Unbound is a London based project created by the incredibly kind Charles Olisanekwu AKA DJ Winggold. In his own words Unbound is a celebration of all styles of electronic music, championing boundary-pushing sounds and putting on bleeding-edge lineups. I saw this first hand at their last party at The Cause when Unbound joined forces with Killekill to celebrate their 10th anniversary with Radioactive Man and Neil Landstrumm – and what a party it was! Charles was kind enough to answer a few questions with us alongside contributing to our mix series!
Hi Charles, thank you again for agreeing to have a chat. I guess first thing is first – can you tell us the story so far with Unbound?
Unbound was borne from a period of crushing depression when I had a terrible time at a job that I didn’t enjoy. I’m a naturally creative person but my job was all about rigidity and order so this, in combination with a set of very intense situations at work led to a tumultuous time where I felt very trapped. I’m naturally a very cheerful person so, when I got hit with the full weight of depression, I just crumbled since I’d never felt like that before. At my lowest whilst depressed, I felt impossibly empty but connected with music as a way to mentally escape from my circumstances.
Once I started to get better, inspired by the positive energy refilling me and wanting to give people the same feeling that I felt whilst sharing the music I love, I decided to start Unbound. I strongly believe that music can bring people together so Unbound is all about using music as a way of getting people to be more open-minded and compassionate. Music can be transcendent and it’s even better when it’s a communal experience.
When I first started Unbound, I thought I’d fully gotten over depression but, instead of fully dealing with the effects, I just dived straight into the world of promoting. I’d initially planned on only throwing the first night and then seeing where it went but the vibe at the first one was so special that I had to keep going – it’s been unbelievably intense since I essentially neglected myself emotionally and piled on running events whilst working a very stressful job but I’ve learnt so much about myself.
Inspired by the open mindset I want to spread to people, the music policy is very loose and open-ended; there’s a focus on quality first and foremost but we focus on getting artists from across the spectrum of techno, electro, ‘bass’ and more and then putting them together in interesting combos where there are unexpected threads connecting them. All the artists we book embody the Unbound spirit in that they’re pushing the boundaries in a really forward-thinking way.
With the open-minded mindset we want the Unbound community to have, given how Unbound started, we essentially want to inspire people to seek more from life in whatever small way they may find fulfilling. Life’s tough and goes right by in front of us – you might as well live it how you want to live it. As a Christian, I strongly believe in principles like equality, love, fairness and respect and, given the crossover with dance music’s similar founding principles, I want to spread an attitude embodying these principles. I just want to do my best to make the world a better place in some way!
Which artists have played so far?
We had Umwelt at our first night back when he was still quite under the radar, Simo Cell and Galaxian at our 2nd night, Sync 24 at our third and we’ve also had A Sagittariun in addition to the guys we had down for the Killekill night.
As well as showcasing all sorts of sounds, we’re really conscious of using our platform to shine a light on local DJs and the many badass female DJs out there. Leah Floyeurs is a Freerotation resident who plays killer sets and we had her at our first night. We’re also a big fan of Efemme, a resident at Sheffield’s The Night Kitchen and one of the loveliest people out there – she played our fourth night and brought the place down. We’ve also had London-based Aurora and MLE play as well as Spires & Phraxos, residents of Cabin Fever. Promoters, you should book allll of the above, they’re all excellent DJs.
I also need to give a shout out to my resident DJs DJ Paramedic and Dr. Blowfin – they’ve been reliably holding it down ever since the 2nd night and just innately get what Unbound is about.
Your party at The Cause was incredible, I was really gutted to not be able to last till the end – the atmosphere was amazing though, is that something you try and bring that helps differentiate Unbound from other events?
I was completely blown away by that night and the feeling I got from it will last with me forever. The Cause is a fantastic venue with a very relaxed, easygoing vibe and it’s for sure one of my faves in LDN; it was amazing seeing so many smiling, friendly faces and having the place heaving all night! That was the first night we’d done on that scale before so it was wonderful having it be such a roaring success.
Given what I was saying about wanting to spread a compassionate mindset, I definitely try to create an open, welcoming atmosphere where people can let loose and have fun but, honestly, it’s created itself? The first night had ~100 people, most of whom were my friends, and it felt like a special atmosphere unlike any I’d felt at a party before. I wanted to capture that and keep it as Unbound grew but I haven’t had to do anything and the right people have just been finding their way to us!
I think that a lot of it comes from the atmosphere at The Cause but also, because we’ve been booking adventurous, varied lineups from the get-go, we’ve managed to attract open-minded people who are pretty clued up on their music. It’s all coming from a very genuine, passionate place so I think those vibes are being felt by people. It’s exactly how I envisioned it when I started it, so I couldn’t be happier.
What’re your future plans with Unbound?
Unbound initially started as a night getting artists from across the techno spectrum with some electro but the music policy very quickly expanded as my creative vision became clearer and I decided to represent a wider range of my taste.
Looking forward, I can’t wait to share more diverse, awesome artists with people. Everything has happened very naturally so far and I can’t wait to further expand the sounds that we’ll be sharing with our audiences. I’ve got a huge list of wishlist acts for next year and there’s a real range of artists there, ranging from footwork to instrumental grime to members of Portugal’s tarraxo music scene. I LOVE broken beats and, after getting my start in this world via techno, want Unbound to represent a mesh of forward-thinking futuristic beats, techno, electro and a whole load of surprises that keeps people guessing. I have a very specific idea of what I want to represent so can’t wait to keep pushing the bounds of it.
I want our audience to trust us and go on a journey of exploration throughout the electronic music continuum with us – we don’t necessarily focus on getting the hugest names, instead choosing the artists that we find most interesting and that speak to us in some way.
