Few artists have the pedigree of Rich Oddie and Dave Foster. The Toronto-area natives have been active since the early 90’s and Oddie’s seminal project Orphx and Foster’s Huren/Teste have been at the forefront of industrial and techno for over 25 years. When the two paired up to form O/H, we were taken to yet another new level of scumtronics, experimental abstractions and cultural dissections . Their new record, Market Values (L.I.E.S, 2018), sees the duo in top form and we are pleased to premiere the video for “Media Blitz”, which is a wonderful visual assault created by Dominic Marceau (F Squared Media). In addition, we were fortunate enough to speak with Oddie and Foster about their history, the new record and more. (Q&A below)
The Brvtalist: First off, tell us when and how did O/H start?
Rich: Dave and I grew up in the same city and we have known each other for almost thirty years. His music in the early 90s was an inspiration for me and influenced the shift toward elements of techno in my own work at that time. Around 2010, we had both returned to Hamilton from other places. We started hanging out more and became closer friends. A couple of years later, we started making music together and the results were exciting from the beginning - combining slower techno rhythms with power electronics. We played a few local shows each year and finally put together our first record for Opal Tapes in 2015.
TB: Your name O/H is a reference to Hamilton's psychiatric hospital. I've read a few articles which describe how patients were tortured by being chained together, stripped naked, forced to take drugs and more. All this reminds me of the Stanford prison experiment, except this wasn’t an experiment, but the patients’ reality. Why did you end up choosing this name and how is this story reflected in your work?
Dave: In our generation, it was always a cautionary tale about the lost souls that line the wards there. I've come close to winding up in there myself. And in ways I can’t go into, it also played a role in the formation of Teste.
Rich: Yeah “they’re going to put you in the OH” , was something that we’d say when we were kids. The Ontario Hospital - and because of the asylum’s long history and the extreme “treatments” they used at the turn of the century, there were always dark stories about that place. Now it is very bright and modern but the older buildings and equipment are still there on the property. We chose that name because of this local history but also because I think we’re both interested in the idea of mental health and sanity, on a personal level and on a societal level. I think it’s clear to anyone who is paying attention that we are living in a modern culture that is deeply sick. Some pathological behaviours will land you in an asylum, others are celebrated and rewarded: selfishness, greed, social exploitation, environmental destruction.
TB: You’ve released your second EP Market Values on Ron Morelli’s label L.I.E.S. How is the feedback so far and how did the collaboration with Ron Morelli go?
Rich: I think I first met Ron at Movement last year and we quickly became friends. I knew he was a fan of the first O/H record so we pitched the new tracks to him and we were really pleased that he agreed to do it. L.I.E.S. has released so many excellent records and Ron is a true music fan who always seems to be digging and discovering new gems. Plus, like Dave and I, he came up with a real foundation in punk and deeply appreciates that DIY approach. It was a perfect fit.
TB: Where did you draw your inspiration from for this release? Between the punk energy infused by Dave’s lyrics and titles like 'Human Waste' or 'Wage Slave', what are you angry about or rebelling against?
Dave: I adhere to the slogan “consuming shit and mind pollution”. People are programmed and conditioned just to consume and make the same few people richer and there is no escape or opt out. We're all in prison, just some people have nicer cells and privileges and false freedom to work for some trash to advertise for those in power. We’re dictated a sense of “choice”, all with the same result.
Rich: The first EP was like dystopian snapshots: environmental pollution, mind pollution, self-obsession, the eat and shit cycle of consumer culture. The new record was created out of a few different recordings that we made over the last three years. Some tracks are first takes of the vocals, but most are stitched together from different vocal recordings that shared a common theme: poverty, wage slavery, social isolation, social media obsessions. “Market Values” refers to the tendency in consumer culture to reduce all value, purpose, and morality to economic value - to a price. Dave’s cover art of “the beast within” and Dominic’s video for “Media Blitz” both capture this really well: an economic system and a culture that dehumanizes people, that creates monstrosities, that consumes itself.
TB: I really like the dynamic between you guys - how each of you brings something totally different to the table, Rich focusing on shaping the sounds while Dave is adding texture through vocals and effects. What do you think works well about the collaboration between you two?
Dave: Well Rich really knows the depraved, cold, cruelty I express lyrically through his sonic choices. I'm very inspired by it.
Rich: The inspiration is mutual. And it’s like you said: we each have our roles in the project, although they are not set in stone. My focus on the rhythms and basslines frees Dave up to really focus on vocals and noise textures, and he has the space to really lose control during a live performance. So that control / chaos dynamic works really well for us, both live and in the studio. The best shows feel like they are on the edge of falling apart and that creates a really violent, ecstatic energy with the crowd.
TB: I’ve seen your music being described in the past as “ritualized catharsis” or “scum electronics”, among others. How would you describe your music now and what do you think changed since your previous release on Opal Tapes?
Dave: Well I can state when i adopted the label “impure low-rent fucking $CUMTRONIC$” a decade ago it was depraved art damaged nihilism. I was ready to drop out of society and that output was the soundtrack as well as the videos, which have been removed from Youtube by law enforcement. This was a very degenerate time in my life and the lyrics for these records reflect years of substance abuse and harsh lifestyle. I was almost murdered at one point and pretty much in a loop for years. For a decade, I listened daily to the same three or four records by Swans, Brainbombs, Mayhem, and Eyehategod. So thats where what was left of my mind was at... AMBITION IS SENSELE$$!
Rich: I’m not sure that our approach has changed too much since the first record but some of the gear has changed a bit. The first record was primarily 808, MS20, and a few Eurorack modules. The new one also uses some tougher 909 based percussion and a Buchla synth that Dave briefly owned. Ritualized catharsis is a perfect description for what we are after.
TB: Finally, what can we expect from O/H in the near future?
Dave: Even less sexy and catchy melodies! Colostomy stompers!! The scum rises to the bottom!
Market Values is out now and you can pick up the 12” through L.I.E.S.