All photos courtesy of Instagram/o_future_
We’ve featured South African-Danish duo O Future quite a few times over the years, with their blend of surreal electro beats and artistic videos catching our ears and eyes every time a new tune was released.
Jens and Katherine took a little time out from working on new songs to have a chat to Substance is Meaningless about making music as a couple, future trends, the beauty and strangeness of human restraint and much, much more.
Substance is Meaningless: O Future is a South African-Danish duo, which is quite an interesting combination. How did that come about?
Jens: Well, I met Katherine as she was graduating from a conservatory programme in New York…
Katherine: Yeah. He was dressed all in beige from head to toe.
Jens: I then pretty much phoned her every day and followed her to LA.
Katherine: I liked his intensity, and if you have ever seen his blue eyes, you’ll get it. He’s like a Danish Rasputin!
As far as creativity goes, we don’t really talk about it. I think its the best way. Just start making whatever it is. Try not to be boring to yourself and then go on from there…Katherine on creativity
Not only are you a musical couple, but you’re also married. How does that affect the songwriting and creation process? Is it an even workload? Do studio arguments find their way onto the dinner table or pillow talk?
Katherine: We are pretty honest about how we feel about stuff.
Jens: I don’t think we have ever had a serious fight about music in the bedroom…
Katherine: No. Those two aspects are separate, not by any choice or conscious discussion. Its just not part of the relationship, the artistic and working side of the marriage aren’t in the same boat…
Jens: Even though we are working all the time…
Katherine: Well, yes. That’s true. I mean, I write the songs on my own first and then we trim and crop together. I write in the bedroom, and Jens is in the studio. And we email back and forth.
Jens: We both send emails like, “I dunno not so into it, try another pass at it..”
Katherine: As far as creativity goes, we don’t really talk about it. I think its the best way. Just start making whatever it is. Try not to be boring to yourself and then go on from there…
Jens: We work well together, our tastes are close enough and yet we have different skill sets that make working together very smooth.
You’ve been together for a while now, previously releasing under OOFJ, why the name change?
Jens: It’s a hard name to say out loud and to remember.
Katherine: And when we formed the band OOFJ was just a contraction of Jen’s original name Orchestra of Jenno, we didn’t give it much thought. Besides from it looked great in a design way….
Jens: But we got tired of the name and in some way, we felt it didn’t really fit us anymore
Katherine: Yeah, O Future combines all of our hopes and fears into a clear moniker.
Jens: Mining the past and different stuff, melding and stretching…
Katherine: And shaping our sound into the soundtrack of things we are obsessed with; doom, sex, anxiety, skin, death, and pleasure.
How would you describe your music in 10 words and one emoji?
Jens: This is for Katherine…
Katherine: DOOM, TENDERNESS, GROOVY, MENACE, SEX, CLASSICAL, NEO, FUTURE, TERROR, GLAMOUR, and the emoji would be the langoustine or prawn one.
Jens, you’ve been making music since you were three years old, winning awards, composing music for film and orchestra. Could you ever imagine doing anything that didn’t involve music?
Jens: NO! I mean, it’s my language at this point. There is nothing I would like to do or could do… If there was something that I think would suit me, it would be being a doctor
Katherine: He has infinite kindness and patience.
Jens: I like helping people. So If I wasn’t so concerned about my own ego *lol, I would do something more radically not about myself and output.
On the topic of film music, what’s the greatest movie soundtrack ever?
Jens: The Good, the bad and the Ugly is the most significant score that everybody knows, and Chinatown is the coolest consisting of 28 minutes of music made in only 8 days.
Katherine: For something more modern I would say Under The Skin is pretty much perfect.
Your music videos are quite artistic, with the latest involving a lot of, erm, bread smelling… where did you get your inspiration for this and your other videos?
Katherine: Well there is the internet thing of ‘Breading’ which involves lying down, smelling soft white bread and stuff. That’s the thought I had on our way to making the video, I just put some white bread in the shopping trolley!
Jens: Yeah, it also has a dual purpose of being a metaphor for diet culture, anti-carb wellness stuff of LA.
Katherine: And overall the denial of pleasure, which fascinates me. We are all these smelly, sweaty animals, that essentially if all restraint was lifted would eat all day and find all the sexual pleasure we could. If you turned off all of our enlightenment…
Jens: We would be looking for truffles in the forest!
Katherine: Sniffing our way around. That’s what makes human life so thrilling and terrible at the same time. The restraint.
The track is called ‘Smell You’ – what is the most-favourite thing you like to smell? Is there a smell you absolutely can’t stand?
Jens: I do not like perfume or any smell besides clean smells. Laundry and my wife are the best smells. Having someone with heavy perfume waft around is somehow very embarrassing for everyone involved.
Katherine: Yeah Jens as a person is devoid of smell. I mean this seriously. I must say this is attractive to me. He has no smell, even when he sweats. I smell more than him. Its very cyborg. I’m here for it. I used to be afraid of smell as a child, I used to cry with certain smells. I like tangerine and cedar.
What would you say are the biggest influences on your music? If you could only take three albums with you to the grave, what would they be?
Katherine: Radiohead – Amnesiac, Maniac Meat – Tobacco and Nick Drake – Pink Moon.
Jens: Miles Davis – Kind of Blue, Princ – Sign o The Times, Radiohead – Kid A, and a million others.
What does the future hold for O Future? More specifically, 2019?
Jens: We have some new videos and new songs to come out. More playing and composing and making songs with O Future’s sound for a movie project we can’t talk about, and insanely, making music for Ai Weiwei and composing an algorithmic opera and releasing a full album.. who knows…
Katherine: In this new media landscape, it is the Wild West. The rules are dissolving.
With a name like O Future, you must have one eye on the world of tomorrow. What do you think will be the major defining trends or developments over the next few years – musically, politically, technologically and sociologically?
Jens: Musically, I think it will lean to conceptual stuff, heavy visual emphasis. A.I popstars and gimmicky stuff like that. And then at the same time also a swing to past fetishistic hyper-analogue ‘realness’ which would be like trying to find gold in your bathtub.
Katherine: I think music in the future will become more and more democratic, there will be more and more of it. Which is both great, and not so great in terms of music meaning anything. Like perhaps what it meant to the changing of culture right up until the 90s. I think the visual modes have taken over the purely aural. Since most of what we are doing is visual high fat, high sugar bombardment.
Jens: Politically… mmmm. I don’t think it’s so great… Technology, should and could save us all.
Katherine: Yes. It seems like a lumbering shadow is coming over everyone. We all know what that is. But also technology, well I could go deep into my anxiety here. I think technology is changing lots of our embedded structures. Internally as humans and then in the greater space between humans. Both good and bad. Non-binary existence. I think we will all be lonely and overstimulated. But we will live longer, have access to more therapy and be more open about being human. But maybe we will find it harder and harder to listen to the other person speaking as the other person becomes less human.
Jens: Sounds terrible
Katherine: yes, but in the future, we will all have great skin!
Katherine: Yes and hover crafts, space travel, clean energy for everything, new limbs, new spinal cords maybe even head transplants, a therapy pill to rewrite your neural pathways, and Elon Musk’s neural lace! Modification of the self. Super antioxidant fruits and no more acne or wrinkles!