Today we are chatting with OTT ! Interview made by Sanjay Gopalkrishnan
Here is my effort to dive into the mind of psy dub maestro and humble genius Ott and absorb just a little of the vast fields of sonic soul that he possesses.
I see him as an artist who captures inexplicable moments and feelings in the form of sound as well as the beholder of the infinite expanse of space we live in and call the universe.
I found his music to be fractal in nature. Beautiful, organically composite, and each component itself can, upon paying close attention, reveal a whole deeper world, story or reference.
It was a great experience to be at his first-ever show in Goa/India!
*Big thanks to Itay Berger aka Kukan Dub Lagan aka SORIAN for the chance to meet and interview him and big ups to Feel Life Music, Chilltop Festival and Hilltop Goa for making this happen J
MM: How do you conceive your track names? Usually, psy or prog (e.g., King Crimson) artists have the most intriguing track names, and the eccentric nomenclature constitutes an integral part of these genres’ identity. Of course, it’s subjective to the artist’s perception, which the listener may not necessarily grasp.
For example: “Smoked Glass and Chrome” : I would love to know how it was named.
“Splitting an Atom”, “Rogue Bagel” : How do the names relate to the music and any story behind them s’il vous plait?
Ott: For me, one of the tiresome things about making finished tracks used to be naming them. If you’re not really paying attention, you end up making them too literal, calling them shit like “Fractal Mandala” or “Journey Into The Mind.”
While I was working on “Hallucinogen in Dub” I was trying to think of a name for the album which I was going to make after that, which became “Blumenkraft” and I thought of the phrase “Are we there yet?”.
I had just got an old printer working with my ancient 2002 PC and I printed out on a piece of A4 paper the words: “Are we there yet?” – in comic sans, because I’m very contemporary.
I pinned it to the wall above my mixing desk, and decided that was going to be the concept for the next record.
I’d be sitting watching TV or hear a thing on the radio, or a thought would pop into my mind, and I’d play with it for a moment and then forget it; you think of an interesting phrase, and then you lose it. So I started writing them down, and by the end of that year, the whole wall above my desk was covered in words and phrases. There was still the phrase “Are we there yet?” but all around it, “Rogue Bagel” “Smoked Glass and Chrome” “Queen of All Everything”.
I met Zoe, whose husband I now am, in 2004, and the day after our first date I woke up and wrote (hums intro tune of The Queen of All Everything) … the sound of a man flooded with oxytocin. When it came to naming it, four years later, I went to my wall of words and phrases and – not “Rogue Bagel” not “Signals from Bob”, ahh, yes, “The Queen of All Everything”. That’s what it is called.
“Jack’s Bread and Cheese Snack”… that’s from a stupid juvenile English comic called “Viz” that I used to read avidly.
When I moved house I laminated all the pieces of paper and kept them and now they are pinned on my studio wall as a source of inspiration.
Meanwhile, technology took over, and instead of sheets of A4 paper pinned to my wall I have I ended up with an Apple Note (shows me his apple phone note), and here are all my potential song titles. There we go,’ The Bicycle of the Sky,’ ‘Mr. Balloon Hands’, ‘Hello My Name Is,’ – the names were all written years and years ago.
When I finish a piece of music, I listen to it, and I look on here and just scroll down the list…’
“Heavy Drugs World” [something my mother once warned me to stay away from] Nooo..
“OK Boomer” – Funny for, like, five minutes in 2020 but that’ll probably never see the light of the day
“Agent Zigzag,” I have no idea where that came from, could be used.
“Jensen Interceptor,” that’s a lovely old classic car from the 1970s, might get used might not. Probably not.
Some of them really jump out, some of them I look at and shake my head, like “What was I thinking?”
So each time I finish a song I just have to read down the list of potential names until I get a match. There’s always one that jumps off the page and goes “Ping!”
So, ‘Smoked Glass and Chrome,’ that’s one of my favourite tracks…
Ott: You wanna know why that’s called that?
