and working on the Gold Coast of Australia, electronic composer and
musician Jim Ottaway is turning heads around with his mind-boggling
albums of instrumental electronic music. A rising figure on the global
electronic music scene, Jim has actually released 23 independent albums
that blends a wealth of instrumental music genres such as ambient
space music, electronica, rock, chill-out music, dance music, New
Age and soundtrack sounds. A gifted and prolific recording artist,
Jim released Invisible Vortex in 2015 and in 2016 he
follows up with Southern Cross. Speaking about
his most recent releases and his vast output of recorded music over
the past decade, Jim tells mwe3.com, "My most recent album,
Southern Cross is a space ambient album and the album before that,
Invisible Vortex from 2015, is an electronic synth album with some
very powerful tracks filling the album. Naturally, over the years
I feel my music has developed more complexity and the production of
my albums has certainly improved. I am very proud of all my albums
but I can certainly see, and hear, the changes, hopefully for the
better, that have occurred." Both albums will appeal to fans
of all of the instrumental music genres mentioned above as well as
creating interest among fans of giants in the electronic music world
such as Tangerine Dream and their late, great leader Edgar Froese,
Vangelis, Enigma and many other e-music icons. In fact, Invisible
Vortex is dedicated to Edgar Froese and also features 10cc guitarist
Rick Fenn guesting on a track as well. While Invisible Vortex
is more kinetic and animated sounding and Southern Cross is
more pure electronicaeach of these albums presents a variety
of good reasons as to why instrumental electronica music fans should
listen to Jim Ottaway. www.JimOttaway.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Jim, can you tell us where youre from originally and where you
live now and what you like best about it? What do you like best about
living in Australia, where else do you like to visit and have you
ever been to the USA?
Jim Ottaway: I was born in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia.
Rocky, as it's fondly known, is a large country town near
the coast in central Queensland. When I was still very young my family
moved to Brisbane in the mid-1960s. I lived in Brisbane until the
end of 1997 when I moved to the beautiful hinterland area of the Gold
Coast in South Eastern Queensland.
The Gold Coast has the most beautiful beaches in the world, great
surf and wonderful rainforests in the hinterland. It is a wonderful
place to live and to compose and record. Nature is all around me here
on my small property. I am regularly visited by wallabies (small kangaroos),
kookaburras (laughing birds), koalas and an enormous array of native
bird life. Very inspirational!
Australia is a very special place... beautiful landscapes, wonderful
people and a respect for all races and freedom. I feel very blessed
that I was born into an Australian family.
I am not a great traveler but I have visited the USA, Canada, Japan,
New Zealand and some of the islands of the South Pacific such as Fiji
in the last 30 years.
You have said that music of the electronic masters like Tangerine
Dream and Vangelis were big influences on you early on.
Jim Ottaway: Most definitely. The most significant influences
on my composing and recording are Tangerine Dream, Edgar Froese and
Vangelis. I have been a huge fan of these artists since the mid-1970s.
In a way I have restricted my knowledge of the electronic field of
music because I had so much respect for these artists.
The first I heard of Tangerine Dream was in 1974 when their Phaedra
album became quite a good seller in Australia. An older friend of
mine from school turned up at home one day with a new copy of Phaedra
under his arm. We listened to that album over and over on that day
until my father couldnt take it anymore. Thats where it
all started for me. I must try and track the fellow down some day
to thank him for introducing me to Tangerine Dream.
The first I remember of Vangelis was his Heaven And Hell album.
My sister Bernie used to perform modern dance to the music. Since
those days in the mid-1970s my collection of records and CDs of these
artists has continued to grow. They have been the soundtrack to my
mwe3: How about other music that has influenced you over the
years? Did you have other rock and pop musical influences when you
were young too or did you go straight into electronic music and was
classical and jazz an influence too?
