DJ Water Ski aka Ryan Otis is a Montreal based DJ, McGill finance grad, graphic designer (worse than average), future label head (hopefully), and head honcho over at Mushi-Shi Radio.
Hey Ryan! Thanks for joining us!
Hey man, thanks for having me on :)
You’re Montreal-based, so how long have you been in the city?
I was born here, so 22 years to date.
How would you describe Montreal’s dance music scene? What is it that makes it unique?
I think that scene wise, Montreal has always had something special. It’s the people, the charisma, the energy, the parties. More importantly, it’s how all of these factors fit together so naturally in this city. That being said, Montreal has its issues. Per capita we easily have the most events and promoters in NA. This leads to constant concern about whether or not your event will fill up.
Side Note: An alternative electronic night club needs to open up in St. Henri.
It’s my understanding that you went under “Otis” before picking up the “DJ Water Ski” moniker, correct?
Yeah! I haven’t officially said that Otis is dead. But the project’s pretty much face down in the water at this point.
You were already a prominent DJ in the Montreal scene. Why give this up? What caused the change?
The change came from me getting tiered of dub-house and minimal. I wasn’t feeling inspired anymore, so it was time to switch things up.
In terms of giving up the reputation I had as Otis, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I know who I need to know in Montreal, so going under a different moniker isn’t a game changer.
Cool. So tell me a little bit more about your artistic ventures. What type of music are you into these days? Do you consider yourself more of a producer or a DJ?
Well at the moment I’m riding on the lo-fi train. And let me tell you, it’s quite the train to be riding. In terms of whether I consider myself to be more of a producer or DJ, I think that in my case I definitely consider myself a DJ before anything else. I’m an organizer, overseer, representative. When I wake up in the morning I want to discover new music, categorize, and play. My first thought isn’t to open up Ableton. Far from it actually.
Nice. So what are your thoughts on the state of the lo-fi scene? Where do you see things going from here?
I think it’s fair to say that lo-fi isn’t really a genre, rather, it’s an esthetic. You can have lo-fi techno, lo-fi house, lo-fi jungle, etc. However, you can’t just have lo-fi hanging out by itself. With that in mind, I think that the techno side of lo-fi has really been exposed with the rise of L.I.E.S in the last few years. However, I feel like the house side of things has yet to explode.
There’s something to be said about the energy that the community has, the amount of young artists making music here, and the innovation that’s being pushed out. The Soundcloud community is just exploding at the moment, and everyone is sharing and talking and getting excited. It’s really great to experience.
So all in all, I think things are still growing. It feels like everyone who’s in it right now is on the crest of a wave, about to break onto the masses. Or at least that’s what we hope. Shout out to Strictly Lo-Fi.
Mushi-Shi Radio has put on some amazing producers and DJs of late. How did this radio show come about? What is your selection process for the artists involved? What’s been your key to success, and why do you think so many podcast series never get to see the light of day?
Well actually the whole thing started out as a podcast series to go along with a night I was organizing at a club here in Montreal. Back then it went under a different name, and the music, well, it wasn’t really all that great. The turning point for MSSR was when I separated it from the night, and started to look at the series as something I could grow into a long lasting brand.
Selecting artists for MSSR has always been very growth oriented. At least up until this point, where I’m now getting more freedom to pick and choose exactly who I want. Originally, I would always try to select an artist who was bigger than the last. I mean, it wasn’t that simple, and definitely didn’t work out linearly like that, but in general, that was the idea.
It’s really hard to get something up and running from nothing. Everything plays against you. You have no followers, no brand, no previous mixes from artists who are established. Literally zilch. And that’s why so many podcast series die before they really have any chance to live. It’s like the bartender who needs experience to work, but can’t get any experience because all work requires experience.
You have a label coming out soon, can you tell us a bit about that or is it a secret for now?
Haha, not much of a secret anymore. I’m not too certain how soon is soon, but it’s in the works. I’m currently putting together the first three releases in order to have a suitable amount of content to pitch to a distributer. Hopefully I’ll be able to land the project on one of the top 3. The music is definitely at that level, so hopefully things go as planned!
Do you have any other projects that you’re working on at the moment?
Yeah I’m also starting up my own booking agency. Looks like I have one artist under my belt, so I’ll more than likely be focusing on him for the next little while as I get my label off the ground. Then if that goes well, in the future I’ll look to expand my catalogue.
Damn. So things are rolling eh?
It’s on the verge of rolling. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say that things are happening in all their glory, but it’s definitely a start.
Can we expect any original productions in the coming future?
Possibly. Maybe. Who knows? I want to say yes but I don’t even know. I’m not working on anything at the moment because I’m trying to get these projects off the ground. That being said, I’ve had my issues with producing. It’s always been a means to an end for me; a way for me to tour professionally. I think that that in itself has kept me from truly being able to enjoy the art. However, now that I’m exploring other avenues in the music industry, hopefully that expectation to make something will be lifted, and maybe I’ll be able to go back into the studio and make something for fun. I definitely have the hours and the technical know how to make something good, so now it’s just a matter of environment, mood and timing.
What’s one thing you’d like to improve upon as an artist?
I’m very hypocritical when it comes to music. There’s nothing I dislike more than when another individual in the scene harps on an artist or DJ. Yet I’ll catch myself doing so all the time. I think that sometimes as creators we can get jealous. We have the tendency to write off success as “luck” or brand things as inauthentic once they become very popular. It’s a very self destructive way of thinking. It’s hard to put yourself out on the line, so we all have to respect that no matter what our preferences are.
So to answer the question I want to stop criticizing people for their efforts. I want to enjoy more moments.
Any favorite producers or labels at the moment that especially deserve the readers’ attention?
Of course. For artists you need to check out Baltra, DJ Seinfeld, SZCH, Mucho Sueno, DJ Pegasuz, 45 ACP, and Antonio. For labels, well my absolute favorite right now is Shall Not Fade. Their white label is especially good. Also, Cazeria Cazedor has some stupid records on their label that I feel are a little underrated by the community. Finally, I think that Collect-Call (Montreal based label) needs to be on here as well. They put out their stuff slow, but boy, all of their releases resonate deeply with me.
Your mix for Boccara was top-quality and I can only imagine that your Bolting Bits contribution will be on the same level. Any comments on the selection?
Yay! Thanks! This mix is a little bit more housey than the last one. I start you off with an emotional lo-fi stinger, then move into some dancier tracks, continue onwards to some lo-fi vocal tracks, then close off the show with a classic and a remix of a Legowelt jam. I also may or may not have snuck in a track forthcoming on the label!
Well, that all about does it! Thanks for taking the time to join us Ryan!
Cheers, and thanks for having me!