Interview: Osymyso

Osymyso is something of a cult hero in the electronic scene. He’s been active for over twenty years, shaping and influencing the bootleg genre with cool beats and wacky samples. Last term he was in the Bargain Bin with his record ‘Rabbit to Rabbit’, which saw him mash up breakbeats, Peter Rabbit and Bugs Bunny. Now Cherwell talks to the man behind the whiskers, musician and DJ Mark Nicholson, about inspirations, being a perfectionist, and EastEnders.

Nicholson can still vividly remember where Osymyso started, “As a teenager, I was obsessed with Art of Noise and their use of sound collages and the new sampling technology. I got into synths and sampling in the dying months of the 1980s inspired by the likes of The JAMs, Negativland, The Orb. Then M/A/R/R/S got to number one and Bomb The Bass reached number two, with a record that was just a montage of other people’s stuff. I got myself a drum machine, a sampler and a computer and tried to emulate my heroes.”

Osymyso became my own hero when he immortalised the Pat and Peggy fight from EastEnders by sampling “You Bitch!” and “You Cow!” and pressing it into a breakbeat. ‘Pat n Peg’ may be one of the bootleg genre’s finest creations, but Nicholson is quick to point out that it “came about by accident as I saw that fight scene whilst round at a friends house who had it on in the background”.

But despite my love for the soap-inspired track, there’s no denying that Nicholson’s masterpiece is ‘Intro-Inspection’, a mini-mix of 101 intros in one twelve minute mash up. Nicholson also regards it as his greatest achievement. “It’s the one thing that people ask me about the most and it had clever people writing essays about it in magazines. I like listening to it now and then, it brings back such good memories. “It’s also one of only a few things I’m really happy with. I very rarely make anything that I like. When I finish a track all I hear are the faults and it gets deleted before anyone hears it. But now unlike before, I actually like my music to sound a bit rough around the edges. I like the mistakes.”

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It’s been fifteen years since he release his debut album, Welcome to the Palindrome, but Nicholson has been releasing music underground, online with free MP3s, and even soundtracking Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I ask him where the project’s at currently. “I’ve given up trying to work out what Osymsyo is and where it’s going as I keep starting these ludicrously over ambitious projects and never finishing them. I’m working on some new tunes, which might become an album or they might just be free tracks I throw at the internet. Some of the new tracks I’m working on are short melodies with beats and synths, and I’m also working on some really harsh unofficial remixes of chart toppers.”

But of course, it would never just be the Top 40 to spark his interest. “I’ve been collecting loads of fragments of discarded and utterly forgettable TV, like 30 year old bits of Continuity. I found some VHS tapes someone had dumped in the street with strange late night TV clips.”

Late night TV, breakbeats and synth. You’ve been warned.