She’s magic, she’s grace—Maya Bouldry-Morrison is the love witch your life needs right now. Better known as Octo Octa, the DJ spins heart-felt house records with a touch of dark thrill that always leaves us longing for more. Last time Maya blessed us with a live set was a month ago at HORST festival, where she had us feeling like queens on the dancefloor and left us sweating for dear life. A month’s time wasn’t nearly long enough to erase the things her magic did to our bodies and minds, however. The only remedy? A sit-down with her for a candid talk that spanned from Mariah Carey to emojis and… well, quite some witchy stuff. See for yourself—and don’t forget to catch Octo Octa doing magic on De School’s dancefloor this Friday.
What’s up with you and our queen Mariah Carey? I low-key stalk your Instagram (creepy and I know it), and I saw you love Meli’sa Morgan as well! Is there an overarching inspiration you find in RnB and soul music?
Absolutely, there is an overarching inspiration! I love vocal house, I love diva tracks, I love songs that most DJs would consider ‘cheesy’, simply because they won’t listen to the lyrical content. RnB and soulful tracks can typically convey information that I’m trying to send to the audience while performing. As much as I love people interpreting emotional meaning from instrumental music, sometimes I want to just bang them over the head with a straightforward message about love and the body. The two records you’re referencing from my Instagram are part of a flyer for a solo party I’ve started, called Love Hypnosis. Meli’sa Morgan’s Still In Love is a record for my partner Brooke and Mariah Carey’s Dreamlover is for my partner Eris. They’re tracks that speak directly to people I love and care about.
Can you take us on a short journey through your creation of a track? How much is it personal, where do the sources of inspiration generally come from in terms of culture, politics or art?
I have no basic method for starting a track production-wise, but the ones that I finish and release almost always have to have an emotional core to them—be it happy, sad, or whatever else. It’s a way to process my life and put my experiences into an art form that I feel most representative of the things I care about. Therefore, everything is highly personal. Sources of inspiration can be anything—from having taken my cat to the hospital, to a beautiful weekend with my partners, to having listened to recorded emergency phone calls from 9/11. Anything that affects my life can become a source of inspiration.
You recently released a new track titled For My Girls. Who are those girls?
Honestly, it should’ve been called For My Folx. But most directly, it’s for the trans-girls in my life, who love breaks as much as I do, namely MX Silkman and Eris Drew. I love that over the past few years I’ve seen this re-emergence of break music and have connected with people over a love of jungle, hardcore, and drum-’n-bass. When I was in high school, I felt like one of the few people who loved this stuff. It’s taken me years to find and connect with others that love this kind of music as much as I do.
Can you share something about what you’re working on right now?
I’m working on editing, and hopefully recording, improvised portions of my live set. When I play live, at least half of every set is improvised. Those moments also sound different from what I normally produce. It’s typically a little harder and more acidy. It’s more representative of how I feel in the moment. I’d like to release a pack of that stuff so that I have a record of it.
We’ve seen you travel and tour for the most part of this year. How does being on-the-go influence your creativity and music production? Do you find that the physical space you’re in defines your sound in any way?
Travelling makes it next to impossible for me to record. I typically write a lot of music in a year, and this year I only finished a 3-track EP and half of a split I’m doing with my partner Eris. It’s extremely exhausting to be constantly on-the-go. I’ll play three shows in three different countries on a typical weekend, and the other three to four days are essentially spent recovering and getting ready to perform again. Having such a busy schedule doesn’t allow me much time in any physical space, so it’s hard to draw much inspiration from my surroundings. You’re on a plane, then in a hotel, then in a club, and back to a plane—sometimes within 18 hours. I’ve finished some music on the road, but it’s rare.
Damn, I get fatigue by just hearing about it… So what’s a way Maya lets the steam off after a long period of touring?
I do witchy things. 🙂
A bit external to witchcraft—what’s your stance on gender becoming a genre? We’ve seen female-only festivals and agencies triumph, but I’m interested to hear where you stand on the issue of gender and music?
Gender is not a genre. I believe that it’s good that more non-cis, non-white, and non-male performers are being amplified in the scene. Naturally, there are plenty of artists who don’t want to be seen as only being booked because of their gender, so working towards building an overall diverse scene is what’s important. It’s also about visibility. Having varied line-ups allows members of the audience to see themselves on stage and to know that they too can work towards whatever goals they want to set for themselves.
As a queer artist, do you have any honest advice for managers, agents, club owners and club goers for creating a genuinely safe space for everyone to enjoy music?
More work needs to go into clubs being safe spaces not occasionally but always—not for certain parties but for every single party. I’ve been in plenty of clubs that will post “no homophobia, no transphobia, no sexism”—that’s a start, but in many of those spaces, you still won’t see highly diverse crowds, and it’s for a number of reasons. Ticket prices need to be accessible, staff needs to be trained to deal with problematic patrons, door policies need to be reviewed, bathroom policies have to become accommodating. Clubs need to: admit when they’ve had a problematic past, truly broadcast their efforts to make spaces safe, and work with people that share their ideas.
I can’t agree more… And at last, I need to confess my love for emojis to you. And I know you love them too! If you only had five seconds and you had to describe yourself in three emojis, what would the emoji-Maya be?