Furnari.net interview with Ozma - 2000

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Original article (archived by Wayback Machine): https://web.archive.org/web/20001204181200/http://www.furnari.net/geeko/ozma.html

Not only Ozma is one of the best bands ever, but they're awfully nice people too. College kids like you and I, they've been pumping guitar hooks in this World of Oz influenced band since Junior High. Ozma takes the combination of heavy backgrounds and sweet, anguished melodies a step further. Three voices, high jumps and delightful keyboards played by their very own Star... quite a formula for success, right? Although they're not properly signed, as they should, Ozma is a top10 group in every powerpop chart around the net. Romance, pop references and electronic media permeate their existence and songs... This is what Geek Rock is all about! Take a ride in their deLorean back to 1988 and check it for yourself.

Geeko: Ozma was founded online and you frequently quote the electronic media in your writing. How does the Internet provides inspiration?

Ozma: The internet is the main way Ozma has gained a fan following, both through our website (and others which let users download CD quality Ozma tracks) and through an e-mail mailing list we keep to remind people of live Ozma shows. In that sense, the internet has helped us immensely. A whole lot of our inter-band communication is done online - most of our shows are booked online, most of our set lists are decided upon online etc. Artistically speaking, it's nice to know that any song we write and record we can post on the internet and be guaranteed that someone, somewhere, will hear it.

Geeko: If you were the director of the fourth "Back to the Future", where in time would you travel to?

Ozma: This is a real tough one, but I'm going to have to say several tens of thousands of years back to the Neanderthal era, Encino Man style. Take a few guitars along and leave them to speed the evolution of music up a bit. November 5th, 10,055 B.C.??

Geeko: Would the song Natalie Portman be different in any way if you had written it in this post-Episode I period?

Ozma: I can't think of any way the music would have been altered, but the lyrics would definitely have made accomodations for the current situation. I might have included some Star Wars references (Jake Lloyd, the lucky bastard). I would hate to have the song passed of as being sung by a starstruck teenage male fantasizing about Queen Amidala, though. Her newfound fame has actually sort of turned me off, everyone I know who listens to our song for the first time now just says "I see, you're another fool with a crush on that Star Wars actress." Originally I was impressed with her intelligence and kindness, not with her casting in the most ambitious saga ever taken on by a moviemaker.

Geeko: Do you see the comparatively timid sales of Pinkerton and The Proximity Effect (=w= and Nada Surf) as a sign of lack of interest for power pop bands?

Ozma: Proximity Effect hasn't actually been released in the States yet, but it's very possible that Nada Surf's label problems have been spurred by a disinterest in our type of music lately. I think Pinkerton was a flop because it was more adult that Weezer's first record, and maybe a little bit over the heads of those in its main demographic; that was really the year Marilyn Manson broke... music listeners were too busy making an unoriginal shock-rocker a mainstream name to see that a truly epic, poignant piece of music had just been released by a band they had been giddy about just months earlier

Geeko: What is your favourite superhero?

Ozma: Does Marty McFly count? If not, I don't know... I've always looked up to Spengler from the Ghostbusters, and I liked Spiderman when I was young, but I'd probably have to go with Mad Max, the Australian roadwarrior.

Geeko: If you were a video-game character, who would you be?

Ozma: Luigi, the only fool that can jump higher than I can...

Geeko: N64 or NES?

Ozma: I'm all about NES. If you've seen ozmaonline.com or listened to a few of our songs, you're acquainted with our 8-bit Nintendo fascination. Maybe In An Alternate Dimension, In Search Of 1988, and other songs have Nintendo references in the lyrics.

Geeko: If you were a character in a John Hughes' 80s movie, who would you be?

Ozma: Ferris has always been one of my idols. Ally Sheedy's character in the Breakfast Club was pretty intense too. In fact, Ally Sheedy and Matthew Broderick were in an 80s movie called "War Games" together that I've seen at least a trillion times. It's a really fun film.

Geeko: As a graphic artist yourself do you see any prejudice or resistance from the fine arts academics towards electronic arts?

Ozma: For the most part I sense that visual artists embrace technology. You can often do artistic things digitally with much more ease and speed than if you were doing them by manual process, especially in the area of photography. I'm not very trained in darkroom techniques, but I can can screw around for hours in Photoshop for hours at a time. A lot of educational institutions are starting up centers to help facilitate the use of new technologies in all areas of art. UCLA has the CDA (Center for Digital Arts), Stanford has CCRMA (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics), and Berkeley has CNMAT (Center for New Music and Audio Technology). It's a transitional time, but I feel like artists are finally integrating technology into the creative process in ways that are beginning to turn out art which is valuable to society. Technology-aided art has previously been stereotyped as being sterile and as lacking meaning to the majority of the world's people, but that mold was broken over time with movies like Star Wars and it continues to be shattered with electronic and multimedia pieces in all of the arts. Contributing to this movement are artists like Bill Viola and Charles Ray, musicians like Cornelius, Steve Reich, Don and Ezra Buchla, and even large filmmaking companies like Pixar. We, as artists, live in a very exciting time, with a plethora of new and extremely powerful tools at our disposal.

Geeko: Daniel analises verse by verse the "Ozma Song", a tribute to them by the band Velcro. Let's see if they were accurate...

