conversations with bianca

Sound Colour Vibration Editor-in-Chief Erik Otis: Music Journalism, Interviewing & Print Magazines

Sound Colour Vibration (SCV) is one of my favourite destinations online. Like me, co-founder/Editor-in-Chief Erik Otis and his writers believe in insightful, thoughtful, in-depth long form interviews with the artists the site celebrates—a whole cross section of Creatives from all kinds of music backgrounds from punk and hardcore to experimental to hip hop to jazz and beyond. SCV is also an art, film, photography and culture blog that features an online art gallery, a 24 hour streaming online radio series and more. They aim to enrich people’s lives through the sharing of information, knowledge and experience; you most definitely will not find gossip-y kind of features that the majority of mainstream publications thrive on. It’s nice to know that there are folks out there that care as much about the artists as I do, that they actually care what they have to say and it’s not just doing an interview with a ‘name’ or featuring a controversial hot topic just to ramp up the stat hits that can be highlighted in the quest to secure advertising dollars. A great interview will complement the artist’s work and give us a deeper understanding of it and their journey. Stay tuned for future SCV + ConversationsWithBianca.com collaborations!

What’s your story? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

ERIK OTIS: I am born and raised in the greater region of Los Angeles known as Riverside, CA which is about an hour south of LA. I grew up in a family of musicians, artists and many other worlds and that left me consumed with music from the start. Basketball, skating, playing guitar, college, part venue owner, pipeline construction, baby sitter, record store worker, it’s all played a small part into who I am today. Having a father who is black and Native American and a mother who is white and Native American, there was always an unusual stream of influences that filled our house. Around 5th grade I started writing raps as my brother was surrounding me with the best hip hop. It was through a lot of his friends that I gained a lot of feedback and time to really flourish with my creative side. It was a whirl wind when transforming into playing guitar and studying a vast amount of music.

Growing up, I was accustomed to knowing almost every class of society, from Bloods and Heshins to Mormons and doctors. With a lot of time spread into many different worlds, I feel like I am just beginning to find a place on this earth and am feeling a lot better about where I am in life than I did in the years prior to starting to SCV.

Why is music important to you?

EO: I really feel like music is important to every human being and below the necessity level of water and food. I feel it is also one of the few remaining tools of true political presence. You can take 100s of 1,000s of people, organize and conduct them to carry about righteous acts but you look at the power of what John Lennon or Jimi Hendrix had and it’s beyond what anyone can describe. From the hymns our mothers and care takers sing for us to the sounds we resonate with the most, it’s a feature of society that allows people to have something nobody can take away. It has been one of the biggest platforms for social and creative change and is constantly changing the way it is perceived.

On a more personal level, thinking back about when my mom would put on Bob Marley, Chahka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, it was all an eclectic flavour of sounds that made us feel okay about being a little different. The entire concept of SCV was founded under this principle of just covering music we love, not trying to find trends and this all came from the importance in diversity of music my parents made us grow up on. Music has given me strength through some of my hardest times and has always been there through my best. I realized in middle school when I’d rather save lunch money for a month to buy one record and would plan it out so I could buy it when it came out that I was entirely addicted to music.

What inspired you to start Sound Colour Vibration?

EO: It was around 2009 or so and I was co-running a music and art venue in my city of Riverside. With a lot of desire to push towards a legit media culture physical magazine – something I have been envisioning for the last 10 years of my life – I had gained the confidence after I booked Kawabata Makoto of the Acid Mothers Temple and started to realize what I could do with the current formats available. Online publication was the next best thing to print so I chose WordPress as my platform as I heard so many good things about their servers, security, embed options and the rest. I had taken a little html in community college and was ready to start hammering away at something that transcended any city and was just a coverage of the things that were around me and things that would come to us. I had been formulating the plan for start-up for about a year, telling friends about concepts I had and getting feedback from them. My family also supported my endeavours as much as they could, hoping I’d remain in school. I chose to take a little time off school and complete my education at a slightly slower pace to pursue this project. Within a few months of planning and contacting people to set up some of the first interviews, we knew we had something to run with.

