Back in 2010 through the Reputation Radio Show we were introduced to the striking and intriguing band Chemical Distance, their song Red Queen’s Race becoming a firm favourite. Otto Kinzel, creator of the band, emerged through the few communications we engaged in as a gentleman and enthused musician we had to take notice of. The following year though we simply lost touch with what he and the band was up to but recently he came back into our view with his remix for the latest Virus Cycle album. This was just the reminder we needed to catch up and find out more about his solo work as well as past and upcoming projects plus learn more about his own record label. So with pleasure we bombarded Otto with questions and this is what we found out.
Hi Otto, many thanks for taking time to talk with us.
No problem Pete, thank you for giving me the opportunity!
Firstly tell us a little about yourself and back ground outside of music.
I was born in Nyack, NY but lived all over the Eastern US as a kid. My parents divorced when I was really young so my sister and I would get shuttled back and forth from wherever my dad and Mom were living, respectively, so New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware…but I ultimately grew up in Vermont, so I consider myself a Vermonter.
Was your childhood lived with music always around?
Not at first. Neither of my parents was very musically inclined. But once we (my dad, sister and I) moved to Vermont, we were then living close to my uncle Bob (my dad’s brother). He plays guitar, has been in bands, toured, recorded, the whole 9 yards. I had been interested in playing guitar since I was very young, so when I turned 12 my dad bought me a Gibson Les Paul knock-off and a tiny 15 watt Peavey amp. My uncle gave me some lessons to get me started. I think the very first song I learned was Bob Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door. My uncle Bob is really the one who got me started and helped me on my way.
When did you realise your were destined to and simply had to make music?
As soon as I heard distortion coming through that tin amp for the first time. That’s when I knew I was onto something magical.
Who were your biggest influences/favourite bands and artists growing up?
As a kid my only outlet for music was my older sister’s cassette tapes. All my music was “hand me down” stuff so I had Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and some of the other big artists of the time. I think I also had the We Are The World soundtrack, hahaha, but once I got a little older I discovered Metal. It blew me away. Again once we moved to Vermont a lot of things opened up to me. Not only did my uncle get me started playing guitar, but I also got exposed to a wide new world of heavy music. My cousin Ethan, whose 4 years older than me, listened to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth…all sorts of Thrash Metal at the time. His bedroom was covered in posters from these bands. I remember vividly staring at pictures of Iron Maiden’s “Eddie” and being mesmerized by the artwork and detail. So it wasn’t long after that I went out and started buying albums from these bands. I was always looking for the next heavy ass band, so after starting with Metallica and Maiden, I got into some Death Metal, Industrial-metal (including KMFDM and Ministry, who are still two of my all-time favourite bands) and the like.
You have been a member of and played in numerous bands over the past decade. Thinking of pre-Chemical Distance was this just as a musician or were you already in the production side of music then too?
I got started in the production side of music my senior year of high school, 1997 I think. It was more out of desperation than anything. At that time high quality studios in Vermont were slim, and the ones that did exist were insanely expensive. I bought a Tascam 8-track recorder, a book on home recording techniques, and that was that. A LOT of trial and error, and a LOT of very bad recordings, ha-ha. But I learned and learned, and down the road was able to get some formal training, which helped a lot.
Were the bands in that period of your life ones you started or existing ones you joined?
Almost all of them were ones I started. I tried joining a couple here and there but it never felt right. I always felt like a guy who was just a third wheel. I want to be responsible for building something on the ground level.
We first came across you with your band Chemical Distance and the excellent The Pain & The Progress album. I am right in believing originally the project and album was intended as a solo thing for you?
Yes that is correct. I wanted to do a studio project and just have a ton of different musicians collaborate on each song. Kind of toss everyone’s influences into a blender and see how it comes out. Michael Hauply-Pierce ended up doing vocals on most of the album; although Greg Boedecker did vocals on a couple of songs and Keith Chisholm did vocals on No “Real” Friends. Bob Dwyer played guitar and added synth to a couple of songs as well and Marc Brennan added live drums and some extra guitar to a few songs.
What was the trigger for evolving things into a fully contributing band?
I ended up doing a series of shows to promote the album, when it was still in pre-release. It felt very strange having Michael (Hauptly-Pierce- vocals) and Matt (Connarton- bass) on stage with me, playing their asses’ off, all for my “solo” project. We were all on stage sweating and working hard together. Everything was really clicking as far as the chemistry between the three of us. It just evolved and no longer felt “right” calling it Otto Kinzel. The project had morphed into a proper band.
Is the band still an active thing amongst the wealth of other projects you are involved with?
We released a 7 song EP in 2011 called This Program Is Not Responding. We didn’t do nearly the amount of touring and promotion that we did for The Pain & The Progress, so it got a bit lost unfortunately. But it’s available on the Bluntface website at http://www.bluntfacerecords.com/fr_chemicaldistancethisprogramisnotresponding.cfm
And we just released a brand new Chemical Distance song called Caritas on a String, which is available as a free download on the GET TURNED ON: Music from the Underground compilation album.
In the different bands you have played guitar, sung, synths as well as created the programming, produced and more. Which aspect gives you the most satisfaction and do you think need this variety to your work to keep fresh and imaginative?
