[INTERVIEW] Opiuo Takes Us Behind The Curtain Of His Red Rocks Performance And Live Album, 'Opiuo & The Opulent Orchestra'

Opiuo

| December 01, 2023

Hailing from New Zealand and now currently based in Australia, renowned electronic maestro Opiuo has unleashed a musical marvel with his latest project, Opiuo & The Opulent Orchestra.

Recorded live at the sold-out Red Rocks Amphitheatre, this 19-track digital album seamlessly blends 16 orchestral arrangements with Opiuo's signature funk-infused basslines.

Featuring collaborations with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Grammy-nominated instrumentalist Tom Hagerman, the album offers symphonic reinterpretations of Opiuo's classics like “BAM BAM” and “DUSTY BUGS.”

Join us as Opiuo takes us on an immersive journey into the creation of this audacious project, promising an unparalleled auditory experience for music enthusiasts worldwide.

Check out our exclusive interview with Opiuo below.

 

iEDM: Can you share the inspiration behind the decision to release a live album from your Red Rocks performance? Besides the venue, what makes this performance special?

Opiuo: I feel like there are moments in your life when you need to document and share in the achievements, and this definitely felt like one of those moments.

The amount of stress and effort on the emotional rollercoaster I was riding to get to that point took everything I had inside. I feel like it truly is all of me poured onto that stage. For me, special, is only the beginning. 

iEDM: How did the collaboration with the Opulent Orchestra and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra come about for this unique project?

Opiuo: I have been writing music for various shows with my now-close friend Tom Hagerman, a local Denver composer who has written for the symphony on many occasions. When we were building out this show, we wanted the best players possible. 

Tom approached the concertmaster of the CSO about our show. Excitingly, he was into it and many of the CSO players came on board. Probably half of the orchestra was CSO players. They were all so lovely and beyond professional. It truly was such a privilege to have them!

 

iEDM: What challenges did you face in conducting a live orchestra during a sold-out performance at Red Rocks, and how did you overcome them?

Opiuo: Apart from the usual day of show production headaches (fitting everything on stage and making sure all the gear worked), during the show the amount of thoughts going through my head was absolutely monumental:

What songs are coming next? What do I want to say in the breaks between movements? Who do I need to look at next to make sure they know we are definitely in the section we are? Am I displaying enough energy? Am I having fun? Am I good on time? 

I will never forget, as I walked on stage, I just had to trust in everyone. That they would do their job, and I would do mine. It is an amazing feeling having to let go completely and allow the show to take hold, in front of 10,000 faces, and let it be what it will be. A challenge and a beautiful one at that.

 

iEDM: The live album features 16 orchestral arrangements of your iconic tracks. How did you choose which songs to include, and were there any particular favorites that stood out during the performance?

Opiuo: There were many songs I could not include, and many I just had to. I spent around a whole two months deciding solely on the tracklist. It is very important in a live show of this magnitude to take people on a journey of unexpected turns, and at the same time have a calm yet satisfying flow.

The very first movement I am very proud of, purely because it set the tone. It showed off much of the orchestra and felt really balanced as a collection of music. 

iEDM: Could you elaborate on the process of developing, designing, and operating the video and lasers for the Red Rocks show, and how it contributed to the environment of the concert?

Opiuo: Being the absolute perfectionist that I am, I have worked feverishly alongside my Production Manager Matthieu Delepau for the last decade. We have been imagining and developing some really solid methods to enable me to program and control the lasers and run my own video.

I always wanted to have control to make all the things hit at exactly the right time. I have MIDI triggers inside my various laptops, drum machines, synths, and MIDI controllers, all sending an array of commands to be mapped out to a collection of other computers whose job it is to affect the show in different ways.

It is all about making the most impact, so when I am doing something obvious in the songs I want people to be able to see there are also visual elements to match. 

Hitting big bass sounds on my drum machines can send commands to the laser computer at the front of the house, making them blast certain colors or moves. Or when I play a sample on a controller, the words will pop up on the LED wall. It took years to get right, but it is solid now. 

It is all built to be as simple as possible via MIDI, so I can adjust the show myself on the fly without needing to hire a rehearsal space. As I go along, I try to create the most epic experience I possibly can.

 

iEDM: From your own perspective, how would you describe the feel and atmosphere of the debut single, “CONDUCT-A-DISCO,” and how does it set the tone for the entire album?

Opiuo: I knew I needed to start this show off in a very special way. I spent a long time trying to imagine the perfect tempo and feeling of how I wanted everyone to arrive into the music. I also contemplated how I wanted it to come across as a performance, setting the beginning state of adventure. 

It feels epic, yet beautifully simple to me. Movie-esque, yet head-nodding. I’m proud of it. 

iEDM: This project includes a collaboration with Grammy-nominated instrumentalist Tom Hagerman. How did this collaboration enhance the sound and dynamic of the performance? What were the highlights of working with Tom?

