Ever evolving yet always staying true to her own self-expression, Öona Dahl continues her otherworldly explorations through electronic music, using experimentation as her favorite avenue for discovery.
From upstate New York to Toronto, Öona’s early adventures playing with Acid Pro and Fruity Loops at home and behind the decks at warehouses, clubs, and raves while she was still a teenager were her first introductions to the magic of the music. Following where the sound took her, she moved to Florida during its peak underground era to study sound design and digital media. It was here where her passion and willingness to explore soon had her becoming a fixture in the scene while she developed not only her abilities in the dance floor realm but excelled with experimental offerings which defined her “deep, otherworldly and psychedelic” style.
Her recently released sophomore album Morph showcases what has continued to set Öona Dahl apart; based on a poem she wrote and featuring her own digital designs, the album is not just a collection of tracks but a complete representation of her energy and the stories she has to tell. With different styles “morphing” into each other, her sonic explorations result in a diverse release while she still captures the spirit of those early days when it was all about feeling the music, and feeling the love.
Coming out of the other side of quarantine, Öona has not only not only expanded her catalog but expanded her family too. And as the next steps of her journey unfold and the adventure continues, she catches up with 5 Mag to take us along for the ride.
photo by Christina Dieu
Congratulations on the birth of your daughter! What is the best part of being a Mom so far?
Thank you! You mean besides changing diapers? Really though, I would have to say being the influence for such innocence with unconditional love in return.
In what ways did the industry shut down effect you? What do you think will be different (for yourself and the industry) as we come out of the other side?
Once we had an idea of how long we might be out of work, the biggest issue was how we were going to stay afloat financially. That on top of health and safety concerns for ourselves and other family members, of course. There’s been a sharpening of focus on every level from how the industry operates down to how individual artists operate and behave.
Creatively it gave me the time I needed to catch up on production work… and the opportunity to have a baby. Now that we’re beginning to come out the other side I’m starting to see how much things have changed yet stayed the same. We’re learning to cope with this new state of the world as best we can. As humans we’re adaptable creatures and I think in time we’ll learn to create a necessary balance.
Do you have current focus on the direction of your music moving forward? Is there a particular sound or style that is grabbing your attention lately?
My music taste is and has always been all over the place stylistically. As a producer I tend to incorporate all genres because its most fun to make music that flows naturally from me without putting myself in a box. As a DJ, I still play similar to what I’ve played for the last two decades which is anything with strange and beautiful sounds and a lot of drive. My album Morph was vocal-led electronica and pop infused amongst the moodier club tracks. I always go with my instincts and never try to do one thing but rather my current mood or feelings in that moment.
What is something consistent which runs through all of your music regardless of genre or style?
Deep, otherworldly and psychedelic.
What are the qualities which are most important for you to communicate through your music?
I feel the answer here is similar to the last. Ever since I can remember I was always fascinated with sound being used as a vessel, whether it be on the dance floor, in your car, meditating or on psychedelics. Some of my most sacred moments in life were listening to music and having out of body experiences. Just like a snake charmer, I feel musicians when they perform have the energy from the crowd whether it be just a group of friends to playing for thousands. This shared experience can heighten the energy of the people there experiencing that moment together. Music being the tool and artists steering the ship.
How did the idea/concept for Morph first begin? What was your intention for the project?
Morph represents all different sounds and styles “morphing” into each other. The name itself though comes from a poem that I wrote about becoming one with the person you love, which then turned into the title song of the album. Morph as an “art album” — I was experimenting with a lot of new digital art as well that I had planned to incorporate throughout the release. The music video for “Morph” incorporated a fluid, trippy effect where the visuals were panning into each other slowly becoming one, which went side-by-side with the lyrics of the song. Shortly after I released an accompanying AR Filter that has the same effect which people could “morph” themselves.
During quarantine I learned 3D design and decided to make a visual representation of the body of work. I decided to use a moth as the spirit guide for the album. I was visited by a moth early on when starting to write the album and I kept running into moths many times in synchronistic ways. This then evolved into an NFT titled “Moth-Er”.
In the end, Morph is a collection of songs that represents all sides of myself and my art.
