Otis Calvin, III – aka OCnotes – is a prolific, renegade artist. A songwriter, producer, and visionary who not only transcends genre but denies any type of barrier – musical or otherwise.
Otis Calvin, III – aka OCnotes – is a prolific, renegade artist. A songwriter, producer, and visionary who not only transcends genre but denies any type of barrier – musical or otherwise. With a staggering nearly 300 albums to his name, OC is as prolific as they come. Fiercely independent in all senses of the word, Otis doesn’t compromise his vision for anything or anyone – let alone capitalist industry structures that would only hold back his astounding output. He’s the Dennis Rodman in a collective full of Dennis Rodmans.
In this episode, OC gives his candid thoughts about the music industry, his always expanding catalog, and the punk roots that inform his art and approach. For OC, the process of making music itself is a spiritual practice. Beneath all the grit and tenacity is a deep love for music and expression.
Listen to a playlist of music from the episode below, and check out a transcript of the episode.
Support the show: https://www.kexp.org/fresh
[ NOT-EXACTLY-MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Pure Mirror Magic” from 808 Punk II ]
OCNOTES: Man, I just love making music, man. I love this shit dog like so much. And when I was a kid, like. This is really all I wanted to do, and I worked so hard my whole life to just get little pieces here and there to where now it's like finally having all the pieces. Like it would make no sense to not be doing this. It's like I literally am the kid in the KB toy store after hours with the keys, you feel me. I play around with everything like, why would I waste my time dog?
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “That La La La” from Secret Society ]
LARRY MIZELL, JR.: Welcome back to Fresh Off The Spaceship. I’m Larry Mizell Jr. – DJ, writer, and your guide in this podcast.
MARTIN DOUGLAS: And I’m your co-host, Martin Douglas.
LARRY: We’ll also be joined this week by KEXP’s Dusty Henry, who you’ll hear from later on. Dusty’s the Digital Content Manager here and has been working behind the scenes on this podcast the whole time. He's going to be in conversation with us as well as doing one of the interviews. Through each episode of this podcast, we’re delving into the story of the Black Constellation. On the last episode, we dug into the story and work of Nicholas Galanin. If you haven’t listened back to that or the previous episodes, do clear some space out and check those out. They provide valuable context into our next story.
MARTIN DOUGLAS: On this episode of “Fresh off the Spaceship,” we’re exploring the life and work of Otis Calvin the Third, also known as OCnotes.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Morgan Free & ODB” from Pre Future Post Modern Love Songs-AKA AlienBootyBass ]
LARRY: There’s a spirit of creative freedom that runs throughout all of the Constellation. A desire to not conform to trends or marketability, to create new sounds and push new boundaries. Why create a riff on what’s already been done? OCnotes is exactly like that too. Only his ideas never seem to stop.
ISHMAEL BUTLER: He's one of the most-- he *is* the most prolific musician that I know, like // I seen him making beats in his sleep before, you know what I'm saying? Like, that's how. And I'm not even trying to be funny.
ERIK BLOOD: Like, he, he just never stops. And // you know, if if there is a new tool for him to use, to create. He will learn the ins and outs of that tool. And he will learn how to break that tool to make it his own.
DAVE SEGAL: The Black Constellation is, I think maybe I mentioned earlier, it's marked by diversity, eclecticIsm. And OCnotes, is is like. The poster child for that concept. And that makes him then it's no surprise that he's a key player in the collective. But I also think that everybody else pretty much like, I think, blood. And Ish. They're they're versatile musicians, too. Maybe not quite as versatile as OC, but. I I don't know I. I think that it's so rare to have that many people who are that. Ambidextrous.
LARRY: It’s maybe no surprise that many of the Constellation are inspired by Dennis Rodman aka “The Worm.” Rodman gained notoriety in the NBA as a championship player for both the Chicago Bull and Detroit Pistons but also for his renegade spirit; rocking tattoos, rainbow hair dye, facial piercings, and flashy dresses. The kind of dude who will skip practice before the NBA finals to go hit Diamond Dallas Page with a steel chair at a World Championship Wrestling event. Otis is the Dennis Rodman in a collective of Dennis Rodmans. Brilliant, gifted, unmatched in his field, but wildly unpredictable.
RIZ: He's a freak. I mean, you know, there are freaks and they're like fuh-reaks. You know. Two syllables. Yes. And he's a fuh-reak and he exudes fuh-reakedness. I mean, like that otherworldliness. Like, you know, there's like a mothership over here, probably waiting for him..
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “A.$.$.” from 808 Punk ]
LARRY: You feel that in Otis’ music. His records will jump from thumping deep house to distorted indie rock on a dime.
OCNOTES: "Oh my god, this guy Otis Calvin the Third. He sure was prolific. His catalog? and I'ma make sure that my kids get every fucking cent of that money and that no greedy motherfucker is a clown ass fake homies get a cent of my shit. You know what I'm saying? Because I've been out here grinding, dog.
LARRY: The term “prolific” can be overused to the point of cliche at times, much like the word legend. Just like it seems like people will anoint anybody as legendary, any artist who creates, say, more than one work a year is seen as prolific. OCnotes is a truly prolific artist. For a while, he was releasing a new album every month. In addition to being a hands-on collaborator in groups such as Knife Knights and Ya Tseen, Otis has released a staggering 90 projects on Bandcamp. According to Otis, that itself is only a fraction of the music he has put out.
OCNOTES: I got almost 300 records now, dog. Of original music, bro. And that's just released. I got so much music, man. It's insane and I own it all.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Karen” from Miss Ricketts ]
LARRY: Seattle-based music journalist Dave Segal, who has written for publications such as Pitchfork and The Wire, considers Otis to be a marvel of craftsmanship when it comes to music and compares the startling quantity of his output to that of the frontman of indie-rock workhorses Guided by Voices.
DAVE SEGAL: I think of OCnotes as like the Bob Pollard of Black Constellation, and in that he is prolific beyond belief. However, like somebody who creates that much music, I don't think the quality really falls off anywhere I like, no matter what style he's attempting, he's making great music, whether it be rock, hip-hop, house, funk, soul. The level of quality remains high. I don't know how he does it. To be honest, I can't keep track of all of his artistic endeavors. I think you would have to devote most of your life to keeping up with him. Like you go to his Bandcamp page and, you know, it's kind of overwhelming. Yeah, but you dip in anywhere and your mind is engaged and oftentimes blown away, you know?
LARRY: Making music all the time is what Otis feels he and most other working musicians should be doing.
OCNOTES: What the fuck am I doing not making music every day? Why don't I have, I be dying how cats don't have more music bro. I really do. It really bothers me, it's why I had to go off social media. I was talking too much shit. I just feel like people should have more music with the tools available, but it is what it is, to each their own, though maybe they do, and I just don't know.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “The Inevitable Wrath” from Another One 4 Whitney ]
LARRY: Writer, curator, and healer Negarra Kudumu speaks to Otis’ authenticity as an artist.
