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Are You Down (with OP Stylee)?
OP Stylee: Interviewed by psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT
Phantom Tollbooth readers: As a prelude to the following interview, please feel free to download this one-song “soundtrack,” to my interview with OP of OP Stylee:
Are U Down (With OP Stylee)
Reggae bands led by Christian artists are extremely rare. That’s why I was so happy to be able to recently hook up with OP from the band, OP Stylee.
It’s my business to help people when they’re down. Being down can range between a vague, mild feeling of the blues to a full-blown clinically significant case of depression.
But being down doesn’t always mean being down and out. When an “in” person (a cognoscente if you will) is down with something, it means he or she is behind it, supportive of it and into it. You might say that rather than being down and out, such a person is down and in.
I won’t say that I’m a member of the cognoscenti. I won’t say that I’m hip. I won’t say I’m cool. I won’t say I’m in. Proclaiming oneself as such automatically places one in the “nerd” category. But I will say that I’m down with O.P. Stylee. I’ve been down with O.P. Stylee since the early 90s when I used to catch them in a jam at place once called Cheney’s on California Avenue near Stockdale Highway.
The shows were nothing short of spectacular---nothing short of electrifying. Back in the early 90s, there appeared to be two up-and-coming underground Bakersfield acts at the vanguard of all that was new and “happening.”
In the world of roots-oriented rock---nostalgia mixed with a rare, raw punk energy, there was Brian Jones Was Murdered. In the world of Latin-laced world music, roots-oriented reggae, and tribal dance music, there was the one and only O.P. Stylee.
Though there are now rumors (or is it simply reckless, baseless hype?) involving the prospect of Brian Jones Was Murdered getting back together, I doubt if that’s going to happen any time soon. For the most part, the odds of that are about as great as Brian Jones coming back to life, and opening for Merle Haggard at the Crystal Palace.
Meanwhile, Korn has become the juggernaut of rock as far as “Korn” county is concerned. Their ascendancy is unmatched, and though they are now bereft of Brian “Head” Welch, who has traded in Korn for a crown of thorns, they show no signs of handing over their rock reign.
Though the band has been in a moribund state for quite some time, I have no doubt that they will continue their reign over reggae/world/dance music in Kern County, and they may even extend their kingdom. O.P. Stylee involves a new line-up, but the new line-up won’t stop the long line-ups at their shows.
I spoke to the man at the helm, and sampled a few of the new O.P. Stylee tunes. As I did, I sensed that the spirit of O.P. is still very much alive. I believe they are poised to recapture the magic of their 90s apex. I'm getting a bit prolix in my introduction to a band that really needs no introduction. Here is our recent conversation. Feel free to easedrop:
Dr. BLT: First of all, thanks for agreeing to participate in this interview series. It's usually a tradition of mine to have interviewees give a shout out or to send out a greeting to past or future Dr. BLT interviewees. Do you have anything to say to either Pat Boone, whom I interviewed back in December, or for John McCrae, frontman of Cake, whom I'm told by his people will likely be ready for a BLT interview in a few months, just prior to their Live at the Crystal Palace CD release? If not, no big deal.
OP: Ask Pat if he is going to do another heavy metal CD if not, ask him if he would he try a reggae CD. I’d recommend Christafari's CD singer Mark Mohr to him.
As for Cake , fortunately I love them! A Cake CD is one of the only CD's I have put into my PC. Also: Are they putting photos on new CD?
Dr. BLT: Let's take about OP origins. First of all, where were you born and raised and what childhood event, if any, had an impact on your decision to follow a musical course?
OP: I was born and raised in Bakersfield CA and at the age of 18 I split and worked ski resorts in winter and Santa Barbara Biltmore in summers, returned to Bakersfield around 23. No real event, music was something that was stressed in my family on both sides, instrumental and vocal, I played trumpet and baritone in band. I was also was in choir all through my school years, in high school I was a chamber singer.
Dr. BLT: What are the circumstances that brought the band together?
OP: Well, O.P. Stylee started with myself and Dan Burt. We grew up together. I watched him play in bands for years. Then one day he asked me about my choir days when we were younger as he was hooking up a mic in his studio on Chester Lane and had me sing. I asked what to sing he said anything, so I did, and out of that came our first song, Tom Tommy. In about 4 weeks we wrote enough material to do over an hour show. Now, as for the new op style-- I was working on Mark Powell's ( Firebrats) roof. and somewhat the same think occurred: he asked what I’d been doing, then asked me to check out his studio, and there was a mic and now the show goes on!
Dr. BLT: Can you assign one word to the personalities of each band member? How do you guys make it work, with all of the different personalities in the band?
OP: Both Mark and Brett are creative & cautious. Mark and Brett Beller have been working together for quite sometime and are somewhat brothers. Our personalities are pretty similar---so far so good--- no real roadblocks.
Dr. BLT: What have you accomplished together as a band, thus far, and what have you accomplished as an individual artist over the years?
OP: Well, as new members we’ve only begun, but I’m sure we will be fine. We’re writing great stuff, and I can handle the cheerleading part just fine. As for myself, in the past I have played with so many different players throughout the US and have opened for Steele Pulse, Eek A Mouse, Untouchables, Big Mountain to Platters, and Edgar Winter to name a few.Dr. BLT: That’s impressive. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of performing and offering your music hear in the Kern County music scene?OP: Friends and family are the advantage. Disadvantages would be that to get your music heard on radio or sold in stores without being signed, you must take other routes, but that’s the case anywhere. Being in a city with few venues is easy if you play Wednesdays through Sundays. As op style, we did all originals 4hrs a night and got a little burned out. That’s not the case this time around.
Dr. BLT: What artists have had the most influence on your musical direction as a band? Are there any local artists that you are impressed by or whose music has influenced you?
OP: Christafari, Temple Yard, Bob Marley and every song I’ve ever heard on the radio. Locally. singers would be Glenda Robles. She knows every song I’ve ever heard on the radio. Then there’s Brett Beller, just cause homey can sing like a canary! Then there are the writers & trackers that I know---- Jean Errasarat, Rythem, and of course my pal, Mark Powell. As far as all around and good at a little of everything hats off to Matt Munoz. He is making it great for everyone. Thanks. Then there are musicians like Louie Cruz Beltran and there are far too many to mention. You guys know who you are.
Dr. BLT: Tell me a little bit about what the band is up to these days?
OP: We’re writing and recording new material as well as re-recording old material, rehearsing and preparing to take this show on the road
Dr. BLT: How do you feel about musicians using their music to promote a political agenda or to make a political statement?
OP: That's fine, but be careful. It could be dangerous, depending on who or what, especially if you’re politically right.
Dr. BLT: Does music hold any particular spiritual significance to you and/or members of your band?
OP: Oh yes, I think anyone writing a lot has some kind of connection, whether good or bad. Myself, I'm always positive. I really try not to be negative.
Dr. BLT: What inspires you to write, record and perform music?
OP: You, doc, and everyone
else that I might be able to bring a smile to, an impression on their mind,
or a feeling in their heart. There is nothing like performing to a receptive
crowd. I wish everyone could do it at least once, oh, and maybe a home
I could live in (lol).