I was hanging backstage at the Marquee Theater in Tempe, Arizona before OT3Pís April 4th performance. I was watching as the roadies put the finishing touches on the stage and remembering the days when I did the same, but my trip down memory lane was cut short when OT3Pís road manager came and escorted me back where we rousted several of the other musicians from the main dressing room to discover eViL j, bassist for OT3P, relaxing. After introductions I reached into my bag and pulled out my tape recorder. As I turned it on I heardÖ
eViL j: What is DaBelly.com?
DB: Hey, Iím supposed to be asking the questions here! DaBelly isÖ (I offered a brief bio of the site)
eViL j: Very cool, Iíve never heard of it before so I thought that I would ask.
DB: First of all I want to thank you for hooking me up with the new record. I know itís not out yet, but your PR Company was nice enough to make the music available to me. So where do I start? First of all I want to say congratulations.
eViL j: On?
DB: The new record, "The_Ascension" of course! (laughter)
eViL j: I thought it was about being so good looking! (more laughter)
DB: Maybe weíll get to that later! I know that your record company is going through a bit of turmoil. When do you expect the new OT3P album will hit the racks?
eViL j: Weíre not 100 percent certain. Weíre trying to get things situated with the label. Theyíre merging Capitol and Virgin, everybody knows about that now, so weíre trying to place ourselves. Weíre working that out so hopefully well have something in the very near future.
DB: Always the very near future.
eViL j: It frustrates us extremely because Otep and I started working on this record two years ago. Itís like, you finally get it finished and you want it out.
DB: Itís a labor of love and then you wait. Iím sure it is frustrating.
eViL j: Luckily weíre able to play some of the new songs this tour. But we haveÖ "Ghost Flowers," which we have a video for. And "Confrontation" we had on our MySpace page. We were thinking that the kids wouldnít know the new songs, but we get here and some of the kids know them better than the old songs! People are singing along and everything. Weíre also playing our cover of "Breed" from Nirvana. That song has had lots of interesting reactions. I know people say that they wish they couldíve heard Nirvana live, but of course never will. But how cool is it to see one of their favorite bands cover a Nirvana song?
DB: Nirvana certainly has been a seminal band for this generation and thereís no doubt that there will be more bands that cover the songs and that the music will continue to live on. When you sit down and listen to the OT3P records it doesnít take long to notice the obvious growth. OT3P has stretched its wings both lyrically and musically. Are there one or two things that you can attribute that growth to?
eViL j: Itís really all about everything. Itís about our life experiences, about being on the road. For Otep and I, itís about elevation. We always want to one-up the last record and weíre always trying to diversify ourselves through different styles. She has a vast background of knowledge in the areas of history, politics and a lot of other wonderful stuff; combine that with the fact that I have a bachelors degree in performing arts. I started playing piano when I was five. Itís a joy to try and fold in all those different elements into our music. But again, it comes from the maturity of the band, we know each other better. A lot of times you see that within a band and it will cause that growth. Weíve intentionally planed to always branch out and to keep changing. Like we say, if you want to keep hearing the same record twice youíre listening to the wrong band.
DB: And there are a lot of those bands out there already. I have to say that itís nice to see someone with a more traditional music background in the sense of training and everything, step into a more aggressive style of music.
eViL j: I was certainly the odd man out at Berkeley School of Music. But the beauty of it is that I tried to take as muchÖ I wanted to be a studio musician so I learned as many styles of music and jammed with as many different kinds of people possible. Obviously weíve gone through many different lineup changes. Otep and I have somehow managed to meld together and to keep growing. She feels my urge to continuously try to be creative on my instrument as I feel hers. Itís a wonderful partnership.
DB: I can see that within OT3P. There is a sense or a need for the band to be innovators rather than imitators. If you look hard, you will always find influences within the music, but at the same time youíre not just rubber stamping someone elseís style.
eViL j: And that is an extremely conscious effort. My musicianship has grown, but I still remember all my influences. They push me, but still, you donít want to sound just like them. Itís fun trying to maintain creativity and originality and not become a genre-classified band. Any band can fit easily into a niche, youíre easy to sell, but then next week no one will remember you because itís a faded style of music. We just write what we feel and thatís the beauty of it. A lot of songs I just write on guitar. Sometimes you hear something and it vibes to you. Otep will hear it and say, "Iíve already got the lyrics for this! I wrote this a year ago!" Itís very organic.
DB: You put 12 or 13 songs on the new record. How many songs did you write and eventually cherry-pick through to make up "The_Ascenion"?
eViL j: It started off with "Milk of Regret". Otep and I worked on that together. Then thereís "March of the Martyrs" and "Home Grown." I wrote the guitar with her. But songs like "Ghost Flowers" were written with the entire band. When we wrote those first couple songs the band was just her and I. We were still looking for a new drummer and guitar player. I can play guitar well enough. In fact, I recorded some guitar on "House of Secrets," but nobody really knows that! Iím a man of many trades!
DB: Did you use any outside writers?
eViL j: There were only a couple songs, like for instance "Perfectly Flawed" was written with an outside writer, Holly Knight. Sheís an amazing woman. Actually, after they got the original demo version of the song, I came over and threw down some bass and worked with them. It was really cool because that helped shape the song a little bit more. It was a gorgeous piece of music when I first heard it and I just wanted to be a part of that song. We were also lucky enough to have Greg (Tribbett) from Mudvayne come down and sit in. He worked with Otep for a while and then all three of us locked ourselves into a house for three weeks and wrote "Confrontation," "Crooked Spoons" and "Invisible." And then the rest of the album was a collective of the band. "Eat the Children" was the band. "Communion," which is the last song, is one of my favorites. That song was actually derived from a bass exercise that I use to warm up my hands. That exercise slowly became an interlude which we liked so much that we turned it into a song.
DB: From what Iíve seen it appears that youíve hidden a track on the new CD.
eViL j: Itís song number 13. We like to incorporate hidden elements on the CD. Thereís a significance to the timing, when it starts. And thereís a significance to the song itself too. It was Otep and I sitting over at her place. Me sitting in one room, her in the living room, and we just started going. We just hit record. I didnít even play my bass in the traditional aspect. I had distortion and delays and I wasnít playing notes, I was making noises. We just did this full-on poetry thing. When people here the song they canít believe that itís totally unrehearsed-- It was one take with no overdubs. I think our fans will appreciate things like that.
DB: I wanted to ask about your producer on the new record, Dave Fortman. How was that connection made?
eViL j: We hooked up through management. Heís also worked with Mudvayne. When we were shopping for a producer they ran our name past him. He expressed interest, so he actually came to L.A. when Greg from Mudvayne was writing with us. He came over to the studio and heard some tracks. He was really digging it. We didnít have a drummer, so I had this little Alesis SR16 drum machine and was programming the drums and he was like, "This really sounds great!" Working with him was great. It was also fun to discover that he was in the band Ugly Kid Joe! He was really a joy to work with and I have to say that he allowed me for the first time to actually sit and hear my instrument the way I wanted to for the very first time. I love all of our records, but I think Iíve finally found the tone that Iíve been striving for, not only personally, but also the way everything works together. I try to be an articulate player; I try to be a melodic player and have complexities and itís important to me not to have all that stuff blown out by the drummer playing 64ths all over the place, so he worked a lot on our tones. We did a week of pre-production with him where we played our songs and he offered suggestions.
DB: So in some ways he became an extra voice within the band.
eViL j: Yes, and we wanted that. He has a vast experience that we wanted to tap. He did both Evanescence records, heís worked with Super Joint Ritual too. So he knows many styles of music and has worked with a diverse group of vocalists. We went down to his hometown in Louisiana to record. We did drums and bass tracks in a town near New Orleans. It was important to us to try and bring something to the community there.
DB: That city is so alive with music!
eViL j: It was fun. I got to go and listen to jazz. Each night after recording, I would go down to Decatur Street and there were about four bars that I would go to and listen to music. It was like this is the jazz bar and some guys playing lap steel over here. There was one guy, Washboard Chaz, it was so much fun to watch a washboard player go!
But it wasnít only fun for us. When you move yourself out of your element all you focus on is your art and music and that record. There was really nothing to do in Covington, Louisiana where we were tracking bass, guitar and vocals. I mean, when an IHOP closes at two in the afternoon because thereís not enough people to work there, you know thereís NOTHING else to do!
