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Progressive Rock Interviews

Enchant

Interviewed by Josh Turner
Interview with Doug Ott of Enchant from 2005
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at https://garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2005.

I was recently watching the DVD and it's an excellent concert. I wanted to start by asking you if there are plans for any other upcoming shows at this time?
Well, we're going on tour at the end of the month actually in Europe, but nothing in America right now, talking to InsideOut about the possibility of doing some stuff in April maybe May across the United States, but that's just in the planning stage at this point.
MSJ: How did the band decide that this was the right time to put together their first DVD?
It was kind of way overdo, you know, being around for 11, 12 years at the time. It's kind of like everybody's asking us, "When are you guys going to do a live album? When are you guys going to do a live album?" and I called the record company and said, "Yeah, when are we doing a live album?" {laughs} You know, people want to hear it and so many people come up to me after shows or write me emails and say, "Gosh, we'd like to hear some live jam material." "We really love hearing you guys play this stuff live, and I'd love to hear the live version of things," so it was just one of these things that was long overdue. So, we finally got the opportunity to do it. We came off tour with Spock's Beard in 2003 and California Guitar Trio, and I just felt like the band was really playing well and we felt like a really cohesive unit and it seemed like a really good time to go out and try to do it, so we just did.
MSJ: Do you have any plans for another studio album at this time?
Yeah, I've been writing for what will be our next record, and probably when we get back later and probably like May or June, we go back, hit the studio, and start working on it. It might be out by the end of the year. I'm not sure, but definitely something I'm going to try to do.
MSJ: What can you tell me that we can expect from the next album?
Well, as with any Enchant album, I hope to keep the elements that make it a gem, but I'm always trying new things. I always want to explore different ways of doing stuff and different sounds. I'm hoping to mix it up a little bit and make it, you know, something new, something fresh.
MSJ: Have you guys ever considered doing a concept album?
Yeah, we talked about it for a long time. It's, you know, with concept records I think it's all about finding the right concept, you know. 'Cause there's been a lot of concept albums that people have made, and I've always liked the idea of a concept album, but it seems that the idea is much better than the actual product a lot of the times.
MSJ: Right.
You know, there's a few that have done it very well like Pink Floyd or Queensryche. Mindcrime is a great, great concept record. It seems to fit. It seems to flow, you know. Marillion claims that Misplaced Childhood was a concept record, and I thought it was a great record, but I thought it was a lousy concept. It didn't really in my mind make a good concept record, and I think a lot of people get lost in that concept, too. Sometimes it becomes more about, okay, we've got to follow this storyline and it means the songs or the writing seems to suffer because of it. So, if we were to do something, I'd really like to take a long, real long time going over every little aspect making sure that it's real cool and that it would work and would be something that people get, not, "well, okay, this is just long and boring". I think that's a trap you need to fall into as a progressive fan. I'm not up on that whole concept idea, but, you know, there's nothing saying we won't try it.
MSJ: That's interesting hearing an artist take it from that perspective. How did you come up with the name Enchant? What does that actually mean?
Well, it was, when I first started playing, I'm not sure how familiar you are with the band first off, but when I first started playing with Paul Craddick, our old drummer the band was called Meadae, That's "M A E D A E". I actually wrote a little instrumental that we open the DVD with called MaeDae as sort of a, you know, homage to the band of old that we had changed the name to Enchant from, but I just said to the guys, look, this name MaeDae doesn't mean anything. There's nothing behind it, you know, what does it mean?. It's just some sort of Latin spelling of the two words and, I said, "let's go home over the weekend and think of some new names and when we get back on Monday, let's see if we can come up with another name. Well, I went home and opened a dictionary and started thumbing through, and the page that I came to was "E" and enchant was on that particular page and I read the meaning of it and I thought, "man, this is exactly what I want for the name of the band." You know, the definition was to captivate, to rouse to ecstatic admiration through song or incantation and I thought "man, that's exactly what I want my songs to do." I want people to hear them and fall in love with them, you know, as if they were being mesmerized, or spells being cast upon them, you know. So I thought it was a great name, and when I brought it into the band room that particular evening all the guys were like, "wow, you know, there's actually meaning to that, not just some cool name you call a band or whatever." So, I mean, to me it was a really great blend of not only having some meaning, but also kind of having a cool visual when you say the name "Enchant". I thought that as prog fans, people could really get into it.
MSJ: Yeah, I think it's a really good name for your particular band. Your music is kind of like a cross between the mainstream and the progressive, and it's actually neither light nor heavy and you actually talk about that a little bit on the DVD, but I'm wondering if you can explain your songwriting process. How does the band come up with these kind of songs? How you put them together? Just basically why they sound the way they do?
