Ozric Tentacles

by Scott Heller

From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)

There have been a lot of interviews with Ozric Tentacles. For this interview I wanted to just stick with discussing the bands studio work from 1995 to the present. I hope that you learn some things that you did not know before. I sure did. No need to introduce this band to the Aural Innovations readers, here we go. The people in this interview were:

Ed= Ed Wynne, SW= Seaweed, Zia, SH- Scott Heller, MH- Magnus Hannibal

SH: Can we start with Become The Other, the first with Seaweed and Rad and the last Dovetail release.

SW: That was recorded over quite a long period of time. Little bits here and there. We kept going back out on tour and coming back to it again.

(We were interrupted when Ed heard the soundman (Haggis) using the track Coily? to test out the bass speakers at the club. Ed wanted to go hear the guitar parts and then he came back.)

Zia: Yeah it's a great song. There are not many people who could play that bass (it was all done on computers!).

MH: I want you guys to play Yog-Bar-Og.

SW: That's got loads of synth bass and sequences as well. I do like Yog-bar-Og.

Zia: We recorded that one on acid!

MH: The whole album?

Zia: No, that particular track and it sounds weird. I do like it but I don't know if it would work live.

SW: Its quite wondering it.

Zia: Yeah. Like you do on acid and we cut half of it out as well.

SW: When I first heard Arborescene, it was just before I joined.

MH: Were there any songs that didn't make it onto Arborescene?

SW: Pleurn Reggae!

Zia: Yeah, but that didn't make it onto Jurassic Shift either!

SH: I was thinking it could be a good idea if you guys did a one-off gig or a series of gigs that were totally electronic.

SW: Like Nodens Ictus?

SH: No, with the whole band.

Zia: It would be months of work to get that together.

SW: The easiest would be to do a Nodens style thing. Me, Ed, Joie and Merv! All with our rigs and midi sequenced up to one cup?

SH: That would be quite mad!

Zia: There would be moments of amazement.

SW: I think it would be great. Just do a few mad nights and record everything. Do a jam into midi for like 3 days and keep the best bits.

Zia: That's how me and Chris used to run things sometimes. Jam stuff into midi. Can you fuse tracks? If you have midi into tracks 1-4 and another set in 5-6 can you fuse them into one?

SW: Yeah. Import them as midi files into each other.

SH: It can be quite difficult to pull off these very electronic numbers in the live setting, the ones that are highly computerized or sequenced.

SW: Yeah. They are studio compositions.

Ed: Yeah. Great fun though. Great when they sound good.

SW: Well, when technology becomes more compatible, it may be possible to do things we can't now. Like Sploosh and Eternal Wheel. These are tunes we have only done in recent years.

SH: Back to Become The Other. I thought this album had some really interesting tracks.

Ed: I thought Become The Other was very interesting.

SH: Wob Glass was very bizarre.

Ed: Yeah, that one makes me happy. Very bouncy.

SH: My friend Ian, in Boston, he said he spoke with you guys last time you were there. He has a radio show in Worcester. He is really into Plurnstyle.

Ed: Yeah, it's quite nice with the acoustic guitar.

SH: There was quite a massive shift in the production sound quality from Become The Other to Curious Corn. BTO it said was recorded in late '94 and CC did not come out until 1997.

SW: CC was recorded over 9 months but then sat for at least a year when the deal with Snapper was all worked out.

SH: It seemed that after BTO, that you guys has signed to Snapper and this was going to be a great leap forward but ended up in disaster.

SW: Yeah, it was meant to be, but it turned out...

Ed: It just twisted like so many things do, without you seeing.

SW: It turns out to be quite common practice in London, that labels pay money to get a band but then that is the end of the money and they own the band. So they actually end up getting it quite cheap. The deal looks good on paper but all you actually get is the advance and then the label gets it all.

SH: Were you involved with the sound mixing on the different remasters at all?

Ed: They were not remastered. They were just straight copies. That was them saying that they had been remastered but they hadn't.

SH: Well, they definitely sound different. Particularly, Jurassic Shift, there is quite a difference in the sound, especially the cymbals are very crisp and the low end is more tight.

SW: Maybe they have been recut again.

SH: There are definitely differences as I have both of them and we played them side by side.

SW: I have not really heard a lot of the Snapper releases recently. The first few when we were involved, because we gave them some bonus tracks as well, when things were going well with Snapper.

