The Hamiltonian producer writes about intergenerational ties on “Channels.”
Onglish is the moniker for the ambient, electronic/hip hop project by the Hamiltonian Brett Klassen, a musician, dj, producer, and one half of the Toronto-meets-Hamilton project S.O.A.P. He’s no stranger to the local music scene, but when it comes to labelling his personal music, Klassen has a difficult time- describing his sound as “yacht-rock from someone who has never been on a yacht,” or possibly, “blog-indie-electro-wave.”
“The genre game is really difficult for me,” said Onglish. “I love ambient music and came from hip hop, I’ve been hugely influenced by R&B and pop as well as singer-songwriter stuff. I’m hoping I can find a label that works at some point. Indie pop? But I don’t think that’s a style really, and I don’t know what it even really means.”
“It took a couple of weeks and my entire life I guess,” said Onglish. “I started writing the song in mid-August, but I started the process of coming to terms with changes at a young age, ha!”
Klassen’s lyrics tell a familial story, one of intergenerational experiences and careers that led Onglish to the road he’s currently travelling.
“The lyrics are a story of my dad working in an electronics shop selling radios, before he became a pastor, and me working as a radio host before moving away from my home town,” said Onglish. “The chorus affirms that these changes are good, healthy. The second verse is about my grandmother who was a school teacher, and how I have become a reflection of her- as has my dad, he is now an education assistant- as I am pursuing work as a school teacher, and am employed by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. The outro references a technique in production called sidechaining, where you chain track channels to each other to tuck, or duck a channel behind another when that one plays. Typically it is used with the kick drum to various other elements in the beat or the vocals.”
When it comes to the mixing, mastering, drum programming, synths, effects, and everything else included in the production process- the artist does it all.
“It’s all me!” said Onglish. “I sample Scribe’s voice, as well as a couple of other secret samples, but it was a process of sitting down at the piano, writing the song, recording it and producing around the lyrics. A bit of a different process for me. For the recording, however, Lifeandthetribe was my vocal coach and recording engineer! She was a huge help in me getting the tone and feel that I was looking for in the vocal performance.”
The meaning behind “Channels?” That change is healthy, according to Klassen.
“Be open and allow yourself and the people around you to change and grow,” said Onglish. “If someone says, “Hey, I have new pronouns,” or, “I’m not going to work as much as I used to,” or, “I’m wanting to adjust my opinion on something,” we should allow that. I need to regularly be checking myself and making sure I’m finding growth instead of looking for ways to stay the same. Consistency is demanded by capitalism, but I do not desire it. I desire innovation, which comes from connecting to my community and finding how to change things in a way that benefits everyone.”
“The best thing you can do is send this song to someone that you think might like it,” said Onglish. “I’m not aiming to get a large following off of my music, I’m aiming to connect with people, so if people connect with what I’m doing, I would love to find out why and how we can build and strengthen that connection.”