Entertainment Magazine

A Ripple Conversation With Scott O’Dowd Of Cortez.

Posted on the 19 September 2021 by Ripplemusic
A Ripple Conversation With Scott O’Dowd Of Cortez.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

The first musical epiphany moment that I can remember is hearing the White Album by the Beatles. I must've been five or six years old. My father had given me a few of his old LPs to listen to on my cheap stereo, mostly Beatles and Beach Boys albums. The songs Revolution and Helter Skelter were like nothing I had heard up to that point, which granted, wasn't much, aside from the typical radio pop of the day (early/mid 1970s.) They blew me away, they were so raw.

AC/DC's Highway To Hell was another song that blew my mind. I used to listen to the Dr. Demento show on the local rock station (94 1/2 WCOZ - Kick Ass Rock N Roll) on Sunday nights. It was on after my bedtime, so I would sneak the transistor radio under the covers and turn it on about five minutes before the show started. I remember hearing the last half of Highway To Hell with the radio pressed to my ear so that my parents couldn't hear it. I was obsessed with the song but had no idea who sang it for a few months until I heard it again and the DJ said that it was AC/DC. That was in 1979.

There are many others... a few would be hearing Iron Man by Sabbath, Kill 'Em All by Metallica, Damaged by Black Flag. These three especially opened my eyes to how heavy and aggressive music could be.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

For me, and usually as a band, it starts with a riff or two. One of us will bring in an idea that we think is pretty good. We'll show it to the other guys and then jam around on it for a while and see where it goes. Sometimes whoever came up with the idea will have a bit of a vision for the direction they think it should take and will guide it along. Other times further parts will come about from jamming. Matt usually starts working on ideas for melodies right along with us as the song is in its infancy. There's often a lot of self editing, and re-tooling of parts and arrangements before we end up with a finished song.

Who has influenced you the most?

That's a tough question. There are lots of people who have influenced me somehow along the way. Tony Iommi has had a large influence on my playing, as has Rikk Agnew from the Adolescents.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

Inspiration for me usually comes from a riff. I'll mess around on the guitar and when I hit on something that resonates with me I'll record it right away, either on my phone or computer. I'll dig through the stockpile of riffs and parts at a later time and whatever bits stick out to me provide the inspiration for a particular direction for a new song.

As a band we're always trying to outdo ourselves by writing the best song we've ever written. There's nothing quite like hearing a new riff at rehearsal once the whole band joins in for the first time.

A Ripple Conversation With Scott O’Dowd Of Cortez.

We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?

Boston has always had an excellent music scene. Everywhere you turn there are great bands and musicians. It really makes you push yourself to stand out. I think that has had a profound effect on us and has always made us strive to be better.

Where'd the band name come from?

The name came from Neil Young's song "Cortez The Killer." We wanted a simple one word name that didn't necessarily tell people what to expect music-wise.

You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?

Apocalypse Now. I love the absolute insanity of that film, and I feel like we could really do a killer job on a soundtrack.

You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?

I have a really hard time with questions related to music that zero in on a single favorite song/album/band. I tend to listen to music as a genre. I'll go on binges where I might listen to reggae for a week straight and then new wave or post-punk for a couple of days, then black metal. My tastes are all over the place and I can never consume enough music.

It would probably end up being Teardrop by Massive Attack. I've always felt that the song had a certain quality that great songs have, where it gets its hooks in you and makes you want to hear it over and over. The vocal by Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins is so beautifully mournful and ethereal. Strangely it seems that Madonna was originally considered to sing the vocal.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Landing in Cologne, Germany and not being able to call the guys from our record label who were supposed to meet us, because none of us could figure out how to correctly dial the European phone numbers from our cell phones (this was early on in the cell phone days).

We helped some friends in another band we were playing with at a super sketchy bar when their van broke down, letting them all pile in to our 15 passenger rental van with us. Only to be abruptly pulled over and have a panic of folks trying to quickly stash certain shall we say "party favors."

A Ripple Conversation With Scott O’Dowd Of Cortez.

Driving the van with trailer around Philly late night looking for the best cheese steaks while our singer who may or may not have been inebriated attempted to navigate. We never did find them.

The best one happened in 2008. We were on tour in Washington, DC with our Belgian friends, Solenoid, and our fellow Bostonians, We're All Gonna Die. Two vans, one trailer, and twelve sketchy looking dudes. The two vans were following the Tom Tom GPS unit which we had programmed with the address for the club. Tom Tom decided that it would be a good idea to bring us right by the Capitol building. Out of nowhere we were immediately intercepted by a SWAT team with heavy weaponry. They came at us from all directions... it seemed liked they swung in from trees and came up from manholes. It was nuts. Once they realized that we were a bunch of idiot musicians following a GPS unit, they let us go with the friendly advice to steer clear of any Federal buildings.

Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?

We go on stage and try to put on the best show we can. Songs and riffs really take on a whole other life in the live setting. A live show should be a total release. Hopefully we take the people in the crowd along for the ride.

Hooks. Whether the hook is a riff, a melody, or a rhythm. You need to have all sorts of hooks in a song. Preferably multiple layers of them. This does not mean that a song has to be poppy though.

What one single album do you wish that you'd writen or performed on, and why?

Sticky Fingers by the Stones. Just to be able to say that I'd written a song as good as Moonlight Mile. Just to have been involved with songs like Sway, Can't You Hear Me Knocking, and Dead Flowers would be a dream.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

I'm really happy with the song "Look At You" from Sell The Future. I feel that it totally captures many different sides of what we do as a band, while adding lots of new elements at the same time.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

The Norwegian collective Ulver consistently blow my mind. They've been a bit of a musical chameleon starting out as a Black Metal band and moving through electronic music, noise, and synth-pop. No matter what genre or genres they decide to tackle they are always incredible. There is really no one else like them.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Vinyl all the way. I've been collecting records since I was a kid. I worked at a record store in my late teens. I do listen to a lot of things digitally as well, especially in the car.

Whiskey or beer?And defend your choice

Collectively, I'd say we are beer guys. I enjoy bourbon in a cocktail from time to time, and a single shot on an extremely rare occasion, but my days of drinking straight liquor are WAY behind me.

A Ripple Conversation With Scott O’Dowd Of Cortez.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Our home town is Boston, MA. There are lots of cool record stores in the area, but our current favorite is Village Vinyl in Brookline. They have an amazing selection of new/used vinyl.

Finish up writing one or two more songs and then get back into Mad Oak Studios with Benny Grotto to start recording the follow up to "Sell The Future."

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

We really appreciate everyone who's come to see us, spread the word for us all these years, or helped us out in any way. Hit up our Bandcamp page at https://cortezboston.bandcamp.com/album/sell-the-future for music or merch.

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