Beyond the bookings, there is a truly crazy amount of stuff coming up. Anyone who’s seen our growth over the past year will know that we’ve had a very, very busy first year and a bit. We’ve got some exciting plans coming up, are currently in talks about our first international night and have a lot of ideas that we all want to bring to life!
For me, it’s also about more than the music – much further down the line, I’d love to get involved in community projects such as production + DJ workshops for underprivileged kids. A big dream of mine is creating forums where people with differing viewpoints get together to watch a panel debate contentious topics and they can ask the panellists questions, the aim being to get people to try and understand POVs outside their limited worldview.
I see Unbound as a platform that can use music to genuinely make a difference. I often wonder if i’m being naïve thinking that but the world is bleak enough so I might as well do my best to push it as much as poss and see what happens.
How long have you been DJing for? And who are your biggest influencers?
I’ve been DJ’ing for just over a year now. When I first started Unbound, DJ’ing wasn’t on the radar at all but it quickly became evident that the best way to push the Unbound sound was through DJ’ing. I’ve only played out 6 times!
In terms of influences, the short answer is TOO MANY. Within electronic music, Objekt, Stingray, Robert Hood, Helena Hauff, Ben UFO, Batu, Nina Kraviz, Underground Resistance, Drexciya, Jlin, Hessle Audio and Night Slugs, all for a variety of reasons. Apart from having formative experiences seeing a lot of these guys, the unifying thread is that they all push/pushed their art in an uncompromising manner and have managed to stay very true to themselves. I mean, Nina Kraviz is one of the world’s largest DJs but she just doesn’t give a damn, does she?? She plays some of the weirdest, hardest music out there to massive crowds and they just eat it up.
With Underground Resistance and Drexciya in particular, I’m very inspired by the fact that they used the medium of music to spread their message and it’s something that I do my best to represent through Unbound.
Beyond electronic music though, I’m also inspired by so so so so much. I’m a very sensitive, emotional person so I’m inspired by literally everything around me. I’m into a LOT of different music so it comes together in quite an interesting way in my head. There are a ton of rappers and R&B singers out there pushing the boundaries in v cool ways, espesh those mixing it with experimental production. So Danny Brown (from Detroit!), the main man Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, Frank Ocean, Kelela, Aaliyah (RIP), Timbaland, FKA Twigs, a group called Brockhampton (that everybody needs to check out!) are all huge influences, amongst others.
You’ve also done a mix for us – can you talk us through what you were trying to create with this mix?
My style is Afrofuturist in that it sees me mixing various flavours of techno, electro and acid with Afrobeats, grime, South African gqom and too much more to list. It’s v inspired by the origins of techno and the way in which young black men used music to transcend their surroundings, better their circumstances and kickstart a musical revolution from humble beginnings. For me, this serves as proof of the power of music.
Growing up in the musical melting pot that is London, it’s also inspired by the spirit of experimentation and innovation that’s launched genres like grime, garage and dubstep, like with Detroit and techno. The specific vibe I was going for with the mix was ‘Black Panther in space’ – I feel like the beginning of the mix might seem a bit disjointed but it’s setting the scene.
I had a beautiful experience vibing with the crowd during my closing set at the Killekill night and I genuinely felt like I’d had an hour long out of body experience so I’ve tried to recapture that energy in this mix, showing the rhythmic, propulsive tracks that I like to play whilst connecting the dots between grime, techno, electro + elements of UK bass culture.
I also recently played before Derrick May with my partner Aidan and that was a truly unbelievable experience – it was truly lifechanging for me so I actually went back and re-recorded the mix to capture the energy that I was feeling after that night.
I end the mix in a very euphoric positive way so I can spread that positive healing energy that I’ve been banging on about – I’ve tried my best to keep the whole thing somewhat cohesive… there are a few hiccups but I think I’ve mainly been successful. I’ll let people judge!
What are the labels and producers that are really catching your eye at the moment?
Demdike Stare – l am allllll over everything they do and their recent album ‘Passion’ is mindblowing. Both them and Equiknoxx are both perfect encapsulations of the Unbound sound/spirit – they’ve really nailed the futuristic dancehall/mutated riddim music that I’m a sucker for. On this tip, Swing Ting, Principe and Enchufada are three labels across the globe pushing a forward-thinking, rhythmically interesting sound forward in really different ways.
I’ve gotta give Cultivated Electronics a shout out for the consistently top-notch electro they’ve been putting out for 10 years now – their recent ‘From The Dark’ LP series is so so good. Whilst we’re talking electro, Jensen Interceptor is ofc the name on everybody’s lips – I’ve yet to hear anything bad from the dude – and brokntoys is another fantastic label.
I’m obsessed with Proc Fiskal who released his debut album on Hyperdub earlier this year; I think the best way of describing his style is airy, melodic deconstructed grime. I really want to bring him down next year!
There’s also Osheyack who makes percussive, industrial techno. Dropping one of his tunes at the Killekill night has gotta be one of my fave Unbound memories to date (and there are a lot!). I’ve also been really digging some producers from the Copenhagen fast techno scene, particularly Rune Bagge – he’s got a really diverse range of tracks, all with diff moods + atmospheres.
Finally, I’ve got to give a shout out to my boy Larry (AKA Bruce) – he recently released his debut album ‘Sonder Somatic‘ on Hessle Audio and it’s truly incredible. I’ve been banging on about it to anyone who’ll listen and he’s probably tired of me telling him how good it is but I really do love it; he’s an insanely talented guy and I’m just blown away by the sound design and the overall mood he’s created. I met him at Freerotation this year and we hit it off, so the way things came together with him playing our final night of the year has been really lovely – he’s smashed it every time I’ve seen him DJ, so I know that he’s definitely going to deliver!
Thanks so much again for chatting!