Sitting down with Cecil Otter of Doomtree for a chat is always a good time filled with surprises. A few weeks ago, I sat down with him to talk about his recent project, Wugazi and true to form, tossed in a little surprise in there for him. If you haven’t been one of the few thousand people who have already downloaded Wugazi: 13 Chambers, you can do so on their SoundCloud. Wugazi, a combination of Fugazi and Wu-Tang Clan tracks has not only been on my personal summer playlist, but also deemed the best mash-up of all time.
Where did you get the idea to mix Wu-Tang and Fugazi together?
It was kinda Andy’s kinda idea. He didn’t really know Pro Tools at the time to have a format to put his idea into work but he always knew it would sound cool. It was Memorial Day weekend I was at my girlfriend’s place. We were on a pontoon, got some beers and he brought it up to me. I had been doing some production for him, he does some solo guitar work and stuff like that. I already was finding samples and orchestrating things for him. He was like, well if you’re bored maybe you wanna make this record, it would be awesome. It was more of a reason to get together and hang out and have fun.
Were there tracks you wanted to use but couldn’t use?
Oh yeah, for sure. It just fell on tempos and stuff like that. Some songs are the greatest but you would have to slow the song down. You would hear it and it would just ruin everything, the tempo was just too fast. The acapellas especially in rap the tempos range like 79 maybe, that’s kinda low, let’s say 82 to 96 to sometimes in the 100’s. A lot of Fugazi stuff would be 40 or 60 so you’d have to mush things together and sometimes it didn’t work. Sometimes it degraded songs. I didn’t want to do that to anyone’s ears.
How long did it take you to produce the album from idea to internet sensation?
It was about Memorial Day to Memorial Day. We made like three songs the first time we first got together. We wanted to make them and kinda leave them behind and keep going and keep going, then get back to all of them later and really clean them up. We wanted to keep the ideas down. After we had fun doing all the creative side of it, another half a year we spent perfecting every little drum, every sound we were going for. About a full year. Andy did all the artwork, he’s a graphic designer and knock that shit out pretty quick.
Were there any difficulties aside from matching the beats and working with Pro Tools that you ran into that you weren’t expected?
Not really. That is the hardest part. We didn’t get to do it like a mash-up cause mash-up you take a preexisting beat that is already made and you find someone else’s verse and it’s like, these beats are 82 BPM and these verses are 83 and we can stretch it a little bit. Working with someones music, like Fugazi, you are working with these songs that are not set to a click track. If on the tempo we were using was 82 it would sometimes be near 82 but then sometimes hit near 78, or hit 85. So chopping everything and making it sound like lands right and doesn’t sound weird and that we chopped it was the hardest part. That is what we put the most care into, was making it sound flawless.
“Sleep Rules Everything Around Me”
What was your reaction to the popularity to “Sleep Rules Everything Around Me” after the first few days?
Um..fear. A lot of fear. A lot of like, what? People were calling and saying, “You did 20,000 hits.” And I’d be like, “What does that mean?” And they’re like, “No, that’s huge.” I’m like, “Why?” I just wanna go work on the next thing. Then feeling like, oh fuck. I hope we did this good enough cause I don’t want Fugazi to be upset, I don’t want Wu-Tang to be upset. I don’t want to get sued either. That kind of thing left so much room for my head to wonder at least. I didn’t want people to be like, these guys are hacks fucking up Wu-Tang for me or fucking up Fugazi for me. I didn’t really know how people were going to react. I’m not used to that attention. I was like 98% of all good feedback, it was really nice to see that, but I was still fucking scared that people were going to start attacking me.
How do you even begin to remixing the greatest hip-hop collective? Did you have songs in mind that you wanted to use right away?
