Oliver Gil knows his way around a mind-altering substance — when he’s not working as a hospital psychiatrist in Montreal, he’s in his home studio transforming his homemade nu jazz loops into psych-funk odysseys about love, vulnerability and the power of human connection. He says, “When I write music, I don’t wonder if someone is going to listen to it on their subway ride — I wonder if they’re going to listen to it in their interstellar cigar lounge!”
Oliver comes by all of it honestly: when he was a kid, he would jam with his dad, a guitar-playing psychiatrist who instilled his passion for all forms of music in his son from an early age. While Oliver took classical piano lessons as a kid and spent his teenage years playing drums in rock bands, music eventually took a back seat to the rigours of medical school. “I was looking for bands and people to play with, but it’s hard if you’re not throwing yourself full-time into music,” he recalls. But everything changed during the first year of his psychiatric residency after discovering FKJ and Tom Misch’s one-shot performance video of “Losing My Way,” a masterclass in live looping. He remembers thinking, “‘I don’t have to wait for anybody. All I have to do is learn the other instruments!'”
After teaching himself guitar, bass, subtractive synthesis, you name it, Oliver Ghoul was born: a monster with an insatiable appetite for a good groove. When working in Northern Quebec, he drove six hours during a blizzard to the nearest music store to buy his first guitar (and then another six hours some days later to get it repaired) and nowadays spends whatever free time he has obsessively following rabbit holes on YouTube on everything from musical fixations to technical tutorials, which is how he learned to record, produce and play.
But despite his intense approach, Oliver is buoyed by what he calls his “annoyingly irreverent” sense of humour. He says, “In my day job, I’m in such brutal and difficult situations that I use silliness quite a bit, not only to disarm situations but also to test that therapeutic alliance — when you’re trying to help a terrified person whose perception is altered, you’re trying to build a relationship despite the fact that you’re maybe not on the same planet, you’re trying to create a bridge between worlds.” In his music, Oliver uses every head-scratching lyric or left-field sample to draw listeners closer. On “Glue,” Oliver depicts himself as a lovestruck stalker in his own apartment, his emotion-riddled body a “leaky monkey suit” while he surveys his wife from behind a plant, while on “Current Affairs,” a night at the jazz club wages war against persistent police car sirens.
He says, “The themes are actually very personal to me, they’re an attempt at something meaningful to me. I’m pretty sure my old therapist would be happy to hear that!” It’s just the first taste of what’s to come from Oliver Ghoul, Montreal’s psychedelic psychiatrist.
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