Tim O’Keefe is an internationally acclaimed producer, composer, performer and DJ, whose work has been featured in films such as the James-Franco directed As I Lay Dying and The Sound of Fury. He also is known for his band Daddy and many other recording and performance outlets.
During the month of March, O’Keefe will set up shop at The Dean Hotel in downtown Providence, where he plans to create a soundscape based on the physical space of the hotel and the experiences and emotions that drive him to create during the month.
Audiences will have the opportunity to experience the project in several interactive ways, ranging from a low-key pop-up performance in the hotel’s lobby to a listening box with a live headphone feed into O’Keefe’s studio while he is creating and an art book planned for release down the line.
O’Keefe developed the concept after experiencing creative jolts while on the road. “It’s very easy to have my laptop, a MIDI controller and headphones with me and set up whenever I’m inspired,” he said, describing his ability to quickly capture his ideas and location’s energy while traveling.
In seeking to begin a series of projects that would encapsulate an aural image of “the environment, history and social experience” of different spaces, The Dean Hotel in Providence quickly became a launching pad, based on O’Keefe’s vision, his roots and The Dean’s enthusiasm.
“The process was quite organic and by happenstance. Tim began to join us as a guest quite frequently over the course of the last six months and we began to conjure up ideas for how we could further our relationship. He mentioned this concept and the idea took off from there,” said Aarin Clemons, general manager of The Dean.
For O’Keefe, the project is a return to his roots on several levels. He began hosting raves and club nights in Providence in 1991, as part of the first wave of rave culture in the US. It was at The Church House Inn where he hosted Bounce, his first techno-oriented show. That building, located at 122 Fountain Street, is now home to The Dean.
Hungry to expand his audience, he moved to New York during the early ’90s, entering into the thick of the coastal electronic circuit, before returning to Rhode Island in 1996, where he encountered a “rock- and noise-centric music scene.”
“Providence had a very small electronic scene (in 1996). There were a lot of people who said, ‘Oh, the computer makes your music.’ There wasn’t a lot of community around electronic music, which did allow me to focus internally. But it also gave me the opportunity to explore and experiment with other genres.”
One key collaboration, which occurred while O’Keefe was a grad student at RISD, was with fellow student and actor James Franco. It was through his projects with Franco, including scoring his 12-hour film Endless Idaho and their band Daddy (whose discography includes collaborations with Smokey Robinson and The Smith’s Andy Rourke), that he was able to elevate his profile to a much larger audience and plant the seeds for what would become an impressive career, balancing film and soundtrack composition with DJ and electronic production work.
O’Keefe returned to New York some six years ago, where he lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; however, for the month of March, he will pay homage to his Providence artistic roots to create new music. He also will be among the first musical artists to engage in a branded content and curatorial creative project partnership with a private institution in Providence, yet again, blazing a path well ahead of many of his Rhode Island-based contemporaries.
As to whether The Dean plans to pursue other artists for future collaborations, Clemons told me, “Time will tell! We prefer not to presume too much about our future programming but rather to leave space for artists to tell us how they’d like to interact with the brand.”