Cadenza – Oliver Rodigan to his parents – knew his life might follow a musical path at an early age. After studying piano and violin, as well as playing in the orchestra, he dodged a career as a lawyer, “I realised I didn’t want to solve other people’s problems,” and studied theology at Edinburgh University. It was here that his first proper track, “Darkest Hype” was released on Dummy. A dancehall monster that the label’s A&R team discovered during a set by legendary Reggae lover and DJ David Rodigan at Sonar. “My dad likes a lot of what I do, obviously,” Cadenza laughs, “but my mum is a little more hard to please. She’s a good barometer.” It comes as no surprise that Cadenza has picked up some of his dad’s musical influences by osmosis. “But I wouldn’t say they wanted me to go into music.”
After university he continued to A&R for Dummy magazine, sending them tracks he liked, inhabiting that strange reality that fills the time after graduation but before real life. “It didn’t feel like a job.” Eventually he discovered the Saint Petersburg based DJ/Producer BMB Spacekid – and decided to take up co-managerial duties, which culminated in him being released on the The Full Hundred, a label he set up with his managers. “I don’t consciously separate the different parts of my life, I’m always looking for new music, it’s part of the day. Looking. Listening. If something is right I’ll try and make it happen.”Last year he signed an album deal of his own with Columbia – and will initially release an EP, No Drama. “It wasn’t a decision to make an EP. It just came together quite naturally.” Influenced by genres including Baillefunk and Reggaeton and as he terms it “Neptunes Style”, Cadenza cherry picks from a wide range of influences; but admits himself that while he sits with reggae hip-hop and does dance club records too, he’s still sketching out his own, left-of-centre sound, with a couple of tracks on his EP sounding poppy, but still carrying his Dancehall DNA.Past contributors and collaborators include carnival flavoured Kiko Bun – who’s album he also helped produced –as well as UK rappers Fem Fel and Lloyal Garner, Black Butter’s SYV plus collabs with a selection of Jamaica’s finest including Busy Signal, Stylo G, Sean Paul and Alborosie. “When I go in the studio, I never know if a song will be for me or for the artist I’m working for,” he explains, “but the answer will come out in the session.”With his own production work he has added flavour to Lily Allen, Kiko Bun and bluesy-hip-hop artist Rag ’n’ Bone Man. Many of these skills were picked up while working at the legendary Gee-Jam studios in Jamaica; the legendary down-to-earth Port Antonio ranch where Amy Winehouse recorded parts of Back to Black (it’s also been home to Drake, Lily Allen and Diplo). A very different scenario to cracking open FruityLoops – which he learnt aged 13. Cadenza learnt the studio ropes: how to set up a mic and how to make everything sound good through the board, but also the subtler parts of producing – how to make sure the artist feels comfortable, and how to make sure the dynamics are right in the room. “You have to make sure everyone’s in the right mood. We worked with an 82 year old Mento band who were recording Amy Winehouse covers, but those elements are just as important as they would be for a younger pop star.”
Manager, Producer, A&R, Label Boss… and of course a sought after DJ in his own right – Cadenza truly is a 21st century renaissance man. Rather than focusing the live aspect on Cadenza shows, he has made the conscious decision to remain as a DJ, playing out other people’s music, while working on his own catalogue. With his DJ sets skating through genres –from dancehall to grime and jungle, he manipulates each set specifically for the location he’s DJing from. “I love playing other people’s music,” he confirms, “I have a template of which sequences work nicely that I adapt, and with each show I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t.”Two years ago he cut his DJ teeth touring as a member of Major Lazer, who also put outhis “Gyal Town” track with Nasher. “They did the dangerous mixes where you have to make sure everything is on point, and I did the dancehall section. I was way out of my league, but they wanted me to do as much as they were doing.” It was during this time that he headlined Roskilde Festival, playing to over 100,000 people. “What I mostly learnt though, was how to make an actual show. How to entertain and engage an audience, give them something to react to” There’s absolutely no doubt he has that special thing in abundance, a commentator and respected arbiter in taste, a creative musical force and an entrepreneur rolled into one.