Ottaway: I love music generally. I think a life without music
would be a pretty horrible life! I love the music of the late 1960s
and the 70s. These were the years I was buying 45s and a few albums
when I could afford them! I have a huge love and respect for Australian
music. Australian music has its own feel. Unfortunately most of the
world has not heard a majority of the music of Australia other than
say the Little River Band, INXS, Men at Work, Olivia Newton-John,
Helen Reddy etc. Australia has wonderful artists who have greatly
influenced my life.
Other artists that I admire include Gary Wright, Steve Winwood, Joan
Armatrading, Boston, The Babys, Enigma, Pink Floyd, Al Stewart, Lisa
Gerrard and many more. Local Australian electronic artists such as
Tony OConnor, who sadly passed away a few years ago, Christopher
Buckman and Ken Davis have also been significant influences on my
approach to electronic music.
I have a small collection of classical CDs and I expect these
influence some of my composing. While I am not a huge fan of jazz,
I did include two, what I call, electronic jazz tracks on my Blitz
J-im-azz and Cool as! They were
a lot of fun to compose and record and there will be at least one
more on a future release.
mwe3: Youve released 23 albums since you started recording.
How has your music evolved and have you kept all your albums in print
on CD over the years? Tell us something about your early albums, such
as your first album First Light, and how it compares with your
recent works. How do you feel your sound evolved over the past 12
Jim Ottaway: Yes
23 albums in 12 years. Thats a
lot now that I think about it. Twenty-two of those albums are still
available through one means or another. My early albums are available
on CD-R whereas as my three most recent releases
Vortex and Southern Cross are CD releases.
consider my Strings Attached album to be a personal release
for family and friends only. Some tracks from that album will resurface
in a different form on future releases. For those interested they
can visit my website and access the Discography page at this link.
All my albums are there and availability and purchasing options are
my music has certainly evolved over the years. My first
album First Light was purposely put together to be a new age
/ ambient album designed for meditation and relaxation. In a way it
has probably been my most popular, if I can use that term, album to
date, here in Australia. My first three releases stuck to the new
age formula with the third Aurora, originally released in 2006
in Australia, having a more space ambient side to it. Aurora
is the first of, what I call, my international albums. Aurora
along with a number of my earlier albums were released onto the international
market in 2015. Consequently, tracks from all my nine international
albums are receiving airplay around the world.
At the start
of my recording career I always thought I would stick with the new
age music, but as time progressed my music evolved into many genres.
I now release electronic synth albums as well as space ambient albums.
The electronic synth albums include electronica, dance, rock, electronic
jazz and Berlin School genres to name a few. I love both genres so
I will continue to follow my heart when putting albums together.
My most recent album Southern Cross is a space ambient album
and the album before that Invisible Vortex, from 2015, is an
electronic synth album with some very powerful tracks filling the
Naturally, over the years I feel my music has developed more complexity
and the production of my albums has certainly improved. I am very
proud of all my albums but I can certainly see, and hear, the changes,
hopefully for the better, that have occurred.
mwe3: Your 2015 CD, Invisible Vortex is a classic of
the electronic music genre and its dedicated to both Edgar Froese
and to Kevin Underwood. Tell us about how Edgar influenced your sound
and something about Kevin Underwood. I saw the photo of you and Edgar,
so tell us about meeting Edgar and which of his solo albums and albums
with T. Dream are among your favorites and why.
Invisible Vortex is certainly my tightest
electronic synth album to date. I am very proud of the finished result.
Invisible Vortex is dedicated to the memory Edgar Froese of
Tangerine Dream and old mate of mine Kevin Underwood from Sydney.
Kevin was one of my closest friends and probably my biggest fan, other
than my beautiful mother. I would often visit Kevin in Sydney and
he would visit me on the Gold Coast. Kevin was a collector of everything,
but he particularly he loved collecting records and old gramophones.
He even had an old working cylinder record player and many cylinder
records. Kevin was the perfect gentlemen always thinking of others,
in particular his family and friends. Kevin sadly lost his battle
with cancer in December 2013 aged 81. There will always be a connection
between my music and Kevin.