In Britain during the ‘80s, there was this fashion for dining room furniture which was smoked glass with a shiny chrome framework. It was ultra-hip at the time. If you had a smoked glass and chrome dining table and chairs, you were definitely upper-middle-class. If you watch British TV from that time the really aspirational families all had smoked glass and chrome dining room furniture.
It became a proto-meme in my family – a bit of stupidity which stuck and which ended up on my list. So when I came to name that track, I’m listening to it playing, and working through my list of potential song names and PING! – “Smoked Glass and Chrome”. It sounds just like it, doesn’t it? It fits the music perfectly.
MM: And “Rogue Bagel,” any particular story behind that?
Ott: The working title of that track was “Dave” it was called ‘Dave.’ for about three years.
MM: Who’s ‘Dave’?
Ott: My dog. I have a dog called Dave but he’s only three so it was nothing to do with him.
When I start a new song, I boot up the computer, get some sounds going, and after a while I think “oh this sounds good, this is going to work…” Click ‘Save as’…
I don’t want to waste time thinking because I’m trying to keep my flow so for a working title I type the first word that pops into my head, which on that particular day was “Dave”. … and it stayed “Dave” for three years.
The day I finished mixing it I had been working all night, and I was starving. I went to the kitchen looking for something to eat, and the first thing I found was a bagel in a bag. So I pulled it out and it was this freak bagel – it had loads of onions on it… all the other bagels had a
few bits of onion, and this one was really dark, toasted, with loads of onion…it was a rogue bagel.
I toasted it and added cream cheese and black pepper, and I sat listening back to my mix, eating this rogue bagel. The song was very nearly called “Freak Bagel” but I thought “Rogue Bagel” rolled off the tongue better. My song names are supposed to be a bit abstract. They all mean something, but also they’re supposed to throw you off… the further they throw you off, the better—the better for everyone.
Splitting An Atom: When I’m working in the studio, I’m usually working at night. Before I met Zoe, I lived on my own for a long time as a studio hermit. It’s kind of a lonely existence and can drive you a bit mad. For company I had two cats and a small black and white TV
which sat flickering away in the corner of the studio, with the sound almost off.
If you listened really carefully you could hear it, but as soon as you played music it got drowned out. Back then, during the ‘90s and early 2000s, the only thing on TV at night was this thing called the Open University. It’s a distance-learning university that you use if maybe you cant get out of your house or if you can’t commit to going off to university, but you want to study for a degree.
The teaching material was all broadcast on the BBC at night when there were no other programmes on, and the idea was you’d set your VCR timer to record your “Module 4 Computer Basics” curriculum, and then you study it the next day.
For losers like me who were up all night, that was the only thing on TV, so the Open University….wait, what was the question?
Oh yeah, so there was an OU program about nuclear fission and with the title: “Physics Module 06. Splitting The Atom: A history of nuclear fission”, and I’m like click! And so I write it down: “Splitting the atom”. And when I came to think about it…splitting THE atom? What? There’s loads of atoms…AN atom..split an atom .. didn’t split THE atom, so “Splitting an Atom” sounded better.
So, yeah, I remember why they’re all called what, you won’t catch me out!
MM: I don’t intend to! We could discuss each and every track, but we’ll save some for my imagination.
MM: I’d like to bring up the Eastern, specifically Indian influences in your music.
Ott: I’m going to disappoint you…
MM: No artist I have come across has ever successfully sampled “Aao Huzoor Tumko (Sitaaron Mein Le Chale)” with such grace and panache!
Ott: I’ve heard that sample in loads of places…
MM: Ironically, this includes Indian artists. we should be able to sample our own music and reinterpret it.
Ott: Maybe you are too reverent, perhaps you have too much respect for it?
MM: In general, yes. Like, if I play to my Dad some fusion music, he will be like, fusion is ok for 2 mins, then confusion. He’s very orthodox
Ott: There was a who guy posted on the internet just after I released Blumenkraft going, “Who’s this fucking idiot? How can he put Bengali vocals with Romanian percussion.. doesn’t he know that these things don’t go together?” and there’s a lot of people who think like that. But I didn’t sample Romanian percussion, I didn’t sample Bengali vocals, what I sampled was one nice sound and then another nice sound. I didn’t think to note their country of origin.
