Ott and the All Seeing I
When I was first introduced to Ott’s music several years ago, I was a neophyte to Colorado’s electronic scene. My roommate at the time played me a few Ott tunes, and I was intrigued. I soon found myself at one of his gigs at the Fox. What I heard that night was unlike any other music I had heard before: a perfect blend of psychedelia, dub and blissed-out soundscapes. Thus began my infatuation with live electronic music.
Ott, a British psychedelic-dub producer, entered the electronic music scene via sound engineering in the late ’80s. He put in countless hours mixing other people’s music while working with the likes of Brian Eno, The Orb and Sinead O’Connor. He eventually found his niche producing his own music under the umbrella of Simon Posford’s Twisted Records label.
After producing and touring as Ott for the past decade, he realized the natural progression of U.S. electro-music had begun to incorporate a live-band aspect to shows. Ott called on three of his mates, two of which were from his former garage band: Chris Barker on bass, Matt White on drums and Naked Nick on guitar/vocals. Their chemistry worked, and Ott and the All Seeing I was conceived.
I first met Ott a couple of years ago in Breckenridge, when I was invited into his green room after a set. We chatted about Alan Watts over a bottle of wine and a tank of oxygen (he wasn’t used to the altitude). This past October, Ott and the All Seeing I—playing together as a band for the first time— brought its sound to the West Coast. I caught up with them to discuss the band’s dynamics and its upcoming February tour, which will take it through the heart of Colorado.
Regarding its first U.S. tour, the general consensus was positive, though there was one complaint from Barker: the “rubbish tea.” Cultural differences aside, the group has been impressed with the quality of U.S. music venues and the energy and encouragement from its crowds.
“U.S. audiences are amazing—such a positive, enthusiastic vibe. It’s been quite overwhelming how lovely people have been,” Nick said.
Ott and the band are from an older generation of musicians playing in a genre dominated by younger artists. Ott names early experimental electronic and psychedelic rock pioneers such as Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk and Cardiacs, as well as dub artists like King Tubby and Scientist, as influences. Meanwhile, Nick, who DJs on his own, is into more modern electronica such as Bird of Prey, Tipper, Burial, Ullrich Schanuss as well as Nick Drake. Barker, being a bit vague as to his early inspirations, mentioned his recent interest in Ozric Tentacles.
Producing nearly all of his work through synths and computers, Ott creates complex and full sounds while maintaining an organic feel. His album music sounds like it would be a nightmare to try to recreate live with traditional instruments. Barker’s first reaction? “How the fuck am I going to do anything that sounds like that?”
“Initially, the hardest part of this whole process was letting go of my songs and allowing everyone to find parts which are comfortable to play,” Ott said, adding that this improved perception of the quality of the songs. “What (Barker and White) have done with songs like ‘Splitting An Atom’ and ‘Owl Stretching Time’ blows me away every time I hear them.”
Barker, who imagines his bass as a “single sine wave generator made from a lump of wood with bits of wire stretched across it,” played a big part in translating the music from layered electronica to live composition. “To recreate the sounds exactly would have been impossible—some of those bass sounds are six or more different synths layered on top of each other.” However, without a plethora of pedals and pickups, he’s found a solution—a somewhat secret solution he will only share for the right price.
Certain tunes containing distorted singing (“The Queen of Everything”) have been challenging for the band to replicate, but still sound impeccable live.
“Technically it is quite tricky because the lead vocal is a two-man effort,” Ott said. “Nick sings it beautifully, and I operate the filter on the MS-20 to give it the bendy, swoopy effect, and it’s a bit of a miracle that it works at all.” A vocoder, which electronically replicates human speech, helps out.
Ott and the All Seeing I will be back in the states starting in February. If you didn’t catch the band this last fall at the Boulder Theater, don’t miss it Saturday, Feb. 8 at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver. For those who did catch it last time around, it’s been working on some new tunes. Come see what it’s been up to.