Name: Octa Push
Members: Leonardo Guichon, Bruno Guichon aka Mushug
Occupation: Producers
Nationality: Portuguese
Current release: Octa Push are one of the acts featured on the upcoming compilation Two Tribes Volume Two, described as "an intercontinental journey in rhythm, compiled by Ubbo Gronewold and Tobi Kirsch". The album can be pre-ordered from Agogo and is scheduled for September 17th. The compilation also features contributions by Afrodyssey Orchestra, The Kutimangoes, Alma Negra and Lua Preta, among others. [Read our Lua Preta interview]
Recommendations: Whites Can Dance Too by Angolan writer Kalaf Epalanga is quite good. It’s a book that talks about racism on the music scene in Lisbon.
There’s also Plantation Memories by Grada Kilomba which explores racism episodes in daily life.

If you enjoyed this interview with Octa Push, stay up to date on their work by visiting them on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud and bandcamp.  

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

Bruno: We both started in the late 90s. We’re both brothers and lived under the same roof, we had a computer home and Leo started using it to produce Drum’n’Bass after his Metal band decided to quit. Since we didn’t have Internet at the time I started dabbling with it as well and started making hip-hop beats.

Leo was listening a lot to Goldie, Roni Size, Amon Tobin, Aphex Twin. I was listening mostly to portuguese hip-hop like Micro or Chullage, also Gang Starr, Dilated Peoples and others.  

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

When Octa Push started we had a lot of UK influences, mostly Dubstep and UK Garage and African music like Omou Sangaré, Rokia Traoré. We were also getting heavily inspired by people like Modeselektor or Poirier.

Eventually we started looking more at our surroundings and drinking from our local scene which is quite rich and trying to create something that has more to do with our experiences.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity? What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

In the beginning we were struggling a bit to come up with something original. Nowadays it’s more about making something together with different people while maintaining our sonic identity.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

Our tools didn’t change much throughout the years. We’re still using Cubase 5 and controllers.

It’s important for us to squeeze the most out of our tools to reach the best results. Sometimes it can be a bit limiting but it’s challenging at the same time.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

Leo: When I started I wasn’t using a Digital Audio Workstation like Ableton or Cubase or Logic. So it changed a lot. Even the way you process and manipulate audio nowadays makes it really easy to achieve quality results.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

Collaborations are really important, on our last record we had more than a dozen. On the next one we also have a lot of guest musicians lined up. They’re quite important in a sense that they can give a completely new direction to the idea that we started.

We have different ways of collaborating, we can send by email an idea and receive it back or we can actually brainstorm or improvise with the artist in the place.  

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

Leo: We have different activities besides Octa Push. We don’t really have a fixed schedule, it depends a lot on our availability. With kids our routines changed a lot. Now it’s more difficult to stay up late producing.  

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

Our last record Lingua, is quite special to us because it opened a lot of doors. Also we managed to collaborate with local legends that we admire a lot like Tó Trips, Batida, Maria João, Cachupa Psicadélica and others.

We started working on it after a massive creative block and we managed to learn a lot from working on it.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

It’s all about doing it without forcing it and ideas come up.

Sometimes you can be showering and have an idea of a melody or you hear a speech or see a film and get inspired.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

Yes, at some point we worked in a social project and it helped a lot kids getting motivated through music and expressing themselves. As for hurt, sometimes we are exposed to loud noises and it can be really damaging to the ears.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

Complicated subject. We think it’s always important to credit and give a bit of context. Mention or work with references from what you’re sampling.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?

Well there’s synaesthesia where you can hear sounds and see colours or shapes. Also you can achieve altered states through music.

We’re trying to explore more than one sense on our live show, since it uses a lot of visuals alongside the music.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

At the moment the world is in a really strange place, so it’s normal that it will influence our music.

We don’t consider ourselves activists or artivists since there’s people that are more capable than us and have more to say since they felt it on their skins but it’s important for us to convey a message and position ourselves politically.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

Sometimes it can be hard to express emotions verbally, we can’t find the “right” expression or word to say how we feel. During these times music can become a more subtle form of expression.

With it there’s no social conditioning or conscious thought. People are directly in contact with their emotions. Whenever we’re listening to music or making it, we’re present in the moment. This presence allows us to get in touch with our emotions and express them.