Edgar had a huge influence on my musical life, as noted above. I was
very lucky to see the final three concerts of Tangerine Dream with
Edgar Froese, which took place in Melbourne, Australia in November
2014. The band performed a regular concert on a Sunday night and then
later in the week performed two Sorcerer concerts on the one
night. They were all excellent shows. I met the band after the first
concert and was very blessed to meet up with them once again on St
Kilda Beach, Melbourne between the shows. It was an absolute thrill
to meet my electronic music idol and as you noted I am very pleased
to have a photo record of the day I joined Tangerine Dream.
A similar photo appeared in the supporting brochure that came out
with the bands Supernormal CD.
It is hard to say which of the Tangerine Dream and Edgar Froese albums
are my favorites, but I must admit I loved their albums from the 1970s,
80s and 90s in particular. The combination of Edgar Froese,
Christopher Franke and Johannes Schmoelling was probably my favorite
incarnation of the band. If forced to give a response I would say
that my favourite Tangerine Dream albums would include: Underwater
Sunlight, Thief, White Eagle, Exit, Logos and Phaedra.
Edgar Froeses solo albums were also wonderful excursions
into the sonic landscape. His early albums and also the lost Green
Desert album from Tangerine Dream probably influenced my Aurora
album more than anything else. The dark cold sonic landscapes certainly
Invisible Vortex is very hyper-kinetic sounding with lots of
synths and almost dance rhythms in places. That CD also features Rick
Fenn who played with 10cc. Tell us about working with Rick Fenn and
also how Invisible Vortex compares to some of your earlier
Jim Ottaway: As I mentioned before, Invisible Vortex
is probably the tightest and most powerful and energetic album I have
released. I think all the tracks are strong and fit together well
on the album. Some of my earlier albums such as Chill Factor, Blitz
and Power certainly had some dance oriented tracks without
being full-on dance tracks. Invisible Vortex carries on where
these albums left off but it also contains some rock type tracks such
as Alien Cries and Takin the Time (2015)
and also a Berlin school/sequenced style of track called Just
Another Dream, which was inspired by the soundtracks
of Tangerine Dream such as Sorcerer, Thief and Risky Business.
Rick Fenn, guitarist with the legendary British band 10cc, is
a guest guitarist on the track Takin the Time (2015).
I know Rick from him performing in Byron Bay in northern New South
Wales. Rick lives in Byron Bay but spends a lot of time in the UK
and Europe performing with different incarnations of 10cc. Rick has
worked with such great artists as Mike
Oldfield, Rick Wakeman, Pink Floyd's Nick Mason and David Gilmour,
Justin Hayward, Sniff 'n' the Tears and Cliff Richard. In Australia
Rick performs with The Feramones.
I met Rick for the first time about 10 years ago. I finally got some
courage up to ask him whether he would record a guitar solo for me
for one of my tracks
Interlude. He said he was happy
to do so and provided me with three takes to consider. One of those
takes appeared on Interlude, which ended up on my 2006
album Lightwaves. Lightwaves was my first move towards
an album of more upbeat electronic music. I expect an updated version
of Interlude will appear on a future album.
After a year
or so I revisited the takes Rick had done for me and I decided to
work with one of them to create a whole new track. So Takin
the Time was composed and produced around Ricks guitar solo.
Earlier versions of Takin the Time can be found
on my albums Firestorm (2008) and Groovin (2009). In
early 2015 I decided that I wanted to rework the track and so it became
part of the Invisible Vortex project and album. The title of
track came about as I wanted to thank Rick for taking the time
to help out an unknown independent artist. Thanks Rick!
mwe3: On the other hand, your 2016 album, Southern Cross
is a much more spatial electronic music album and it is dedicated
to the memory of your mother Madge. Tell us about your mom and how
the music reflects your memories of her and how does Southern Cross
fit into your ambient space music series of album
Jim Ottaway: Yes
Southern Cross is a much different
album to Invisible Vortex. It is the fifth in a series of space
ambient albums I have released to date
the others being Aurora,
Orion, Centauri and Liquid Moon, which has charted on the
Zone Music Reporter Top 100 chart. As mentioned earlier I like to
dabble in different genres of music and I felt it was time for another
space ambient album. Southern Cross is the resulting album.
