Discover This: Oliver Marson

Forgive us for thinking we’ve temporarily stepped back into the 1980s, as we’ve just immersed ourselves in the world of emerging Guernsey solo artist Oliver Marson. Oliver has honed a synth-fused, post-punk sound that harks our minds back to the likes of Depeche Mode, Gary Numan and co.

As Oliver summarises: “Oliver Marson’s music is about the dirt, the bile and putrid rot that congeals beneath the streets, in dingy alleyways and in the deepest crevices of our minds.”

Oliver released his debut single Cocaine Romance last month, which is a delightfully dark but funky track. It opens up with video game-like fast-paced synth sounds over a bouncy bassline. That drops into a verse dominated by Oliver’s brooding vocals, which opens up with the lyrics “Hey little darling in the street, Can you find somebody else to tease, Forget my situation,” which is a little reminiscent in style to Billy Idol’s White Wedding.

The verse vocals are answered by the opening synths, then a second verse is followed by new bursts of synth. Edgier vocals then come in and build-up to the catchy chorus of “Cocaine romance won’t last forever.” The second chorus is followed by the return of the darting synths to bring the track to an end. Check it out in the video below:

We had a chat with Oliver to find out more about him, his intriguing musical influences and see what else is coming our way from him. Read on below…

GR: Who is Oliver Marson?

OM: “I am no-one really. I come from Guernsey, which is a tiny island in between France and the UK. It’s where Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables, he called it the rock of hospitality and freedom, because of its isolation from the rest of the world. And it’s true, even now, it is still quite isolated from the rest of the world. But that’s no bad thing. I think a lot of people, especially the young from the Channel Islands, have an intense curiosity, a desire to explore things and push the boundaries of what they’re doing.” 

GR: Sounds fascinating! You just released Cocaine Romance. What should people be expecting from the song?

OM: “I wrote the song when I was in quite an angry mood because someone I knew started dating a drug dealer, but I was angry about a lot of things at the time. The song has a brash sound and decadent aesthetic in the music video, which I think is inspired by London, where there is a huge coke problem amongst young people.

“I think this comes from a good place; a desire to push boundaries, to explore things, which is why people experiment. But I don’t think Cocaine can help you achieve that. From talking to people on it, it can make the most mundane things seem amazing and it’s contributing to a massive surge in crime at the moment. So, it’s just stupid.”

GR: You have an intriguing 80s vibe about your sound. How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet? 

OM: “There has been a huge 80s revival recently with shows like Stranger Things, bands like Drab Majesty and a couple of years back Synthwave culture came into being. Mostly, I think it is driven by young people and I think it’s again a desire to discover something you haven’t heard before and push boundaries, so it’s not surprising that we’re going back and listening to things that are alien to us.

Cocaine Romance has this vintage 80s sound, but I like to think of it as a synth-punk song, as I think it could easily be played as a punk or metal song because of its energy. I hope it makes people want to get up and smash some things. 

GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about? 

OM: “I try to write about things other than love, but it’s very hard not to. I like to think I tell a story in my songs, but Cocaine Romance still basically comes back to being about love. I am inspired a lot by video games, films and books I’ve read – I’ll soon be releasing a track called Silent Heaven, which is based on the video game Silent Hill – but it all still kind of comes back to being about love.

“I think we all want a bit of attention, so maybe that’s why I write music or maybe it’s a cry for help? Or again, a desire to escape? I had a lot of self-doubt in releasing this song, but the positive reaction of my friends and people that worked on the song like David Leighton (producer) and Joe Stewart (drummer) really drove me forward. 

GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences? 

OM: “There’s been a few lightning bulb moments since I was about 12 years old. Probably the first was when I saw Metallica’s Enter Sandman on MTV or seeing the video for Rebel Yell by Billy Idol. Those tracks sent sparks through my brain, they have so much energy and make you want to get up smash some things – I’d love to be able to achieve anything close to that emotion. 

“I think the best guitarist ever is Johnny Marr, no-one’s guitar playing has been able to make my hair stand up and give me goosebumps like he has. I’ve always liked singers that provide a bit of theatre with an air of wit shock, people like Frank Zappa, Serge Gainsbourg, David Bowie, Morrissey and more recently Kirin J Callinan. 

“I’ve always loved and been fascinated with synthesisers, because the possibilities are endless in terms of what you can achieve with tone. I remember one of my earliest musical experiences was of my Dad showing me and my sister Oxygene by Jean Michel-Jarre on his sound system. While the music was playing, he’d tell us this story about aliens chasing us down the mountain – I just thought that was amazing.”

GR: What have you got coming up through the rest of 2019?

OM: “The plan is to release a couple of tracks as singles, culminating in an EP. Soon enough, I will begin gigging in London with a band I’m really just assembling. I recorded Cocaine Romance and the tracks I am about to release sort of as a one-man-band, so it’s been challenging to get the whole live thing going.

“However, I am going to have a pint with a dark wave artist called Vaein this week (you should check him out) about doing a gig. I have also been talking with a female singer in the US about doing a collaboration on an industrial song I’ve written and will continue recording songs on my own through the year.

“I am also in the process of creating the score for a Canadian film called Free Money, which is a short film set in the year 2035 centring around an unemployed man who comes to believe that his automated home assistant is stealing from his monthly Basic Income cheque. It’s a very exciting project. I’ll be working on that this week.”

You can follow Oliver Marson on Facebook and Instagram, and check out his music on Spotify and YouTube.

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