MM: So the second part of the song, after Aaoo Huzoor …you know what that means, right?
Ott: Haven’t got a clue! Not a clue! Don’t tell me I don’t want to know…it’ll spoil it for me. I’ve got my own idea of what it means.
I can sing the whole thing though. Phonetically, I can speak perfect Punjabi. That’s what my daughter Daisy said before coming to India, she said, “Dad, can you speak Indian?” I said, “Kind of. I know a few songs.”
So, I wasn’t sampling Indian music. I wasn’t sampling an Indian song. I was just taking a nice sound that I found. I treat it the exact same way I would say a breakbeat, a synth sound, a bassline, or percussion sample, or the birds in my garden.
What attracts me to a sound is what it’s made of. Her performance is obviously coming from the heart. She really means it, and you can hear that – it’s something you can’t disguise. If she was just…going through the motions and not really feeling it, I wouldn’t have chosen that sample.
What I chose was her passion for that song, because I can hear it and feel it. I don’t much care what she is singing about. Occasionally I have to find out a) what the language is and then try and get a translation cause I have no idea what is being sung and you can’t be too careful. I live in fear of unknowingly using a sample from some 15th century Flemish folk song with lyrics which go “Death to the Walloons, Walloons are evil..”
I used a sample in ‘Harwell Dekatron’ of an old Dutch man talking about something in an interesting voice and I had to ask on Facebook to find out A. What language he was singing in and B. What he was saying? As it turned out what he was saying fitted perfectly with the concept of the song but only by sheer coincidence. I like sheer coincidences.
MM: Imagine you’re in Goa, and there’s someone next to you, and they’re just talking in some language, it’s the same effect. So the second part of the song, what is that?
Ott: I have no idea. Is it not part of the same song? It could have come from anywhere. With Ableton Live and Melodyne and suchlike, you can make anything work with anything. You can take a phrase sung or played in a microtonal scale that doesn’t match anything else in the track, and you can quantise it to a western Chromatic scale for a start, transpose it into any key you want, you can stretch out the time, move the rhythm about, make anything fit anything. As long as you like the emotion, the sentiment that is expressed, then everything else is adjustable. In the old days, we just had samplers in racks. You could pitch things up and down, but they would get faster or slower. Time-stretching was primitive and made everything sound like a cyberman. Or Metalheadz.
You’d hit the time stretch button, then you’d go make some toast because it would take about 9 minutes to timestretch one vocal, and when you come back it would be going “brrr..prrr..grrrr”, it would sound like
Chewbacca. It was useless for manipulating samples unless you wanted them to sound like science fiction characters.
In the early 2000s computers got faster, and you had tools like Ableton Live and Melodyne. Suddenly you could seamlessly put any vocal or instrument over any other, any melodic sound into any key or time signature, any scale, move that note out there, drop that an octave, copy it, add a harmony, move that up, move that down, etc, etc.
So now that everything fits with everything else, all you’ve got to do is find the sounds which stir your heart, and you know you can make them fit.
You’ve even got polyphonic Melodyne now, so if there’s a part that you want to use in your E minor track but it’s got a big awkward major chord in the middle of it, just get in there and drop the third and it fits, and it’s seamless!
It’s not without its glitches but the distortion of the pitch shifting or bending sometimes adds something. Sometimes I’ll take a pristine recording and in the process of making it fit it’ll become weirdly distorted and broken. I like those.
So yeah, boundaries dissolve, you can just blend anything.
I’ll play at Ozora in Hungary. I’ll play ‘Smoked Glass and Chrome’ and people there, the Finnish guys, the Brazilians, the English, the Italians they go…”Ah nice Indian vibe, . Cool, nice flavour.” It’s a little bit like seasoning. Then I come here [Goa] and play it to this audience and it’s different. They understand the words, and these songs I’ve blithely bent out of shape have decades of cultural weight and resonance.