I think playing guitar and writing really heavy riffs gives me the most satisfaction as a musician. But really they all complement each other. Sometimes I’ll have some writer’s block when it comes to guitar, so I can work on programming beats. And then while listening to what I programmed Voila! A riff pops into my head, same with synths. Everything fuels the creative process and helps to keep my writing and performance moving forward.
When you write songs is there a certain intent you try to bring forth with your music or does it evolve all on its own?
It’s really all over the place, there is no formula or procedure I go thru. Sometimes I start with a riff; other times I program drums first and then put guitars to it and mess with the structure; and other times it starts with a vocal harmony.
What about on the production side, is there a certain thought or feel you try to create certainly with your own music?
I really enjoy layering the music with very deep levels of sound. I want to have a full spectrum of frequencies and lots of panning within the stereo space. I really like “headphone” albums that mess with your senses.
Tell us about your solo album of last year We Are All Doomed: The Zodiac Killer.
I wanted to a “real” solo album, where I did all the production, wrote all the songs and played all the instruments (for the most part). I had some down time and always had this idea in my head but never had the time or focus t really flesh it out.
The inspiration is obvious to everyone right away from the title but what actually made you want to turn the infamous time into a theme for an album?
I’ve always been fascinated with the Zodiac killer. The fact he’s never been caught (and the case is still unsolved) makes it even more fascinating. I was obsessed with it for a while in the early 2000’s. I did a lot of investigating on my own and a ton of research. I wanted to album to be 100% historically accurate and really represent the timeline of events and how the murders were committed.
Your music is something which challenges as much as it rewards, this is an important aspect to your creativity?
Absolutely! I think that’s something that any musician who is worth anything strives for.
You have recently linked up with Johnny Virum and Virus Cycle which came from doing a remix of one of their tracks on the album Return To Zombieland?
Yes. The remix went really well and we “jived” right away, as far as chemistry in the studio goes.
You are working with them on their new album, is this just as producer or are you part of the band too now?
I’m producing the new Virus Cycle album, Zombiechrist, and playing bass in the studio for Johnny (Virum, Virus Cycle’s frontman and driving force).
There is also a collaborative project KINZEL v VIRUM coming soon?
Yes, this is much more of a true collaboration. Musically it’s going to be more of an Industrial-Metal album, like Ministry or Psyclon Nine. Basically I’m playing guitar and doing the drum programming, and Johnny is doing the vocals and providing audio clips. I expect this album to be released in late 2012, around winter time.
What is it about Virus Cycle and their form of industrial metal which excites you? This is a new sound for you to explore?
It’s a couple of things. First off, I love the whole zombie aspect and the various themes of apocalypse that are integrated into the lyrics. I like music that has a concept, a message. We are kindred spirits in that regard. Second I love Johnny’s work ethic. He bust his ass at what he does, he works very, very hard, which is something I have great respect for. And third, he’s a really cool guy.
You also alongside all your projects and work created and run Bluntface Records. Tell us why when constantly busy you still spread into that time consuming area of music.
The label has been around for several years now, almost 10! I started it for many of the same reasons I started doing my own production work: out of necessity. I had worked with some other label’s in the past and always felt like they never cared about what I was doing nearly as much as I did. So I said “fuck it” and decided to take my fate in my own hands. I needed a platform to release my own stuff, so it made sense.
The label has released diverse artists and sounds, what is it you look for in music which makes you consider releasing and working with it and what do you offer them which many other labels fail in?
I can’t speak about other labels because I really don’t pay attention to them to be honest. I am way too busy with my own life and music to be bothered. But for me, I love music that is “left-of-centre”, something that wouldn’t normally get played on radio; something that is really different. I want to hear artists who are not afraid to take chances and stick their necks out. Even if that particular concept doesn’t work, as long as they’re willing to try and push the envelope towards something unique, then that’s something I want to hear. There’s too much of the regular, everyday bullshit that we’ve heard a thousand times, especially in hard rock. If you have satellite radio just turn on the Octane channel and you can hear a hundred bands all following the same song writing formula with the same style of guitar tone, the same style of drum production, and all the signers have the same “I can sing clean but also dirty” screams. It’s like there’s a factory just churning out these bands on an assembly line.
I also think that by staying small and focusing only on a hand full of artists, we can give them a lot more attention with their promotional campaigns. And it allows us to be very selective in whom we work with. We are under no financial obligation to sign whatever fad is popular.
What are the latest and upcoming releases on the label to watch out for?
Virus Cycle’s Zombiechrist, which will be out in the late fall; KINZEL v VIRUM which will be out in the winter, and currently Bradox64, which is an Electronic/Glitch/Break core/Bizarre album from NH Electronic musician Braden McFarland. That album is out now, buy it at http://bradox64.bandcamp.com/
Other than the Virus Cycle album what is next for Otto Kinzel?
Just plugging away in the studio ha-ha. I have a couple of things up my sleeve for later this year J
Is there any room for more solo work in the near future?
That’s one of the “things” I was referring to. I’m doing research on a specific subject right now, and have already started working on some pre-production.
Again thanks for chatting with us.
Would you like to leave with any last words or thoughts?
Thank you for having me, I really appreciate you giving me a chance to talk to your publication. As for last words? How about “You got cookie for me?”
The Ringmaster Review 07/07/2012
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