NEGARRA A. KUDUMU: You listen to Otis and you can tell that he has studied the Masters. Whoever he he for him are like the gods, Otis has studied. And when you're listening to him, you're not listening to him copy. Because Otis doesn't copy. Otis is a true creator where he snatches the stuff down from, I don't know, that's not my business, but Otis is a true creator and the brilliance really just comes through with ease. And you know again, it's very much I do this because this is what I showed up here on this Earth to do. It's, you know, I'm going to you're going to hear me continue to say authenticity because that's just what it is. And for me, it's brilliant. And then also, you know, once I got to Seattle seeing Otis in a live setting was really something to behold, because, you know, there was the Otis that will come dap you up, Hey, how are you doing, what's going on? And then there's the Otis on stage.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Left Hand Slalom” from New Generation: Embracing the New Age ]
NEGARRA: You know, and people can, listen, life is difficult and people go through their phases, what I will say is some of the most brilliant music that I have seen has been in Seattle and it has come from who we know to be OCnotes. And it has always been an authentic show. You can add any number of adjectives to that that you want to add to it. But it has always been authentic and in a world where so much music and art is made for the market, not because there's an actual feeling or energy that people are trying to convey. It's refreshing, but it also it's it really it's really generative. It really does something good for the soul.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “More Seriously” from New Generation: Embracing the New Age ]
OCNOTES: I have all these rules. You know what I'm saying? And now I'm just like, Dude, fuck every rule dog. When it comes to any type of music creation, that shit is corny because the Blues cats bro all knew like yo. I'll take that dude's verse that was recorded, anything that was recorded on any record was known back then like, Yo, you could take what was recorded on this record and flip it and make it your own. It was just like rap. That like, we ain't doing nothing different.
LARRY: The music Otis makes as OCnotes is not beholden to any specific style. Sometimes he sails through different styles, other times he blends them like a master chemist. Nobody who has listened to his music can deny the magnitude of his talent. But Otis also contains a lack of false modesty that’s sometimes misconstrued as overconfidence. Dave Segal speaks to both of these points.
DAVE SEGAL: There is like a fluidity among genres that I found to be rare. You know, almost like a nonchalant brilliance like. No matter what style it was, this righteous. And there was a real like a bravado about it, but. Sometimes that can be off-putting, but I I found his bravado to be earned. Like. He knows he's talented. And he can he can come off maybe a little brash, but he earned the right to do that. For somebody who flits around from style to style, he could be he could easily easily be a dilettante, but I think his his musicianship is so strong that he. You know. He makes work that endures. Even though he could be, you know, accused of just genre jumping. He doesn't do it like for trendy reasons, I think he's just genuinely an omnivorous creative person. And. Despite that, you know, nothing gets watered down. It's it's always O.C.'s Personality, distinctive stamp on things and. It never sounds like he's trying to, you know, capitalize on something that's popular at the moment. It seems like it's created out of a desire just to try out new, you know, flex new muscles.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Homeless in Seattle (Fuck Your Phone)” from 808 Punk II ]
DAVE SEGAL: I wonder why he's not bigger. You know? As a solo artist, it's kind of baffling. But then again, maybe he's too strange to all over the map to for people to get a hand on him. Yeah, so it's It's the public's fault, really, as it usually is.
LARRY: If you enjoy music enough to listen to a podcast series about it, you already know there are mitigating factors outside of musicianship that prohibit an artist from becoming popular. For starters, there’s a human tendency for most people to want to categorize and compartmentalize artists. But more tellingly, the nature of capitalism has ballooned the landscape of music into a multibillion-dollar commodity. And when there’s industry, industry politics always follow.
OCNOTES: I think that most people who call themselves musicians or artists are actually just capitalists. [laughs] They don't even know it. They really don't. So you'll see a mu'fucka. He can go and get a kajillion dollars and go get famous and be whatever. But the whole world might destroy this fool or just treat him like a joke. And then what dog? Like you're, you're a, you're a sparkler fizzled out, dog. You could have been true to the game. You could have really been true to this. You could have really learned about music. Respected the game, but nah you wanted to be a pop star. The music, though, lives forever. The music exists and you're making records, so the record stands time, through time.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Wave Music” from Pre Future Post Modern Love Songs:AKA AlienBootyBass (Re-Mastered) ]
LARRY: Otis speaks on the politics of the Seattle hip-hop scene, feeling as though there are self-serving tendencies in a lot of its artists, which ultimately limits its reach.
OCNOTES: I wish Seattle was more like New York. Cats really support each other for real in a certain type of way for the betterment of the city instead of this fake support and everybody trying to get their little one off project off the ground so they can be this like, Oh yeah, it's just me. I'm just out- I'm the king- Nah, bro. Like, Come on, man, cause at the end of the day, ain't nobody came out this city that actually had dope music in hip hop, bro on a massive level. I'm very comfortable saying that, outside of Shabazz Palaces I'm talking bout like massive, massive bro. We could easily have as a, like a L.A. type scenario out here, bro. We have easily identifiable heavyweights. You feel me? We got Specs[wizard] out here dog, we got Wisdom out here, bro. We got so many heavyweights out here, bro. Now I'm just talking about those are just two names, but I could go on and on and on and on, dog. We got Kemet Coleman out here, dawg. You know what I'm saying? Like, what are we even talking about right now? We got WD 40 out here. The level of talent that we have that people have no clue about and don't care about is hurtful. Hurtful bro, that's why I went and got a real job. [laughs]
LARRY: In his conversation with KEXP’s Dusty Henry, Otis gets to the crux of why the talent of Seattle’s rap scene far outstrips its recognition.
DUSTY: You make that a lot of people don't recognize the amount of talent happening in Seattle specifically, like in the realm of hip-hop.
OCNOTES: Yeah, I blame it on capitalism. You know what I mean? Like many things. Just the disease of this weird idea of, I don't know, getting money. Whatever way. It's just ridiculous, just makes everyone so competitive that it's damn near impossible, not impossible, it's just tough to work with cats, or for, to find real cats out there, man. It's really. And even from a, not even from a creative perspective of even from a consumer's perspective, the idea what people even respect these days is like a lot of people don't even want to listen to shit unless it's like. They don't even seek it out unless it's a certain, reached a certain level of light, certain level of, you gotta have, all you have, you know, happened to likes and shit, you know what I'm saying? Like, Oh, it's just weird, dog. Just like, Come on, man, we're in a golden age of music. There's so much good music out there. It's insane, so crazy, and no one knows about it because I don't even know.
