Interview MWE3
Scott Heller of Øresund Space Collective


mwe3: I couldn’t believe that Different Creatures is actually the 20th album by Øresund Space Collective. Where have you guys been hiding and why did it take so long to find you?

Scott Heller: We have been hanging out in Copenhagen and Malmö, Sweden mostly. We have been pretty active playing over 100 concerts in 10 different European countries but it is difficult to reach the audience in the USA without any distribution or label support in the USA so our fanbase in the USA has mainly been through word of mouth in the Space-Rock community, where we are well known and also through zines like Aural Innovations.

mwe3: Where are you from originally and how did you decide to live and work in Copenhagen? It’s such a beautiful city. What’s Copenhagen and Denmark like as far as a place to live and work? Space rock was big in Scandinavia in the ‘70s, so what’s the scene like today in your estimation? Did you learn to speak and write Danish? It’s similar to Swedish except for those planetary symbols! Ø looks like the planet Saturn to me!

Scott Heller: For the last 22 years I had been doing diabetes research and prior to being recruited for a job in Denmark at Novo Nordisk, I worked at the Harvard Medical school in Boston. Work brought me to Denmark. Denmark is a great place to work and so was Novo Nordisk. I retired from full time work this year. We get good pay, 6 weeks of paid vacation, good health insurance, etc. Denmark, despite electing a terrible government this year, is still a well functioning country and society, although I see the decline in front of them if they follow through with the policies of the new right wing, pro-capitalist, anti-enviromental path they are taking.

As for the space rock scene, it was really small until recently. In the late 1990s when I arrived we had Dark Sun in Finland, Darxtar, Pseudo Sun, the Spacious Mind all in Sweden and basically Mantric Muse in Denmark playing space rock. Since then the scene has really exploded with bands from all the countries and ØSC, I would like to think has helped this. Although the Danish language is very difficult to learn, I have learned to read, write and speak it but not like a native. I can get by in society but I will always have English as my main language. Danish is similar to Swedish in the sense that you can read both languages if you know one but the spoken language is very different! I have a very hard time to understand spoken Swedish but I can read some of it.

mwe3: How is this latest Øresund Space Collective CD an evolution of your earlier album releases? What did you set out to achieve with Different Creatures, from both a sound and compositional perspective and why do you call the album Different Creatures?

Scott Heller: The recording sessions in October 2014 that lead to the Different Creatures CD/LP were unique in the sense that I specifically put together a group of musicians that I really wanted to play with and how I felt would have a really unique chemistry. We had never had electric violin before and Simon House, who I really admire, had never answered my requests!

I had known Jonathan Segel since the late 1980s when I would go see his band, Hiernomyus Firebrain, who were a great live band and made three cool CDs. I had followed his solo music career as well. Hasse, from the Norwegian band Tangle Edge, I had also been friends with since the late 1990s and I knew one day we would make music together. Alex, the drummer in the session is someone I also admired from his band, Gösta Berlings Saga and felt he would work great with us.

The rest of the guys in the studio session had all played live or in the studio with ØSC before but this group of 8 musicians had not ever been in the same room together. Also, in this session, we spoke more about what style of jam we would have to try to mix up different styles and to see what might happen, whereas in the past, we did not do much besides choose a key and start jamming. Nothing was composed, everything was totally improvised. As for the name, it was a name that came to me due to that we are all from different places, lots of Swedish musicians, two from the USA and one from Norway. We are different Creatures. This also worked well as a concept for the amazing artwork by Mårdøn Smet!

mwe3: Some music fans are comparing Øresund Space Collective to early Gong and possibly Syd-era Pink Floyd, although there were also some great bands from Sweden in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s too that were breaking ground for instrumental space-jazz like Älgarnas Trädgård. Where do you get your musical inspirations from and what artists helped you formulate your sonic perspectives so to speak? Where does ØSC fit in the current Prog music revival?

Scott Heller: I don’t know about the early Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd but certainly we would fit in with the vibe of Saucerful Of Secrets, “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”, Echoes era Pink Floyd and certainly, we all love Gong. I am a big fan of the Swedish band, The Spacious Mind. They were the coolest space rock band from Sweden. I also dig Älgarnas Trädgård, as well and so many of the cool Swedish prog-space bands from the ‘70s as well like Träd Grås och Stenar, Fläsket Brinner, Kebnekajse, Life, Lotus, Panta Rei, etc.

My influences come a lot from early Hawkwind, Alien Planetscapes, Allman Brothers, early ‘70s Miles Davis and bands like that. As for the prog revival, I think we attract a lot of progressive rock fans due to the high level of musicianship in the band. I have been really lucky to find such amazingly talented people to make improvised music with. The music fits into no specific genre really as we cross prog, world music, space-rock, jazz, and whatever we feel like playing at the moment.

mwe3: Who else plays with you on the new Øresund Space Collective CD set? You only mention their first names in the Different Creatures CD album art. Who is playing guitar, where did you find the players and how did Jonathan Segel from Camper Van Beethoven join the band? Does he bring another layer to the OSC sonic onion?

