May/June 2018

by Felix Mpunga

October: The Hunt For Ultra Red

by Felix Mpunga

October: The Hunt For Ultra Red

Fast gaining attention in the music world as October, Emma Logan is a self-made producer, singer/songwriter and performer from Blenheim. Her sound is industrial and edgy, but accessible to the masses. Aged 21 she’s already inked a deal with Universal Music, worked with Kiwi Grammy-Award-winning producer Joel Little and toured with internationally acclaimed NZ duo Broods, opened for Yung Lean and collaborated on her single 1000 Eyes with Welsh producer David Wrench. Felix Mpunga caught up with October in April.

From an early age, Emma Logan has been surrounded by music by way of her family.

“I come from a very musical household. My mum is a music teacher and I have two older brothers who were always in bands. My eldest brother Sam has a Masters degree in orchestral composition and he plays a plethora of instruments. My other brother Josh, he’s like the freaky genius, picks up any instrument, knows how to play it in 20 minutes and has perfect pitch. So I always felt this competitive nature as the youngest and only girl. I really felt this burning desire and drive to prove myself somehow, and I guess that was production, because none of my brothers know how to produce.”

Having revealed something of her musical motivation, Emma moves onto her methodology.

“I was quite a petulant little kid and although my mum is a music teacher, a piano teacher, I was too much of a little shit to be taught and so she gave up on me and I ended up teaching myself. I’d sneak into my older brother’s room and go on his MacBook to use GarageBand because I’d seen him recording demos. By 12 I had taught myself the very primal basics of how to use GarageBand.

“When I was 17, I started to take it more seriously because I had a MIDI keyboard. It was at that moment I clicked that I could make anything I wanted to, just by using my laptop. It was a goldmine moment for me. I started expanding and developing my songwriting ability in GarageBand and I didn’t really know at the time that what I was doing was production.”

October’s music has the ability to turn your world upside and take you on a ride fuelled by raw energy, emotion and in-your face heavy production.

“Sonically, at the moment it’s very abrasive, it’s crunchy, it’s distorted and it pulls from a lot of older generations of music. I think this record in particular, I was listening to a lot of punk, post-punk and industrial music. I love Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Big Black… Bad Brains is so cool and a lot of industrial music like Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy.

“I think Death Grips have taken all the best things about industrial music of the ’80s and transported it into this amazing, modern, hardcore, gritty as fuck context that is so cool. For me it was taking all these bands I love, taking all the essence and pushing it into a modern context.”

It’s by pushing the envelope with her music that Emma has had opportunities most people would only dream of. Asked about ‘Ultra Red’, her album debut under the October badge, Emma can’t help but express how anxious she feels about release day.

“It’s terrifying, it’s so weird, I still feel so green as an artist. This a big statement for an artist, when you release your first LP. It’s like, ‘Here I am, I’m serious, here’s a body of work that I’ve worked very hard on.’ It’s a big deal.”

She says she was entirely dedicated to writing music during 2017, and treated it like a job.

“Essentially what happened was I did a bunch of writing sessions with Joel Little and Thom Powers and some of the songs were written from scratch. With Alex Wildwood I had just taken my demos to him to flesh out. The album was recorded at Joel’s studio in LA, Thom’s studio which is also the rehearsal space used by The Naked and Famous, Roundhead Studios and a couple of sessions were at Parachute in Auckland.”

Despite that globe-trotting aspect, the majority, as she says, was produced in her bedroom. Mixing was handled by Morgan Allen of Depot Sound in Auckland, save for 1000 Eyes, which was mixed and mastered by Welsh producer David Wrench, who has mixing credits for the XX, Sampha, Caribou and FKA Twigs.

With ‘Ultra Red’ close to release Emma is already making plans for how the sound of October might be presented and evolve in the future.

“I’ll be doing some sort of tour most definitely! I want to start a band, make more ambient music, delve deeper into industrial electronic music and get a little bit weirder and more creative. I wanna make a bunch of art, learn how to sew, and be creative in every way possible.”