OCNOTES: That what I'm doing actually isn't special, at all. It's just that the music industry doesn't pay attention to music.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “EGO Music” from Doug Morris Mini EP ]
LARRY: The first night I met OC. There was some show at Nectar. I went in the back and kind of go in the back of the club into this alley. And there was this like kind of shed that was kind of the green room. And remember sitting back there with a bunch of fools. I think Grinch might have been back there. Grieves And there was this cool brother named Otis I just met and we were smoking a blunt start talking about music and stuff. Seemed hella cool, really knew his stuff. Really chill. You know what I mean? And he was like, All right, I'm a go check the show. I'll see you in a minute. I was like, All right, bet, I'll see you in there. Chill for a minute and I'm like, okay, I'm going to go check the show a few minutes later. And I walk in and this guy who was, seemed so like very chill was on stage screaming at the group that was on stage.
LARRY: He'd grabbed their mic and I believe it was Mad Rad, or at least an early iteration of it. I think it was billed as just Terry Radjaw at the time, but he was giving them the business on stage. And I just remember being like, Wow, what happened to the dude I just met? [laughs]
DUSTY: There's also this aspect of Otis of like, you definitely hear it in his records, but like punk rock, that is. Obviously punk is still around, but we have this sort of Machine Gun Kelly like bastion of punk rock, but like cleaned up, safe, monetized. And Otis is just, he's like, in soul. Like, in his soul. He is he has that punk rock spirit. And whether he's got a guitar or MPC or whatever, he's not afraid to say something that's going to piss you off or rub you the wrong way or defy your expectations.
LARRY: You know, it's confrontational the way good art can be. So sometimes living that, I would think you could end up in a lot of confrontation. You know, that's. That's what it is. And, you know, he's so purely moved when it comes to his inspiration. I think that he is just as purely moved by the spirit within, of emotion, of frustration, of anger, of joy. I've seen all of that, you know. So he's he's not fake. He never holds back.
MARTIN: Yeah. I talk a lot about punk rock in the religious sense. And I do feel as though Otis exemplifies that. Like you said, Larry, it's confrontational, it's challenging, it's raw. It's you know, these are all things that the punk rock spirit is supposed to be. You know, these are the things punk rock was before it became commodified like every other, you know, genre of art ever created. Otis is definitely a punk motherfucker.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes’ “Red Alert Song” from Pre Future Post Modern Love Songs-AKA AlienBootyBass ]
LARRY: Punk isn’t just a genre, a leather jacket, liberty spikes, but a spirit. One that gives a middle finger to conformity and barriers. It’s maybe no surprise that Otis does actually have roots in punk music, dating back to his teenage years in Puyallup, Washington.
[ MUSIC CUE: Deftones - “Pink Maggit” ]
OCNOTES: Man, my guys Joey, Brandon and John bro. And I'll throw Wes in there too, bro. For life, man. Like, those four Cats bro in Puyallup like, yo we used to just kick it, bro used to just smoke weed and listen to Deftones and Korn and NOFX, and fucking, and uh, uh I remember with Slipknot first came out, we was on that.
[ MUSIC CUE: Slipknot - “Duality” ]
OCNOTES: Um, but yeah, bro, that was like, that, I mean, that rock shit the whole punk rock shit saved my life, bro. I used to be walking around a Ferrucci Junior High School with, with the uh, you know? Fingers poked through the sleeve holes. And uh, you know what I'm saying? Just looking real goofy when I think about it now but. Skateboarding, you know what I'm saying? Picking cigarette butts off the ground and smoking them and shit just trying to be this rock and roll guy, man.
LARRY: Otis and his motley crew started playing music together, covering their nu metal idols.
OCNOTES: We did Limp Bizkit, "Faith" actually for the talent show one year, bro.
[ MUSIC CUE: Limp Bizkit - “Faith” ]
LARRY: He also took inspiration from another pivotal Northwest band, one whom he’d find a connection to later in this story.
[ MUSIC CUE: Nirvana - “Territorial Pissing - Live at The Paramount/1991” ]
OCNOTES: We used to play hella Nirvana too, bro, like we were obsessed, we used to rent, that was back when Blockbuster and shit existed, so we would go and get the rock VHS tapes and stay up all night at like the homie's, his dad's house. Just like watching these videos and stuff and then go in the garage and just play, play, and play our shitty little cover versions of it.
[ MUSIC CUE: Bad Brains - “Sailin’ On” ]
LARRY: Punk wasn’t a phase for Otis. The music, ethos, the fuck you attitude are still very much a part of how he creates and carries himself.
OCNOTES: To this day, I'm a punk rock motherfucker, bro. Bad Brains and shit.
OCNOTES: Ah man, I love it because, it's, it's the realest shit. It's like Hip Hop on some other shit, you know what I mean?
LARRY: You can feel this in all of Otis’ work to a degree, but especially in his two 808 Punk albums.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Valerie & Mindy” from 808 Punk]
LARRY: On those records, Otis would take the distorted frantic guitars and place them against booming electronic beats, wailing over top with his own voice. Short, blitzing songs in the vein of Bad Brains and Black Flag.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “DNA” from 808 Punk ]
MARTIN: Yeah. 808 Punk II, I feel as though, is like the high watermark of, at least my favorite. My personal favorite OC album. Like, I think Otis just takes the the concept of 808 punk and, like, mutates it into, like, this juggernaut. And I think, like, I listen to it and I think about how there are only a few albums that, that really take the guttural nature of punk with drum machines. Like, I don't I'm not a big fan of like drum machines and punk music because it doesn't give you that punch. But like albums like Suicide's first record or Negro that came out two years after this. And 808 Punk II are like basically the only records that I can think of that really creates that guttural, visceral feeling of punk rock music with drum machines. Yeah.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Only the Lonely Ones” from 808 Punk II ]
LARRY: I like a lot of like, like punk that use the drum machines, you know, Japanther, stuff like that. I went to a lot of their shows and I can, I don't know, Death Set, stuff like that. But OC, OC is punk in a way that those cats can't always necessarily access. He's dealing with a level of alienation societally, that he's drawing on heavily that can't be touched by, you know, Williamsburg or, you know, communal housing, you know, not that I'm trying to cut like those those cats down or anything. But I'm just saying, man, like, that guy's really punk rock. And when he really wants to tap into it, it's untouchable.
MARTIN: Yeah, exactly. And he has this. He can't get away from that melody, man. Otis fucking loves the melody. And it it brings you in his records like that, that sense of humor that he has too like, there's a song, on 808 Punk II, I think it's called “Buddy Holly’s Sun.” And it's just it's just such an infectious track that, you know, like it and it captures that spirit. It's like it's kind of like pop punk without the slickness. When I think of pop punk, when I think of punk music that is just dripping with melody, like “Buddy Holly’s Son” comes to mind immediately.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Buddy Holly’s Son” from 808 Punk II ]
LARRY: Even that title points to a love of melody and brevity, like Buddy Holly would make these cold blooded sound like incredible pop songs that were 1:58. You know what I mean? He'd be in and out. O is just able to execute in any kind of arena on a high level.