SH: Where do those bonus tracks come from, like the 26 minute version of Ayervedism.

Ed: Oh... my... 26 minutes. Is it really?

SW: Those live tracks were contemporary with the albums.

SH: I am still curious where it comes from. If you can remember.

Ed: Maybe it was from the Junction in Cambridge but it could have been from London as well that we did on 8 track that was to be a soundtrack for a video that never got made. We have done a few gigs now so it's actually quite hard to remember where it all comes from.

SH: What about Wierditude? That was a strange one.

Ed: That one... Yeah... that was a nice one.

SH: It was a live one, seemed like a very Joie number.

Ed: Wierditude. Where was that from? I can't remember.

SH: And then the live version of Feng Shui on Jurassic Shift. That was awesome. That would be a great number to play again with the current line up.

Ed: It would be amazing.

SW: We used to do just the end of Feng Shui around '95-'96.

SH: Any idea where that was recorded?

Ed: No, afraid not.

SH: When we come to the Curious Corn CD, I remember when I first got this and Magnus and I got together and listened to it at his apartment and we were really blown away at how different it was.

SW: It was the first Prophecy album wasn't it? Ethnic modeling, clarinet... yeah. There is a lot of Prophecy on that one.

Ed: Yeah.

SW: Spyroid.

Ed: How does that go again.

SW: Hums the lines for him. Ah...

SH: I thought the packaging and artwork was extremely cool.

SW: That was the one with the perforated card. Yeah, it as nice. This was suppose to be the start of our great relationship with Snapper and they did it proper and a nice presentation and that.

Ed: Spyroid, that's a funny one to put first then.

SH: But that one is the one you recorded over 9 months.

SW: Lots of going off and playing gigs and coming back and doing a bit more. In terms of equipment, the only new thing was the Prophecy, really. I think I was still using the old JX.

SH: A lot of people got into the Prophecy, like Mandragora from Brighton. If you have heard their album Pollen, they used the Prophecy a lot.

SW: It was used on that song Firestarter.

SH: It is a great synthesizer. Magnus has one now.

SW: It is... I imagine Turnkey must have sold many thousands of them.

SH: After Curious Corn, this was the first time back to the US for a one off gig at the Filmore and this jam session in the studio up in Sacramento, California. How did that actually happen, who arranged that?

Ed: That was Snapper again. They had the connections.

SW: We went out because they had a distribution company called DNA that they wanted to smooze a bit and have them take us on. So we went out there to play their annual bash but it gave us an excuse to be there for 5 days and then we did the Filmore and the internet gig as well. Which they said at the time was the first time ever live streaming gig deliberately designed for streaming live with lightshow and... Actually, it was done in a video studio live specifically for streaming. Apparently, it was the first time it had ever been done. They were all excited and saying we're going to have record numbers streaming in. And we thought like 6000 or something and they scream out 42 people. That was the limit of the technology at the time. They were really really excited that 42 people had the right gear to pick it up. Lots of friends were trying but did not get in.

SH: So 42 people got to see it.

Zia: At any one time.

SW: That was live. Then it was available on the website for another 6 months to a year, until they went bust.

SH: I saw some of it from work where we have fast access. IT looked weird.

Ed: It felt weird, sounded weird.

SH: The CD was kind of cool with the green oily stuff and the fish that swims around.

SW: Oh yeah... I am really glad that we did it. That was from that period. I always wanted to do a live album and for various reasons it hadn't come together, but... that was at least a good momento of that time, that line up that set, you know.

Ed: There were amazing versions on there as well.

SW: Without blowing my own trumpet, I thought we were playing very well. It is genuinely live, no overdubs and it was all mixed in one take.

SH: The Citadel Jam and Spice Doubt were really cool.

Ed: Yeah... good enough.

SW: The drums and flute are in each others pocket most of the way through but... it's live.

SH: The gig at the Filmore in San Francisco was really excellent, perhaps one of the best versions ever of the Throbbe. It is like 18-20 minutes long and very intense.

Ed: It is really... wow...

SH: The version last night was out of sight as well.

Ed: Oh yeah., that was great. I look forward to hearing the CD you made us and then I can find out what happened as it felt really mad at the time.