Well, I think it's a blend of the influences, you know, every guy from a different kind of background, you know. I might be the principle writer of the material, but, you know, every guy's got something that they can bring to the table. Ed, for example, as a bass player is very influenced by a lot of the slap players like Stanley Clarke or Mark Keen, so I'll write a passage and he'll go to play it and he'll immediately think, "well, I'm going to go about it, ah, bah, duh, dittly, dah, dah." And he'll start doing something, which will trigger Sean to play maybe more of a groove than maybe something that I was thinking, you know, and then Ted comes in and he's like, "I'm from the school of Steve Walsh and that kind of singing." So he'll start to sing over the top of it, and it suddenly takes another turn. So it's never really exactly what I intend. You know, we've joked about it for years when I talked about something on the DVD as well that songs become "enchantized". They take a different form when each guy gets a hold of it and does their part, you know. It's kind of a process that isn't planned. It just happens, so it starts with me and goes from there.
MSJ: I've noticed that your music sounds a little bit different live. Can you explain the evolution of these songs and why this occurs?
Well, I think anytime you're taking what you've recorded, and a lot may do this differently, but for us, most of the time, it's like, you know, I'll write something. I'll make a demo of it. I'll give it to the guys. They'll learn it, and then we'll start to rehearse it, but through that process of what I wrote and recorded to what they've interpreted, things seem to change and, you know, every show seems, things change a little bit. Say that Sean was playing a certain fill at the beginning and then by the end of a year of playing that song, he might have forgot that's exactly what he did, and he plays it a little differently, and songs kind of change that way a little bit. Also a lot of records Ted's singing harmony on himself as opposed to me doing it, so you go out and see it live and it's like, "okay, it's not the same background singer." It's not the exact maybe same guitar tone even. Maybe I might use a different guitar on that track or, you know, approached it a little bit differently, so it kind of morphs and changes a little bit, which is exciting to me, because I like to go back and listen to stuff. In fact, when we did this, the DVD and the CD, listening to it, going "wow, that's how we play that now." Even the tempo's a little different than it used to be, you know. It's a little faster now or it's a little slower here,so they just kind of move, you know, and kind of change and evolve.
MSJ: You talked about some of the musical influences of your band mates. Can you talk about your musical influences a little bit?
Yeah, you know, I really love music, and I listen to a lot of different things and always have. You know, when I was a kid growing up, listening to AM radio, it was all the hits of the seventies playing and, um, my dad was really, really into Motown and the Philly sound, um, so I got a big influence of soul and R&B when I was a kid. And then Kiss came along and kind of changed everything, and I was running around listening to Kiss.records as a youth, um, got into a lot of the metal stuff, uh, Ozzy and Metallica being that they're right down the street from me when I was a kid as well, you know, so I've kind of run the gambit of different sounds and different things, you know, Ed turned me on, really turned me onto progressive music, when he turned me onto the band UK. You know, I knew who Genesis was, I knew who Yes was, but it wasn't something I was into, and then I heard UK and I thought, "wow, man, these guys are really doing some unique things here." It made me kind of branch out and start buying Pink Floyd records and, uh, King Crimson, and Saga and stuff like that. I really started changing what I listened to and moved in a different direction, you know, but as a songwriter I listen a lot of different people, you know - Jellyfish, Tears for Fears, Ben Folds, Todd Rundgren. And as a guitar player I feel like the main influences on me were guys like Neil Schon from Journey, Alex Lifeson from Rush, Neil Creighton from Saga, Steve Rothery from Marillion obviously.
MSJ: When exactly did your start in music begin and how did you decide that you wanted to become a guitarist?
December 27th, 1979. I went to see Pat Travers, and it was my first concert. I was 15 years old, and I went to this concert, and him and the guitar player, Pat Thrall at the time started doing this guitar battle thing when they were, one side of the stage from each and they would start trading off solos. And as they started trading off, and it got more and more intense they came very close and they got into the middle of the stage and they were back-to-back playing and almost aggressively kind of bashing each other in a way of playing these incredible guitar solos. I just thought, "man, that looks like the coolest job in the world." You know, how do I get that, where do I sign up for that, you know, um, and I just walked out of there at that concert that night kind of my life being altered, um, went to my paper route money and bought my first guitar the very next day for $60 and just started playing, you know. And it kind of just made me want to do something that I felt was very special, unique and wasn't your run-of-the-mill job, and to this day, Ed and I kind of do something like what I saw back then on stage. In certain parts, we'll sort of get back-to-back and kind of push each other around while we're playing. It kind of harkens back to what I saw that night.
MSJ: I see you singing back-up in some places and, you have a pretty good voice. I was wondering if you'd consider singing lead now and then or have you considered putting together your own solo album?
Well, first off, thank you. Yeah, it's very challenging singing behind Ted. I have to say, you know, he is a terrific singer and trying to cover the things that he normally does on records is very challenging for me, but I have a lot of fun with it, and we've been singing together for so many years now, it's kind of, uh, second nature. But, you know, in Enchant I've dabbled with some stuff. I mean, the song "Break" I sing all the verses - the album opens with my voice, which is kind of a weird thing. When I first put it together we were all kind of going "wow, I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not." On Juggling 9, there's a song called "Bite My Tongue" where I'm kind of the lead singer of the song and Ted's singing harmony on me. So, We've tried it, but it's really not my forte. I don't really look at myself as a singer, so, I mean, I'd like to do something someday, but at the same time, you know, I kind of think, well, if I were to sing on a record would it be good enough in my eyes to really make it something special or would it just be okay, because a guy with an okay voice is singing it? You know, in that respect I'd almost rather get somebody who is really good to make it even better, but I do enjoy singing and I have recorded several songs with me singing, but I don't know if I'm really at a level of somebody like Ted would be to actually just go out and do it.
MSJ: How did you actually meet your band mates?
Well, Ed and I have been friends since we were 15 -, high school buddies. My high school closed, and I moved to his high school. He was a guitar player actually at the time and heard I was a guitar player and walked up to me one day and started asking me what guitar solos I knew and the only one I knew was Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix. And he knew all this great stuff like Thin Lizzy and Michael Schenker and all this cool stuff. So, we started playing together and we became really good friends really quick. Sean, oddly enough was an Enchant fan, and I was in a music store one day with a Blueprint of the World shirt on and he saw it and said, "man, where did you get that great Enchant shirt?" The funny thing was it was just the cover - in fact I'm wearing it right now and I didn't realize it. It's just the cover of Blueprint. It doesn't say "Enchant" on it, but he knew what it was, and I said, "well, that's my band." He said, "what are you the manager?" And, I said, "no I'm the guitar player." He said, "you're Douglas Ott?" "Yeah," I said, you know, so…

MSJ: That is funny
He was a fan of the band and, I kind of took to it, cause he's about ten years younger than me, and I kind of took to him as a young kid. I thought wow, "Here's this really enthusiastic kid." So I invited him to some rehearsals, and he was a huge fan of Paul's. He loved watching Paul play, so he used to come around and hang out at our rehearsals and stuff. And then when we decided that Paul and I weren't to be in Enchant together anymore, the first person I thought of was him, because he is a great drummer and then he's just really enthusiastic as well. So that's how Sean came about. Ted was the last audition of like 34 people for singers, and this was about '90, early '92, late '91. Everybody who came in to audition for the band we just thought was terrible.
MSJ: Oh my god.
And Paul called me and said, " you know, I got this guy, he sounds really great, he's into Kansas and stuffand Journey and all this stuff." And I was like, "yeah right, they all say that." He was like, "no man, we've got to give this guy a chance, he's really cool." I said, "okay," so he came in and Ted walked in wearing sandals and shorts and he looked like a little surfer hippie kid. I thought, "yeah, this guy can sing, right." He's like "which song would you like to start off with?". I said, "okay, let's do Death's Door." He's like, "okay", and he just freaking nailed it like it was nothing and we proceeded to play about five songs that night with him. Then we were all jumping out of our skin with excitement, but we didn't want to let him know, so we said "we'll give you a call", and he walked out of the door. We were just like, "oh my god we found the guy and this is the guy." So that was just luck man, pure luck to get Ted. Bill actually, our latest addition, plays keyboards, uh, he works for Korg, and somehow Ted had heard about him and he had met Ted. And Ted had said, "hey, we are looking for a keyboard player", gave him our web site. Bill was thinking, "oh yeah, everybody's in a band, whatever dude." Then he one day looked the web site out and realized, "hey, these guys are actually established and really do play", and then downloaded some of the music and thought, "hey, these guys are actually good." So Bill was, was kind of almost an accident as well getting in the band.
MSJ: Watching the DVD I can tell that you guys like to have fun. You're a real playful bunch and just watching the group interviews you guys are cracking a lot of jokes. Even during the concert there's a part where Bill is playing the keyboard with his nose. It's not real typical for me to watch a music DVD and actually laugh as much, so I was kind of interested in asking can you recall any Spinal Tap moments that you've had?
Man, there's one every night.
MSJ: Is there one that sticks out in your mind?
Oh gosh, there's thousands of them, but, uh, one moment that is kind of funny is we were doing … it was actually on the Break tour we doing the song "Break", which the guitar is tuned down a whole step. The entire guitar is tuned in D as opposed to E, and I had this kid who was doing my guitar tech work and he was pretty good tuning guitars and what not, but he knew nothing about changing the tuning of a guitar. So I wrote down what notes every string should be at, and he tuned the guitars to the middle of the show, you know. I think we were playing probably to about fifteen hundred people, I walk out and I start to play the first chord and unfortunately it's tuned all wrong and it's cranked and it's like "ar, dung, aw, ding, be, do, dung, dung, dung." It just sounded awful., I mean, my jaw just dropped like, "Oh my god!" And everybody's sitting there, and I'm like "I'll be right back, hold that thought." {laughter} And I had to run back and tune it right and go back out and play.