DUSTY: he shifts gears in ways I don't.. Like we see a lot more artists now who get a lot of props for switching genres and track to track like NNAMDI or Bartees. And they're excellent. But yeah, OC does it and it's hard to describe in a way that's just so visceral, no matter which way he goes. Like if he's going to make a deep house track, it's going to be like the most wild, deep house track you've ever heard. If he's going to go punk rock, it's going to be the most wild punk rock track track you've ever heard, right? That is super impressive. And like you're both saying, like, he never loses the song. Like there's always a song in it and it's easy to just make noise on your computer or the guitar, but like, there's always something that hooks you in. And that's like another level of craft that I don't know who can compete with that.
MARTIN: Yeah, absolutely. Like, it comes from his spirit. Like, it's not something. It's not something that he copies. Like, sometimes you can hear when artists is copying Otis references but he never he never traces his inspiration like it comes from inside of him. It's always going to be his version of whatever he's referencing.
LARRY: He definitely expresses himself in one of the purest fashions I've ever known an artist to do. There's been so many times, whether he's DJing, playing guitar, producing, where I just see this look of just this rapturous look on his face, pure joy. And he's as surprised as anybody about what's happening. And I just feel like he's gotten out of the way and he's purely a conduit for inspiration.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Openyourhearttospring” from The Records Say We’ll Live Forever]
LARRY: Like many people who were born into military families, Otis lived in a handful of places as a child, eventually settling in Puyallup after his parents got divorced.
OCNOTES: I was born in Tucson, Arizona, and then my father, he got stationed in Germany, and I moved to, uh, this little spot called Bad Kissingen in Germany and lived there for about four and a half years. And then we moved to Oklahoma. And then we moved to Fort Lewis, Washington, and, uh, then my parents split up when I was in fourth grade, my father got stationed all over the place. And my mom stayed in Pierce County cause she dug the school district and whatnot, I guess. And, uh, so we lived in Puyallup, Washington, for some time. And I lived all over. I mean, I lived the long time in Puyallup, but I um, bounced around a lot, bounced around a lot.
LARRY: The military family lifestyle exposed Otis to a variety of different experiences, which likely played a big hand in his omnivorous musical tastes.
OCNOTES: It gave me, um, it gave me a very open mind at an early age and a lot of exposure to a lot of things that, um, people don't get exposure to. I am just a product of my environment, and I was just special to have a lot of diverse ones.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Summer of 2020”]
LARRY: It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that music has always been a foundation component of OC’s life.
OCNOTES: I mean I've always been musical. My mom's, um, she worked in a record store when she was in high school, like all four years or whatever. And, uh, I think her sister did to my auntie, and um, there's always music around, real good music and records. And, um, I always was into music. Even like in Germany, I remember I think I had recorder lessons one time. You know what I'm saying just, I've always messed with the music and um, but church also. We always went to church, and then my father became a preacher at St. John's Baptist Church when I was really young. And um, there we became a part of the choir. Me and my sister and I started playing drums. And um, just really learning about music in our mind um. Yeah, that's really where the foundation of the funk came from, for sure. Um, just like gospel, blues, R&B, soul, the music program at St. John's Baptist Church during the pastor (?) years was absolutely mind blowing. And I was involved in a lot of the choirs, um, in various capacities. An early, early age, I was really involved in church. We was, I was a junior deacon. I was in the drill team like I lived at church for a minute, you know, I mean, my dad's a pastor now. And so, um yeah, church was what it was, is what it is and um. But it, the biggest thing I think I got from church was that, was the funk. And, and, seeing what people want to call the spirit of God or whatever, like seeing what that actually is. Visually.
LARRY: While practically living in the church, Otis would meet a young Stasia Irons, aka Stas THEE Boss.
STAS: Hi Otis, call me bro. We have some things to talk about. But, you know, I still got love for you, man. You already know, it's whatever. Aye.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Ho Hum” from Secret Society “teriyaki Stasi” 0:28-0:35]
STAS: We went to the same church, St. John. His mother was the drill team leader and I was in the drill team for a little bit. He used to play the piano with my dad, um, for the church choirs.
OCNOTES: Well, you know, church is pretty boring for the most part and, you know, black church is hella long. And when you're in the choir stand and you're really young, you get restless and you just be out there watching you up there above everybody and you can see people be bored, whatever. But as soon as their music starts poppin', man, you know, people start jumping around, screaming, having, you know, they, they really get affected. You know, any time the pastor is in town, there's an offering or tithes or something like that going down. They start playing some keys, some organs, some some tunes. It's just like. The most effective part of church to me has always been the music, and so that's what I would call. The spirit, you know what I mean?
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Other Moons” from Secret Society]
LARRY: Though he sees music as a spiritual practice, Otis no longer subscribes to the organized religion of Christianity.
OCNOTES: I mean, it's all very spiritual. I think Christianity is very white. I don't subscribe to these white male patriarchal things no more. So I don't really dig it. The way I do music is 100 percent spiritual because at this point, I don't, I don't do things like, Oh, I want for a, for a reason of like wanting to get something. I do it when I feel it. And so I know that if I'm moving off of a feeling, it's something that isn't technically coming from me and I'm moving with the vibration and moving with, with um, other forces influence me to do this thing.
LARRY: In the late 2000s, a legendary venue in Seattle was getting a new life, transforming from a key part of Seattle rock history into a launching pad for Seattle hip-hop. It was a new movement where Otis literally found himself on the ground floor. We’ll get to that story after a short break.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “More Schmurda” from Student of bell ]
DUSTY: You were operating your studio out of the OK Hotel, here in Seattle.
OCNOTES: Mm hmm.
DUSTY: I mean, it's crazy. You mentioned like covering Nirvana. I mean, you were in the same building that Nirvana debuted Smells Like Teen Spirit.
OCNOTES: C'mon bro.
[ MUSIC CUE: Nirvana - “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Live at OK Hotel ]
OCNOTES: My life is crazy dog. It's not regular, bro like. Everything I've ever thought or dreamed about. Has, I've somehow touched it, dog. Like, I always talk about six degrees of Kevin Bacon shit, like, that's my life, bro. Like, it's weird to where I don't, I don't take it for granted no more. I literally lived in that studio for *laughs* years, dog like, slept on the floor. You feel me? It was basically, living in my stud-, dog that's been actually, most of my life has been me living in my studio.
OCNOTES: The ghosts of the OK Hotel and I, bro, we're friends dog trust that man. Like there is high level energy's all up in them hallways. Pick a floor dog. Like mad shit goes down, the lab next to one of our labs, I promise you, is haunted dawg.
LARRY: The OK Hotel was originally built in 1910 and functioned as hotel for decades in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. But in the 80s, it became a bar and venue that launched the careers of bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, and basically every other Seattle band you’ve heard about from the 90s. The venue closed in 2001 after the Nisqually earthquake, but reopened as rent-controlled living and studio spaces for artists in 2004. Local hip-hop producer Audeos began operating his studio 206-HOP Sweatshop out of the OK Hotel.
