Interview | Octave One

Since 1989, Octave One has been a leading light in Detroit’s techno scene, with the core duo of Lenny and Lawrence Burden touring the world with their stunning live act and teaming up alongside their three other brothers Lynell, Lance and Lorne to create tracks that have already become techno classics. We got a chance to catch up with them prior to their performance tomorrow evening at U Street Music Hall – read our conversation below.

You’ve often referred to your live rig, The Mothership, as a member of Octave One. What was the first show like with it and how has it evolved over the years? Where did the idea come from?

Hardware brought us into this music and we couldn’t see ourselves performing without our beloved pieces of gear. So our first show mimicked pretty much a live version a recording studio but wasn’t so much the Mothership. More like Mothership ideas that had to be sorted out over the years, and as technology changed it allowed a lot of those ideas to come to fruition.

And the idea of the Mothership came from wanting to have pieces of gear to jam out on and to not just stand on stage pushing buttons but more like [improvising] a lot like a jazz band.


What’s one piece of gear, synthesizer, drum machine, mixer, etc., you are excited about right now?

Actually, we just brushed the dust off of our Moog Voyager RME and are super excited again because we forgot just how much fun a real synthesizer was!


Octave One consists of all of the Burden Brothers, with Lenny and Lawrence being the live act. What roles do Lynell, Lance, and Lorne have?

When we formed Octave One it was Lawrence, Lenny and Lynell being the members of the group, Lance and Lorne at that time were literally babies and had no idea about what was going on…lol.

We weren’t performing live then but it was solely for the purposes of creating and releasing music together on vinyl. Over the years we decided that we wanted to try some live aspects of the creative process and by this time both Lorne and Lance were creating music with us and we all wanted to try stage performances, but only Lawrence and Lenny found the stage to be fulfilling. Now Lynell, Lorne and Lance all prefer their creativity to be in the form of writing in a studio environment.


What’s a funny anecdote or story you can share about making music with a large family?

On more than one occasion one of us might find ourselves working on a solo track for days just totally jamming on it and can’t wait to play it for the rest of our brothers. I mean you’ll really be zoned out and listening to it over and over again for days and finally you get your chance to let it be heard by the fam. In comes one brother and you ask him to give it a listen and he might say something like ‘ dunno man I’m not really feeling this one’, so you play it for another one of your brothers and he just dismisses it right away laughing… so in your mind you’re like ‘alright, alright maybe those two just don’t [get] this but it’s hot!’ Now you’re feeling a bit disheartened and unsure of yourself but you decide to play it for the last two of your brothers together cause these are the two that’s in the groove of things anyway, so you muster up the strength and catch them together and have [them] listen and they look at each other and then turn to you with the look like your cheese slid off your cracker and this is the worst song you’ve ever produced… man, now you feel like your world just collapsed and you put the track away in the vault never to return defeated by the experience. Now, fast forward [and] we’re hanging out in the studio grooving off some previous unreleased material and this very track that absolutely no one liked gets played and you slowly see those heads start to nod and at the end one brother says ‘that’s hot… who did that’? Then you hear the next three brothers start to divide amongst themselves the [various] parts of your solo track that they now swear up and down that they created…Ugh!!!


Your roots are in Detroit techno, but who are some influences that you’ve had over the years outside of the techno and house genres?

Our influences are so all over the map, they might include: Barry White, Depeche Mode, Issac Hayes, Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush, Jean Luc Ponty, INXS just to name a few.


Octave One’s Locus of Control Vol. 1 released back in May 2019, with Vol. 2 coming out in October 2019. The name is a psychology term meaning that a person has control over the outcome of their life. Where did the idea of using the name for the title of the EPs come from?

Well to let you in on one thing Locus of Control Vol. 3 will be released in April 2020 which we feel is the highlight in the series for us. Back to the question of where the idea to use the term ‘Locus of Control’ came from… we were having a conversation about directions in life and taking true control of your destination of where you want to go as opposed to letting life lead you. In the middle of our conversation a friend blurted our this term and he’s such an eloquent person that we became enamored by the term and had to adopt it for our own.


Music genres continually evolve, with techno specifically going in so many different sub genres. Where do you see techno going in the next ten years?

No clue… the evolution of techno has always been unpredictable, even where it is now was would’ve been unpredictable for us to see.


Where do you see Octave One going in the next ten years?

As much as we love this music we never really plan that part of our future, we just go in and ride the vibe either just for ourselves or to share with the world!


What’s a piece of advice that you would give younger artists starting out into music?

Find out who you truly are and chart your path based on that, instead of the path people think you should travel and be.

Octave One will be performing tomorrow evening, February 15 at U Street Music Hall alongside Lyceum and TUNNELOFLOVE. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here

Watch the video for “Afrotech”, from 2019’s Locus of Control Vol. 2 here: