Interview by Simon Wiedemann
Interview with Sean Kratz – Vocalist, guitarist, percussionist, synth player and with Kakophonix – cellist.
Hello and thanks for your time. Please state your name and position in the band.
Hello. My name is Sean Kratz and I do vocals, guitar, percussion and synth for O&J. Kakophonix is the Cellist of this project.
1. You formed relatively recently in 2015. How did you guys meet each other?
Sean: At a Korpiklaani / Moonsorrow show in Cleveland a long time ago but became more acquainted after I asked Kakophonix too do session work for O&J album Uthuling Hyl.
2. What’s the meaning behind your band name ‘OSI AND THE JUPITER’ and what made you choose it?
Sean: Band name is after my german shepherds Osiris and Jupiter. This project is very dear to me and it was perfect in my eyes. I could have named it something else but that was of no interest to me.
3. How did you first get into folk music? Were there ever any other genres you considered writing or performing beforehand or did you always know your direction?
Sean: I front and play bass in a Blackmetal outfit named Burial Oath, as well as do all music in doom band Witchhelm and Ulven, also have been in and out of different bands since 98. I’ve always been into folk music. I grew up on Johnny cash, Townes van Zandt, BoB Dylan and a swarm of other folk/ Americana artists. I’ve also been a big Dax Riggs fan since a young age.
4. You will be releasing your new album ‘Appalachia’ soon. What is the concept behind this release? Is it told in a story way?
Sean: Last two albums were more atmospheric, and ritualistic dedication too nature and what lies beyond. Appalachia is about the region of my homeland. The pathways the forested rolling mountains helped carve out throughout my life since childhood. O&J is a spiritual musical project of mine and each album represents my spirituality.
5. How would you describe your music to a newcomer who has never heard your material before?
Sean: I would say it’s atmospheric folk driven by nature.
6. I understand that you shot the cover photo? Are you a professional photographer? What was the idea behind this?
Sean: I am not a professional photographer, I hike and camp as much as I get the chance, and love to be out in nature. The photo was taken by a friend of mine but edited by me.
7. What was the procedure of producing your new EP and how do you go about your writing? Did you come across any problems or did it flow easily?
Sean: I usually record everything at my studio then send it to Kakophonix for cello work. Album was pretty much written over the past year and a half with mastering. Everything did flow quite easily as was what I expected with this EP.
8. Why did you choose to use a cello for this release? Was it planned beforehand or was it added because Kakophonix knows how to play the instrument?
Sean: Kakophonix does session work for the band, and did the last two releases. The sound meshes beautifully well and I do consider him part of this project. He plays and writes his cello parts perfectly.
K- Recording cello for Osi and the Jupiter has held a unique place among my consistent projects. Sean is a fantastic songwriter and his ideas are very natural and intuitive to work to. He’s given me a considerable amount of freedom which has allowed me to develop a very specific playing style to work with this music.
9. Is there a reason why Kakophonix learnt to play the cello? Does he believe it to be a particularly expressive instrument for future releases and when did he first learn?
K – To be honest I’m not entirely sure why I picked the cello. I was always fascinated by musical instruments as a little kid, so I guess the sound of the cello just made an impression on me, enough to get me to pick it up in fourth grade, which was when the schools started offering orchestra. I didn’t really get serious about it until high school when an opportunity to attend a performing arts high school in Los Angeles presented a means to make something of myself. I’ve never looked back since. I’ve been recording session cello pretty consistently over the last few years, mostly for metal bands but also into realms like pop and folk. This has provided me with unique access to the creative processes of the artists I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and has indeed allowed me to express a distinct part of myself through my instrument.
10. Once the lockdown due to COVID-19 eases, are you planning to tour?
Sean: Touring is definitely a plan, my goal is to travel to as many places as possible and play.
11. What is the folk scene like in Ohio? Do you think the folk genre has changed over time?
Sean: There are a few I catch here and there, not a lot, there’s more of a metal scene here. Folk music has definitely changed over time, but also there are so many different styles of folk music out there. To me, folk music is the expression of storytelling through song that paints a picture of what feelings are expressed. A big influence on this is nature for me.
12. Do you have a consistent image when you perform and do you think image is important in a band?
Sean: It depends on what the project’s goals are and what they plan to achieve as a whole. I guess we have more of a folk appearance but nothing too crazy. We may burn sage on stage for the atmosphere. Some little things here and there. It’s more about providing the atmosphere for us.
13. Do you think it’s important for bands to be signed to be recognised?
Sean: I believe most people want their music and their art to be known. Labels can help bands a lot, as well as connections. It’s always good to know people make new friends. Our label Eisenwald has taken amazing care of us, could not have asked for a better label and I’m very appreciative of what they do for us.
14. Are there any folk and non-folk musicians you’ve been particularly inspired by?
Sean: I would say Townes Van Zandt , Kristopher Rygg, Nick Cave, and Lindsey Buckingham as well as a swarm of other artists.
15. How is COVID-19 affecting you? What are you doing in this period of lockdown?
Sean: Some dates got canceled for this project as well as other projects I play in, some got postponed till next year. I did a lot of songwriting but stayed relatively quiet about it.
16. Do you have a favourite chord or scale? Can I guess? Is it the chilled out Dorian mode?
Sean: My dad is more trained in theory and I’ve learned a lot from him by asking questions over the years. I’ve never taken lessons or theory myself. I just write by ear using chords and techniques I know. I think most of my stuff is the pentatonic scale, but some are in Dorian.
17. The ‘stranded on an Island’ questions; what three albums would you want with you?
Sean: Townes Van Zandt – Our Mother the Mountain, Type O Negative – World Coming Down, Ulver – Eos
18. Do you have any hobbies outside of music?
Sean: I love to hike and travel, get in touch with nature. I also work with animals for a job when I am home.
Thanks for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Sean: Thank you for tuning in, stay healthy, and get back to nature and explore.