OCNOTES: My homie Audeios man, he had, uh, he was living at the OK Hotel. And he had the studio space down there, and I went there and I was like, "Holy shit", and I think I asked if I could go down half on the spot because it was dumb, cheap. He was like, hell yeah. And that's how it just, that's how it started. And then at one point we had two studio spaces down there. And uh, it was cool, bro. It was cool that's how I met Vitamin D, so I met a bunch of people. It's all just the way it was supposed to be.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “When Synths Cry” from Student of bell ]
LARRY: You might recognize Vitamin’s name as one of KEXP’s DJs currently on rotation for Street Sounds, but Vitamin has been an integral part of Seattle’s hip-hop scene for decades and one of the city’s best producers. Otis and Vitamin ended up sharing studio in the basement of the OK Hotel.
OCNOTES: I dont know if you know it, if I ever told him this shit but just like. I would look forward to that shit, bro, I would like wait, he were, he'd put in that work too. He was always in his lab. You know what I'm saying? I was always down in my lab, so I would wait to hear when he was down there and wait until I would hear where there was like, maybe not a lot of people to like go knock on his door and be like, Yo, I got this rolled up. On the chance that maybe I'll hear some beats. You feel me or like, *coughs* hear some new shit no one's heard, you know what I mean? And he was always welcoming dog. I learned a lot from him.
LARRY: The music Otis and Vitamin were cooking up in the basement was too good to stay subterranean. It wasn’t long before the OK Hotel studio became the destination for up-and-coming rappers and producers about town.
OCNOTES: Yeah, we were down there like shit, two, three, four years before any of them Cats came down there, bro. Doing wild shit dog, like we really were the gods of that shit for a minute, bro it was very beautiful. And then Vitamin came in and the whole game changed, like when Vitamin came in, then that's when everybody started coming in because he's like, he's the God of Hip Hop in Seattle. So like. Off top, everybody's gonna, you want to be down there. And once Cats got uh, ring a how cheap the rent was. It was a wrap.
LARRY: As Otis and Vitamin tinkered away like mad scientists in their studios, more and more local artists came flocking to the space, like Gabriel Teodros, Blue Scholars, and The Physics.
[ MUSIC CUE: The Physics - “So Funky” ]
OCNOTES: Physics came in. It was hella funny, too, 'cause, you know, our lab was janky as fuck bro. We had the real ill Hip Hop shit bro. It was super duper janky, dog. Like we were working with what we had. Man, these guys moved in. They had some real nice shit. It was dope, bro. Like, it was just free education, bro.
LARRY: Fellow stellie and Knife Knights band mate Erik Blood remembers coming though Otis’ space.
ERIK: He had a spot there that I went to a few times and we would fuck around, like, just... try and lay down some some ideas for music, which we did. Like, some of it, some of it never saw the light of day, like, we ended up never using any of it. Um. But it was cool. I remember being in the studio with him and being just, like, struck by how free he was. It's the only word to describe it. He was just free. He wasn't hindered by anything when he wanted to express an idea. And he would just, you know, he would see me kind of like hemming and hawing about shit or, you know, trying to figure things out or, you know, plan shit. At one point, he turned to me and said, "They're just ideas, Blood, like, we're just getting ideas out." And that kind of stuck with me. That was like that, too. I took that as a bit of advice and I find myself saying it to myself every time I'm writing, just, "these are just ideas and I'm just getting them out."
LARRY: Otis stayed at the OK Hotel for years but after having his first kid, continuing to live in the space was becoming less of an option. But his time at the historic space did give him his first introduction to the Black Constellation when he linked up with THEESatisfaction to record a song together called “Icing.”
[ MUSIC CUE: THEESatisfaction - “Icing” ]
OCNOTES: Yeah, actually, we made um, we made Icing at the OK hotel. That's when I met THEESatisfaction. First time I heard them man, I thought that was the illest shit I'd ever heard. I was bugging and I seen them live, I was like, Wowsers, like their live shit, when I first, I was like, This is crazy. Huge fan. You know, playing for mad people. And then we made “Icing.” You know what I'm saying? And that shit was fire. And um you know, we did, we did a lot. So we had a little BPA or whatever, but. It was through them that I met Ish and everybody honestly like, I mean, honestly, like bro, I used to be out here... Trying to be everywhere, man. And shout out to my man (Biz). Shout to (?). I mean, even shout out to Gabe, bro. Gabe was the first person to ever show me love in Seattle, dog. On some rap shit.
[ MUSIC CUE: Indian Agent - “Can You Hang” from Meditations in the Key of Red ]
LARRY: As we’ve alluded to throughout this series, the connections formed within the Black Constellation were being made long before any notions of collective identity were established. For instance, the friendship between Otis and Nicholas Galanin can be traced back to Nick’s days curating and running HomeSkillet Fest in Sitka, Alaska.
NICHOLAS GALANIN: Yeah. Early days, Home Skillet. You know, I actually think it was... I've I came across Otis's music. And, you know, was... some classics, you know, and I was just like, What is this? I loved everything that I was hearing, I was like, Damn. Got Otis up to the Fest. We just started collaborating here and there.
OCNOTES: Yeah, he extended the invite that first time to everybody like he always did, Iike, come up any time, come up any time to Alaska, and I took that took full advantage of that shit, for real. Definitely was like, Man, can I come up? Can I come up?
LARRY: From that very first invitation to Sitka, Otis and Nick forged a close friendship and musical bond, with Otis taking regular trips to Alaska to work on music.
[ MUSIC CUE: Ya Tseen - “Get Yourself Together” from Indian Yard ]
LARRY: To this day, Otis and Nick are still close friends. Although the two of them have worked together in groups like Indian Agent and Ya Tseen, they have a relationship that exists completely outside of music.
NICHOLAS: Man, I love Otis. I'm grateful to call him a collaborator, friend, brother.
NICHOLAS: He's not just a musician. He's a performer. He's a connector, through his work and ideas. You know, I would say he comes from another world, but he's also Muskogee. And so we know he comes from here.
OCNOTES: Yeah, Nicky G, man, that's my bro, man, I love him so much, he's such a fucking. Crazy, dude, bro, like it's hard to even describe. I'm really lucky, man, like, you know, I don't really talk to a lot of cats bro. I'll be real with you bruh, at all. But I talk to Ish regularly. I talk to Nicky regularly. You know what I'm saying? And that's beautiful. Like that. That's just a natural thing.
OCNOTES: And so I feel lucky that like. I have a close relationship with somebody, and he puts up with my shit, bro, like, I'm an emotional dude, bro. I'll be flashing. I'll be having opinions. And not a lot of people can deal with it, bro. But Nicky G somehow can. And always has like mad wisdom to lace me with and it's helpful. And the things we could do together, like musically, our understanding is dope to where like, anything we do together is going to be fire. Fire.