I did a remix for Ninja Tune recently, a reworking of a very-well known Indian song and I’ve played it all over the world. Playing it here in India was a revelation because here it wasn’t just a bit of Indian flavour at the end, it was a song everyone in the place knew really well and the reaction of the crowd took me by surprise.
I was suddenly aware of how I’d taken her beautifully-inflected Indian microtonal scales, forced it all into Western chromatic confomity and slapped a crunchy bassline over it. I felt self-conscious for about a minute and then it passed.
MM: How’s India for you?
Ott: I have no idea. I’ve been here for 3 or 4 days, I have seen almost nothing of this country. The tiny little bit I’ve seen so far? I’m completely besotted.
MM: So Ott got Ott’ed?
Ott: No Ott puns… we covered this at the beginning. :0)
I’m aware I’m in tourist-land, and I’m staying in a 5-star hotel, and what I need to do is drive from here to Bangalore or take a train somewhere or take a bus.
Theoretically I’m very well travelled. I’ve been to Mexico, but all I did was fly to Cancun airport, take a taxi to a 6-star beach resort, played a gig, taxi back to the airport, fly home. I have a stamp in my passport that says I’ve been to Mexico, but I’ve not really been to Mexico. Same with India.
MM: It’s like .. me going to Thailand with my family.
Ott: What do you know about Thailand?
Ott: Exactly. And that’s ok, you don’t need to know about the places you go to. If you come to Britain, I don’t expect you to know when the Stonehenge was built. I don’t give a flying fu…
MM: Yeah you guys did good, I mean .. you put the stones on top of each other.. like we managed to build the Taj Mahal and all that, but you guys did good.
I read that during the 1950s the farmer who owned the field where Stonehenge stands decided to tidy things up a bit. Some of the stones had fallen over so the farmer came along with some ropes and a tractor and stood them all back up. They put them where they thought they should go and that’s what you see today. Stonehenge has been looking like it currently does since 1953. When he died, he gifted it to the nation, so now the nation owns it. But it hasn’t since antiquity, only since 1953. People have been busy climbing it, knocking it over and carving their names into it for thousands of years.
MM: Tell me about it, like here in India you may go to some historic site, caves, whatever, and you’ll see there, “Raj love Priya” C’mon Raj! You didn’t find any other way to express your love?!
Ott: Humans are scum…
Ott: Everywhere you go. Go on ask me another one.
MM: In my humbling experience as an avid Ott listener and believer…
Ott: Do not believe…anything!
MM: …I feel that your music has a very nurturing and organic vibe and sound.
I would say that your Sonic signature has a prevalence of feminine energy. Would you agree with that statement? And could you elaborate a little on it, please?
Ott: Masculinity and femininity is a sliding scale, right? Nobody is down one end or the other. Nobody is exactly 100% masculine or feminine, or they would shatter.
MM: Except maybe Hugh Jackman..the wolverine
Ott: Possibly. But nobody is 100% anything. One of the things that attracted me to Zoe was her balance in that respect. She has a really good balance of masculine and feminine. I think I do too. I think I’m in touch with my feminine bit, whatever that is. I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable in this frame cause I don’t feel intrinsically big, hairy and male. I’m not conflicted about my gender or anything but I’ve never felt entirely comfortable in this body. When I was little my sister used to tie my hair in bunches and put me in dresses and stuff, I loved it! I remember feeling at the time that I’d be just as happy as a girl, although back then, aged 7, I knew nothing of The Patriarchy…
I’m comfortable now, but as a teenager, I was a bit like “Oh fuck, I didn’t want to be this I wanted to be something else.” I felt slightly too big and too male.
MM: It’s like the DJ thing?
Ott: Yeah, people like the macho energy and they’re into it, but that’s not what I’m into.
MM: Definitely, especially in the context of today, and in this country.
Ott: I grew up in a bit of a rough town. It was an army town, a lot of military energy in the place. Everyone had a skinhead. It was a relief in my twenties to move away and discover that not everyone wanted to kick your head in for fun.
