GEN F: Joy Orbison

Photographer Guy Martin
July 17, 2011

One night, Peter O’Grady played one of his tracks for a friend. They’d been discussing auditory-visual synesthesia, a phenomenon in which people see colors as a response to sound. “This one is kind of a reddy-orange,” said his friend. “It looks like a mango.” After a few months and a couple of tweaks that curiously hued, hypnotic little song grew into “Hyph Mngo,” an ecstatic, uniting groove that became an anthem on every type of dance floor. His friend compared it to a butterfly because of the way it burst into life. Since then, Joy Orbison—O’Grady’s pun-loving alter ego—has taken up residence in the half-remembered spaces between dubstep, garage and house. He is a reminder that beneath the crashing breaks and shuddering bass of British dance music beats an aching heart. ”I always heard that [heart] in jungle and garage,” says O’Grady. “There is a melancholy feel to a lot of it. Burial understands that. It isn’t really rave music he’s writing, it’s nostalgia for all these ideas you have of rave music. It’s the mood and the feeling you remember.” A fresh-faced 22 years old, O’Grady is disarmingly modest, still in disbelief that these seemingly simple songs not only seduced listeners but one morning produced a mailbox full of emails from essential house producers Todd Edwards, Sunship and MJ Cole. “I grew up buying their records, it was like a dream.”

O’Grady was introduced to dance music by his uncle, jungle pioneer Ray Keith. “I started DJing when I was 13, but I was too young to go to clubs,” he says. “I still look young. I struggle to get in clubs now.”  He uses snatches of pub conversation for song titles (“The Shrew Would Have Cushioned the Blow” is the punchline to a story “too long and stupid to repeat”) and focuses that same magpie eye on his music. “Using R&B vocals in my tracks came from jungle,” he explains. “I use vocals like an instrument. You can take these little parts out and change the context.” O’Grady kept his music from his uncle until his first track had been signed. He’s self-taught and self-sufficient, and slightly embarrassed by all the attention. Even as he aspires to collaborate with vocalists, he wants to release that music anonymously. “Once it becomes about this guy working with that person, the music loses something,” he says. As Joy Orbison, O’Grady’s music lives halfway between the past and future, where memories diffuse and sounds crackle with warm recollections. “I love that every time I hear ‘Hyph’ I think of how we came across that name and how it was written,” he says. “Sitting in my mate’s bedroom with KFC boxes on the floor. It’s a good memory.”

Stream: Joy Orbison, Hyph Mngo

From The Collection:

GEN F: Joy Orbison