LARRY: Even after his profile grew in the Seattle music scene, even after working with THEESatisfaction, Otis couldn’t shake the feeling that he was underappreciated in the community. That is, until he met Ishmael Butler.
ISHMAEL: OC knows me, and that's my brother, bro. Like always making music, always making beats, always practicing, always looking at some YouTube video of some musical style or something, and then mastering a guitar, piano, drums, like so many musical ideas that just keep coming.
OCNOTES: He, what did he ask me to do? It might have been the “eating cake” vocals or something. Um there's a bunch of us on there just going "eating cake, eating cake". [laughs] I was hella nervous, bro. I think that might have been the first time I might have done something for him, but um I know that he had me DJing for him a bunch that was real cool like they would have, they were starting to have me, like, open up their shows, DJing and stuff, and I got to open up for them a handful of times. And that was fire, every time.
[ MUSIC CUE: Shabazz Palaces - “CAKE” from Lese Majesty ]
OCNOTES: Still, during that time, a lot of cats didn't really show me love. Even when I was rolling with Stas and Cat. But Ish, bro, the first time I met this cat, he showed me authentic, mad respect and love, bro. And it literally fucked my whole head up for a very, very, very long time because I literally used to roll around in junior high school with those same homies smoking weed, listening to Digable Planets and shit.
OCNOTES: And here is the dude from Digable Planets treating me like, an equal. And all these fucking nobodies have shit on me over and over and over again, and they're on his nuts, you feel me? And the first time I met this dude, he treated me like this. Bong, dog. Changed me as a whole person, dog. I've been a shitty person throughout my life, a lot of times. It's been a lot of struggle, dog. But I will say uh, man Ish has been one of the best teachers ever, dog. He's one of the realest cats I've ever met.
ISHMAEL: Just a funny cat man, and very in tune and sensitive to the things that's going on socially, economically, musically, in the social economics of music, and like so passionate that he's, he's just can't stand by idly while he sees what he considers injustices playing out, you know? So being around him is, is cool, man. It's intense, it's funny, it's emotional, you know. And that's the best, the brother, man, you know. OCnotes, I call him the "drip god." "Drip God oc (pronounced "ock")" because when we was in, I think, Sweden one time, they didn't know his name was O.C. They thought it was just "oc" so they would call him "OC Notes, OC Notes" so I call him a "drip god oc." Heavy cat, man.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Be My Baby (And Love Goes)” from Secret Society ]
LARRY: Erik Blood recalls meeting Otis for the first time while working with THEESat, engaging in the time-honored tradition of trading their music with each other.
ERIK: So, I met Otis through Stas and Cat when we were recording Awe Naturale, and he came to the studio to record drums on "Bitch on the Side." Session was cool. It was cool hanging out with Otis. Like, we didn't really talk a ton at that time, but we talked enough and I remember-- I can't remember how this went down if, if we just like swapped Bandcamp addresses or something. But I had Touch Screens out at the time, so I gave him Touch Screens, and he was just putting out Secret Society. I went home and listened to Secret Society like a thousand times. I remember, like, going over to friends' houses and putting it on every time I had the opportunity to, like, take over the sound system. That record just... I thought it was so perfect, like this perfect encapsulation of sounds and ideas and then have this awesome album cover of these two little kids -- one of them, I'm assuming, is Otis? [laughs] -- and loved it. Like, I loved everything about it.
OCNOTES: Blood's on everything, man, Blood touches everything just about like now, as far as my projects, I've gone, I've gone. I've done so much that he hasn't touched as much now. But way back then I was just like, yo I felt obligated almost to try and like any project I really wanted, like Alien Booty Bass, Color Wheel, I'd be like, "Yo Blood, can you? Can you fuck with this? Fuck with that." Certain songs and he would um. He would touch them up for me, they always sound a good gagillion times better than what I could do myself. You know what I mean? But it got to a point where my rate of making music was just too much to be able to to try and like. Trying to holler at somebody all the time.
LARRY: Blood’s respect for Otis’ talent runs deep, to the point where he surprised Otis at a show by playing one of his own songs onstage.
OCNOTES: One of the greatest moments of my entire life ever of all time was Blood surprised me at a, he had a show at Neumos and he told his whole band up there, you know, he had a whole band and they played um, my song “Nowhere” from Secret Society and I didn't know he was going to do that. And it was. Just crazy. It was like one of the coolest things ever man, I was crying like a baby. [laughs]
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Nowhere” from Secret Society ]
LARRY: The musical bond between Otis, Blood, and Ishmael extended to the full-length from Knife Knights, originally conceived as the production duo of Ish and Blood, which eventually turned into a full band including the talents of Otis and singer Marquetta Miller.
OCNOTES: For years dog, we've always been talking about, particularly me, Ish, and Blood about wanting to play it for it, like have a band man. Because everybody plays instruments. You know what I'm saying? Wanna really rock out, you feel me?
[ MUSIC CUE: Knife Knights - “My Dreams Don’t Sleep” from 1 Time Mirage ]
OCNOTES: And then it just happened, man. *laughs* Like, it's just, send some tracks. I don't even remember what tracks they were just like, yeah just like, Ooh, you know what saying? We just did our thing. Like added, we all added our sauce. And the next thing, we had a record. And it was fire, man. And we did that tour, and it was. So much fun. Oh my God. So much fun, we got to do another one. That is another tour I would do in a heartbeat. Like. That was so fun, yo. Just Ish on guitar and keys and machines. You know what I'm saying? I got to rock the fuck out hella every single night. You know, Marquetta just with the gold and vocals up there just looking like the lady from Dr. Buzzard Original Savannah Band, just like, having the audience mesmerized. Whoo.Everybody was super excited because yo cats know Ish, and so they think, oh, her comes it's Ish, it just gonna be, Digable Planets and Shabazz, so they don't know what they're going to see, but they think some sort of hip hop shit you feel me? And then we hit 'em with the Knife Knights and they're just like, "Whoa". And then we hit 'em with light up ahead. And they're just like, "Oh. What?" *laughs*
LARRY: Knife Knights is a project very dear to my heart. That tour I'd gone on the road with Shabazz a bunch, been on the road with THEESat going the road with knife nights was a totally different animal. To a degree, just because dynamically it's a totally different project. It's like it's a rock band is a badass rock band. And even even the session they did a KEXP. That. That was like a starting point. That record was the starting point. They extrapolated the shit out of that on the road and turned it into something else and became a real unit. And the. That. The. The fire that was in that engine is Otis and when they would do drag race legend. That got taken over the top by what OC would do on guitar and his adlibs. He would be like brrra. Then they would be like up on it, and it would be this metallic echoing thing and be screaming, Oh my God, he just took it to a whole other fucking zone. And I was just like riveted. Like my rock soul was totally like, gripped. And you see, Ish tap into a different thing because of this energy. Marquita And Blood. Oh, my God. And I've been begging them, like, there needs to be another Knife Knight's record, but there needs to be a live knife knights record because that shit is something the world needs to know about.