Incidentally, I love the way everything defaults to vegan here. There’s usually a discreetly hidden chicken
sausage or boiled egg in the dimly-lit corner if you really want it but it’s pretty much plants for breakfast.
Yeah we are sensitive to these things, or liberal, where applicable, as per convenience…
Ott: When we arrived here I rented a car. I’m driving around Goa, thinking “Okay, don’t kill a cow, don’t kill a child, in that order. Everything else goes.”
We’ve been hanging out with the cows, they’re awesome. Our cows back home are enormous, here they are skinny and clearly not bred for meat. They’re lovely! Our daughter was playing with the beach dogs the other day, that’s one of the best thing about Goa.
MM: So, can you tell me about about the evolution of (your) sound?
Ott: If you heard some of the shit I listen to…
MM: I want to hear the shit you made – back in the day…
Ott: Oh, no way. I’m not gonna show you my laundry basket. Or the 200 DAT tapes of experiments I made before I got to “Somersettler”. No way. That’s all secret. Actually, I moved house recently and I found my old DAT machine in the loft, with boxes containing all my old DAT tapes. [Do you know what DAT tapes are? They’re Digital Audio Tapes, little cassettes about the size of a matchbox which enable you to record CD-quality digital
audio. Do you know what a matchbox is?] It’s what we used to master onto until computers got fast enough to record audio, which was only in about 2000. Before that, we had to record onto these old digital tapes. Before that it was reel-to-reel. Before that, it was, you know…
So I found my old box of DATs, 200 of them, 90 minutes on each, so about 300 hours of unreleased bullshit. Interesting bullshit to me because I was 20 when I started doing it, but still bullshit.
So I started listening through them, starting with “Ott DAT 1”’ which was the very first DAT tape I bought in 1990. It was lovely to hear it after all that time. Then I went to “Ott DAT 2,” and gradually my naming scheme became more sophisticated with dates and tape numbers and names of tracks and stuff. I’m up to about 75 hours at the moment, and I’m transferring it all from that machine to the computer, onto a 6 TB hard drive, and probably every 10 hours I hear something interesting, mark it and put it in the pile over there marked “Interesting”. I’ve almost got an album’s worth of curious little bits of sound. It might be from that afternoon when I bought a new synth or tried out a new technique…
But I was 20; I had no money, and each synth was like 6 months wages.What money I had was frittered away on stupid shit like rent and food. I had to get the most out of everything I had and I had to make the most of each combination; plug that into that, and then that into that,
and then that and that into that, and it was all experimentation, trying to get the most out of really basic equipment. Listening back 30 years later I’m surprised at some of the things I managed to do with the shit equipment I had, like a cassette deck and little microphones that you got free with your cheap hi-fi, plastic microphones and bits of twisted wire. I’m working on putting together an album of all these stupid little snippets of things that are interesting, like a collectors only, and I’ll probably just release it and people who are really into the music will want it.
MM: People who want to see your laundry…
Ott: Exactly, it’s interesting to me if nobody else.
MM: If there is one word I could describe your music with it would be Organic. How did you develop the level of sonic dexterity that you possess, not as a means of professing technical prowess, but as I feel, to merge electronic and acoustic music into one symbiotic, sentient compassionate force that is your music?
Ott: A desire to hear it, a really strong desire. If you gave me an analogue synth and a laptop, I’d get to making music. I could make something out of those two tools, but I’d need acoustic instruments or voices to make it sound whole. If it’s all just synth and drum machine, it doesn’t sound finished. It needs something else, pretty much anything that has been recorded as vibrating air on a transducer. It could be a sitar, it could be me playing the bongos, it could be a vocal, it could be… just a sound.
I live near a school, and I’ve got a field recorder. Sometimes, when the kids throw out of school, or they’re going off to a swimming gala, I put the mic out the window and record the kids going “awawawawa” as they walk past. Then I put that in the track really quietly behind everything else, so you can barely hear it. In fact, it’s a bit like the TV on nearly-silent in the corner of the room. It’s so quiet you can’t hear it….but it’s there. You
can’t hear it, but you can perceive it. Your brain is perceiving stuff that your ears don’t realise they’re hearing, if you know what I mean. And so through almost every track, there are outside noises.