Pouya Asadi also started SCV with me. He lives in Pittsburg as of this year and had resided in Chicago his entire life before that. We met online and had always shared music, film and the rest. He was a big source of inspiration to stop doubting myself, get out there, fuck up a little bit and realize that it was going to be a slow but honest process if we were to go anywhere and gain exposure. My grandma was also a huge source of inspiration. She passed before she could see what we are doing with the website but her spirit and personality is what SCV is all about.

Tell us about what the Sound Colour Vibration Society does.

EO: We started off with a loose identity, diving into areas of music, film and art while gathering contacts for promos and the rest. It was literally one foot in front of the other. First label to send us promos was Porter Records. I just about damaged my ceiling from hitting it after jumping from seeing that first package. It was unreal to say the least. With the advent of downloading, a lot of younger people don’t realize that time when you couldn’t just check out a clip if you wanted to or grab the entire record. You were lucky to get such advances of music before the internet really took off and it was through all that in which I couldn’t help but love getting free music from a label ’cause they wanted me to review it. Now, we are extremely focused with the duties and ground we all cover here. Music festival and concert photos plus show reviews, album reviews, film premier reviews, digital mixes through Mixcloud, online art gallery, interviews in all areas of the three mediums we cover along with small side series such as Blast From The Past, Color in Motion and Movement Nu. Blast is a cover of old vintage music clips and audio, Color surveys the art and photography world and Movement follows older films. With the blog format, you never know what you will get each day, something that will change once we redesign our website with easier points of access for the different areas of our website.

Do SCV feel a part of any particular community?

EO: It’s hard to say. We have many contacts in so many different worlds but we don’t gravitate towards any one area. I feel like we are a part of a world community as we get emails from artists from Israel, Japan, the States, everywhere pretty much. People who I identify with in terms of showing us love would have to be Cathy of Sargent House, Luke of Porter Records, Cosme of Division9, Demon Slayer (partner in crime and brother from another mother), Eric from Forced Exposure, Walter Gross, Psychopop, DJ Nobody, Thomas Pridgen, Ikey Owens, Carlos Droops, all my colleagues in Mexico, Talene of Back2TheGrind, the 100′s of labels and artists sending is promos, Magnolia Pictures, the list goes on forever but doesn’t really lead to one spot or a particular community. Our goal was to transcend one community and become a voice that the world can hear. We operate on a level where we can set up HQ’s anywhere and still retain the same voice we always have. The more walls we knock down in context of genres that exists under one roof, the harder it becomes to identify with one community. I wouldn’t have it any other way coming from the type of mixed racial background I do.

Why is it important to SCV to feature a wide variety of genres past and present and to bridge the cultures of music, film and art?

EO: I feel it’s where we are going as a race. No longer can a cultural stigma come in terms of music. It’s all fair game and when a lot of people start living in this mode you get a lot of exchange in culture. The strengthening power culturally is what I feel has been one force of change that we can really measure. When I started SCV, everyone around me who had studied marketing preached how I was going down a dead road and how I would alienate people within the bridge of all these elements we find in music, art and film. I have had dreams of providing a source of knowledge that separated itself from the vacuum approach in which has become the standard for media print. It’s how I grew up and I couldn’t see this project flourishing any other way.

What have been some of SCV’s biggest challenges on the path to becoming what it is today?

EO: The biggest challenge is finding a team of people who can stay committed. I have 5 people who have stuck with me from the beginning and I am beyond thankful they have put up with me. Having such a passionate desire to present as many articles as possible in all the areas I love, it drives me to expect the same from those around me. With this being an out of pocket project, the desire to contribute can only come from sources outside of money. It becomes draining to some and some lose interest. I have finally started to gel into the new team we have now and it looks like a really solid fit as we approach the new standards of SCV and the eventual physical print of what SCV will become.

Another challenge has been monitoring my own time and not working too much in the pursuit of what this is. Sometimes I neglect loved ones and am not seen by friends in months, so the last few months I have been regulating that area more to make that time my loved ones deserve.

What are your thoughts on the current state of music journalism?

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One Comment

  1. [...] also because it is the first in a series of collaborative interviews I am doing with my friend Erik Otis, editor-in-chief of LA-based publication Sound Colour Vibration. We put our heads together and came [...]

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