Friday, August 28, 2009
Q & A with Othello
In a dark parking spot behind Rotture on the final day of the PDX Pop Fest 2009 I climbed into Othello's (of Lightheaded) whip to chop it up with him about the town, Hip Hop and music. A laid back dude, he had a lot to say and was a great conversationalist. After seeing him rock a set the night before at The Someday Lounge, I knew the Lightheaded reunion that was about to take place on stage (above picture is from there set) was gonna be something special. They rocked it right and had the crowd going crazy - which I can't say I saw much of the rest of that night. Allow me to introduce to you Othello.
Q: Where are the three members of Lightheaded living at the moment?
A: I'm living in Beaverton. Braille is living in Beaverton, actually right next door [Braille has since announced he will be moving to San Marcos, CA towards the end of the year]. We share the same wall. We got these town house type spots in Beaverton. We ended up moving into the same neighborhood at the same time. Ohmega is up in Seattle. Right when I moved back here from Michigan, he moved about a month before up there. Yup, Braille and I next door neighbors and Ohmega up there.
Q: Has that made progress happen on the Lo-Fi Heights project?
A: Yes and no. Not as much as it needs to be coming to an end and being wrapped up cause we've been working on it for the last three years. It's been difficult because I was in Michigan and the way Lightheaded operates it just takes all of us to be in the same place. We've made a lot of progress but it hasn't been consistent or consecutive, just here and there. It'll get done, slowly but surely.
Q: Are you guys all working on solo projects then?
A: Yeah. Ohmega is working on a project with Regan Fykes called M64. Braille just finished a record with Symbolic One of Strange Fruit Project, he put that out a few months ago – Cloud Nineteen, and he is working on a new record – Audibly Enhanced Dreams. It's really sweet, kind of eclectic record. Very theme driven. I just finished a record with DJ Vajra out of Denver, Colorado and got a few other projects I'm working on. If I were to go through the list it'd be no wonder why Lightheaded isn't getting done. I don't want to put myself on blast. [laughs]
Q: Given all of the different locations you guys have lived and toured too, what is it you have seen elsewhere that the Portland scene needs to step forward and keep on growing?
A: To be honest, I think that is a question for a lot of other places. Portland is already really healthy. Really the people that make up the scene here share a common goal and that is to see the city to succeed. I remember a few years ago when Lifesavas first got put on and they were making all this noise and all of a sudden there was a lot of attention. Then Boom Bap Project got picked up by Rhymesayers and then people started paying attention to the Northwest like there are some good artists out there Hip Hop wise. Cool Nutz has been playing over here for a long time and there are a few cats that are really starting to make a name for themselves. I think that Portland sets a good standard for a lot of scenes because there is a lot of camaraderie here and people kind of network and keep up together, where as a lot of scenes there are really really good artists but the community might be so spread out that nobody really networks the way they should. Portland really does set a good example of a city that is healthy as far as people always hate on their own place like oh such and such needs to do this, or this venue needs to do this more but really in comparison to a lot of scenes Portland is pretty healthy.
Q: What is the relationship with Tres Records? Was it beneficial and are you guys still working with them?
A: Yeah it was very beneficial. Any opportunity we seize as a whole and as individuals we see as lucrative to one degree or another whether it be getting us in front of a new audience or expanding what we already have and that is pretty much what Tres was able to offer and they believed in what we did. A bunch of great guys, Thes One is kind of the godfather of it and they were passing through Portland, him and J-Live and they heard our set – we opened up and Thes was like 'Yo we should talk.' I'm like yeah let's talk. Some boys of mine are starting this label up called Tres, they're putting out 12 inches and they are looking for artists. And the story goes, they ended up picking us up and putting out Wrong Way and we are working on Lo-Fi Heights now.
Q: The Northwest and Oregon especially aren't really centers of attention for the media, for the rest of the country, how does that influence the art that comes from the town?
A: I've been in and out for the last five to six years. For me coming back it's definitely changed and I know there is a lot more focus being put on Portland. Like last night at the gig with Tony Ozier there was like four or five people in there from Michigan, two of which I knew back in Michigan who were just visiting on a trip like 'I want to come check it out, this place is amazing – Utopia man! It's like you ride a mountain bike up the street, then come to the Hip Hop shop and then go to your local coffee stand. It has a lot to offer!' I think it's one of the country’s best kept secrets. Even though Nike is from here and Intel does there thing here, it's so up in the far Northwest it just kind of remains untapped but slowly but surely it's becoming a really hip city and people are coming from all over the world to live here and I think it's only a matter of time before it starts getting a whole lot of shine. But it's like you know when you take somebody who is attention hungry and you give them attention and they just feed off of it and sometimes they just become beasts. If I look at Portland like being a person, it doesn't seem like Portland is really attention hungry. It’s like that person who is cool, calm, collect, is confident in what it's able to do. I got my thing together, I have a lot to offer, I work hard and you know if you want to feature me, or talk about me, or take pictures of me that's cool but I'm not going to let it go to my head. I think that is kind of where Portland is, there is a lot of level headed people here.
Q: You just moved out from Michigan, given how the Detroit scene is thriving right now did you make some connections in that town while living there?
A: Yeah. Everybody from One Be Lo, we became really good friends. Black Milk, Buff1, The whole AML crew, Now On, there's a lot of people. Ran into Guilty a few times. Octane & Illite. There are a lot of talented individuals, the thing about Detroit, I don't want to say it's like crabs in a bucket – it's not that. It’s just that there are a lot of people doing it. It is a hot bed for talent and motivation, not in the sense of mountains and trees and these beautiful things to look at, but hardships and struggle and factories and blue collar working and getting by and that struggle produces what I would say is some of the best music that has ever been. It really changed the world from Stevie Wonder, to Grand Funk Railroad, Simon & Garfunkel, and Dilla, Diana Ross and you think about it and it's so much stuff. It's an interesting place, it's inspiring to me in different ways cause you see people take that struggle and make something amazing out of it.
Q: Is there mutual artistic relationships across genres in the Portland music scene or is it kind of like the Hip Hop guys are doing their thing, the rockers are doing their thing, etc?
A: You see people collaborate ever now and then. Here's the thing about it, I think the live musicians – I don't think there'll be a lot of hybrid records between, like, Vursatyl is doing a record with Viva Voce, but they'll collab on songs, or like Ohmega Watts does some stuff with Viva Voce and there's some people that are kind of like avant-garde like it's just music, it's not necessarily Hip Hop it's just some music and they will collaborate with different artists. You see that especially with some of these musicians they be playing in a rock band, then a funk band, then a Latin band and they kind of get around all over the place so it's especially true within the music community as far as musicians go, like actually playing the instruments. When it comes to Hip Hop it's here and there. There's collaborations but not like oh did you hear these guys got together with these guys and they gonna do a record – I ain't hearing much of that. But I definitely know there is a mutual respect there.
Q: What is your favorite Hip Hop record of all time?
A: Oh man that change’s all the time.
Q: At this moment in time.
A: At this moment. The other day, I have to admit, I played Common's One Day it Will All Make Sense and I was just thoroughly impressed, again! I had the tape when I was younger and I used to bust it in my walkman on the bus. Somebody had it on their iPod and I was like man I need to listen to this again. I was just like man! Common was just seriously spitting, the songs, the beats. So I would say right now this week Common's One Day It'll All Make Sense - probably one of my favorite records.