Sometimes it’s like ‘The Queen Of All Everything’ with water running all the way through. It starts out quite loud in the beginning and gets quieter and quieter as the track goes on. Or like in “382 Seaside”. There’s the sound of a beach in there going all the way through, waves crashing which I’ve quantised to be in time with the track, so you don’t really hear them, but then there’s….whshhhh…wshshhhh……you know the sound
of the pebbles on the beach. It’s going all the way through……..you don’t necessarily know it’s in there, but it’s in there.
Purely electronic music I find a bit claustrophobic. If it’s never had contact with the outside world, if it’s been sealed inside a machine, it’s a bit like eating food from a tin. I’m always looking for juxtaposition, something to make it jar a bit.
For me, the whole thing is squishing incompatible elements together. I’ll take a random sitar player, a sample from somewhere, and I’ll stick it with a TB-303 acid line and now you’ve got something because now it’s a sitar player sitting on top of a space-age plastic synth, hurtling through space in 1983, and to me that’s an interesting juxtaposition
MM: It’s like if Ravishankar jammed with YES…
Ott: Or even better if Ravishankar jammed with The Prodigy. That’s a gig I’d like to see. Is he still alive? MM: Nope…
Ott: Shame, great player.
MM: His daughter Anoushka Shankar is a famous sitar player
Ott: Is she good?
MM: Yes…she plays in a fusion context..she has a Latin band
Itay: She opened Boom festival
Ott: …for me it’s all about smashing it all together and making things that shouldn’t fit, fit.
MM: In fact, I have the same approach with food
Ott: Yeah, exactly, some chefs do that brilliantly. You want snail porridge? Bacon and egg ice cream?
It’s like, palak paneer pesto pasta Ott: That sounds really good!
Just the name would sell it
Ott: If you can take food that doesn’t go together and make it go together, like Zoe once made the most amazing chocolate cake with beetroot and avocado…
Speaking of avocados, have you heard of Mr. Bill?
He loves avocados!
Ott: Everyone loves avocados. I just wish we weren’t busy uprooting the rainforests to grow them. Humans – individually awesome, collectively disastrous.
Why can’t we just do it properly?
Yeah… but its like…you know what George Carlin said, right? The planet is fine, just worry about yourselves
Ott: We’ll be extinct, and all the other species will go “Phew!” We’re like the unwelcome guest at a party. “So glad they left, weren’t they just awful?”
Yeah, I’m down on humans at the moment. I’ve got this T-shirt that says ‘I Hate People.’ It’s upstairs in my suitcase. I can’t wear it in this country
MM: Yeah they will feel bad,, people are sensitive here
Ott: I get that. But also, I don’t hate people quite so much here, can’t put my finger on it. When I’m at the market, and there are all these lovely ladies with piercings and brass…I think to myself…I love you. It’s different here. What they put out, it’s something I’ve never experienced. I’ve never felt it before.. there’s a kind of instant familiarity.
MM: You could wear that T-shirt in Mumbai or Delhi, it would totally make sense
Ott: So if I hate people, will I hate them more in Mumbai or Delhi?
Ott: I hate cities, and apparently, Delhi and Mumbai are the uber cities
MM: (Gives Delhi background)
Ott: So Goa is kind of like beginner’s India? Like if you want to see India but not right-in-your-face-India, go to Goa?
Goa is India with training-wheels.
