Psyreviews was happily listening to Ott’s Blumenkraft one evening and all of a sudden a lot of questions came… what’s the significance of this bit? What’s that bit mean? Is that a real sound or am I imagining it? Who are all these penguins and why are they always telling me to set fire to buildings? So the idea came to put sumbunall of these questions to the man himself, and to see if that helped matters any. As for whether it does… well, read on and make up yer own mind. (and if you follow above link, note #18)
Its neither a "dub" album or a "trance" album.
It’s a "music" album.
Genres are for librarians.
Okay then, straight into it I guess… so to speak… so first up is Jack’s Cheese and Bread Snack. Was this the natural choice for the opening track?
Track orders are strange things cos yu never know whats going to work until you stick it all together. "Jack’s Cheese and Bread Snack" was always going to be the last track on the album until I actually tried it. As soon as I glued it all together it became obvious that it should go first cos of the way it gradually unfurls itself, and because of the way it emerges from the little "leaving the party and driving away" sequence I made for the intro.
Yeah, is there any stoned significance on the opening sample?
That opening sequence is the sound of somebody leaving a noisy party, getting in the car and driving home for a fry-up and a kip, with my album on their car stereo. I was worried that the band who’s party I sampled would hear it and take it as a bit of a diss, but apparently they heard it and chuckled. Which was nice.
Its also a nod to my favourite record of all time – "Kraftwerk – Autobahn" which starts with a car starting up and driving away. My mum used to play that record to me when I was little and it has stuck with me ever since.
The guitar part was played by a guy called Steve Hunt – who at the time I had "known" for 2 years but had never actually met. I knew him via the internet and only really knew him as a IRC nickname and a sharp line in sarcasm. He mentioned that he played guitar, so I sent him a chunk of the rhythm track and he sent me back the guitar part you can hear on the tune. Aren’t we just the futuristic cyber-kids? *cough*
And you’ll have to explain the name :¬)
The name comes from a Viz Comic "Top-Tip" from years ago:
"A piece of cheese served between two slices of bread makes a quick and tasty lunchtime snack. My wife calls it "Jack’s Cheese and Bread Snack….."
[Jack Pewty, Dorset.]
Okay then, Somersettler… I love the way this kicks in. Pure dub. There’s a keychange in there right before it starts I think (wicked effect anyway.)
"Somersettler" is quite dear to my heart cos it’s the first tune I wrote after deciding I didn’t want to be a freelance engineer anymore. It came together really quickly, but I was unsure as to whether anyone would be interested in releasing it, so I took it round to Simon P’s house to see what he thought. He loved it and included it on the first "Backroom Beats" compilation – which gave me the confidence to get stuck in and record everything that came after it. So big-ups to Simon P.
Yeah, I’ve heard of him
Is that a real melodica, or is everything synthed?
The melodica is indeed real, and if you listen carefully you can hear me gasping for breath between phrases. It was intended as a nod to Augustus Pablo who has really made the sound of the melodica his own. As you can hear, I missed it by a few miles but its nice all the same.
Splitting An Atom… all that chanting – where’s it from? You got refugee singers living in your loft? Or is it (I hope) sampled?
I would love to be able to say I travelled overland across Africa in an old Eastern Counties double-decker bus, with a Nagra-D, recording the sound of the Masai tribesmen in their ancestral homelands, but the truth is that it was sampled from a recording of Masai Tribesmen in a modest house in Somerset.
Nothing in my loft but cardboard boxes, spiders and an old water tank. Sorry.
Escape from Tulse Hell is an awesome tune… are all the instruments on here live or do you synth absolutely everything? And again, you’ll have to explain the name…
I like to record as many live instruments as I can, cos you can do things spontaneously that would be impossible with a mouse and a sampler. The nature of digital technology is such that it is possible to make things a bit too "perfect" and a bit of wobbly humanness can work wonders. I tend to record a lot of percussion, and my melodica, as well as things like harmonicas, guitars, basses and vocals.