Scott Heller: The others that were involved, were Mats, a local bass/guitar player from Malmö, Sweden, who I share an interest in similar music and now has played live with us a few times. Amazing musician. Jonas, who played synthesizer, organ and also guitar on one jam, is from the Swedish band Agusa and has also played live with ØSC on a few occasions. KG Westman, previously played with Swedish roots rock band, Siena Root and has been playing on and off with the band and myself since 2008.

ØSC also played concerts with Siena Root in Denmark and Sweden in 2006, ‘07 and ‘08. Jonathan, being an amazing multi instrumentalist, played guitar, violin, theremin, organ and mandolin at the session and also mixed the record with guidance from Hasse and myself.

mwe3: Can you tell us something about the way the new album was recorded? Was it all cut live in the studio and were all the musicians together in the studio when it was recorded? Jonathan’s mixing of the album is very impressive too. How long did it take to create and who does your artwork?

Scott Heller: The music on Different Creatures was created over 3 days in late October 2014. We spent most of the Friday setting up the equipment and recording on Saturday and Sunday. We all set up in the large studio room and we ran all the keyboards and synthesizers through some studio monitors so no one had to wear headphones. It was very much like a live concert without the audience. We had discussions before staring the jams as to what sort of style or feel or groove we wanted to try and then just jammed! We created 13 jams ranging from around 15 minutes to 55 minutes in length. Jams 10, 11, 13, 15, and 20 made up this record.

mwe3: Are you somewhat of a gear head? Tell us about your synths and other keyboards and instruments that you play on the new album and what other instruments do you play? What’s the gear scene like in Denmark?

Scott Heller: I try to be reasonable but I do like to collect some old synthesizers. On the new record I played the OSCar, Octave Cat SRMII, Korg Monotron, Yamaha CS.10 and my custom built modular synthesizer with modules from Make Noise, Wizard, Cwjeman and Analoque Systems (UK). I own a few other synthesizers as well like a Nord Lead 2 and Roland D-50. There is a lot of gear in Denmark for sale on sites like Den Blå Avis (http://www.dba.dk) but you pay quite high prices but usually get good quality as well. Blocket in Sweden is a great site for find gear as well.

mwe3: For those who have never seen Øresund Space Collective, what are your live shows like? What kinds of crowds do you get attending the shows? The original psychedelic music fans are now in their ‘70s and some of the original guys are dying, like Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream fame.

Scott Heller: We have quite a diverse audience at our concerts. It is a mix of people and often folks over 50 into prog rock and a good psychedelic experience and younger stoners who dig the cool light shows and spaced out jams that we construct live. The live show is really variable as you never know what the sound will be like on the stage and how the crowd will be. This affects the performance a lot. For example, our last show in 2015 at the Copenhagen Psych Fest was inside a meat locker freezer and half the band could not hear the other half of the band and the show was really bizarre from our point of view on the stage but listening back to the recording I was blown away at how cool a show we actually played. Sound man did a great job and the audience was really into it as well. The outdoor festivals are almost always really great.

mwe3: What are your plans for writing, recording, touring in 2016 and how can you bring Øresund Space Collective’s music into the future and turn on a whole new generation of music fans?

Scott Heller: The plans for ØSC in 2016 include about 4 or 5 releases. The first new release will be “Ode To The Black Hole”, which is one long doom drone jam also recorded at the October 2014 studio session but mixed by me. We hope this comes out in later March or April. A Norwegian label will release a concert we played in Trondheim, Norway in 2007 on a double vinyl release, limited to 400 copies. We plan to release Inside Your Head on a double vinyl as well. This was originally released in 2008 on the Sulatron label out of Germany. Organic Earthly Flotation will come out on a CD with an extra track. This was released back in 2012 only on vinyl and is sold out. Finally, Jonathan will mix another double vinyl/CD from the October 2014 session and this could come out in the fall next year.

As for concerts, we will visit Athens, Greece for the first time on February 14th. We have the Northern Discomfort festival in Copenhagen, where we will play a doom drone set in May. Later in May we are trying to set up a two week European tour and to play Switzerland for the first time and maybe Hungary and Czech Republic as well. This is hard. Rumor has it we might play a special festival in the states, our first trip ever to the USA. This is not confirmed yet.

As for the future of music... you have to work the internet. It is all about connections. That is the only way to reach people these days with the help of great people like mwe3.com, we can slowly expand our fanbase. No one makes money from ØSC. It is a music collective, all the money is turned back into the collective to pay for studio sessions, the mixing, making cool merch, producing the records... it would be nice if I could pay the musicians, but there is so little money, it all just goes back into the pot to make the whole thing keep on running. Thanks to everyone for their fantastic support! Peace.