MM: So I’m from Mumbai, I know the place, people, language…
Ott: Languages, that blows my mind here, when people switch seamlessly between languages to suit the occasion
MM: And it gives you a kind of internal schizophrenia…
Ott: I was surprised to discover that Jess and Ashwin [my hosts in Goa] speak English most of the time. I don’t know why that surprised me, but it did, I’ve come 5000 miles, and everyone speaks English. We get it easy, we Anglophones, we’re almost encouraged to be monoglot. I mean we did sort of scalp the world, raided countries for their minerals…
MM: Yeah, and left us with ‘Cricket’ in return…C’mon! Why not Football at least…
Ott: Cricket… people standing around on a piece of grass on a nice day going..*clapclapclap* Itay: It’s wrong baseball…
MM: Hahahahaha…(going off on a tangent)
MM: We got to listen to some new tracks last night! Anything you would like to tell us about the new album? Ott: It’s taking a very long time, deliberately so. This album is different. Every album I’ve ever done has been something of a compromise, made to a deadline. This one is different.
MM: Having spoken with you, I can see your journey in music and life, this is gonna be your best album yet!
Ott: I hope so, but I’m only making it for myself so I’ll only know if I succeeded in a few years time.
I’m a long way from finished. 5 songs, one is finished that I played last night, some are written, some are written but not arranged. It’s indescribable, I have something akin to an MC Escher drawing in my head and I know exactly what the finished thing is going to look like. That’s how I’m approaching it. It’s not a collection of songs, it’s one unified album.
MM: Have you ever done/explored concept themed albums?
Ott: Yes, they all have concepts
MM: How do you set out doing it?
Ott: Well, usually I set out to make a sleek, minimal piece of contemporary electronica, and I end up making something which sounds precisely nothing like that.
MM: It’s like when you’re a kid and all you want to do is eat and shit…and..then as you grow up
Ott: When you were a kid, did you have Lego? Did you play with Lego? You could take the instruction manual and build what it says, or you could just make shit up. That’s what I’m doing. I’ve got a big bucket of Lego, and I’m just chucking bricks together.
It’s going to be 8 tracks, 64 minutes long. I’ve got the artwork. I haven’t got a name, I’ve got the track titles somewhere. I’ve got no idea when it’s going to be ready but it won’t be long now. I’m really enjoying the journey. It helps that my studio is now permanent and nobody can throw me out of it.
MM: Would you say this is the most stability you’ve had?
Ott: Yeah. We’ve found the place we want to live forever, we love our friends and our surroundings and when that’s all in place the music flows freely.
I’m noticing time speeding up as I get older though. I seem to perceive time relative to the amount I’ve lived and the amount I have left.
MM: Does that have something to do with tempo of your music?
Ott: Yeah, 98 (bpm) is fast for me. When you hear Drum and Bass, do you hear 180 or 90?
MM: Are you very self-critical?
Ott: Oh god….every track I’ve ever finished, I’ve hated
for three months afterwards. It’s part of my process – I focus on what I dislike about a sound and devise the means to remove it without destroying the rest. That scales up to whole tracks too. By the time I’m mixing all I can hear is the bits I don’t like. Once I’ve removed those I’m done.
MM: It’s like what Bruce Lee said.. hack away the unessential and all you’re left with is…
Ott: …what matters. But I have to hate it. It’s the only way it works. 3 months later I hear it and fall in love.
MM: I’ve always been a skinny dude, so I want to be fat…
Ott: Are you sure? Then you should be watching a lot of TV, and eating marshmallow fluff from the jar. That’s not me, by the way. I’m fat because I eat too many fucking avocados.
MM: Now I got into yoga
Ott: Zoe was a yoga teacher, and a great advert for the positive benefits of yoga. She keeps trying to get me to do yoga, but it’s really something you have to find for yourself and I’ve never been genuinely drawn to it.
MM: Some Phil Collins shit.. in the air tonight. Are you into philosophy/ spirituality?
Ott: Only my own.
MM: Which is?
Ott: Have a good time ..all the time. Be nice. Live simply. Be grateful for what you’ve got, because it could be taken away in an instant.
Is there anything about Ott that you would like the world to know about Ott? Ottsonic, the sonic shaman, I consider you a sonic shaman of sorts.
Ott: I mean people say this stuff, and it’s lovely and everything, but really I’m just a fat guy with a laptop and a lot of patience. There’s no magic. Well, there is, but it’s
the kind of magic everyone can do. Everyone can make joyous sounds which lift the spirit.