SH: I recall that when we first got Waterfall Cities we got together at Magnus's apartment and just cranked it up and when Coily came on it totally blew us away. The production sound was so different and I wonder if you spent a lot more time on the mixing or what but the sounds were so clear and they spun around the room. Quite amazing stuff.

Ed: Yeah. That's how they should...

SH: Did you spend more time on the mix? As far as the production sound goes...

SW: That was a more studio oriented album. There are only two tracks that are like the full live band playing. It is very studio oriented. We were moving the studio and we didn't have a live room for the drums for a while. So, because of that we spent a lot more time on the layering and synthesizers. I was a little aware that we were a little bit low on the rock and roll factor on that one. It was quite synthy oriented.

SH: Waterfall Cities is a great track and it really transports me away somewhere. It shoots you out into space and brings you back again. A great song.

Ed: That was a new synth that came along that inspired that track.

SH: The Novation.

Ed: Yeah. The Novo. It was basically an experiment on that to see where that would go. One that goes all really funny and twists out at the end.

SH: A big US tour followed the release of this CD. A lot of tour dates.

SW: It was nice to get back over there. It was not coast to coast but it was as many gigs as we had ever done in one tour over there. It was really nice.

SH: So now lets jump to Floating Seeds. Who's idea was this originally? Who approached you?

SW: It was Scottie's idea.

SH: Did he send out a request to all these artists and they responded if they were interested or how did it work?

SW: He was the initial force behind it and he got together with Snapper and sort of shared a list and they brought some people in themselves, people that we didn't really know. They thought they were more appropriate and to be honest these are tracks that I don't really like much.

Ed: A couple were alright. Steve Hillage...

SW: The ones that we pulled in are still generally very good. The Eat Static, the Sphongle (The Hallucinogen) one, the System 7, are great.

SH: I liked the Hallucinogen one. But stuff like Meander and Will White were crap.

SW: Will White was very disappointing.

Ed: Yeah. I thought he was going to do something really good on that.

SW: I don't want to slag artists off but that French group, DNA, I just didn't see the point of that one.

SH: How did it work with the mixes. Did they get access to the master tapes?

Ed: I made them DAT tapes of selected little bits off the master tapes and sent them off. All except Eternal Wheel. They just used the CD and snipped a bit of the beginning.

SW: Hallucinogen, he grabbed the whole track.

SH: I actually saw him at the Roskilde Festival last year and he performed Pteranodon, the version from the CD. I have a recording of that.

Zia: I would love to hear that.

Ed: Oh man... I would have loved to hear that.

(Scott tells the story about what happened to Simon Posford at the Roskilde Festival (see Aural Innovations Roskilde Festival 2000 story for more details).

SH: Were there more tracks submitted that were not used on Floating Seeds?

Ed: No.

SH: Can we talk about Swirly Termination. I know this is a sore point but lets focus on the music. I think some of it is really excellent.

Ed: Yeah... of course it is alright, we wouldn't have put it out, but it hasn't had the care and time taking that a normal album does.

SH: Steep, I think this is a great track but it is too fucking short. You guys should rerecord it as a full length track.

Ed: Which one is that.

SH: Its the very first song. It has a cool groovy bass line and its a really cool jam.

Zia: So cool, he's knocked himself off his chair (Seaweed hits the floor amongst laughter!)

SH: Space Out seem to be a version of Spice Doubt.

SW: That would have gone on... it was our proper studio recording of that track.

SH: Was that recorded for Waterfall Cities?

SW: No, it was recorded soon after Spice Doubt.

SH: The Waldorf Dub, did it get its name based on the synthesizer of the same name or a sound from it?

Ed: I got loaned a Waldorf synth as a prototype to check it out and see what they did. It all sounded pretty good and I just left the DAT running playing loads of sounds and recording little bits and there was one bit of DAT that when you let it run was great with a reggae groove behind it. That's where that came up from. That is all the weird stuff in the background is.

SH: Well, I quite liked Swirly Termination because it had a really jammy feel to it.

Ed: Well, if you like that side of it then, sure it's good.

SW: Yeah, that's why I also like a lot of it as it has a space you don't have on a lot of the albums.

SH: Now the Hidden Step. This I found to be really middle eastern influenced. I love that mixture of space rock and eastern music. It was a big success on this CD.

Ed: Was it really more eastern than other CDs?

SW: People say this but I don't think of it as being more eastern than usual.

