INTERVIEW: OTN Release Debut Album Tabula Rasa

Photo: Luke Tannous photography.

Joburg-based alternative rock band  OTN (Outside the New) have recently released their debut album Tabula Rasa. We spoke to guitarist Ian Wishart about this eclectic new release.

Interview by Ashton Kirsten.

How does it feel to have just released your debut album “Tabula Rasa” after almost a decade of involvement in the South African music industry?

We have been through a few style changes over the years and to finally pin down something that we are all extremely proud of feels great. This album is reflective of what we want to listen to as individuals.

Tabula Rasa is a Latin phrase translating to “scraped tablet”, or a “clean slate”. How has this notion influenced your creative process?

Arriving in studio with a pre-conceived idea of what the album would entail and ultimately leaving the studio some time later with something completely different is exactly that. We really went straight back to our roots with this album and what we are passionate about playing. The process was rejuvenating and liver damaging at the same time.

The album’s lyrics are intensely thought-provoking and sincere – what are some of your main inspirations and influences?

Life in general to be honest, there is no way to write something that will touch people without being grounded in experience…

Tracks like “Jacks to Position”, “Circles”, and “The Finer Points of Gravity” show surprising hybridity by fusing various genres together seamlessly to create a unique sound that ultimately works. How did this kind of experimentation and collaboration come about?

Through the years and different styles of music we have played, we managed to successfully merge all aspects and influences. This process was organic and pure with no forced preconception of where the music would take us. If it felt right, we played it.

“Circles” slips into bluesy moments and includes a soundbite of a speech made by Nelson Mandela. How did this nuanced track come about?

Writing something that is (hopefully) thought provoking and ‘dark’ without taking the easy step of the music reflecting that was essentially the thought behind the song, there is an optimistic undercurrent to the music which pretty much reflects out hopes for South Africa in general.

Why did you decide on a Rorschach test as cover art for the album?

The general theme is [that] it’s open to interpretation – as is the name, as is our music, it just seemed like the logical fit.

You have won an Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival, which is an honour in the country’s creative scene – would you consider returning to the festival in 2019 with Tabula Rasa?

We love Grahamstown and I think another festival would be amazing and we would definitely be open to it. With regards to our previous visits the people we met at the shows and in the town were all so good to us and the love and hangovers we felt were real.