Opiuo: Tom and I have worked together for the last five years, beginning with the Syzygy Orchestra in 2018, and have remained close friends since. He was originally recommended to me by one of my past managers, Morgan Young, and the truth is he is the perfect collaborator. 

He is full of incredible ideas and can assist in bringing my ideas to life. His understanding of what can be done with an orchestra is mind-blowing. I am constantly in awe. 

He also plays in the orchestras we build, so catching his eye in the midst of a giant performance and receiving a little smile is definitely a highlight. 

 

iEDM: Can you speak to the significance of the Red Rocks show as a defining moment in your career, and how it influenced the direction of this album?

Opiuo: There are only a few times you get to display a moment in time of your work that shows the current level you are at. Not only for others but for yourself as well, as I feel that is just as important. 

A collection of music performed in a way that shows your own expanse of creative endeavor, your career, your direction, but also where your heart is at. Art before content at all times!

 

iEDM: With the symphonic reinterpretation of your classics, such as “BAM BAM” and “DUSTY BUGS,” how do you feel the orchestral elements add a new dimension to these tracks?

Opiuo: They added a whole new dimension of rawness, depth, crisp searing solos, and a human element to what is usually purposely regimented and precise in electronic music. We went in and reworked all the chordal elements to be played by the orchestra. 

To be honest, it gave me chills so many times! Having 10+ brass instruments all hit at once to make an impact is something that I will never get tired of hearing!

iEDM: The orchestral concept for this project started in 2018. What motivated you to pursue this raised experience for your fanbase, and how has the vision evolved since then?

Opiuo: It all started with me just imagining the craziest thing I could do for my 2018 Red Rocks show. I wanted to test my own limits. I wanted to marry the electronic and acoustic worlds in a new way, not like anything else I had seen or experienced. To take it up to the level up above the level up above! 

I truly had no idea if it would work back then, and when it did, I knew I had to revisit it at some point in my career. So when we had the offer for 2023, I got to work right away. But this time it was to encapsulate the entire audiovisual experience, with me designing and controlling the music, lasers, AND video. 

Satisfaction levels were at a maximum once I knew it was possible! But the true test was I didn't know if it had worked even after coming offstage post-show. I had to wait to watch it back a month or so later to realize what we had truly done was an evolution, and one I could be proud of.

 

iEDM: Are there any specific moments or interactions with the audience during the Red Rocks performance that will leave a lasting impact on you?

Opiuo: I will never forget when we played our cover of “What A Wonderful World.” I was conducting and could not see the crowd almost the entire time, but over the top of the music, clear as day, I could hear the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs “WHAT A WONDERFUL WORRRRRLD.”

It made me tear up and know that something very special was going on right at that very moment.

 

iEDM: What do you hope listeners will take away from Opiuo & The Opulent Orchestra, especially those who may be discovering your music for the first time?

Opiuo: That anything is possible. Pre-existing expectations of what music is, and can be, are made to be broken. The power of a collection of humans gathered together for a common goal of making beautiful, powerful, fun dance music go up to a whole other level, is something I hope allows people to walk away feeling uplifted, inspired, happy, and proud.

 

iEDM: How did the collaboration with fellow artists, like CloZee, Vorso, Russ Liquid, Ashez, Big Gigantic, The Funk Hunters, Deathpact, Z.I.V, and MOONZz, shape the creative process of reimagining their respective tracks with an orchestral touch?

Opiuo: It was an incredible process where I was afforded the opportunity to imagine what these songs would sound like through their ears, as they heard their own creations reimagined in such a way. 

They are all such remarkable people and musicians that it was an honor to be allowed to do such a thing as write to these songs. To flip bits on their heads! They all have been blown away by the outcomes, and I am very proud of that as well.

 

iEDM: The live concert experience is set to be available on your platforms, including YouTube. What can viewers expect in terms of the visual and audio components that heighten the overall experience?

Opiuo: The entirety of my soul poured into a singular outlet full of vivid color and sonic might! A precise yet evolving amalgamation of atoms bouncing in immaculate harmony. Perfectly timed beams of energy enticing all of the senses into an overload of power and purpose… Haha, that is what I would hope anyway!

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Photos courtesy of Opiuo.

 

Read more iEDM Exclusive Interviews HERE!

 

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Connor Phillips

CONNOR PHILLIPS

Fueled by his passion for EDM, Connor’s life revolves around dance music and its ability to bring people together. Raised in upstate New York, Connor was deprived of festivals and raves until he attended Florida State University, where he was instantly hooked. Fast-forward to today and Connor has become a house and melodic techno DJ, an avid EDM-based interviewer and writer, and has worked PR for the likes of Matroda, Bleu Clair, and other new-wave house icons.

Outside of music, Connor loves pretty much any sport (huge Knicks, Yankees, and NY Giants fan), going on hikes, traveling, and food. Based in Florida, there’s a good chance you will eventually run into Connor at one of the popular festivals and clubs throughout the state.

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