Oto So Far

The band behind the Japanese name reclaims the spotlight from its departed front woman

Most printed articles spent more time describing what color Coppé's pigtails were than reiterating the musicians' extensive background in the Phoenix music scene. In lieu of the usual band bio, the band's Web site, www.otolive.com, contains a family tree that shows how far back the group's incestuous music associations stretch and will soon have streaming samples of all of its previous groupings on Oto's online radio station hosted by live365.com. Bassist Bart Applewhite was in Kongo Shock, considered by many to be the first ska dub band in the Valley, although Pond maintains he and Dreisher were in a ska dub band, Dubback, that predated it.

Pond and Dreisher also had an on-again, off-again project called the Martyrs that had a lineup going back to the early '90s. Current Oto personnel Mister Puma M.C. and singer Misty Chapman also clocked in time in the Martyrs, as did DJ Radar, Z-Trip and Scott White of the Hammertoes.

"It had a lot of musicians," says Pond, who was drummer for Cousins of the Wize at the time he met Coppé, who was looking for new producers. "I hooked her up with Terry. At the time, he was into a lot of down-tempo stuff. And those two started recording together."

Oto: A dance band with multiple personalities.
Kevin Scanlon
Oto: A dance band with multiple personalities.

Details

Scheduled to perform on Friday, December 7, with Joined, and W.O.M.B. Showtime is 10 p.m. Also performing are DJ Essential, Egorock, and Jimmy the Mantis Claw.
Bash on Ash in Tempe

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The lack of recognition in print for the band has been especially bothersome to Dreisher, who constructed much of the music on her third CD. "Here we are working really hard and here comes an article and we get one sentence out of a two-page article. There's been stuff released in Europe without my name on it."

Much of the local media fascination centers on Coppé's celebrity status in Japan. Just how big in Japan was she? "We've never seen any royalties off anything, so to us she wasn't that successful," says Pond, laughing.

"When she was a little girl, she got to sing this nursery rhyme song on a TV show. Well, it got used on a recording that won the Japanese equivalent of a Grammy," Southern explains. "Then she became a video jock and used to interview all the touring bands, even people like Michael Jackson. She's had her picture taken with everyone you can imagine. There were TV shows, and she was really successful hosting them. Her parents lived between here and Hawaii and they had some developments, some golf courses here she helped manage."

Despite all this activity, she missed making music and subsequently spent much of her time in recording studios, where she first met Pond and later Dreisher. Says Southern, "The one thing Coppé always lacked was a real live band. She was always looking for somebody to power her vocals. That's why it was a perfect match since Oto was a strong bunch of musicians. She's been doing a lot of stuff with DJs."

Before gradually mutating into Oto, this final set of Martyrs was O of M for a 1998 CD. "We argued about band names for months," Dreisher says. "Finally one day, many names later, Coppé was on the phone with her mom and they were talking Japanese and she said, 'Hey, how about Oto?' Everybody was pretty blitzed at the time, so we all said, 'That sounds good to me.' We'd been through this routine a few times with other names and we'd say, 'I don't know if we really want to be called that.' But this time it stuck."

Oto is the abbreviated name of a religious organization, Ordo Templi Orientis, as well as a toilet manufacturer in Japan that produces a high-end throne which actually plays the sounds of a waterfall "so that other bathroom users don't have to hear the splashing and gurgling as you go to town with the washlette!!" How face-saving is that?

"The first time I saw the Oto toilet was in New York City at some restaurant and I looked down on the urinal," Pond says. "So it really did exist. It's also the Japanese word for sound. It's sort of cheesy. I wouldn't name a band 'sound.' But it works. It's too hard to go back now."

Although you could probably count them on your hands, Oto did play a couple of shows in 1999: a record-breaking attendance show at Nita's Hideaway, a show at the Bash on Ash with Radio Free America and a couple of raves. "Our first show was one of the raves out at Cowtown, the 'Cryptic Secret Rave,'" recalls Pond. "We'd play these freestyle sets that would have to last from midnight to 3 or 4 in the morning. The only problem is they would give the DJ massive PAs and give the bands these glorified home speakers."

"One time we were playing with Tranquility, a pretty big name in electronic music," adds Dreisher. "We were gonna do something together with them. The guy down the way from us is this Eddie Van Halen DJ who has the top of the ceiling stacked with speakers. It was so loud it was triggering Stephen's bass drum before he could hit it with a mallet. They fire it up and our whole setup is triggering. We couldn't even talk to each other. The wall was shaking."

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