In May 2015, just a few minutes into a live-streamed set in London, Four Tet dropped ‘Tyrion’, the A-side for the debut release by Ben Norris, AKA O’Flynn. ID requests came flooding in, putting the percussion-fuelled, sub-heavy cut on course to becoming a bona fide club hit. “At that point, it started selling everywhere,” Norris says. It kick-started Blip Discs, the label founded by friend Tom Blip.
Before that, he and Tom had spent months carting the record around to shops in the hope of shifting copies, many of which took them on a sale-or-return basis. Getting physical copies into the hands of DJs, one of them being Four Tet, made all the difference.
It was a lesson in basic production at the age of 14 that led Norris to play around with programmes like Cubase and Reason. ‘“Obviously it was shit,” he says of his early work. “I wasn’t some kind of child prodigy. It took me a year and a half to find out how to make a 4/4 kick drum.”
But after years of practice and an obsession with the likes of Justice, Burial and Caribou, the 18-year-old headed north to study at Leeds College of Music in 2011, where he discovered much-loved party Cosmic Slop. “I was 19 or 20, so it was an introduction to a more mature kind of night and music,” he says. “They don’t worry about mixing there, they’ll just play the records they want to play. There was no hesitation to drop a hip hop track and then follow it with jazz, or whatever else.”
Inspired by the mélange of sounds he heard in Leeds, Norris’ productions began to take a more focused path, resulting first in ‘Tyrion’. “There was a university fund used to finance students’ ideas – basically free money which you didn’t have to pay back,” he says. “I think [Tom] got around £1,000. He wanted to start Blip Discs as a vinyl label and £1,000 wasn’t enough to do that, so my brother put some in too.”
With further records having followed on both Blip Discs and Ninja Tune, Norris’ focus now is on debut album ‘Aletheia’, which he began work on three years ago. The 12-track collection shifts through earwormy disco-house loops, considered, euphoria-inducing club cuts and some mellower offerings. “I don’t want to be tied down to a very specific sound,” he says, before describing something he’s currently working on which ties the kind of propulsive percussion employed so well on tracks like ‘Tyrion’ and ‘Oberyn’ with trap rhythms. “I want it to be a response to the album, so people don’t think I’m settling into this easy listening vibe.”
You probably shouldn’t expect it too soon, though. “I don’t want to oversaturate the market just because I’ve started a label,” he says of Hundred Flowers, which he launched this year. “I want to wait until the time feels right for everything I do.”
‘Aletheia’ is out now on Silver Bear Recordings
Christian Eede is News Editor at The Quietus and a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter
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