An interview with Ott.
23 Mar 2011

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I don’t blame you if you’ve been overwhelmed by the recent surge in crazy experimental electronica music. The list of genres and subgenres is enough to boggle anyone’s brain, and one could innocently think they are going to see a low key DJ and end up at a Psy-Trance party with pacifiers and candy necklaces. The concoctions of names alone has made it awkward to talk about what you’re doing this Friday night, when you’re checking out an act called Trapezoid Vulva.

In the midst of all this confusion, a glimmer of sanity returns to America and its name is Ott. Sparkleberry Lane caught up with the producer of musical fantasies in the middle of a tour supporting his third studio album, “Mir.” The album instantly reminded me why I listen to music in the first place, and also gave me comfort in the fact that digital, glitchy, even sometimes guttural beats can be transformed into melodic soundscapes fit for a dream.

He doesn’t reveal the inspiration behind titles like “Aubergine of the Sun,” but Ott was kind enough to give us a few words on creating his “sonic experiments” out of his wife’s chicken risotto, and the solution to humanity’s problems. He’s been making awesome music since before Trapezoid Vulva went to their first festival, so get to one of his shows and get your funky weird ass on the dance floor.

 

SBL: Your original tracks loop and blend a number of awesome instrumental sounds. Do you yourself play any instruments, and do you use them in the studio?

Ott.:I play most instruments pretty badly and on ‘Mir’ you can hear me playing keys, guitar, bass, drums, percussion, melodica and even singing on the last track. The truly wonderful thing about contemporary music technology is that it enables me to ‘adjust’ performances until they sound like I hoped they would while I was playing them but invariably don’t. So, I can concentrate on recording the vibe I’m looking for without having to worry about trifling details like playing the right notes in the right order. I’m better at some things than others – I’m quite a good percussionist, a reasonable keyboard player, an average drummer and a terrible guitarist – but that doesn’t stop me having a go and for the six minutes I’m playing I enjoy the delusion that I’m a real musician.

Which eclectic instruments can be heard on this album? If all the tracks are digitally produced, do you have a favorite new toy in the studio?

I use whatever is lying around so on ‘Mir’ you can hear various food cans, a ‘Winnie The Pooh’ glockenspiel, a bicycle pump, a portable electric water feature, a San Francisco hotel lobby, the latch to my garden gate, lots of ancient old synths with wooden cases, a ¼ scale bass guitar, a slinky spring, my wife’s chicken risotto and my daughter singing her alphabet.

Favourite studio toy is my Doepfer A-100 modular synth which is responsible for all the twangs, boings and rubbery bass noises.

Was there any specific theme or feeling you were trying capture with the album?

The usual I suppose – joy and hope and positivity.

Your incorporation of tribal, Asian, and even sometimes Celtic beats creates a mystical, other-worldy musical experience. Have you been exposed to and/or influenced by the music of cultures around the world? Any ones in particular that have really made a difference in your style?

I’ve been soaking up sound like a sponge since I realised I had ears and the process of making my own music is really just an exercise in trying to recreate the feelings I got when I first heard, say, ‘Autobahn’ by Kraftwerk or ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ by Simon and Garfunkel.

I use sounds purely for the way they sound and I have no interest in what they connote in terms of religion or geography. So I have had emails from speakers of Hindi asking me why I had butchered their language in such an irreverent way and the only answer I could give was that it sounded good. I read a review of ‘Blumenkraft’ once where a guy was calling me an idiot for combining Urdu lyrics with Hungarian folk music – “… and he obviously doesn’t realise that these should never be heard together.”

Sound is sound is sound.

Some of your tracks have distinct samples of people doing stuff. Are these recordings taken by you around the world? Do you have an extensive collection of day to day sounds in which you found music?

Yeah, I’m a bit of a sonic voyeur. I have a Zoom H2 recorder which I carry around in my pocket and surreptitiously click into record when nobody is watching. I have a huge number of recordings from around the world of ordinary people doing mundane things which sound extraordinary once removed from their context and juxtaposed with others from a different place and time. My good friend Naked Nick [co-writer of ‘A Nice Little Place’ and singer on ‘Queen Of All Everything’ and ‘Adrift In Hilbert Space’] has one as well and we used our H2 recordings from around the world on ‘A Nice Little Place’ to give it a kind of global feel.

You share a roster on Autonomous Music and Twisted Records with some of the most progressive artists touring today. Is your creative process mostly a solo adventure or do you benefit from the creative collective?

I’m pretty solitary when making music but I also benefit from some amazing collaborators who help prevent it becoming too one dimensional and introspective. Chris Barker [Umberloid] and Naked Nick both feature on ‘Mir’ and it most definitely wouldn’t be the record it is without them. I don’t tend to collaborate with the Twisted guys much these days as we live so far apart and we’re all busy doing our things.

