who’s afraid of othello woolf?Posted: April 1, 2011
Othello Woolf. The strategic name change alone (nee Oliver) immediately conjures up the image of a well heeled London dandy and the reality is not too far off, not only in terms of his sartorial choices but his musical leanings as well. His debut single ‘Stand’, an enlightened neo-soul number got some outstanding remix treatment. Later offerings ‘Deep Water’ and ‘Doorstep’ are also full of promise, an indicator of a strong debut LP to come, to be released later this year. I asked him about those Brian Ferry comparisons and found out that in private, he’s giving Dr. Dolittle a run for his money.
I understand you’ve been compared to Bryan Ferry and Roxy music. My take on your music it is what i think new romantic would sound like in 2010. What style/genre do you feel most identified with or how would you describe your sound?
I get the Bryan Ferry comparison. It’s just the lazy journalist thought process, like ‘oh, English dude in a suit….Bryan Ferry’. But to my ears my music sounds nothing like Bryan Ferry or Roxy Music. Not to say I’m no fan, Avalon is a huge record and I’m always listening to it. Can’t say I really identify with any one genre. I guess Pop more than anything, but that’s so incredibly broad. I’d describe my sound right now as evolving – the earlier tracks were kind of my own style of funk and soul music but I think I’m moving away from that a bit. The songs I’m currently working on have heavier drums, more minimal guitar, maybe more synths. A tighter sound overall.
Musical influences growing up? Contemporary musical loves/references?
It was golden-era hip-hop in my teens – NWA, Warren-G, Biggie, 2pac, Snoop, Wu Tang, Bone Thugs n Harmony, Ice-T etc, that’s all I listened to really. Later I got into more guitar-based stuff like The Smiths, Talking Heads, Television, The Stones. And then always the big-hitters like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, Dylan.
Right now I’m still listening a lot to Kanye West’s latest, that’s a masterpiece. Drake’s album is cool. New Radiohead album is ok but not as good as In Rainbows. I liked Funeral and Neon Bible so got the new Arcade Fire album and that is truly one of the most boring records I’ve ever heard – don’t get the fuss.
Was music always an interest for you growing up? Did you always aspire to be a singer?
It’s always been a big part of my life. I don’t really see myself as a singer because I don’t have a particularly good voice, it’s a weakness and just part of a wider picture which involves song-writing, arrangement, production and so on. But yes, I have always aspired to create music.
Which part to do you prefer of the creative process: writing and recording or performing live?
Writing and recording I’d place together because they’re one and same thing for me. As I’m recording I’m writing the song, it all happens at once. Performing live comes way behind being in the studio for me, there’s no greater high than the feeling of making a breakthrough in a song and then wanting to listen to it over and over.
How have your live shows been received?
Well I’d say. It’s always a bit hard to tell, you never know what people really think. All I can do is try my best and that’s what I’ve tried to do with the live show, especially in everything being played live – no backing tracks.
I first heard you thanks to the Golden Silvers remix of ‘Stand’. How did that remix come about?
I was introduced to Gwil through a mutual friend and we’ve got a similar taste in music. I think I just asked if they wanted to remix Stand and they were up for it. Gwil’s working on a solo record now, which I’m really exited to hear. Alexis, who was the drummer in Golden Silvers, has recently been on drums when I play live, he’s a machine!
Does living in London aspire you creatively?
When you’re here it’s easy to take it for granted and feel like the city has no effect on your creativity. The effect it has becomes very apparent when you leave – things just feel different. Randomly I was in Winchester the other day, a real quaint English town with a village feel, and I just felt completely different. And it crossed my mind that if I was to make some recordings there they would come out very different. Probably less aggressive.
Worst job you’ve ever done? If you weren’t singing what would you rather be doing, and in fact, do you still have a day job?
Probably washing my parent’s car when I was a kid. If I wasn’t in music I would like to have gone into science perhaps, anything to do with space and the universe.
Most embarrassing moment?
Looking back, being in various teenage bands with the worst band names. Like ‘Still Movement’, which I joined on keyboards when I was 16. We did the worst U2 cover once.
Your biggest fear?
Worrying so much about the future that the present passes me by. Keep having to tell myself that now is to be cherished.
Tell me a secret.
I spend way to much time talking to my cat.
What’s in store for you/plans for the coming year?
I’m working hard on my album and right now we’re just figuring out who wants to put it out.
I may also be putting a record out with Bullion on Young Turks later this year, although I’m not yet sure whether it will be some tracks we’ve collaborated on, or a record of my own songs that he has mixed and added some of his own production touches. Watch this space…