Unicorn Kid – Oliver Sabin – is set to play at Koko this Saturday
Published: 8 November, 2012
by ROISIN GADELRAB
AS a child, Oliver Sabin was insular and anti-social, hibernating with Sonic the Hedgehog on his Sega Megadrive for company. Now better known as celebrated producer Unicorn Kid, he is revered for his deep electro beats, employing the very games chips sounds he took solace in during his youth.
“I grew up as this gay kid who was ostracised by others,” he said. “I came out very young. I was kissing this boy at an under-18s club and school-friends and my brother were there, so I went home and told my parents.”
At first unsure of himself, Oliver came out as bisexual, later realising that he was gay, a fact not always welcomed by those around him.
He said: “I found solace with music and interacting, and finding friendships online. I’ve this whole set of people on the internet.
“I went to New York recently and was able to meet them. You can create your own world on there. As soon as I got into this [music] and it started working that was a huge confidence boost.”
It is this online world that has so influenced Unicorn Kid’s music – and his accompanying videos. The latest, for single Feel So Real, is based loosely on cult Angelina Jolie movie Hackers.
Oliver said: “When I first started writing music and figuring out how to compose stuff I was coming in from a scene called chiptune, or eight-bit, using cracked games. It was around the early 80s because that’s how they used to make the soundtracks for games. I learned to write music as I discovered all this stuff.”
He added: “There’s this punk band called Anamanaguchi. Their lead singer is a Nintendo. They programme melodies. Loads of people are doing cool things with it. I’ve been going professionally for a couple of years, and as it’s progressed I’ve become more into production.”
Unlike Dr Spin’s 1992 pop hit Tetris (in reality a Europop experiment of an incognito Andrew Lloyd Webber resplendent with Russian dancers on Top of The Pops), Unicorn Kid’s use of retro computer game sound chips has evolved into something much sophisticated.
He said: “Video game music was a genre unto itself because they had to use sound chips and get the sound out of them.
“That was the angle I was coming from initially. It can be quite elitist. They are purists. As soon as I started to combine it with modern synths people didn’t really like it, so I don’t really work within that scene anymore. It’s just part of what I do.”
But, he said: “The eight-bit element has stuck with me. No matter what kind of genre I have, I find it brings everything together.”
Unicorn Kid plays The Playground’s 5th birthday French electro and future bass night at Koko on Saturday (November 10), sharing the bill with Sebastian, Surkin, Dark Sky, Girlunit, Hackman, Charlie XCX (DJ), Haezer, The C90s, The Coolness, Figures, Punx Soundcheck, Lost Boyz and Futurism.
He said: “I’ve not played Koko yet, but I’ve been there, it’s a beautiful venue.
“Camden is one of my favourite places. You know people will always come out in Camden. When I’m there I go down the high street. There’s this one shop I always go in – Cyberdog. I’d love to do a show or an album launch there. If you cleared everything away there would be this awesome club. I always take people there. A lot of it is very extreme but it’s always fun to go in.”
And as for what to expect from Saturday’s appearance, he said: “Up till now I’ve always come in from a weird angle.
“When I first started out I didn’t know how it worked. I’d play individual songs rather than creating one overall mix.
“Recently I’ve been trying to make the set one piece. I have a keyboard on set and a mini controller where I play things live.
“It’s difficult when you’re a solo electronic musician to make it exciting.
“I have visuals in the background. You can tell from the first few seconds what kind of crowd it is – I act as my own hype man before I play, it can be a jump up and dance thing or a stand up and watch night.”