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Glasgow psychedelic rock veterans Dead Otter prepare for winter trip to/at Tooth and Claw, Inverness for night of Otter carnage

By Kyle Walker

Glasgow psych-rock veterans Dead Otter are making the journey north this weekend for a tripped out headliner in Inverness. Ahead of the show, Kyle Walker caught up with the band's John Riddell (guitar/vox) and Omar Aborida (guitar) to talk all things astral...

Q Hi folks, thanks for answering these! How do these questions find you? How was your Christmas and New Year?

A Omar: It's insane here at Otter HQ, seriously the most festive place on earth – one minute it's Xmas, next it's the new year and then before you know it you're in a pick up truck heading north to the Highlands in the middle of January.

Q So you’ve got a gig lined up at the Tooth and Claw next Saturday – how are you feeling about it? Have any of you ever been up to Inverness before?

A Omar: I have been once before, I went to the cinema in an industrial estate and saw that film with Arnie and Stallone escaping Vinnie Jones' mega jail using watch synchronisation. The rest of the time I was in the pub.

It's good to be back for a gig this time at the Tooth and Claw, it should be an interesting trip, hopefully the first of many. Steve has been pushing to get us up for a Skullz Fulla Fuzz night for a while so we should thank him for making it happen.

John: I waited for the bus up to Ullapool early in the morning after getting the train up in 1993 so really looking forward to seeing a wee bit more of the city this time

Q So tell me about yourself and your music – who/what was it that first got you all together? What is the origin of Dead Otter?

A John: Gavin (bass) and myself have been playing together since we were teenagers and after our band Six Man Afro broke up we started jamming together with our friend John Wylie.

This would have been about 1994, we all worked full time so it was always a weekend thing till about 2005 when we decided to do some gigs and it’s been slowly building since then.

Omar: Scott and I joined a few years back when the band was in a bit of flux. It was a no-brainer to get involved as I had been a fan of the band since mid 2000s having shared a few bills with them whilst I was in other bands.

Dead Otter play the Tooth and Claw, Inverness on Saturday night. Picture: Demelza Kingston
Dead Otter play the Tooth and Claw, Inverness on Saturday night. Picture: Demelza Kingston

Q What do you aim to bring across when you're creating or performing a song? What would you say is your, I suppose, "sound"?

A Omar: I guess the otter sound is kinda similar to the Millenium Falcon since it seems big, heavy and slow at first, however turns out to be one hell of a ride when the hyperdrive is engaged..

John: Totally agree, the only thing I would add is we work more on how it sounds than on the presentation so this is something we will be looking to bring to the show in the future.

Q Over the time you’ve spent together as a band, have there been any standout moments or achievements that you're particularly happy with or proud of? What have been your big music highlights?

A Omar: One of the top highlights was watching Black Sabbath on their final tour, we all made our way round to Tony Iommi's side of the stage and we’re shouting 'Tony, Tony, Tony!' between songs, he noticed and saluted us with the horns!

Another thing was touring the UK with Hibushibire, they're this crazy, out-of-this-world Japanese shredding machine.. it was great watching them go off on one every night and I'm sure we all learned a thing or two ha ha.

Q One of those standout moments is surely the release of your album, 2018’s Bridge of Weird (congratulations!). How did the album come together for you all, how did you all piece it together? And now that it’s been out for nearly 18 months, how do you feel when you listen back to it?

A Omar: Bridge of Weird is a collection of songs we had been doing since I joined the band and over time it developed into something we were all locked into. We booked some time at 16 Ohm studio in Glasgow and hit the record button with Tommy Duffin at the helm.

Tommy did a fantastic job and we managed to get it released via Riot Season records.

The next stage was getting the artwork sorted, we found Luke Oram whilst researching science-fiction orientated artwork and album covers and he came up with the amazing cover design.

Listening now it's kind of surreal as all the songs were recorded live with minimal overdubs – it's amazing that we were all so zoned in and I think that comes across on the recording.

Q What is the psychedelic and exploratory rock scene like in Scotland? As a genre, it visits Inverness only rarely – what would you say are the shining lights of the scene, and who should people be looking out for (other than yourselves, of course!)?

A Omar: There seems to be a really healthy scene developing for this type of music, at least in Glasgow where there are a few venues which support this type of stuff, such as Nice n Sleazy, Mono, Bloc, Stereo, etcetera.

The bands around at the moment on the heavier side of things are Headless Kross, Acid Cannibals, Pyre of the Earth then you have Sloth Metropolis, Outblinker and Helicon who are a bit more on the mellow psychedelic side. I should probably also mention my other band The Cosmic Dead, once described by Kozmik Ken as "The loudest psychedelic rock band in the world"!

I think you'll definitely see more bands coming to Inverness via Steve (of Skullz Fulla Fuzz) so follow his Facebook page if that's your kind of thing.

Q What has been the best bit of advice that somebody has given you with regards to music? And what bit of advice did you learn yourself that you feel musicians need to know?

A John: The only advice I remember from the early days was to get out there and let people hear you, we were pretty much on our own doing this kind of music in Glasgow in the 2000s and it was great to get positive feedback.

Omar: Spinal Tap – "Have a good time all the time!"

I suppose one thing that I would say is that music is not a competition, help your compadres and support the scene.

Q What is your music dream? Where would you like to go and what would you like to achieve with your tunes more than anything else?

A John: Just to keep playing and maybe become self-sufficient financially. Equipment and travel can be expensive, we fund most of it ourselves.

Q 2020's just kicked off – what have you got planned this year? Any wee schemes or projects in the pipeline?

A Omar: We have a couple of festivals lined up, first one is in Glasgow – the Red Crust Winter Warmer – which features plenty of bands from across the UK.

Then in the summer we are off to Kozfest in Devon which is perhaps the best place in the UK for blissed-out psychedelic and space music.

We may even release some new music this year – let's see!

Dead Otter play The Tooth and Claw, Inverness on Saturday night (with support from Seas, Starry and Square Eyes). Doors open at 7.30pm, and entry is £7 on the door. Go to dead-otter.bandcamp.com

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