[ MUSIC CUE: Knife Knights - “Drag Race Legend” ]
OCNOTES: It's like the chance to, be a little like junior high school, high school me back in the rock and roll bands bro. Getting to just scream as loud as I can and jump around and play distorted guitars like, I love that so much, dog. So fun.
LARRY: Otis was given the chance to fulfill another childhood rock star fantasy in 2019, when Sub Pop Records tapped him for the revival of their beloved Sub Pop Singles Club. Otis contributed a distorted, anthemic single titled “Better Days.” Sub Pop Head of A&R Tony Kiewel explained why Otis was the perfect fit for reintroducing the label’s single subscription service.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Better Days” ]
TONY KIEWEL: There as the inaugural track for the rebirth of the singles club. We were really excited about we. I mean, I don't know if we ever really talked to OC about that, but you know, internally at Sub Pop, for us, it was really important that that it was a Seattle artist that we were all excited about and that that's where we would begin again with the singles club. Obviously, we're maybe not, obviously, but originally started with Nirvana and not to put any pressure on OC or anything, but it was meant to be. You know, that's where our heads were at. When we when we when we decided to ask him to do that, that single,
LARRY: I dare say that song better days. Like I think he was kind of. Correctly interpreting all the gravitas of that of putting out a single vineyard singles club and what that means because to me, that was kind of a song knowing him and his tastes like he's he's he's bouncing off of that legacy and reflecting it, and the energy was very much in there. And that's that's still one of my very favorite OC songs.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Better Days” ]
LARRY: Otis’ music is not confined to any one genre, in case you didn’t get the hint, but there’s no denying his love for house music.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Lately Times” from Dap Confuser ]
LARRY: Like punk music, house sunk its claws into Otis in his youth. A friend turned him onto artists like Moodyman, Daft Punk, Paul Johnson, and Basement Jaxx.
OCNOTES: And then I got deeper and deeper and deeper into it, and then I found my own lane of what I liked, you know what I'm saying? And then when I discovered that it's black music, I was like, Oh my god. Then I tried to find every black artists I could and realized I couldn't, because there's too many, you know what I'm saying? And it's still like, that it's beautiful.
[ MUSIC CUE: Moodyman - “I Can’t Kick This Feeling When It Hits” from Silentintroduction ]
LARRY: Rap and house are both pillars of modern Black music, but for a long time house has been victim to the engine of erasure and co opted by white producers and contorted into Coachella-ready EDM. But the genre’s Black roots are important. Otis is in a lineage of artists like Moodyman, Frankie Knuckles, Honey Dijon, Todd Terry, and countless other innovators.
OCNOTES: And then I finally decided one day to try it myself, because at that time it was a really guarded type, I would say genre man. There's a lot of white folks trying to tell cats how things were and how they're supposed to sound, and I believed that. And then when I stopped believing that, I made Dap Confuser with my brother, Ricky, man, and actually, it is a classic. *laughs*
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “After Sex (lights out)” feat Rik Rude from Dap Confuser ]
LARRY: Otis references Rik Rude, his partner in crime in the group Metal Chocolates and who raps on half of Dap Confuser. Dap Confuser isn’t Otis’ only foray into house music, but it’s some of his best. With Rik by his side, he brings some punk attitude to break down walls, bringing house and rap together.
OCNOTES: And it's funny because now a lot of rappers are starting to dabble in this house music, and there was a time when I was trying to get rappers to get with house music and Ricky was the only one that did it. The only one and no one, man, cats used to say this and that. And so now I laugh, but I'm happy because I'm like, Yo, maybe this means that we're going to see these cats on the dance floor, which is a win for everybody. Right? Ya know what I'm saying? Because man rappers are fresh dog, I want to see cats dancing at like one hundred and twenty five beats per minute dog, get something like Roy Davis junior and shit, dog, you I say some Kerri Chandler dog just like "oh, oh, oh, oh". Just dancing in some like timberlands, and like a bunch of chains, you know what I'm saying? Just like, Yeah dog, let's get that. Join up. We've been having a good time over here, man. In the church of house man.
LARRY: House music isn’t just something Otis dabbles in. It’s a full on love affair.
OCNOTES: I've always, like, always been in love with it, man. And always like, you know, just try to do like my version of, but while still respecting the like, while still respecting the math and science of like, the way things sound um, or are constructed in a certain way, if that makes sense.
OCNOTES: Like uh, and that's what Dap Confuser was, at least I could say, because I've also done wild shit that deconstructs the whole math and science to me, but like. As far as that confusion was, that was my first real dive into it, man, and to this day, bro like songs like Listeners Block are just classics to me, man like Ricky just killed that record, man. All the sensuality, bro. Like I can't even, I can't even listen to that song to this day without getting all like teary eyed and emotional, bro.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Sensuality” from Dap Confuser]
OCNOTES: It's just like Ricky like, what cats don't understand, bro, like Dap Confuser, Metal Chocolate's like, there's certain records, dawg, they're hard to even listen to because we was really about this shit dog. Everything we did was, went into these records man.
LARRY: Otis’s catalog is massive and freewheeling. The difference between records like Dap Confuser and 808 Punk is vast. But if you had to pick one record as an entry point to scratch the surface of his many styles, you’ve gotta talk about 2015’s Color Wheel, released on Nicholas Galanin’s Homeskillet Records.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Will You Lay Your Life Down for Me” from Color Wheel ]
OCNOTES: It's all, everything is everything you say, everything is colors bro. Like everything is the color wheel is just the spectrum of everything. There's every color on this wheel. Every color represents something just it could represent whatever dog people, feelings, whatever. But it's all right there in this wheel of colors. You know what I'm saying? All the flavors, you know what I'm saying? Every genre is represented all, there is no one thing. You know what I mean? And that's what I wanted to do with the sound. That's why there is everything on that record, there's hip hop.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “The Fall” from Color Wheel ]
there's gospel, there's house,
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Wish” from Color Wheel ]
There's everything. There's weird shit you can't even, you know what I mean? And um. Fire record bro, it's a classic. Sleeper classic sold out quickly. I don't even have any copies, isn't that crazy?
LARRY: One of the standout tracks on Color Wheel is “Unfinished Business.” On streaming platforms, the song lists a feature from “the Black Constellation.” It’s about as close to a BC posse track as you’ll find, featuring Ish, Stas THEE Boss, Tendai on percussion, and Erik Blood behind the boards.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes featuring Black Constellation- “Unfinished Business” from Color Wheel ]
OCNOTES: Uh, that shit is fire yeah, man. Got Tendai in the back, bro, killing it on the motherfucking um (?) . Stas or uh yeah, Stas on there, Ish murks it. Oh, "baby girl, she's trapped in her feelings, and she hates thrift shop and hates the". Ooo, that. Ooo yes, I haven't listened in a while. That is a slap. Stas's just butter on that track, oh my God.