But that’s the thing,, it’s not about you, it’s about how others perceive you
Ott: Yeah, it really doesn’t matter what I think, who I am or what I do. Usually I’m dressed in all black, like I’m just the guy that operates the machines; I don’t make the music. The music just kind of… I’m a conduit, a channel. The machines actually make the music. I just set them up so they can do it. I set the machines up so they have accidents. So they have 1000s of accidents, then I edit the accidents. I rarely sit down at a piano and go “…ding ding dong…”. I’m an editor is what I am. I don’t “write” every melody. I set the synths up to do stuff, record 25 mins of it and keep 4 seconds. There’s a happy accident in the middle, keep that. Loop it. When you loop something, it becomes cohesive. A sonic accident in isolation sounds like a squibbly noise, but when you loop it…
Ott: Make a mistake, don’t feel bad, just repeat it, now you’re Sun Ra. You legitimise it by doing it. Who’s to say it isn’t music? So I’m the machine minder most of the time, and I let them do their thing. Hard drives are cheap these days so you can afford to record 25 mins of audio, keep the best 7 seconds, delete the rest. That’s why it takes me 5 years to make a record. It’s a long process.
I have to listen through the entire 25 mins too, to make sure I have the absolute best 7 seconds, like nuggets of gold. Most of it is dirt, and gets thrown away. The nugget, keep that. Chain the nuggets together until it’s a necklace. Because when you hear the track for the first time you hear it all in 7 minutes. Five years of work in 7 minutes, and it sounds like magic. But it’s not, it’s just
hours, persistence. It’s like evolution: you look at a parrot, and you think there must be a designer, there must be a god, it’s magic, but it’s not. It’s just billions of years of evolution that you haven’t seen and your puny human mind cannot perceive.
So there’s no god?
Ott: I don’t know, if there is I’ve never met her. I see no evidence.
If there is, it’s a woman.
Ott: If there is, it’s me. Maybe I’m god and so are you, cause we’re all facets of the universal consciousness, aren’t we? I’ve got all sorts of wacky theories. I nearly got run over the other day, a very close shave. There’s a little part of me thinking that I might have actually just died there, and just hopped onto another track, seamlessly without realising. Maybe I’ve only known you for this minute, and maybe you’re not even real? We seem to be jumping ahead with the whole god thing. Why are we talking about god when we can’t even prove I’m real?
For years I sat on the edge of my bed, pondering upon why we are here, what it’s all about, and I just ended up with more questions. So it was pointless. I decided I’m just going to sit in my room with too many synthesisers and too many dogs, too many different types of herbs and various kinds of tea, and I’m just gonna do what I’m here for, which is to bugger about. Isaac Asimov said, “We are here to bugger about, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.” So that’s what we’re here for, to bugger about. To do stuff.
Whatever stuff grabs you. Because all of that experience is most likely being collected in a central-consciousness-repository, the vast ever-growing pulsating brain that rules from the centre of the Ultraverse, which is an album you should now go and listen to to. The Orb’s the first album. It’ll open your third-eye.
That’s not to say I’m not still asking questions, I’m just not expecting any answers.
Tool, they have a very famous lyric, “Overthinking, overanalysing separates the body from the mind…”
Ott: Yeah, pointless exercise. OMG I’m addicted to this stuff (lime soda).
You can make it at home…that’s what my Mum would say.
Ott: I would love to make some Lassi at home, what’s the difference between Lassi and the other thing?
Lassi is sweet and thick, the other is salty and thinner.
Ott: Oh god, tell that to the hotel staff. Salty yoghurt is wrong.
So you do believe in God…
Ott: I don’t believe in anything, certainly not god or satan. I think it’s all way weirder than that. What’s the Jewish version of satan?
Itay: There is no satan.
Ott: I kinda like that. Does Hinduism have a devil?
It’s complicated…Marvel/DC ain’t got nothing on us..(Crash course on ‘villains’ in Indian mythology) Ott: Hahahaha…
Really nice interview!