I’m lucky enough to know a bunch of talented people – Daz, Michele, Simon P, and Chris Barker [aka. Warwick Bassmonkey – played bass on "Solstice" on "Hallucinogen in Dub" - a bloody magnificent bass player and all round musician whom I have been writing with under the name "Umberloid" – tracks out soon on LSD/Dragonfly and Interchill..] – all of whom tend to pop round just when there is a bass/guitar/vocal/synth needed.
The name refers to a time when I was sharing a horrible flat in Tulse Hill, London, with some people I wasn’t getting on with. We managed to create a living hell for ourselves, and it ended for me when I moved to Somerset.
Cley Hill is probably one of my favourites – it just glides along effortlessly… anything in particular interesting to report about what happened while you recorded this? What sort of mindset do you need to get into to be able to write? Do you see your role as an artist or more a producer? And is this a dub album or a trance album?
When I first moved to London in the early 90’s, I shared a squat in Holloway Road with a couple of DJ’s, and was subjected to many hours of nasty "rave" music which I couldn’t bear at the time. Mercifully, Sundays were chill-out days, and I would get treated to The Orb and the On-U-Sound stuff like Dub Syndicate and Gary Clail and all those lovely Adrian Sherwood tunes. "Cley Hill" is a nod to all that.
Cley Hill is also a distinctive looking hill just outside Warminster that can be seen for miles around, and which is reputed to be a UFO hot-spot. You only have to see it to realise why. Very "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". Many times I have found myself obsessively sculpting its shape out of mashed potato during family dinners.
I tend to shut myself away whilst I’m writing. I can go for weeks without seeing another person and days and nights tend to merge into one long day/night. It can get a bit weird – but "good weird".
Dunno about the difference between "artist" and "producer". I’ve met some artists who could be described as "producers" and some producers who could be described as "artists". I’ve also met a few "artists" and "producers" who could be described as "wankers" and some "wankers" who "produce" "art" despite themselves.
I think if I was honest I would describe my role as "scruffy bloke with mixing desk".
Its neither a "dub" album or a "trance" album. It’s a "music" album. Genres are for librarians.
Actually optional essay question: are all dub ‘producers’ artists or craftsmen? As in, does dub have a functional aspect, whereas art has none? (20000 words or less.) (45% of marks)
I think most art has a functional aspect, and most contains an element of craftsmanship. And craftswomanship, obviously.
Unless you’re Tracy Emin, in which case it contains a soiled bed with an ashtray and some Rubber Johnnies on it.
As musicians, we attempt to make a living by "making air vibrate in an interesting way". Sounds pretty nebulous when you view it like that.
Two more ‘O’levels and I could have been a plumber…
And kids singing again? What’s the deal there?
I love kids. Couldn’t eat a whole one though.
Billy The Kid Strikes Back then… organic, worldy…. real eastern bazaar on this’n. There’s kind of a voyage theme through the album, I find, it starts out nicely rooted and on this and Spannered in Pilton it seems to take a gear upwards…? And you’ll have to explain the name :¬)
This is me and my mate Daz – aka "Billy the Kid". He is, amongst other things, a very knowledgeable electronics engineer, computer programmer, excellent musician and the only person I’ve ever met who can keep up with my tea drinking, cup for cup. You go round his house and more often than not he’s poring over a list of unfathomable gibberish on his computer which, it would appear, means something to him.
He’s taught me – amongst other things – how a microchip works, how an EQ circuit functions, and how to tamper with a Space Invaders machine so it gives you unlimited credits for one 10p coin.
He was once on Blue Peter cos he won the UK Championship at "Defender" [or one of those old-school arcade games] when he was about 13, and is apt to turn up at my studio at opportune moments and spit out a brilliant bass guitar part in one take. The first tune we did was called "Ott Meets Billy the Kid" which went out on LSD/Dragonfly, and this one followed shortly after.
Basically what happens is, I put a synth in front of him and leave him to it and record what comes out of it. When he’s bored with that synth I set him up another. When we run out of synths I start chopping it all up and knocking it into some kind of shape. He always does a bassline on his 5-string thingy.