OCNOTES: It's a feeling, bro. And then just the outro, it's like a whole, with the rain and just like that. Oh yeah, we pulled it off on that one. That was beautiful.
LARRY: In May of 2018, KEXP hired OCnotes to helm their new show, Sunday Soul.
ERIK: His run on Sunday Soul, which was. That was one of the coolest radio shows I ever heard. Like, these really put together and,and polished events really, like they felt like events, and the music selections were unparalleled, but just the way that it flowed and the way that he was a character of, you know, amongst this. It's just amazing. Like, that's the kind of shit that people. Didn't. I don't think people really knew that that could happen.
(OTIS)SUNDAY SOUL MIC BREAK: Sunday Soul, KEXP, we got a lot of amazing music, i dug deep this week for you cats, you know what it is
(OTIS)SUNDAY SOUL MIC BREAK: Here we go
LARRY: when I moved and left Seattle and was in Arizona. And I heard, one I heard that Gabriel got hired, I was like, wow, this is amazing. And then they they hired Otis. And it made me so freaking happy because he's such an amazing DJ. And let me go further. Otis is possibly. Possibly the most amazing DJ I've ever seen. Like barring no one. He's incredible. And I've seen him do incredible stuff with crowds that are packed and rapturous and with crowds that aren't even there in a room. He's not tripping on it, you know what I mean? And what he did creating Sunday Soul and the way he contextualized so much music in a soulful dimension and pointed back to the root and always spoke the truth.
SUNDAY SOUL SAMPLE
LARRY (continued): It was absolutely some of the illest radio I've ever heard, and when I would listen to it every Sunday and hit him up constantly, it was absolutely a lifesaver. A lifeline. Back to Seattle, back to my folks. Back to this station that. He crazily inspired me and I was just like, Man, I got to do something. Maybe I need to start this podcast. Every Sunday I would finish cooking and listening to his stuff and just be like, Man, I got to get busy. Some, some, some. This is crazy. So. I have him to thank for a lot of inspiration over the years. A lot of other stuff too, but a lot of inspiration.
MARTIN: Sunday Soul was absolutely a new level, an uncharted territory as far as quality genre radio.
LARRY: Absolutely. And he upended ideas around genre because that's like one that's part of his mission statement. Always has been. That was like explicitly part of this record. He did one of my favorite of his when I was working with him, Alien Booty Bass. He was inventing a new genre, but it was also a deconstruction of all genre and a refutation of genre. And what he would do on Sunday Soul also often. You play soul music of whatever era, but he would play rock and funk and just like whatever you can imagine. But he contextualized it in a way that made you understand This is soul music. And soul is not a genre. Soul is a feeling. Soul is a mode of expression. It's an attack. And that's powerful work.
DUSTY: when I think of Otis as a DJ. Like he is the DJ, I want to hear, like, during the apocalypse.
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Everybody Went Viral” from Every Man For Himself No One..]
DUSTY: Like, I imagine, like Mad Max, like water is now a commodity that we don't have anymore. And like, somewhere on this, like, pirate radio station, like playing the craziest, like, house music. Is Otis just giving like a his point of view on everything and talking about like, I don't know, whatever. And you're just right around in like a Humvee and like, you just hear this like, I don't know, it's just this there's this this feeling that he evokes. Like he's like you said, he's always he speaks his mind on the air. He's whatever theories he's got going on and just is able to pull out like the craziest track you've, like, never heard.
DUSTY: It's just it's inspiring. Like, he has this, like, creative fountain that we were talking about, but and and and that it's infectious. It makes you want to go create and, like, push boundaries.
LARRY: Yeah. Go deeper. He's very much. And you talk about like that, like radio at the end of the apocalypse, he's very much like, What's your boy, Christian Slater? Pump up the volume. You know, I mean. Like rebel radio. He's he's Radio Nat Turner. You know what I mean?
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “Radio Nat Turner” from Radio Nat Turner ]
LARRY: I talked to KEXP’s beloved DJ Riz, who if I’m not mistaken has been on the air longer than anyone else here, all about OC..
LARRY: What did you think when O.C. got hired at KEXP?
RIZ: I thought perfect. It was, like, better than a dream come true. You know, I've always had a fondness for, well, O.C. and his skills are just unparalleled. He's a giant, you know, an absolute giant. And so I thought, perfect. You know, this is the roster. Get him in the roster. Because he'd been in the building a few times, you know? And I thought, Yeah, dude. But I never thought he'd be on the air. So that was... It was... more than a dream come true.
RIZ: Can I also tell you one of my favorite moments with him on the radio was his Ennio Ennio Morricone tribute show.
LARRY: Mm hmm.
[ MUSIC CUE: Ennio Morricone - “Gringo Like Me” ]
RIZ: I mean, he pulled it off, you know, did the thing and pulled it off. And, you know, I think he's one of those people that exudes surprises. But if he thinks you're surprised, he'd be like, so what was you thinkin'? You know, I told you I do the damn thing. How are you surprised? I said I'd do the damn thing?
LARRY: So what did you think of him on the air in general?
RIZ: Oh, I was frankly, I was kind of frightened of him on the air because, you know, we have these boundaries. And I could also tell that boundaries would be a challenge, you know, for him because he's best unboundless. You know, that's when he shines. And he shines within a boundary. But, you know, boundaries kind of bring... You know, they they kind of tarnish the luster.
LARRY: OCnotes left KEXP in September of 2020. The world-renowned Seattle DJ Supreme La Rock, ultimate crate-digger, now runs Sunday soul every Sunday and it’s a beautiful affair you have to listen to. And OCnotes is as prolific as ever. If you subscribe to his Patreon, you’ll see he’s doing his own thing as always. Releasing exclusive mixes, new music, radio shows, all that stuff..
[ MUSIC CUE: OCnotes - “OCnotes remix of the lonesome death of henry paris” from The Lonesome Death of Henry Paris ]
OCNOTES: I mean, now it's just mad fun, man, I just really, just love knowing that anything I think I could just boop, Go do it. And I don't have any genre boundaries, so it's like this. Everything is just whatever. And then, you know, other people will say, I have it sounds like me or or not, but. Like I said, people actually really don't know. You just got to put it out in another name, and they just will never know. But um. Yeah, I don't know uh. I just kind of am just doing whatever I want, man, you know what I'm saying?
LARRY: Next time on Fresh Off The Spaceship, we look at the work of Erik Blood…
[ MUSIC CUE: Erik Blood - “The Attic System” from Lost in Slow Motion ]
ERIK: defining your process is basically just just enforcing parameters or enforcing boundaries. I think it's the true creative process, if any, is learn everything you can and use it at your disposal, like just do do any and everything until you like what you have.