Katy Otto is now living in Philadelphia with her bandmate Diane Foglizzo, writing music, releasing music, and touring regularly. She works as the Director of Development at Face to Face, an organization serving those in need in East Germantown with food, legal assistance, art programming, children’s camp and services, health services, and hospitality
www.facetofacegermantown.org). She is a sex columnist for SexReally.com. She takes lessons from Susie Ibarra, runs an independent record label called Exotic Fever that just turned ten, and operates a social justice/creative arts development consulting business.
Full name: Katherine Anne Louise Otto
Where were you born: Oxford England
Where do you live now: Philadelphia, PA – formerly from Washington, DC
Bands you are drumming in currently: Trophy Wife and The Lonely American
Bands you were drumming for in the past: Bald Rapunzel, Del Cielo, Homage to Catalonia, Problems, Helsinki
What you do for a living: development work for nonprofits
Something outstanding about you: I am a lefty drummer!!!
KO: Mindy asked me to speak about the philosophy behind my band Trophy Wife, formed when
Diane and I met and lived in Washington, DC. I was tired of the conventional models for bands
and with a lot of the patterns within which bands operated. I remember being so compelled by the
Nirvana lyric “our little group has always been and always will until the end.” At one point, Cobain
used “tribe” instead of “group.” That stuck with me – this notion that bands could be more than
just their music and aesthetic, but could create a culture and a relationship that others could derive energy
from. Diane doesn’t remember it, but I saw her play guitar once and knew I wanted to play with her. She
had interesting note and chord choices, interesting style, and innovation. It was useful to our dialectic
that it was her first band and that I had gone through a rote of intra band dynamics. I liked how often
we could practice as a duo. The name Trophy Wife basically for me was a smirk at the concept in
general of women in a detached, object role. I want a world of women and girls as subjects. And
subjecthood, with all its painful trappings, pitfalls, and machinations, is exactly why we do this
band. It IS more than just a band to us. When we lived apart, it was a way to keep our dialogue
going. We have intense, and sometimes jarring, important conversations to try to make sense of
the world. This band is the most personal music I have ever made. We write lyrics together, in practice – no
matter how long it takes – and describe the reasons why we opted to write lyrics to each other. I have
never had that degree of transparency with another person before.
The music is heavy and loud and gives us permission to say the things that are hard to say. It needs to
be. I don’t think there is any separation between Diane and me and that music. It is our embodiment of our
friendship and desire to consistently be in dialogue with one another. At some point touring last year, we
made the decision to only play shows facing each other, because it was the best way to enact that energy.
We have parts of our songs that really can only work if we are making eye contact and fully engaged. Otherwise,
I do not think we pull of what we are trying to do. We are putting out a new record, our first full length, on 307 Knox this summer called Patience Fury.
They are two words, but in the case of our album, they are a compound thought. They need one another.
That is a lot of what Trophy Wife is about. Recording this album with our friend Devin Ocampo (Medications,
Faraquet, Smart Went Crazy) was an emotional process, and he was a fantastic midwife in it. We want to stretch
our limits with this band. I am excited that we will tour a great deal in the upcoming months. We are also
writing a host of new songs. Sometimes, to do this, we have to draw, or use a whiteboard. Every set of lyrics
remains in an ongoing discussion. We are both process-oriented people, so I think this is a good space
and culture we have established for ourselves. Additionally, we have lyrics in French, and now German, to reflect
our ancestry, and because sometimes English just isn’t enough. We have a few new efforts in the works,
including doing some self education together with some free online music and sound related classes that MIT
offers (so amazing, 1900 classes FREE online). We also have some ideas in the works for a blog with music
created at the intersection of song and literary works that inspire artists. We make music to survive and to tell our version of a story.
Our LP/CD will come with a download card that can be planted will grow into flowers. This is exciting to us –
we want to write songs that seed. We also want to hear from people interested in any of the ideas we put out and welcome communication.
Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing the drums? Katy Otto: at age 17
TTM: Reason that you started playing the drums? KO: i went to lollapolooza 95 and saw patty schemel from hole play drums. it was the single most beautiful inspiring thing i had ever seen a woman do. i vowed i would learn.
How long did it take til you felt like a “real” and legit drummer? i started by taking lessons, which really helped me out and established musical confidence in me. i had a great teacher who believed in me and gave me a solid basis from which to work.
What is your favorite set-up for your kit? Why? i now just use one rack tom. i used to use two…but i think its better now. i have a set up i am into. i have a ludwig classics kit.
What would your dream kit consist of? GRETSCH!!!!! custom made!!!!!!! steel snare!
What do you do to get better at the drums? i try to practice and play w different people. playing w different people always sharpens you up. Right now I have been playing with some people with experience in jazz, and taking lessons from Susie Ibarra who is one of the most inspiring percussionists I have ever encountered. I cannot take lessons as frequently as I would like, but I try to get the most out of them when I do.
What do you do to warm up before playing? snare exercises, rolls, accents
What do you think the role of the drummer is? (In a band) to keep the beat!!!! PULSE!
What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about the drums? i play loud so fuck ups feel like a really big deal and really hard to conceal.In Trophy Wife it is also just me and one other person so there is a lot of trust and interdependence. Tempo is something I struggle with, especially when I am excited about a song.
What’s your favorite part about playing drums? its visceral and it makes me feel connected to being in my body.
Most notable show you ever played? when i was 21 i opened for fugazi with my first band. it was a pretty surreal experience.
Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer? mostly just the preconceptions and stupid comments of others.
Who are your favorite drummers? john bonham, sara lund, michel adi, dave grohl, brendan canty, alexei Rodriguez, Susie Ibarra, eveyln glennie
If you could change one thing about the drums what would it be? wish they could collapse and be easier to move around.
Where do you shop for your drum gear? there is an awesome used store atomic in the dc area that i like that is super respectful of women musicians and customers in general. sometimes i buy stuff online though. I haven’t really found a place in Philadelphia yet.
Best piece of advice you got as a drummer? to really focus on tempo
What would you recommend to a new drummer starting off? keep practicing, listen to other bands and pull out the things you like
What are some of your other hobbies? vegan cooking, travel, writing, reading
Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now? ashley arwine
Who are some of your favorite bands right now? the big sleep, avec, forget cassettes, turboslut (rip), layers/quake, thank god, ultra dolphins, pygmylush, united nations
Interview by Mindy Abovitz
All photos for Tom Tom Magazine by the lovely Jennifer Leigh Aschoff
KO Consulting – Resource Development for Social Change
Exotic Fever Records