He did the bassline on "Jack’s Cheese and Bread Snack" straight down in one take. He also played bass on "LSD" on "Hallucinogen in Dub".
And just when I thought I’d seen it all, he went and did the guitar on "A Load Up At Nunney Catch" and "Billy The Kid Strikes Back". I didn’t even know he could play a bloody guitar and I’m glad I had a microphone setup when he did it.
Surely the guitar on A Load Up At Nunney Cash is live. That can’t be a synth… or can it? And you’ll have to explain the name :¬)
That’s Daz again. Years ago I found an old guitar in a skip – somebody had thrown it out with the rubbish – and I rescued it and took it home with me. It still has the same set of rusty strings on it that it had when I found it, and it sounds magnificent. Everyone that comes round remarks on how good it sounds, and on this occasion Daz picked it up and started noodling about on it. Always quick with a microphone, I managed to record what he played, and that’s what you hear. Its been treated with a really nasty octave-up pitch shifter from a super-cheapo effects box that I picked up for £40, in an attempt to make it sound like a 12-string. Actually, it sounds nothing like a 12-string, but it kind of works anyway.
Nunney Catch is a place on the A361 between Frome and Shepton Mallet which has one of the last proper transport cafes in England. You know the type – egg, beans and chips, 2 toast and a mug of tea for three quid. Me, Simon P and Scotty [Ozric Tentacles’ ex-manager] used to meet up there for a "load up" – a hearty breakfast – and Simon would embarrass us all by asking for peas instead of beans.
Simon hates baked beans. If ever you want to gross him out – spoon a load of baked beans onto his breakfast and watch him squirm. Incidentally – he’s the only person I know who puts sugar on his Frosties too.
I shall only enquire, sir, as to when and why exactly you were Spannered In Pilton, we’ve all done it dear boy, but the circumstances shall surely make an amusing anecdote for my next psytrance illumati round table gathering.
Many thousands of people have been "Spannered in Pilton" without ever realising it.
You woke up in a bush behind the Avalon stage covered in sick and suffering from hypothermia, and you naively thought you were merely "Shitfaced in Glastonbury"…?
Everyone has a story about how they bought some acid off a one-legged Mexican in a yurt behind the Green Futures field, went blind for a fortnight and hallucinated all the symptoms of malaria.
I am no different.
I went to my first Glastonbury in 1992 and I haven’t missed one since. I was even there at the infamous 1998 mud-bath, and spent 2 days wading through 2 feet of raw effluent and plastic cups, before having to be taken off-site in an ambulance suffering with a twisted pelvis and a ruptured disk in my back.
Then there was the year I was doing the sound for a band called Th’ Faith Healers on the Pyramid Stage, and I got so "excited" I fell out of the tower where the mixing desk is, and was fortunate to have my fall broken by a large polystyrene Alien, and a man dressed as a tree-spirit. Needless to say, drugs were involved on both occasions.
"Just Say No!" kids…
So who’s the chick’s vocals on Smoked Glass and Chrome you sample here then? I wont tell anyone…
"Chick"?? Did you just say "Chick"? You sound like "The Fonz" now, Damion.
I shall assume it was "neo-post-modernist irony" and continue. [psyreviews: yes it was. ott wont tell me the name of this singer.]
I could tell you who she is but then I’d have to kill you. She is a very secret person who’s identity I am sworn to conceal.
You remember the film "Kelly’s Heroes"? It had Donald Sutherland as "OddBall" – ["eatin’ some cheese, drinkin’ some wine, and catchin’ some rays…"] the Hippy tank commander with a battalion of Sherman tanks that have been modified to fire paint, and confuse the enemy with loud music? That’s what "Smoked Glass and Chrome" is supposed to be.
A great big, unstoppable, track-laying vehicle, on a mission to confuse Greyface with its unrelenting optimism.
That’s kind of what the cover-art is trying to say too.
"Heres a flower. Now, be nice to each other or I’ll come after you in my big friendly tank..!"