MSJ: Oh wow
That was a fun one… Here's a good Ted story and I'll just make this really quick, but we were supporting Dream Theater some years ago, '97, and Ted really likes James LaBrie. He's a big fan of James, and we got to meet the guys and hang out with them for several weeks on the road and James had said to Ted at some point, "You know, how about you come out and sing background on one of my songs?", because kind of like Enchant, Dream Theater has the problem of not having another James LaBrie to sing harmony on the song "Caught in the Web." And Ted was going to go sing the choruses with him, and James said, "okay, we're going to do it, here's the set list. It's here. Just come walking out and we'll just, you know, share a mike," which Ted was just ecstatic about. Here I get to go out on stage with somebody I'm just totally, totally enamored with, and he's this great singer in this great band and we were playing to about twenty-five hundred people and we're sitting on the side of the stage and they're playing this show and they get between the songs and Ted goes walking out there and James is like, has this look on his face, "What are you doing?" And Ted's like, "I'll use John's mike", and he walks over to John's mike and he takes his mike off. He's standing there, and James like slowly walks over and whispers in Ted's ear, "um, the song that I told you to come out, that's three songs from now." {laughter} Ted is just like, "okay", puts the mike on and walks back off stage. And James LaBrie says, "hey, that was Ted Leonard from Enchant, just thought he'd come out and say hi." {laughter} That was like one of the biggest faux pas, you know, but he did come out and sing it three songs later and it was terrific, but, you know, how embarrassing is that? {laughter}
MSJ: I'd also like to find out a little bit about your current musical tastes. What's the last CD that you purchased?
Oh gosh, let me see, the last CD that I purchased was the latest U2 album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
MSJ: Okay and along the same lines, what's the last concert that you attended as a fan?
Um, let me see, I just went to see somebody recently. I'm trying to think who the heck that it was, uh, Steve Morse and the Dregs. Ted and I went twice actually. Once in San Francisco and then we were in L.A. We drove down to see him there as well.
MSJ: Okay and I'd also like to find out some of your favorites and I'd just like to start by asking, what is your favorite album?
Of all-time?
MSJ: Yeah, if you can't narrow that down, just give me a few or whatever.
That's an impossible thing to ask. I do have some favorites though. I really, really love, the Brave album from Marillion. Eddie Jobson, uh, the Green album, which is his solo record after UK. It's just a great record, Utopia Ra I really like. You know, there is just so many, uh, Drama from Yes, Jellyfish Spilt Milk.
MSJ: That's an interesting mix.
I'll stop there, because we will be going for an hour.
MSJ: Yeah, it's hard to narrow it down. What would you say is your favorite band or bands?
Oh boy, um, that's really hard, you know. It always changes, you know? I mean, I'm a huge Rush fan. I've been following them for years. I love Yes. I think Tears for Fears is a great band. You know, there is a lot of different bands that I really enjoy. It seems to me that most of the bands that I like are kind of off thegrid a little bit, you know, everybody's like, "oh, I really love Metallica", you know. And I'm thinking, "yeah, well, I like Metallica too", but, you know, I'll go, "I really like this band." And they're like, "who? Yeah, I think I've heard of those guys." So, I mean, it seems to me I'm always kind of finding bands that people don't really know too much about.
MSJ: What would you say is your favorite movie?
Um, well, you know, somebody just asked me that the other day and I had to think, because there is a few, but I love the movie Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise. I think it's a great film, but one of my all-time favorites is an older film called Birdie with, um, Nicholas Cage and Matthew Modine and the soundtrack was done by Peter Gabriel. It's a great, great movie, and I really enjoy that film. It's been a long time since I've seen it, but I have very fond memories of it.
MSJ: Okay and what would you say is your favorite television show?
I don't know, I like the CSI shows, CSI: Miami and all . I like the forensics shows. Those are pretty cool.
MSJ: What is your favorite book?
Favorite book, The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand.
MSJ: I just have one last quirky question that I like to ask. It helps me identify with the artist, but do you have any pets?
Yes I do. I have two. I have a cat named "Sam", which is short for Samantha. Die-hard Enchant fans will know who she is. She co-produced one of our records and actually did some background meows I think on one of the albums unbeknownst to Ted and I at the time. And I have a dog named "Shadow".
MSJ: Before we wrap up, is there anything you'd like to say to your fans at this time?
Um, just thank you for the interest in Enchant and the support you have given over the years. That's something that we really, really appreciate and, I hope that wherever you are that you get the chance just to see us play and we get the chance to play for you.
 
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