so that's pretty cool.
So what's next for you on the production front? Any forthcoming projects or releases we can look forward to?
We just got back from Australia and New Zealand and then we head to the States, so we've only had a bit of time to hit the studio. There are about five new bits we've been road-testing in the last few weeks and are talking to a few labels about bits and bobs. Street Tracks is stepping up a little, and that's going to have a busy year with releases and bringing new acts into the stable. Once we get back from the U.S. and Canada, we'll be having a good run in Europe, so we're gonna be turning the heat up in the studio and getting cookin'!
We're excited to see you play on Friday. What can we expect?
Jacked-up house music for the Miami Nice.
Waze & Odyssey. With Jeremy Ismael and Mr. Brown. Friday, May 15. Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m., and tickets cost $15 to $20 plus fees via showclix.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-576-7750, or visit bardotmiami.com.