Hello, my name is Gripweed of the German Hardcore/Punk fanzine AWAY FROM LIFE. Who are you?
We are Ötzi, comprised of Akiko (singer/bass), Gina Marie (singer/drums) and K. Dylan Edrich (guitar).
So, first things first… When and how did you start?
Akiko: We started in 2014. Gina and I met as teenagers in the Oakland punk and riotgirl scene in the 90s. After both of us moving away for many years, we moved back to Oakland around the same time and ran into each other at a show. We both wanted to start a band so we decided to play together. We played with a few other guitarists and keyboardists, but when Dylan joined last year we really gelled as a trio.
How did you come up with the name? It’s pretty unusual for an American band.
Akiko: We wrote music for about six months without a band name because no one liked anyone else’s suggestions, it was taking forever! Finally our keyboardist, who went to high school in Germany, said she’d been obsessed with Ötzi the ice mummy for a long time. So we decided to name the band after him. We hope we can visit him someday when we’re on tour in Italy.
In Austria there’s a DJ Ötzi which is rather party music for dumb people. (For example his first hit:
It would be interesting if a guy, who likes his music ended up on your concert.
Gina Marie: Ha! We’re an American punk band so we’d never heard of him, but lately some people told us about him. If one of his fans came to our show, I’d think they’d probably like us better! 😉
Is there a living post-punk scene in Oakland? What’s living in the city there? Which bands/artists do you recommend?
Akiko: There is a really big post-punk, dark punk and deathrock scene in Oakland. Gina and her partner, Brianne, have done a lot to build the dark punk scene here with their festival and promotion company, Near Dark. They bring so many great bands to town, and a lot of touring acts tell us this is their favorite place on their tour, because the fans here are so excited and friendly. There’s also a healthy punk and hardcore scene and metal, noise, experimental, hip hop, and electronic music are all very active. As far as other post-punk or deathrock bands I recommend Mystic Priestess, Moira Scar, Altar de Fey, Esses, False Figure. For hardcore I recommend Convenience and Khiis.
Gina Marie:Yes, we are lucky to be surrounded by so many rad bands and the scene here is extremely supportive! Some Oakland bands that are killing it are: Houses of Heaven, B-Ward, Mystic Priestess, Provoke, Yama Uba, Riita, Zanna Nera, The World, Esses, Khiss, Dots, and …..
You’re first album was dedicated to the 2016 Oakland warehouse fire. I happened to be the editor of the German Wikipedia to translate the English article. What did happen there and what’s you’re connection to the victims.
Akiko: I never read the Wikipedia article, but thank you for translating it. What happened is, everyone has been getting priced out of their homes and venues by rich tech people, so the number of venues was shrinking. There was a weird place run by shady people who took advantage of the situation. Otzi played there one month before the fire. The owner and managers were on a lot of drugs, it was a creepy place. It was in bad shape but they had expensive imported antiques everywhere and it looked like a haunted pirate ship. It was a huge warehouse with 2 stairs and 3 doors, but they built it into a wooden maze. The main staircase to the dancefloor was made out of junk wood and pallets. It was hard to walk on or carry music equipment up. The night we played, there were 3 exits and a backyard. But they’d filled the yard with trash so they blocked 2 of the exits on the night of the fire. The fire was caused by electrical problems that the landlord knew about, but wouldn’t fix. The stairs went up in flames and trapped people upstairs, and the people on the first floor couldn’t find the exit because of the maze and the smoke. Some of the people that escaped the fire went back in to save friends, and they died too.
As far as our relationship to the victims, some were friends, some were acquaintances, some were strangers, some were artists whose work we knew but hadn’t met. It would be the same in any city where you have maybe 100-200 really active people in your music scene and a quarter of them die. Some are your friends and some aren’t.
The city government used the fire as an excuse to evict lots more people from art spaces, venues, and homes for business development, and it’s still happening. The problem of gentrification of course is much bigger than this, and sometimes we’re a part of the problem unfortunately. There are many other people whose lives have been destroyed by real estate development and by fire in the San Francisco/Oakland area but when it happens to black people, Latinx communities and the very poor it’s not covered by the media.
It’s a hard thing to talk about and we don’t really love talking about it, but I’m sharing the story here to so that underground promoters can think about safety and not blocking doors when they have shows.
I’ m only used to you’re Part Time Punks Session. I really loved the EP and I was a little disappointed that you’re other work is not as raw and stripped. Is that a musical direction you are heading for?
Akiko: No, not at all. As music fans, to us going to a live show and listening to a record are distinct experiences, so we don’t mind a difference between the two. In the studio, we make an effort to respect ourselves as musicians – which as women and non-binary people, we have had to fight for that for decades. So we take our time and allow for as much nuance as possible in the recording to fit the songwriting. At shows, we only have whatever amps and PAs are there and it will never sound the same. But it’s also more physical; it’s more communal. We build off of the energy of the audience and we play faster, harder, and just have a lot of fun, because those are the kind of shows we like to go to. We’ve had people say that our live shows are too aggressive compared to the albums they listen to, but we can’t please everyone. All we can do is be ourselves.
Your next album is in the making. Tell us something about it…
Akiko: It will not be raw and stripped down, ha! Maybe sometime we’ll do another live album though. We’re looking forward to expanding ourselves on this album. We’ve played a lot of the songs at shows already, and those are really really fun songs to play, more fast and punk, and people go crazy to them at shows. And the rest are more about the melodies, so it feels balanced to us.
You were on tour in Europe. What was the nicest and what was the strangest thing that happened there?
Akiko: Both the nicest and strangest thing was when a new friend gave us tattoos in Zaragoza! We met them at the show and then they gave us all bat tattoos.
I really like the Joy Division and Bauhaus touch of your music. What are other inspirations for you?
Gina Marie: I think our sound has come really natural for us as people who have listened to this genre for many years. But some bands I really like are Xmal Deutschland, Crass, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Suburban Lawns, Zounds, Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode, the B-52s, and tons of riot grrrl bands from youth like Bikini Kill.
Akiko: I also like the other classic post-punk and goth bands like the Cure, Siouxsie, Christian Death, Sisters of Mercy, Sex Gang Children, 13th Chime. Other longstanding influences on me are the Slits, Rites of Spring, Lync and Bikini Kill.
Here’s a little question – answer game, which I play on most interviews. Just answer with the first thing what comes to your mind…
Donald Trump –
Gina Marie: Fucker
Joy Division –
Gina Marie: Suicide
Gina Marie: R.I.P.
Akiko: Old homies
AWAY FROM LIF –
Gina Marie: Interview
Akiko: New homies
Near Dark –
Gina Marie: Records
Gina Marie: My favorite music
Akiko: Genre name
Thanks for the interview and sorry for my bad english. The last words are yours…
Gina Marie: Thanks for the interest and support of our music. Hope to see ya in Europe sooner than later!
We got a column with the title “10 Records Worth to Die for”. If you wanna be part of it choose one bandmember. We need a photo with her collection or with one ofher favourite records.
GINA: Yes I would like to participate!