Today, Dr. Pill—real name Phil Uwe Widiger, himself a Grapevine alum—dropped his debut release ‘Ottersitting’, a genre-bending melange of industrial, shoegaze, indie rock, acoustic ballads, and even a Nine Inch Nails tribute. We sat down (virtually, don’t worry) with the Doctor himself to find out more about the album.
First off—congrats on your first release, Dr. Pill! We love it. So to start off, tell us about ‘Ottersitting’? What was the inspiration or ethos of the album?
So first off, I had to google what “ethos” means and apparently it’s “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations.”
When I was writing and producing the different tracks on ‘Ottersitting,’ I had no idea that they would eventually end up together on an EP. “Victorious”, the last song on the EP, was the first ever song I wrote in Ableton Live, for example. I was just fucking around with the tools I learned in an Ableton Live workshop I took. There is a much longer version with guest vocals by Wioleta Ludwig who also sang on “TRIGGER,” but I’m not sure I’ll ever release that one. Maybe as a B-side on my “rarities” album. Who knows?
I also remember working around 50 hours on “TRIGGER” because I had so little experience with recording and producing that it took me ages! But I think it was worth it in the end.
Anyways, what I am trying to say, is that I had no preconceived notion of what this EP was going to be. Rather, I worked on each track individually and just let my creativity flow without any boundaries or restrictions. I usually just sit down, start making a beat, and within a few hours I usually have an almost finished product. For me, it works best that way.
When I finally realised I had written quite a few tracks over the years and that the majority of them kind of fit together, I started thinking about putting them together on an album.
How do they fit together? Well, I guess, most of them have an electronic base, and all of them came out of my weird mind. They are children of the moment, photographs of my state while they were written, pieces of my DNA, my essence pressed into a couple of minutes.
So, to come back to your question, I would say that the ethos was to let creativity flow without any limits and to just let go, and see what happens.
There is also a certain amount of randomness to it which I love. I love music that is surprising, challenging and complex. When bands put several genres together into one song and it works, that’s when I eargasm. I listen to a lot of prog metal and the more complex the better. I feel that odd time signatures also have the same element of organised randomness to them as have the songs on this EP.
Wow, this sounds really far out, man.
You’ve been working on this album for four years and specifically said (on your Bandcamp) that it was “never planned on being released.” What made this the right moment?
There were several things that contributed to it.
- My friends liked what I was doing and consciously or unconsciously made me think about releasing my music. They’ve always been an amazing support and probably I would have never thought about releasing this EP without their continuous admiration of my material and them telling me about it openly.
- I realised I had quite a few tracks that were written in the same way, this organised randomness and free flow of creativity I talked about above. Realising they could fit together on an album and my wish to finally put some of my music into this world coincided and boom—here it is!
- In the beginning of this year we found out that my girlfriend is pregnant—we are expecting our baby this October. Before she gives birth, I wanted to give birth myself metaphorically as well, so I wanted to release this EP before she would enter labour. And it worked out!
So we have to ask—where did the title ‘Ottersitting’ come from? It’s rather unusual.
I have talked about randomness and the element of surprise a bit now—and the title fits into that as well. My girlfriend and I are really obsessed with otters (because they are amazing and beautiful and smart and just the cutest!!111!!1!) and if you don’t follow Svenn, the Otter on Instagram you are really missing out!!
Anyways, one day I was sitting with Hellmoonk, who did the cover art, and we were brainstorming the title. The EP was first supposed to be called ‘Dr. Pill’s Responsible Drug Addiction’, which is another story in itself. [see below]
We were probably talking about our baby coming this October and babysitting, and the baby being a small otter, and all of a sudden ‘Ottersitting’ was there—and it was just perfectly random. We laughed a lot and it seemed like a joke but it wasn’t. Nope, it’s actually called ‘Ottersitting’ now and I love it.
Maybe I can tell you a little about the artist name also. Dr. Pill is obviously a variant of Dr. Phil. Among friends, we have this imaginary society of “responsible drug addicts” meaning that you can choose to ingest stimulants and consciousness-altering substances but you do it in the most responsible way possible.
That means, you know what you are about to ingest, you know the possible effects and side effects, you know how much is a good dose for you, and if it doesn’t benefit you, you do not ingest it again.
So for example, you know coffee stimulates you, gives you ideas and energy, but it also gives you a low when it wears off and can lead to anxiety. So you, as an individual, might choose to ingest one cup a day because that gives you the benefits without experiencing any negative effects. Another individual might deal better with the side effects and might choose to ingest two cups. But all of this is done in full awareness of the stimulant and your own mental and physical state.
I think I am very good at controlling and disciplining myself and I love stimulants. In specific settings I would be the one that my friends were asking for advice when they had a question about a certain stimulant or didn’t know how to deal with the effects. Thus Dr. Phil became Dr. Pill. It’s kinda an inside joke, but now you also understand why the EP was supposed to be called ‘Dr. Pill’s Responsible Drug Addiction’.
But that said, don’t do anything illegal and stay in school kids! The biggest highs are achieved through soberness and mindfulness. <3
Could you pick one song from the album that’s particularly meaningful and tell us about it?
Hmmmm, that’s a hard one. I think that “Girl + Boy” is probably the weirdest-not-weird song on the EP because it is the only one that is fully acoustic. The song was written on a sunny morning, after a cup of cacao, in our backyard. I think I recorded it the same day or the next day and it was such a flawed demo that I always thought I would re-record it later. But then, when I came back to it one day, I started loving the “flaws” of the demo and decided it was gonna be the actual version on the EP. The white noise, the click in the end, the improvised harmonies, my broken voice—I think it all contributes to the dense atmosphere this song creates. In the end, I only added the strings in the very end of the track.
For me, this song is about a girl and a boy who were deeply in love but they never got the chance to physically express it. The lyrics are full of contradictions:
“There was a girl
Who loved with the touch of her skin…
There was a girl
Whose eyes could hear his blood”
“There was a boy
Who never loved with his heart
There was a boy
Whose ears never forgot about her lips…
Never even once
Did he feel the touch of her skin”
I think this contradiction of them never having touched each other but both of them knowing what it would feel like because they have imagined it so many times, is very beautiful and very romantic. In a way, it is also sad because they will never have the chance to actually experience it—and their memory will fade. This is what the chorus is about:
“But sometimes he still thinks of her
From the edge of his heart
And when the leaves whisper her name
He knows her memory will depart”
However, I think the song can mean many different things to different people. For me, it is a melancholic and sad song, but in the most beautiful way possible. I chose to include it because again, it adds some surprise and randomness, but also because of all the technological “flaws” it fits in with the weirdness of the rest of the EP. And also, it’s just a great song. (I hope Leonard Cohen will listen to it wherever he is)
There’s a very wide array of genres on this album—everything from acoustic to hardcore industrial to shoegaze-y rock. How do you go about such a melange of sounds?
I listen to a lot of different music myself. I love pop (not the modern, mainstream pop but The Beatles e.g.), metal, some electronic stuff, classical music, folk…and the best is when a song unites all of those genres. I like to be surprised and I love originality. If you have never listened to Persefone, by all means, please do.
Anyways, or me it is completely effortless to mix different music types together because that is what I look for in music myself.
Check out Dr. Pill on Bandcamp.
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