Basement Manners: Oli Ng

Written by Daniel Rourke

When you think of Crewe's music scene, you think shoegaze tinged scene bands who are looking to jump on the prolonged emo revival, you don't necessarily think Americana tinged folk music. Oli Ng is a musician who is looking to change that impression.

Following his successful evening at the Music Awards of Staffordshire & Cheshire, we caught up with Ng to discuss how he got to this point and what's next.

Burn After Writing: What’s your first musical memory?

Oli Ng: I remember my dad had an old acoustic guitar, it had three strings on it – it was very Seasick Steve. I picked it up and tried to work out Springsteen songs on these three strings. After that I wanted to play it properly really.

BAW: From there did you go down the typical route of starting a high school/college band, or have you always been a solo artist?

ON: A friend’s dad had an accident at work and lost a couple of his fingers, so to help him get back on his feet I asked him if he would teach me how to play guitar. He started to show me chords, and I learnt a few songs. The first song I learnt was Dakota by Stereophonics, I think that’s right.

I was friends with his daughter, and she could play. We also went to the same school, so we decided to start our own band, and it went from there really. I then went solo as time moved on.

BAW: What was it that made you switch and go solo, rather than sticking with a band?

ON: I started doing my solo stuff as a side project when I was in bands anyways, but I’ve started to concentrate on it more recently with The Eyers going quiet and not really doing anything, so It’s become my main project.

I love playing in bands, especially the rockier bands, but yeah. It’s just whatever time allows me to concentrate on the most really, at the moment it’s the solo stuff.

BAW: Last year you released the 'Into The Dark' EP, which is your second solo release if I remember correctly?

ON: Technically it’s my third, but I discount the first one because it wasn’t very good [laughs].

BAW: That’s fair! What was the process for the 'Into The Dark' EP, and looking back what are your thoughts on it?

ON: The theme of the record was in the vain of 'Get Hurt' (The Gaslight Anthem), it’s a breakup record if I’m being honest. That was the main theme of how the songs came about.

Recording-wise I got the drummer and Jordan from The Eyers to play with me. We were used to working together so we bounced off each other a lot easier. I sent them acoustic demos and told them to learn the chords and think about what they wanted to play, before we bashed them out live in the studio. We essentially arranged it whilst we were recording it. A guy named Keaton Thompson played guitar on the record, and he did a great job.

I was really happy with it, each musician brought their own bit to the record and that makes up each song. I was really pleased with the collection of songs and how they were produced.

BAW: You’ve just got back off a short tour with Chloe Hawes and Arms & Hearts, how did that go?

ON: It was really good. Most of the places that we played were places that I’ve never visited before, so it was nice to see new places and meet new people. It was successful overall, and Chloe smashed it every night. I’d definitely tour with Chloe again at some point, it was a nice little run.

BAW: So what’s next?

ON: I’ve got a new single coming out in the spring, it’s just in the mastering stage at the minute. Then hopefully I’ll be playing a few Europe dates at the end of the year.

I don’t know whether to release another EP or just release several singles, there’s a few plans in place.

BAW: Aside from the solo project and The Eyers, you also play in one or two other bands and have toured Europe this year. What can you tell us about that?

ON: I play with a jazz blues pianist called Tom Seals who’s also from Crewe. I did a UK tour with him in October 2015, then I went over to Hong Kong with him to play a few shows there, and then bits and bobs over the years in the UK. We just played in Amsterdam recently.
Europe is somewhere I want to tap into, I played a few shows in Berlin at the end of last year. Hopefully I’ll get back over there under my own name this year.

BAW: Finally, who are some DIY artists you’ve come across who you think are worth a mention?

ON: I best mention Arms & Hearts, hadn’t I? He’ll get a bit pissy and demand toffees and stuff like that if I don’t. So yeah, Steve who plays under Arms & Hearts. There’s also Chloe Hawes who I was just on tour with. A lot of the Manchester DIY are great artists and great people. There’s also John Greenwood who plays under The Doublecross, he’s really good. There’s that many, that I don’t want to say too many in case I forget someone.

I feel like some people look down on the DIY musician thing. With us touring and playing these not so glamorous places, I think people look down on us. I really admire people who do it, I enjoy doing it and I think you get more from it personally.

BAW: That’s right. You went full time with it last year, how hard was it to make that decision?

ON: It was quite easy really. I decided I should do it now while I’m quite young and still living at home, so there’s not that much pressure on me financially. I thought I’d try it now because I’d rather try it than look back at 40 or 50 and regret not giving it a go. I just thought I’d give it a go and see what happens, and so far so good.