We had plenty of songs on each side that we wanted to do. Obviously I have every Fugazi album and everything, we sampled from documentaries and shit like that. Getting all the acapellas from Wu-Tang is not possible. You can love a song but getting that a capella is impossible, it’s not anywhere. We searched and put all our internet geek friends to work like, please find all these acapellas. You can even make your own acapella if you play the original song over the instrumental and you can phase out all the music and you get some kind of really cheap acapella and even that was real difficult. A lot of the stuff we really wanted to use we couldn’t find, or at least things we wanted to fall back on. We just got to use whatever we could find. It was really nice because it was a lot of Wu-Tang songs that I didn’t know as well, along with the ones that I really loved even more than 15-20 years after being recorded. We just went with whatever worked together. Find the Fugazi song, start a little loop to get it going then we started playing little acapela over it constantly until we found one that totally worked.
Why the decision to make it a free download?
The whole plan from the beginning was that we had a whole bunch of songs and we came up with the idea to make 13 songs and put it out. We didn’t put any money behind it or anything like that, our friends really liked it and everyone we showed it to really liked it. So we just decided to give it out. We didn’t think it would get a reaction like that. Even if we knew it was going to get a reaction like that we never wouldn’t think about trying to make any money off it at all. Honestly, it’s hard to say without being corny but just a full on labor of love. We called it, do you wanna Wugazi tonight? And it was like, no I can’t wanna Wugazi tonight I have to work on my own record. It was just meant to put out, like here’s what we did, we got together, got some drinks and we laughed our ass off because it was so much fun. There was no point in any of it that was like, this could make us so much money. It was just like, we need to make this so good. That is all we were thinking. I think the coolest thing is to nerd out, the project is what it is. It sort of stands alone, I don’t think we need to clean any cash out of it.
That what I think is really cool. Like, would you rather get thirty grand out of it or just have a lot of people support you and make what you can? Having people who you look up to think that it’s great that is the main thing and will last forever, that is just really awesome.
“Nowhere to Wait”
Will there be more in the future with Wugazi?
No. I think we did exactly what we wanted to do with that. It was literally just a point in time where we both had this much time on our hands. We both are just so busy with other things. I like concentrating on working my own music, getting that good D.I.Y.
You are going to be coming on tour soon. What can we expect to see on the Good Time Zoo tour with Sims?
I’m just gonna cover Wugazi. (chuckles) I’m just kidding. I’m gonna do a lot of new songs off my upcoming new record, Porcelain Revolver and doing some songs off the next Doomtree record. I’m just going to try to make it a real powerful set and make it fun for people hopefully with some intensity.
Will the new album be coming out in the Fall?
Probably not in the Fall, I’m still in the middle of recording. I’m hoping for Spring. It’s going to be done recording in the next few months and it will be coming out on Strange Famous. I’m too eager, so I’ll have to do some on the road, I dont’ care if people videotape them.
What Wu-Tang member would you have over for dinner and what would you eat?
If times were different it would be Old Dirty Bastard and I would make him Crawfish Étouffee. It’s a New Orleans dish, like a creamy fish sauce served over rice. It’s like a nice home cooked meal, it’s my favorite dish in the world.
But you’re not a New Orleans boy.
No, no. I just am passionate about food. Someone gave me, I think it was James Lynch was tour managing for P.O.S. a few years ago, he’s like one of my best friends in the whole world. They played New Orleans and came back to Minneapolis like two days later. At this place, the venue where they played this guy named Cudi would bring a bunch of cookware and just cook straight in the green room for them. Lynch would always bring it back for me. I think it’s just nostalgic and outstanding.
Did Stef tell you that Mos Def came and took a beat from you?
He took one of my beats?!
Yeah did you see that?
No. What beats did he take?
I don’t know, Stef (P.O.S.) even tweeted it, “Mos Def came through the studio, played me some Tony Williams and left with a Cecil Otter beat.”
WHAT!? When did this..? Did he, just tweet that? I’m not a twitterer. I like to keep my tweets very potent like talk about cats and kittens. Okay [laughter] Well thank you middle man [laughs]thank you for the info. No, I had no idea. I did a bunch of production for Stef’s new album that he’s doing right now I can’t say some things, obviously, but it sounds amazing. I didn’t know about the Mos Def thing, though.