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Michael Harvey-BrayContact Agent
about the artist
Anglo-Indian, London-based artist ones cut his teeth DJing at underage clubs, collecting records from age 15 and coming of age online during the discovery era of YouTube and SoundCloud. Debut releases 'gratitude always' and 'far too long' are spectacularly emotive and dynamic bodies of work which take on themes of heartbreak, loneliness and depression, and feature the guiding voices of those who surround him. Drawing from his heritage and formative years spent in the UK club scene, ones' music comes inter-spliced with samples from a library of voicenotes taken from conversations with friends and family. These personal artefactsMore
Anglo-Indian, London-based artist ones cut his teeth DJing at underage clubs, collecting records from age 15 and coming of age online during the discovery era of YouTube and SoundCloud. Debut releases 'gratitude always' and 'far too long' are spectacularly emotive and dynamic bodies of work which take on themes of heartbreak, loneliness and depression, and feature the guiding voices of those who surround him. Drawing from his heritage and formative years spent in the UK club scene, ones' music comes inter-spliced with samples from a library of voicenotes taken from conversations with friends and family. These personal artefacts offer words of support and wisdom, giving listeners an unflinchingly raw insight into the artist's personal life and perspective.
by Mike Vinti
Born and raised in London, the artist and producer, real name Primo, cut his teeth in underage raves, djing at just 15 and curating a YouTube channel which led him to exploring his own productions. "I started out making very bass-heavy, aggressive club music," he explains, but soon enough Primo found himself drawn down a different path. "I kind of fell out of love with UK club culture — the spectrum of what was being played in those spaces was getting smaller and more commercial. It had become saturated, and it bothered me because the club was always a place to escape and explore."
To get out of this rut, Primo started a SoundCloud account where he would upload the results of every session he spent in the studio — finished or not. As time went on, he became more and more fascinated with lyrics, moving away from acappella forums towards songwriting-focused tracks with the help of then-partner just lil. He wanted to explore more mediums of creative expression; asking introspective questions in his lyrics in the hope of finding the answers in reality. Eventually, that SoundCloud account became his primary focus, and Primo's incarnation, ones, was born.
"ones really for me is for oneself," he explains. "It's for reaching to the corners within you that you struggle to grasp and understand. The ones you run away from. The ones you can't control." To fully dig into those corners, cobwebs and all, Primo set about researching himself. How do you research yourself? You may be asking. Well, if you're Primo, it's by creating a sample library made of therapy notes, conversations with family and friends, and personal artefacts both within music and outside of it. "My sister's partner is a documentary film maker and I took a shine to his work and its honesty. That led me to the more conceptual side of art. I wanted to challenge myself. To understand myself better.."
Primo was a few months into the project, just finding his feet after a breakup, when one of his archive's most essential pieces turned up out of nowhere. "I got a call from my sister in the middle of all this, saying that she'd got a reply about some family storage, photos and things like that," he explains. "She'd sent an email, ten or so years ago, and they just got back to her. So my sister asked to drop some stuff off at mine and my flat was suddenly full of boxes. As soon as I saw those boxes, the research took a whole new level." Inside those boxes, alongside thousands of family photos from Primo's childhood and further back, were his mother's diaries.
An Anglo-Indian woman born in Stratford in the days when East London was far less multicultural than it is now, she'd learned to be tough by keeping things quiet and working hard. "Reading her writing about trying to understand her feelings and pain… I found so many similarities between us. I feel like I carry my mothers essence" Primo expands. Mental illness has a habit of overwriting the good memories with the bad. In a way, those storage boxes provided a way for Primo to start redressing the balance. "It was just presented to me in the moment, all these details, all these objects. I had more of an understanding of everything." Combined with a revelatory time in therapy, these fragments from his past helped Primo to not only hone his songwriting but also shift his understanding of who he is today.
It's fitting, then, that arguably the most prominent voice on the two bodies of work released so far — gratitude always and far too long — isn't Primo, or even his co-writers, just lil and Kehina, but his mum. In between tracks, recordings of phone calls between her and Primo serve as interludes, offering words of support and wisdom on forgiveness and heartbreak. These monologues add to the warmth of the music itself, inviting listeners in and creating a familiar intimacy. His aim for the project was to cast her as a kind of "guardian angel," watching over all.
While very much unafraid to expose his findings to the world, Primo has abstracted everything just enough that his music never veers from intimate to voyeuristic. Names are usually cut out, as are any details that might be considered too personal. You only need to take a glance at ones' online presence and you'll understand the depths of his artistry and how personal this all is. Those curious enough to dig deeper will find a collection of track snippets, voice notes, visual memorabilia and diary entries linked between multiple digital avatars. The result is an entirely unique digital archive which both informs, and represents, the world of ones.
On his approach to music — "The idea is like trying to write samples" says Primo, as he enthuses over the ability of J Dilla and early UK club producers to find the perfect flip for any occasion. "I wanted to find the phrases that will linger or evoke something within." For Primo, catharsis is key. "I like the idea of getting things off your chest, saying what you need, I think that's really powerful, and that's the sentiment I carry with my music," he muses. "Unspoken truth."