Geeko: "I first heard your song on the tribute CD. Then we played with you at the Roxy"

Daniel: That CD and that show exposed a lot of people to our music, so it's not surprising that that's how they first heard us

Geeko: "Noticing [Ryen's] orthopedic shoes while kicking around R2D2"

Daniel: We did bring a big R2D2 beer-chiller up on the Roxy stage from the dressing room, although I don't know if Ryen has ever worn orthopedic shoes. Maybe they know him better than I do.

Geeko: "Daniel jumping in his jumpsuit. He's a Back to the Future fan. And he prefers that you call him Dan"

Daniel: I do wear a blue striped jumpsuit to shows now and then, and I will admit to Back To The Future fanaticism, however, I never ask anyone to call me Dan. I like Daniel and Dan is fine, just as long as I don't get called Danny. I have bad memories of kids named Danny.

Geeko: "Star your first show was at the El Rey. And maybe you'll be singing someday"

Daniel: We actually persuaded Star to sing two lines of backing vocals on our new album. So that Velco prophecy has come true... although she's still too shy to sing live.

Geeko: "Pat he's in charge of the merchandise. We talked to you and you're really nice"

Daniel: Pat is a really nice guy, although I, too, often get stuck selling stuff after we play if our businessman Damien Bueno isn't there to take care of that stuff.

Geeko: "Jose you like the New Kids On the Block. And on stage you really like to rock"

Daniel: Jose and I have an ongoing battle to see who can jump the highest, scream the loudest, and in general just rock out onstage. He wins a lot, although I remember at that Roxy show I jumped off the drum riser, landed on Ryen, and almost forced him to fall into the crowd. That rocked. I never knew he liked the New Kids, but maybe he has skeletons in his closet I'm not yet privy to. So yeah, in general their lyrical claims are pretty accurate!

Geeko: What painter and/or writer do you think could be the Ozma counterpart in their fields?

Ozma: We took our name from L. Frank Baum's book "Return to Oz," so he's the writer that comes to mind. In terms of artists, there's a sculptor named Charles Ray who personifies a lot of the traits I'd like to think are present in our music. He's got a sculpture called "Ink Box" that's a 4 or 5 foot cube made of black steel. It's filled with black ink so that the top face is actually a quivering ink meniscus, and if one was to touch the ink it would splatter everywhere and permanently stain everything. I think that's also characteristc ofmusic - that it can be as simple to perceive as a black cube but on closer inspection it can be found to be dangerous, potent, and unstable.

Geeko: What would you put in your 1988 time capsule?

Ozma: A: My Back To The Future Nintendo cartridge, my best catcher's mitt, and some of my favorite small piano pieces. Those were the things I was most into in 1988.

Geeko: And in your 1999 version?

Ozma: As for now, I'd definitely put in an Ozma CD, maybe some of my girlfriend Soy's artwork, maybe t-shirt of mine like my "In Search Of 1988," thrift-store-gem. Or if I had the time, I'd load as much information as I could onto a CD and hope they still have ways to read CDs in the distant future.

Geeko: How did your classical music formation influenced in the way you play rock tunes?

Ozma: I'm not really a trained classical guitarist, although I compose a lot for classical style ensembles and both Ryen and I play or have played lots of jazz. We find ourselves writing jazz-influenced harmonies into Ozma songs. I have a belief that, along with rhythm, the blue notes in melodies - the ones not related to the chord progression - are the ones that make melodies "catchy." It's nice to have even a small knowledge of lots of musical styles, and I'd be lying if I said that knowledge doesn't carry over into our rock songs. The main keyboard theme of our song "Rain Of The Golden Gorilla" is lifted from an Indonesian gamelan piece called "Hudan Mas," which, in Balinese, means "Golden Rain." I played in a gamelan orchestra behind a girl I was nuts about, and that tune would never leave my head, so I wrote a song around it and put it to the words I had been writing about the girl in question. So even though it may not seem immediately clear, we incorporate things we've learned in other musical idioms whether we try to or not. At the end of the day, though, we just wanna forget about theory and musical influences and just pick up our axes and rock out.

Geeko: Jose once said that it took some time for the band to realise that simple and melodic songs are fine. Do you think that this need to show instrumental proficiency or composition complexity is in some way reflection of our generation, raised in a guitar hero/arena rock world?

Ozma: Arena rock is all about ultra-rehearsed, ultra-refined, ultra-tight ensembles that sound so good you can only sit back and say "Daaaaa-aaamn." When I think about the music that's closest to my heart, however, it's groups that do something undescribable, something beyond technical proficiency... groups like the Beatles and Nirvana had just enough chops to play the music that was running through their heads, and that's all they needed. For a long time my Mom had a magnet on our fridge by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a Craftsman era designer. It said, "There is hope in honest error, none in the icy perfections of the mere stylist." That's something I really believe, that the sould of music is not in perfecting a guitar solo or a really dope pick slide or an amazing drum fill but in being human and attempting to use all of your technical tools to portray honest emotions, whether they're sorrowful, dramatic, cynical, nostalgic, loving, or even joking. I think that's common to all disciplines of art, and I think that, along with having a good time, it's our main ambition in Ozma. Whether we're successful or not is for audiences to decide... but just the opportunity to write and play is such a blessing that we're going to be doing this regardless of our surroundings or the way people perceive us. It's just too much fun.

See also