Otto Knows steers towards the next musical chapter, dismisses the EDM ‘hater mentality’
“I don’t want to be sitting there thinking: ‘Damn, I could have done better.'”
Enigmatic without the pretension and talented without the online razzmatazz, sentences like this have established Otto Knows as one of the more conscious hit makers of the modern dance market in a long time. Joining the call from his studio in Stockholm, his modest and honest temperament immediately sparks the opposite of those stereotypes now surrounding DJ stardom and the accelerated egos that follow closely behind. Having split the year between his native land and a two-month stint in LA, a sparing studio output is not to be mistaken for a quiet year for Otto Jettman. As Dancing Astronaut learns, a musical exodus need not be all lights and laurels rested upon where the budding Swedish trailblazer is concerned.
With just three formal singles to his name and a handful of live and remixed landmarks, Otto’s reign to date has been one associated with quality over quantity. In the age of overnight success, relentless release schedules and a significant bloating of global big room collateral, his composed walk of progression comes reassuringly justified. “I think everyone has their own workflow and philosophy,” he suggests. “It’s not my job to tell people how to structure their careers, but for me I need precision. It takes time to find your natural groove but at the same time you don’t want to become a hermit.”
Dropping more than two years after his Refune debut turned chart-topping hit “Million Voices,” there was an overbearing feeling that 2014’s “Parachute” was a long time coming for the longtime Refune cohort. Whilst the remixes and unprecedented production duties for Britney Spears kept his name in spin, there has been seemingly no sense of pressure to match the hype that took that infectious first single from the club floor to summer anthem stature on that fateful summer two years ago. “It was never about following up “Million Voices,” he claims. “Don’t get me wrong, it seemed hard to match the impact that track had, but the single was a new chapter for me. I liked that people acknowledged how different it was. The next chapter will be even more different.”
“I can’t get into this hater mentality.”
Throughout our conversation, one word echoes repeatedly: Fun. Be it the crafting of melodic club tracks or bringing pop culture into its ever expanding field of vision, a little time at the top table has not shifted the necessity for enjoyment from Otto’s professional vernacular.
“People just want to hear artists calling out the sell-outs and knocking people down. That’s not what it’s about. I can’t get into this ‘hater’ mentality. The reality is we can help artists from totally different worlds. I don’t see anything negative with that – the prospect of crossover is pure fun for creative people. “
As he reflects on the doors that have opened by unofficial ‘manager’ and longtime mentor Ingrosso (“we’ve never been closer”) and the shifting of priority from club tracks to songs, his enthusiasm points to a creative space where radio edge and dance music’s identity can be empowering, not restrictive. “That space of experimentation is ideal for me. I have no interest in being put in a particular folder anymore, it’s better to keep the stakes open.”
The shelf life of modern dance music has certainly influenced this mindset. After all, not every artist of 25-years-old can boast a single that held the attention spans of fans across the continents both at initial release and then radio ascent. Otto still sees a challenge for longevity that every facet of modern music must conquer in their own way.
“You release a track and then two weeks later it’s old news,” he suggests. That’s a very short life span. The people who have hits that are remembered now have worldwide hits. It’s not just about Beatport anymore if you want longevity. Both worlds are important because fans come from all corners of the world. Dance music once seemed like a closed world. Now, it seems wider spread than ever before.”
He nods to a pool of talented peers and artists that continues to inspire higher aspirations, citing the challenge of matching process and speed with quality of sound (“I think that process is getting easier with time,” he laughs.) Past Ibiza, Creamfields and a short North American stint, September beckons new music and the fruition of what Otto promises to be an exciting new extension of his studio getup. Past that, the game plan is relatively simple: step up the game and do so with a smile.
“I’m excited for the whole industry that surrounds me, let alone my own career. It is nice to have a future to look forward to. I won’t pretend I am 100% satisfied right now, but that is what makes aspiration so important. More fans is always something to work towards, but filling bigger rooms is not my overall goal. It’s about creating music with substance. If more people want to come to the party, I’ll welcome them with open arms.”