Southern Cross is a natural progression from the earlier releases
but has a more lighter and melodic feel to it. I was trying to move
on from the darker tone of Liquid Moon.
Southern Cross is dedicated to the memory of my beautiful mother,
Madge. Mum passed away in April 2015 aged 94. Naturally she was my
biggest supporter and I owe everything to Mum and my Dad who passed
away in 2001. Southern Cross is my first album release since
her passing so it was important to me to highlight Mums importance
in my life by the dedication on the album liner notes.
mwe3: Southern Cross is named after the constellation
Crux, which includes the Southern Cross, which
as you say in the liner notes contains five stars that are 20 million
years old. How influenced is your music by astrology and astronomy?
One would like to think space music is created by artists and is all
about the great unknown of the universe!
the Southern Cross is the major star system in the southern
hemisphere and is very important in Australian culture as the Southern
Cross is a significant part of our national flag. The star system
is always present in the Australian night skies. It is very beautiful.
I cant say I have great knowledge of either astrology or astronomy
however I have always loved looking into the night skies and thinking
about being in space. Dabbling in the new age certainly
opened the door for me to get into new age and relaxation music. However,
when I record space ambient music I try and think of what it would
be like traveling to and around the planets, stars, galaxies etc.
I try and present in music form what I think it would be like. I think
listeners would benefit from putting on one of the CDs, using a pair
of headphones and closing their eyes and relaxing. I am sure the music
will take them on an intergalactic journey through space and time,
which they will enjoy.
mwe3: Do you follow all the state of the art advances in electronic
music technology or do you prefer vintage synths from the 60s
and 70s? Were the same synths and keyboards used on both Invisible
Vortex and Southern Cross albums or do you have different
types of keyboards for different albums and your different musical
Jim Ottaway: As I got into recording quite late I do not own
any real vintage gear. I have a few older keyboards but I do not use
them much. My main keyboard is the Korg Karma. Strangely it is a more
dance-oriented keyboard but it can make some incredible ambient pads.
Most of my earlier albums were recorded mostly using the Karma.
Over the years I have added a number of new and vintage VSTs to my
arsenal. I am not one for keeping up with the Jones
so I dont and cannot afford to buy all the new VSTs that are
released. Every now and again I will splurge and buy a new one but
that is not a common occurrence. I think you can have too many sounds
to work with and that can cause confusion. Also there is generally
a large learning curve with new synths which takes you away from the
main goal of composing and recording.
mwe3: What other activities and hobbies keep you busy in Australia
and speaking of new music writing, recording, producing, video production,
compilations and even performing, what other plans do you have for
2016 and into 2017?
Ottaway: For 10 years in the 1980s and 1990s I trained for and
raced marathons. I ran 11 marathons during that time. It certainly
taught me about discipline and dedication. While those years are long
gone I still like to keep as fit as possible by walking and swimming
nearly every day
even in winter!
I was a Carer for an old friend of mine for many years. Although he
has passed on now I still do a lot for my many older friends here
on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane. It certainly takes up a bit of
time, however it is very rewarding. I love collecting vinyl 45s and
LPs and visit the local markets regularly to scoop up a bargain.
I have a very large amount of material recorded that will be on future
albums. I propose to release at least one more album during 2016 and
possibly two. One will be electronic synth like Invisible Vortex
and the other will be lighter more melodic synth album. Time will
tell whether they both will be released this year. Each year for the
last four or so years I have entered tracks in the Australian Songwriting
Contest with some success. In 2015 I placed 5th for "The Long
Haul" from Invisible Vortex and 7th with an un-released
track, in the Instrumental category of the Australian Songwriting
Awards and in 2014 I placed 4th with "Live The Dream" from
Power. So I will be continuing that practice.
Composing and recording is an ongoing process for me
happens, it happens. So keep your eyes out for future releases both
space ambient and electronic synth.
Finally, a major goal of mine is to get my music into film and television.
I would also love to score a film one day!