DB: Letís change up a little here and let me ask you about influences. Where do you find influences and inspiration?
eViL j: All sorts of things. Iím influenced a lot by art and artists like H.R. Geiger and Salvador Dali. I want my music to sound as interesting as their art. I look at it that way. Mozart is my favorite classical composer. Iím a huge Beatles fan; I love the evolution that they went through. As far as bass players, I started off listening to Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. The first song I ever learned was "The Trooper." I was 14 and I was sold! I think I get a lot of who I am as a performer from him. Harris didnít just stand around in the back, he was the first guy other than Paul McCartney that I saw standing up front, but you have to remember that Paul was a singer too. Jack Bruce ripping it up on the fretless in Cream was amazing. Seeing things like that really blew my mind.
I didnít want to be Ďthat guyí standing in the back. I enjoy being the foundation, making you feel safe, but I can do that from anywhere on the stage. As a kid there was always something about the theater and performance art. When was in college I played bass in a lot of different musicals. I was really into theater and when I got this opportunity I thought, how can I incorporate that performance art into our show? Hence the reason why we have all these interludes. It was like I was suppose to meet Otep. When I found out she was a poet I asked her if she was against doing poetry between songs rather than the usual, "Hey, thanks for coming to our showÖ" That works fine for most bands, but I thought we could do better.
DB: I loved your response to that question. Itís important for people to realize that inspiration comes from everywhere. In a great painting there is the same aggression, melody / counter-melody and complex interaction thatís found in most styles of music. Itís just a different presentation. The last question I have for you concerns politics. I know that OT3P has been a strong supporter of the Rock the Vote movement here in America and I want to say thank you for that. Itís vitally important that citizens from all demographics step forward to make their opinions known. Given that so many fans take the words of their heroes as the gospel, do you feel a sense of obligation to make sure your statements on a given topic are credible, have a basis in fact rather than emotion?
eViL j: I know that our opinions carry weight, Iíve known that from the very beginning. I use that with every aspect of how we interact with our audience. Weíre trying to get these kids, adults, whoever to hear what we have to say and if they agree, cool. If they disagree, cool. Why do you disagree? Look into the subject matter and educate yourself. But there is always going to be that herd of sheep that just go along. Thatís just society. Thatís just people trying to fit in with everyone else.
But I feel that whenever anything is spoken out in a political aspect from us, itís done with a vast amount of research behind it. I mean Otep is extremely heavily politically minded to begin with. She got me into it. I used to be that kind of guy, "Iím one person so what does my voice matter?" and then I finally voted on the last ballot in California and was extremely happy with the results. I felt great that I was a part of that process. I finally realized, donít just sit around and complain, do something about it.
I think itís good that weíve been able to implement the element of politics in our music. Our music reflects what is going on right now. Weíre not trying to write love songs. We write about the things that affect our lives on a daily basis. Itís important for the kids to hear all sides of the story. Their parents may be sitting home telling them one thing and then they come to an OT3P show and weíre badmouthing George Bush. They might be a little confused, but maybe that will entice them to research the topic and form an opinion. Thatís pretty much what we want. Weíre trying to stimulate forward-thinking people.
DB: I have to confess that it has always been a concern to me about the art forms stepping forward and expressing an opinion. Itís not that the artist doesnít understand their influence. I think that in many cases the artist all too well understands and often abuses their influence. My concern is they are leading the sheep rather than saying read a book, prove you have an intellect, listen to us, but form your own opinion; our brand of bullshit may not be your brand of bullshit.
eViL j: Thatís very true and I always try to instill in people. You may look up to me and all that stuff. I mean, our band doesnít behave like one of those party glutinous bands, thatís not how we represent ourselves, thatís just not who we are. I donít want people to think that just because Iím in a band that all we do is trash hotel rooms.
DB: But thatís your job! Itís two pounds of blow and endless hookers each night!
eViL j: Exactly! But itís more like me waking up after two hours of sleep on a bumpy road and getting some orange juice or eating a banana and then after loading in I might go lift some weights. We do this to be able to survive being on the road. Itís something you learn just like learning that we have an influence on the audience. The way we say things, the way we word things. When Otep writes things like "Eet the Children," E-E-T youíll see kids start to write the word eat that way. So Iíve known of that influence, but Iím proud of what weíve managed to do and the direction that weíre trying to go in order to stimulate creation from other people.
With that came a knock on the door and the end of the interview. I want to thank eViL j and the rest of OT3P for allowing this interview. Be sure to check out "The_Ascension" when it finally does make it into the record stores. Until then check out the Web site at www.otep.com
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