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Willie Oteri: Seek and Ye Shall Find

By Published: December 8, 2004

AAJ: But if I am not mistaken, you had become a famous musician by the age of twenty... Was it all about musical ability or luck?

WO: Yeah, I was about twenty five. I was getting work doing themes for television shows and things like that. But it was luck, meeting the right people at the right time.

AAJ: Tell me about those years when you were out of the music business, it must have been hard...

WO: It was a hard time. Contracts just stopped, I was very poor, and I thought I wasn't going to even do music again.

AAJ: Really that poor? But you were playing with people like Neil Young...

WO: Right. It was basically just the expenses for my wife's medical condition, because in America we don't have free medical care. Just very expensive to take care of her. And I didn't think I was going to get back into it until I later got re-married. And then she led me back into it.

AAJ: Did you play at all during that time, and when did you decide to compose your own music?

WO: No, I didn't play at all during that time, I didn't even own an instrument. The drive to compose my own music was that if I am going to start again, I am going to do it exactly the way I want to do it.

AAJ: What is your opinion of your debut album after all these years? It was a success not only with your fans but also with the critics...

WO: Spiral Out ? I am very very happy with it. It is about ninety percent the way I wanted it to be, and I was very lucky to play with those musicians. And yes the critics really loved it.

AAJ: The next important point in your career was meeting with Tony Levin...

WO: Yes, Tony Levin, or meeting the producer really, Ronan Chris Murphy, who I met through an internet group, I was saying at the time that I was looking for a producer and he was one of three who seemed interested. And I found out that he had worked with King Crimson a lot and I thought that this would be perfect. When we were in Los Angeles working on the pre-production, just the themes for the songs, I said 'Tony Levin would be perfect for this sound', and then he said 'Oh, I can get Tony Levin'. It was very fortunate and very lucky, but Tony had had a couple of weeks time and sounded interested in the project, so we sent him a demo, and then he said 'Yeah I want to work on this'. And then we got Pat Mostolotto, the drummer, because he was living in Austin Texas as I was and it was very convenient. And he had worked on King Crimson albums with Tony, so it was great.

AAJ: As an 'open-minded' musician you must click quite well with Tony...

WO: Yes, Tony is a very open-minded musician and we all clicked very well. The whole CD was made by just jamming for two days, and then we took out what were the best sections.

AAJ: So there was no conception before the recording then...

WO: Only themes. Just the basic themes, starting off in the head with the themes, and then going from there. The longest song on the record is 23 plus minutes - the first jam we ever did. We just plugged in and started playing and it just became this big thing. And we knew from there that we worked well together and that made it really easy.

AAJ: You have a very special sound, like some 'old' band...

WO: Yes, the producer and I wanted to do something like it was from the seventies Miles Davis period, but through more modern means of recording, like being able to add computers and things to edit it.

AAJ: Do you like computers?

WO: I like computers to edit music, I don't like the sound if you go straight to the computer. I still prefer tape for the sound because it's much fatter. And what we did was we had a twenty four track machine and recorded everything on tape first, and then through the playback head it went to a Mac with ProTools. It made it easier for us to edit, but the sound was real fat. It was good.

AAJ: Tell me something about your equipment, do you have some 'little machines' or are you conservative?

WO: Me, no, I have a little four-track machine and that's all. I'm conservative, I like to go the studio and let the professionals deal with all the technical end of things.

AAJ: What was the reason for putting out the album under a Japanese label?

WO: We were looking at different labels. First there was Magna Carta which was this big, progressive label, and they made us a pretty good offer, but we wanted to keep rights for film and things like that. They didn't want to give us any rights at all and my lawyer didn't like the contract so we were still looking. The producer, Ronan Chris Murphy, had worked with a Japanese bassist, and then played some of the CD for him. And he said that he knew this label and he would play it for them. The first label said that they were not big enough for this, and that he should go to another label, DIW, because they are a bigger label and they have people like John Zorn on their label, David Murray, these bigger names. And then they made us an offer and were willing to negotiate different things so we still can sell things for films.

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