Zia: Aramanu, TA Khut, the end of Tight Spin, Jon's track, that's about it.

Ed: But that's half of it.

SW: The first two tracks aren't ethnic at all.

Ed: What were they.

Zia: Holohedron and Hidden Step. The Novation ones.

Ed: The main difference in recording this album was we did it on digital 32 track and got rid of the analog 24 track.

SW: Waterfall Cities was done in digital. Just the track.

Ed: No... the thing about that was it was done on the new synth.

SH: There were a couple of really electronic songs like the end of Tight Spin, which was really cool, almost a techno number.

Zia: It leans in that direction.

SW: We wandered towards the hard floor in the middle. Zia's club moment in the middle of Tight Spin. Open the door, thumping grooves.

MH: It is amazing with headphones on, Tight Spin. It enters into your head!

Ed: It's designed to be interesting on headphones. We mixed it mainly on phones... strangely enough. Some of the sounds move around a bit. A bit three dimensional.

SH: You did that a bit with the guitar on Arborescene as well.

Ed: Yeah. I got this 3D space box that spins it around. It's good like that.

SH: Have you guys ever considering trying to do quadraphonic sound live?

Ed: No. Too much hassle.

SW: No, but were are talking about doing a 5.1 album or something. We are talking to a bloke who does 5.1 on the cheap!

SH: I have seen a band called Mandra Gora Lightshow Society and they use quadraphonic live sound and it is really fantastic.

SW: Well, if we can get this bloke to do the 5.1, then we could try to talk to him about reproducing it at gigs.

MH: Would you move the sound around with a joystick?

Ed: No. you use a chaos pad and move your finger around on it and it sends the sound around the room. Great.

SH: Are there songs that never quite made the albums laying about?

Ed: Yeah... there is loads of stuff really.

SW: There are a lot of sketches of songs but not very many fully developed numbers that don't make it. Once they become fully developed then they're on.

SH: How do you go about putting together a song nowadays compared to say 1989?

Ed: Exactly the same, but new gear. Same approach. Just reach out and see what you catch. Initially, they just come from a sound or an idea. Any tiny little bit that you think if that was extended, then got a direction in your head.

SH: Do you have enough room in your new recording space that you can all get together and play live?

Zia: Just about.

SW: It is not as convenient as the Mill but it can be done.

Zia: We only have the one live room as compared to the two at the Mill. It means that Jon and Stuart would have to share a room.

SW: No. Jon has been in with us in the control room.

Zia: Yeah. I know but he does need his own bit really.

Ed: Now that I have a working headphone amp we can do this. Send out two lines and Jon could be out on the other side.

SH: When Stu came into the scene. The Mill was passed and you had to play live with him somewhere.

Ed: Oh yeah, we did some. The funny thing about him. He came for his rehearsal and he would play the tracks better than us. Quite interesting really. We had to teach him a little bit about the whole philosophy of jamming and we had to egg him onto being as free as he can and he is slowly getting it.

SH: Well, he certainly saw the light last night (Christiania gig).

Zia: He was flying last night!

Ed: He does it well, doesn't he.

SH: Now for something totally different. What about if you guys put away all the electric gear and pulled out all the strange ethnic instruments, flutes, drums, string instruments and sat down and made some sort of acoustic space journey type thing. Have synthesizers too, but everything else acoustic instruments.

Ed: Yeah.

SW: That was sort of what Ta Khut was.

Zia: No without synths.

SW: But I mean, apart of the synthout at the end Ta Khut was like that. Jon basically wrote that one. With that in mind.

Zia: Percussion is programmed.

SW: Oh yeah, right.

SH: I was just thinking that if you could do a full album of that stuff.

Ed: I don't think we would ever do that.

Zia: No... we like fussing it together, the ethnic and the electronic stuff. That's the whole point. We can do one track... it can be a journey.

Ed: Yeah... it could be a 20 minute track but then after that I would want something really electric, smashing. I need to go and start plucking... we can pick it up later...

Well, we never did finish but it was a great chat and a killer concert. CLICK HERE to read the review of the shows and see some pictures in the last issue of Aural Innovations. Thanks to Simon Baker, Haggis (soundman, tour manager), Ed, Seaweed, Zia, Jon (for showing me all his flutes and explaining where they all came from), and Stu for being a cool guy and killer drummer.

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