How does the album represent the emotional and creative state you were in during its production? Did you feel differently once it was finished?
I really started to sit down and write the album in June 2020. It was peak time for COVID and also riots throughout America. I was going into the studio to exert my emotions I was experiencing at that time, but what came out was something that felt positive and uplifting. I feel a lot of times when I go in to write I tend to replace what’s missing, whether it be light in a dark room, or happiness in times of darkness.
What are you most proud of with this album?
I think the culmination of all the art that came with it! Also that it is just as vulnerable as my last album. It feels nice when you can look back at a piece of work and say, “I did that… all of that.”
Why do you think Hallucienda is the perfect label for this release?
Hallucienda is the label that released my first album Holograma and initially encouraged me to develop that side of my music that wasn’t just for DJs. A big part of Hallucienda is proper artist albums ranging from vocal electronica to more indie or left-leaning styles. DJ Three and myself are influenced as much by early 4AD as by modern club labels like Optimo Music. Hallucienda is home and I’m able to be 100% me on the label. I feel like I have this freedom in the studio when I write where I don’t feel any pressure to cater to anything and I just do what I want in the moment.
The late ’90s/early ’00s scene was a special one and I love that your music has some of that vibe still running through it. What do you think made it unique? What is one of your fondest memories from that era?
I feel fortunate to have grown up in such a pivotal time in electronic music! The ’90s sonic aesthetic still radiates in me and I’m still obsessed with the music that I discovered during that time. There was a sense of wide open skies then with music production…like the Wild West for electronic music. There were no rules and no guidelines, no YouTube videos showing you how to make a beat. Just intuition and feeling! Same thing with the parties. It was a time of self-discovery and new sonic landscapes.
But that’s also the beauty of electronic music, it can be anything you want it to be, any sound you hear in your head you can design it on the computer or a hard synth. In 1994, I discovered Future Sound of London and Opus lll and not long after, Björk. I remember my old rave crew, we would eat mushrooms and watch Björk music videos after a long night of dancing. There was something about raves and outdoor parties back then where every single person had their own unique dance and, well, the ecstasy was also really strong.
My first rave was a Happy Hardcore party called “Hullabaloo” in Toronto where everyone dressed like Rainbow Bright or the Care Bears. I was so young, only 14. Everyone was kind and nice, I thought this was reality sometimes. I feel like being a raver makes you a better person as long as you come out on the other side. PLUR.
In 2004 I went down to Florida for Ultra Music Festival to see Rabbit In The Moon. I was really inspired by their music and their performance visuals and Hallucination Recordings, so much that I actually decided to move to Florida to go to college the following year for Recording Arts in Tampa. I had originally lived in Orlando for the first years of my life so I felt like I was going “home” to Florida. It wasn’t long until I met DJ Three and Monk out at a party and the rest is history.
Do you think it is a more difficult or easier industry to navigate now? Is there something from your early days you’d like to experience more often in the present day scene?
Next year is my 20 year anniversary of being a DJ and a producer. Sometimes I can’t believe it when it comes out of my mouth. I really didn’t start touring professionally though until 2015 when I was living in Berlin. It took a long time to be where I am today, and I still don’t feel like I’m anywhere close to where I envision being.
Now that I’m touring again after a year and a half off I’m starting to see how different the world is in comparison to pre-COVID. So, I think with that, yes it’s more difficult to navigate now and even more so with my new baby. When it comes to the feeling the scene gives, that is still there. When I start to play I’m at my happiest, and everything else melts away. The people who come to my shows are so passionate and caring. I’m not sure if it is like that for everyone but personally I feel my music attracts that vibe and I’m so grateful for it.
I think what I miss most from the early days is when people danced without having to face the DJ. There’s this obsession now with DJ culture and I think it takes away from the magic and why it exists in the first place… the music.
What is something about yourself that you think people would be surprised to know?
Well, something pretty amazing happened during quarantine. I’m adopted from birth and in November of 2020 I discovered I have a sister. My first blood relative I’ve known besides my baby now. Don’t worry, she’s only a half-sister, so I could still be from another planet.
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