Love, Lyrics, and Coffee with Otto Hauser
Otto Hauser of Vetiver
Drummer and composer Otto Hauser has worked with folk legends Vashti Bunyan, Mike Heron (the Incredible String Band), Michael Hurley and Bert Jansch; Pat Sansone (Wilco); and many contemporary indie and folk acts including Devendra Banhart, Brightblack Morning Light, Espers, and Fruit Bats. Currently, he tours with the band Vetiver and when he’s not on tour we reside in the same lovely city of Hudson, New York. Otto is one of the friendlier people in town and you can often catch him at concerts or having a beer at The Spotty Dog Books And Ale, or the coffee shop where he works. Otto was kind enough to let me pick his musical brain and here is what came of it.
Sometimes I think that my favorite song “about love” is “Easy To Be Around” by Diane Cluck. “You belong to no one, you are easy to be around/I like to walk beside you, you’re so easy to be around, it’s like not I’m not even walking beside you.” For me the lyrics and music come together at that moment in a way that truly makes me suck in my breath.
Chloe Caldwell: What is a song “about love” that you love, that converges musically and lyrically?
Otto Hauser: “Naima” by John Coltrane is a song that immediately comes to mind, although it is instrumental. But there are a lot of great love songs that really kill me. “The Time Is Right” and “Sweedeedee” by Michael Hurley, “My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains” by Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, “I Love the Living You” by Roky Erickson, any number of songs by Smokey Robinson.
CC: So you get into your car in the morning. What are your music listening habits while driving?
OH: At some point, while I was still living in Brooklyn, someone snapped my radio antenna off. I’m only able to listen to compact discs now, so if I’m going for a long drive I usually select a few for the trip. I like to listen to a lot of different kinds of music… The last time I drove down to New York I think it was “Crossings” by Herbie Hancock, a compilation of Afro-Cuban music which Rounder Records put out, “Drum Ode” by Dave Liebman, and Clifford Jordan’s “Night of the Mark VII.”
CC: You used to play with Espers. Can you tell me some songs by them that you enjoy?
CC: When you’re not on tour, you work at Swallow, probably the busiest coffee shop in town. Do you enjoy being a barista? What are your thoughts on the music experience at a coffee shop? What do you usually play while you work?
OH: I enjoy making people coffee and espresso drinks they will love, having a job, which affords me an extremely flexible schedule, and earning money. I dislike the few customers I occasionally have to deal with who find joy in complaining, being incredibly impatient, and handing out a gross amount of condescension.
Music at a coffee shop could really be anything, couldn’t it? Sometimes music has a really strong effect on a person, especially if it’s something he doesn’t enjoy. It’s so hard to please everyone coming in and out of the shop. No matter what style of music I’ve played, someone complains… everything from Jazz to Classic Rock to Classical. I really enjoy sharing music with other people, so I like to play things I enjoy listening to which I think others might enjoy, too. Maybe that’s a good answer? Music at a coffee shop could be music the employees enjoy which they want to share with the customers?
I usually play Jazz, just because I enjoy listening to it a lot and most customers don’t seem to mind. Sometimes people ask what I’m playing because they like it, once or twice people have complained (a Wayne Shorter album on Blue Note, believe it or not). But I switch it up every now and then, even though my coworkers might not agree.
CC: Tell me about some bands that I don’t know about and ought to:
OH: I’m not sure I know you well enough to know what bands you don’t know about. Here are a few albums I’ve heard recently and enjoyed:
Lee Konitz (w/ Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian) – Live at Birdland
Pure Bathing Culture – “Ivory Coast”
Fruit Bats – Tripper
Ever Isles – Cocoon
Johnann Sebastian Bach / Hopkinson Smith – L’œvre de Luth
CC: What is the last book you finished and what did you think of it?
OH: My good friend Ben McConnell bought me the collected short stories of Breece Pancake, a writer from West Virginia. They’re really amazing stories, very harrowing, incredibly real. I would recommend them to most people.
CC: What is the last band you went to see perform, and where was it? What were your thoughts on it?
OH: The last two shows I saw were Noveller, U.S. Girls, and Alexander Turnquist at the Spotty Dog, and Tisziji Muñoz, John Medeski, Don Pate, and Ra-kalam Bob Moses at Helsinki. Both venues are in Hudson, NY. I had a good time at both shows, although I enjoyed the latter of the two a little more. Ra-kalam is just such a great source of inspiration to me, and it’s amazing being able to watch him play. U.S. Girls sounded killer, though, too.
CC: Funny you mention U.S. Girls. An employee at Swallow was playing them last week and I asked what it was, because it grabbed me. I’m really loving them.
CC: A Vetiver song I love is “Farther On.” I like the opening: “It was a good time, good time to stop and watch the city breathe, doll. Now we’re lost and have nothing to lose.” I find this song very romantic.
CC: Which Vetiver song do you enjoy, lyrically?
OH: “Maureen” and “I Know No Pardon” immediately come to mind.
Vetiver’s songs are moving, mysterious and beautiful, and everyone should give them a listen. And if you have a chance to see Vetiver perform live during their next tour with their new album, “The Errant Charm,” I highly suggest it.
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