It was 14 years ago when Josh Mayer, who goes by Ooah, found himself in the right place at the right time — on the dusty playa of Black Rock City during the annual Burning Man festival. Fire spewed from a geodesic dome under which Bassnectar was playing for a wild crowd. When his following act was a no-show, Mayer happened to be standing next to the stage coordinator, who asked him if he could fill in.
After lugging his crate of vinyl across the desert, Mayer made his DJ debut. “I was unconsciously preparing this whole time for that moment,” he says.
Many attendees claim that Burning Man changed their lives, but for Mayer, it actually did. After that fortuitous sunrise set, the trajectory of his life was completely redirected. The audience was populated with deities of the underground electronic music scene such as Tipper, FreQ Nasty and the aforementioned Bassnectar, as well as throngs of smiling party-goers who danced with him well past dawn. As Mayer went from scratching records in his New Orleans bedroom to playing the legendary El Circo sound camp at Burning Man, his success was imminent.
“That was literally the first time I ever played outside of my bedroom,” he says nonchalantly as he sips his coffee. “After that it was non-stop; I started DJing every weekend for the next four or five years.”
The Burning Man community quickly became Mayer’s family as he would often get booked for smaller, underground Burner events rather than at clubs, bars or more traditional venues. At one of these weird, psychedelic parties, he met Justin Boreta and Edward Ma (aka edIT), with whom he would go on to form the glitch-hop trio known as The Glitch Mob. One of the most well-known electronic music groups in the L.A. beat scene, their sound is the perfect mixture of pulse-quickening dance floor bangers and the kind of glitchy, grimy bass music you might stumble across at a warehouse party.
Though much of Mayer’s musical career has revolved around The Glitch Mob, he has also explored other projects — most notably as one half of Pantyraid alongside friend and fellow producer MartyParty. Pantyraid most recently performed at Envision, an annual music festival that takes place where the jungle meets the Pacific in southern Costa Rica. It was there that Mayer also gave a rare solo performance as his downtempo alter ego, Of Porcelain.
Of Porcelain is more of a musical catharsis than a side project. His first album as Of Porcelain was written almost 10 years ago and released on Bandcamp for free, where it sat collecting virtual dust while he became consumed by his work with The Glitch Mob. It wasn’t until about three years ago that a dark period brought Mayer back to Of Porcelain.
“The thing with the Of Porcelain music is that it just hits me at certain times where I have to write it,” he says with downcast eyes. “This last record that I wrote and haven’t released yet, I wrote in a very difficult time in my life where there was a lot of loss — dealing with death in the family and going through heartbreak. That music just flowed out of me and I wrote that whole record in a month.”
Mayer's Of Porcelain work is not built for club speakers. It's headphone music that pours into your ears like warm folds of honey. Its melodic, emotional vibes seem unlikely coming from a producer who made a name for himself playing gritty drum ‘n’ bass records pitched down to half speed. The creative process was therapeutic for him, and sharing the finished product was merely a side effect. As fan videos and positive feedback began to flood in, he realized that these recordings deserved more attention.
“It was not really intended to revive that project because it never went away,” he explains of his return to Of Porcelain. “I never stopped it, but it was also nothing that I ever really intended to pursue. But when I would go into my studio, that’s just what would come out even though I knew in my head, ‘I gotta work on more Glitch Mob music, I gotta make more dance floor music.’”
Between releasing the album After Glow with Pantyraid last year and finishing up Glitch Mob's currently untitled work in progress set to release sometime this year, he made time to focus on the music that helped him through a tumultuous time. He premiered the Of Porcelain track “And Here I Am Free” during Envision's final sunrise set, sending blissful sound waves out into the jungle as scarlet macaws glided overhead.
“And Here I Am Free” is Mayer’s first solo release in five years and a reflection of the evolution of his sound, trading rumbling beats that hit you like a defibrillator for more wistful, ambient tunes punctuated by haunting piano and guitar. Mayer says it may foreshadow the tone of The Glitch Mob’s forthcoming album.
“Our last album felt so very tough and masculine,” says Mayer of 2014's Love Death Immortality. “It was black and gold and motorcycles and grit and distortion, and this time we approached it from a very feminine side — more beautiful and soft around the edges.”
Of Porcelain still remains an organic creation of pure emotional expression that emerges when it’s evoked and disappears when it’s no longer needed. Mayer’s reply to the question of when Of Porcelain might release an album's worth of new material is simply, “Whenever, really. I don’t know. Maybe never.”