How much of a live set is spontaneous and/or how much is predetermined. If one were to go on Ott. tour, would they be surprised with a different sounding show every night or does every city benefit from a tried and true combination of sounds?

The way my live set is constructed I could completely deconstruct all of my songs and reassemble them in bizarrely different ways but actually I tend to perform them in the way I feel sounds best. When making the records a large part of the process is building the arrangements and I agonise over every second. Unsurprisingly I tend to stick to those arrangements when I play live but there are also parts where I like to deviate and improvise and risk having it all collapse around my ears.

You’re originally from the UK; do you see major differences between touring in Europe and the US? In what ways do the listeners of your music seem similar all over the world?

Outside of the US I am considered to be part of the global psy-trance scene and my bookings and emails reflect that. Inside the US I am considered to be some kind of mutant offshoot of the dubstep thing and I regularly find myself sandwiched between DJs called stuff like ‘Brainfilth’ and ‘Urban Decay Collective’ all rocking their raspy, aggressive ‘city’ music. Then I come on with my filtered sitars and jaunty melodies and I always expect to get buried under a hail of bottles, which thankfully never happens.

The only really obvious common thread I tend to notice amongst people who like my stuff is that there is no really obvious common thread. It doesn’t seem to be any particular type or age group who like what I do and I like it that way.

 

What do you think American DJs and producers can learn from European DJs and producers?

How to make a decent fucking cup of tea.

Sparkleberry Lane believes that the population of live-music lovers can change the world with right action and positivity. How do you think we can use music as a solution to worldly problems rather than an escape from them?

I think the world is fine just as it is.

It is humanity that has the problem and the solution to that is for everyone to simply stop being a dick, individually and collectively. Don’t buy a car with a 7 litre engine because you hope it’ll make you look more potent or fertile. Don’t include 6 cubic feet of polystyrene packaging with every takeout meal and don’t stand on street corners proclaiming that people in love with members of their own sex are evil just because your imaginary friend told you so.

If everyone stopped being a dick we’d find ourselves living in an earthly paradise and while I’m not sure how music might be employed to bring about that happy state of affairs it is nice to have something to listen to while I’m waiting.

Can you name a few of your favorite U.S. festivals you’ve played in the past?

Wakarusa, The Big-Up, Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis, Shambhala in BC, Raindance…

Which European festival(s) do you most recommend for a curious American?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glastonbury

 

 

 

 

 

Glastonbury is remarkable if only because it is the only time you’ll ever find yourself partying with 170,000 wasted people and 7 cops.

Ozora in Hungary is particularly amazing too.

How do you and your family practice conscious living?

I don’t know what you mean by “conscious living.”  We try hard not to be dicks…

What does your daughter think of your music? Can her young brain comprehend the melodic emotion your songs exude?

I don’t know about that but she always goes apeshit when the drums and bass drop.

She is four now and really quite aware of the world around her. She has recently decided she wants to learn to play the trumpet and the piano and to make music like dad does. She loves to sit in the studio and press buttons for me and every so often we get the percussion box out and have a jam. She loves festivals too and will fearlessly attack the dancefloor like a seasoned raver.

Do you have a favorite song lyric?

Einstein can’t be classed as witless.

He proved atoms were the littlest.

When he did the bit of splitin-n-ness,

Frightened everybody shitless.

[‘There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards.’ By Ian Dury and the Blockheads.]

Or, alternatively:

All of the noise takes us to the outside where there’s all,

Creations joining in celebrating happiness and joy all around the world,

On land and in the sea….

[‘Big Ship’ by Cardiacs.]

Get Ott’s new album here.  If you don’t have his other albums yet, they are a requirement for your hedi collection of music.

 

 

 

 

 

Remaining tour dates:

March 24, 2011: Middle East Downstairs – Cambridge, MA
March 25, 2011: Canal Club – Richmond, VA  (see ya’ll there!)
March 26, 2011: Public Assembly – Brooklyn, NY
March 27, 2011: Castaways – Ithaca, NY
March 30, 2011: Proud Larry’s – Oxford, MS
March 31, 2011: The Hookah – New Orleans, LA
April 1, 2011: Limelight – Nashville, TN
April 2, 2011: Newby’s – Memphis, TN
April 3, 2011: King Plow Arts Center – Atlanta, GA
April 6, 2011: Ukiah Brewing Co. – Ukiah, CA
April 7, 2011: Red Fox Tavern – Eureka, CA
April 8, 2011: 103 Harriet – San Francisco, CA
April 9, 2011: Refuge – Portland, OR

*also catch him this summer at Wakarusa,The Big Up in New York, The Blast Off in Ohio, and Esthetic Envision in Idaho

AWWW it’s a FREE MIX!

 

*blog header jungle image by AlienTan via DeviantArt

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