Musicians come and go, often leaving a trail of mediocrity and failed dreams. Not Otto Von Schirach. He's been making beats from his hometown of Miami and spreading mystical messages worldwide for almost 20 years to fans frothing at the mouth to express themselves by shaking their asses. Von Schirach has tended his Cuban and German roots as they've grown into a crazy tropical tree bursting with succulent audio fruits. How famous is he? Ten years ago in Berlin, this writer met a guy wearing an Otto T-shirt.
A couple of years ago, Von Schirach — who won a New Times' Mastermind Award in 2014 — became a father. His young son, Axl, has given him new energy, which he's dedicated to music. He recently released an EP, Draculo, which is out on Monkeytown Records, and is working on a video for it with the Borscht Film Festival crew. He's just back from tour and heading soon to Wisconsin's Even Furthur festival to perform with past collaborator Doormouse.
New Times asked Von Schirach about the myth of Draculo the tropical vampire and what it's like for him to collaborate musically with his toddler. No doubt we'll be writing another article about him and Axl 20 years from now.
New Times: You've been out on tour in Europe? Where'd you go?
Otto Von Schirach: It was a last-minute tour, so we just were like, let's just hit the big cities, buzz out for a little bit, go back to the Triangle, and then reconnect and try to go back in October or March of next year and do the festival season again. I went out for three festivals, and I sandwiched a couple of shows between them in London, Berlin, and Paris. I did Fusion Festival outside of Berlin; it's an amazing festival. In September, I'm opening for Meat Beat Manifesto at the Ground.
Do you have some crazy tour stories? How are people reacting to your new music?
Yeah, I was superblessed on this tour. I was excited to be playing new music. Even though it's summer and it's hot, everybody put so much energy into the shows. In Paris, it was madness. It was so crowded that right after I started "When Dinosaurs Rule the Earth," this supertall girl comes onstage and just did a striptease in front of everybody; it was like so Paris — so brutal, so awesome. It was so packed that people were getting onstage and pushing me back, my gear pushed back, and more people kept coming into the room. It was also the World Cup semifinals, so France was in the lead. I spent five days touring in France, and it was madness in every city, the small cities too. It was brutal. People liked the tropical-vampire tracks. The tropical-bass stuff is what's next.
Can you tell readers more about Draculo and your album?
Draculo is like Cuban folklore. He's like Transylvania lineage through Cuba and Germany. Just like now he lives in the Bermuda Triangle in Miami, and the folklore is that there's a special vitamin in the Bermuda Triangle called vampisol. It lets you stay in the sun. They say it's in the seed of papaya, but this is like myth. We don't know. It could be a lie, but that's how the vampire is able to live in the sun and be tropical. People of the Draculo lineage bite the culo, not the neck... We're just vibing on that folklore.
You even shout out New Times' editor in chief, Chuck Strouse, on "Astronomical."
Me and Pepe Billete, who co-wrote the track, felt like Chuck and the whole New Times team know who the Masterminds are!
You have a son now. Has becoming a dad changed the way you make music or the way you live your life as a musician?
Yeah, being a dad has changed my life. To break it down, I make music with him. So it's collaborating with another soul and learning from him and learning how he would make music. I'll let him be on the modular and I'll be like, Damn, I think he's onto something. When I'm on tour, I FaceTime with him, but when I get back, it's so much better because the time we spend together is so much more special. I think he's starting to get what's going on, and when I travel, he knows what's going to happen.
Has he always been into music? What kind of music do you make with him?
Challenges are when there's a deadline and realizing that he needs attention, and what's more important, my kid's attention or a deadline? There's always a deadline in my lifestyle. I have like 30 deadlines right now [laughs] — for labels, videos, releases, vocals, collaborations — finishing stuff that should have been done months ago for labels or friends, waiting for interviews. Shit that when I was a kid, I would have knocked it all out in a week, but now that I'm an adult, I have other priorities. You gotta pick the papayas that are growing in your yard. You have to chill with your son, make music, and travel the world.
What's it like making music with your son?
When he's making music, he tends to like stuff that's really noisy, more like loud and wow, and have weird things to it. But when he's listening to music, it's more melodic stuff like the Beatles, 'cause his mom plays him a lot of Beatles. I feel like when we create together, he doesn't know yet what's going on. He's telling me, "Yes, yes, eso, eso, that." I'll put the beats on the pad and he'll flip through the ones he wants, and I'll start a loop and then I'll have him play the drums, and he'll know how to play them. I'll tell him to press play and stop. Just picking the melodies. I'll sometimes let him play the melodies. It's some weird stuff, but it works. I mean, he's 2 years old [laughs].
Is there a point where it clicked with him?
I think it started clicking with him the first time I got back from tour and he hadn't been in the studio for three or four weeks. He was only maybe a year old. From that point on, he had been in the studio always. I think he [knew what was going on] when I played him stuff that we made before, with his voice. We don't make a lot of vocal recordings but have done them, and we play with the modular every time he's here.
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Do you want to keep working with him when he's older?
Yeah, if he wants to. I'm going to keep making music, so he's probably going to be interested too. I think it's just going to be a part of his life. I know him — he's going to be that guy who wants to talk on music.
What else do you have going on?
There's the Draculo EP, and I'm dropping tracks left and right. That's one thing that my son has inspired me to do the most, is wanting to release music again. I spent years not releasing music, thinking that I wanted to be selective, but I think of so many types of music, so many genres, that I just want to release it all. Why hold onto anything? Release it all — let it be free, for everyone. It's magic.
Project Pat. With Otto Von Schirach, Galactic Effect, and others. 10 p.m. Saturday, July 21, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Tickets cost $20 to $25 via eventbrite.com.
Otto Von Schirach. 10 p.m. Friday, August 17, at Nancy, 2007 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-397-8971; nancy305.com. Admission is free.