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Young Dakota Wotton faced a dilemma. At age 14, he had to choose: go all-in with fencing and let it consume his day-to-day life, or take a step back and pursue music.
Insular – adjective in·su·lar \ˈin(t)-su̇-lər, -syu̇-, ˈin-shə-lər\
- separated from other people or cultures : not knowing or interested in new or different ideas
- characteristic of an isolated people; especially : being, having, or reflecting a narrow provincial viewpoint
At age 24, in his final year of RTA at Ryerson, he fashions the sound of a five-piece band on his instrumentally electronic, entirely self contrived EP Insularity. It’s clear which route he wandered.
“I wanted to make a selfish musical project that was all mine,” Dakota said over an Americano at east end coffee hotspot Jet Fuel, “the name Insularity is an ironic statement of that, I guess.”
The four tracks were written and recorded last summer in his Cabbagetown home base, which he and five other Ryerson students share.
Unsure of what to call himself, he sat on the tracks until January rolled around. “I chose the name Rookie Blood because I feel that it’s …” searching the room with eyes, Wotton pauses to find the words, drumming the table with his hands. “I chose the name because it basically represents this first project. Because it’s me spilling rookie blood into music. It’s my amateur attempt at putting something out there – something small but complete, into the world that is mine.”
His love for Tame Impala and Radiohead are evident throughout his indie-alternative tunes, some of which stem from drug-induced insight, and others from the bands he used to play in.
The only help Wotton had was from his friend and classmate Connor Salmoral, who worked as the mastering engineer on the record. The two spent a month collaborating. Salmoral’s job was to make “already great mixes” a bit better. Their final mixing session was in October.
“He paid me in beer and beauty,” Salmoral said.
Listening to the EP, it’s hard to believe that Wotton only began singing out of necessity. The singer of a band he played with backed out the night before a gig. Left with few other options, he realized he could drum and sing simultaneously.
After a lifetime of identifying as a drummer, Wotton’s sojourn into university and film production filled a void created when the bands he’d played with for years split up. Moving from Kitchener, Ont., to Toronto for university, he anticipated that his music would suffer.
“I knew that I would be giving up even just being able to play my instrument whenever I wanted to, but that’s the trade-off of moving forward,” he said.
Now nearing graduation, a hunger for performance combined with the monotony of a long summer pushed Wotton to mesh his two worlds: video production and music.
“Once you get used to producing things, whether it’s music or film or videos or anything, as soon as you’re done it’s like a weird creative hangover,” he said. “This summer was a long creative hangover. By the end of it, I just had to do something and music, this EP, this idea of this simple thing was something that had been in my head since first year.”
The authentic sound of Wotton’s electronically produced drums, bass and guitar were intentionally created to allow the tracks to one day transfer to real instruments and be performed for an audience.
At the very least, they’re songs that he and his housemates can play around with during their basement jam sessions. Their neighbours haven’t complained, Wotton said- half kidding, half serious.
His dad insists that he’ll be the first to buy a ticket to the show when it happens, while his mom’s favourite part of the EP is now being able to hear her son’s voice everyday.
“I don’t call enough,” Wotton joked.
This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Mar. 16, 2016.
Hear what Dakota has to say:
A quick q&a…
You’re a drummer, but on the EP you kind of fill all roles. How was that transition?
“The nice thing about making electronic music is you don’t have to be able to play it. Because I’ve just been in bands so long, I’ve dabbled in guitar and bass but I’ve never gotten beyond that point. Because I’m so attuned to those instruments, it’s nice to be able to produce those sounds without having to spend years getting to that point. It felt natural.
Did you run into any problems while making your EP?
“Just sticking with it. That’s always been a thing. I have dozens of- if not over a hundred- semi finished melodies and songs. It’s easy to make a little thing electronically, and then just not bring it to fruition, let alone a few songs tied together. So yeah, just sticking with it and coming up with lyrics for it, because that’s always been… the aspect of song writing is what I’m least comfortable and experienced with.”
Any regrets about not pursuing a career in fencing?
How did friends and family react to Insularity?
“Who close to you is going to tell you it sucks, right? But I got good reactions.”
Who was the first to hear Insularity?
“My roommate, Michael Pugacewicz, was the first to hear a song, but Connor was the first to hear it in full.”
What bands have you been listening to lately?
“Tame Impala, Temples…”
When can we expect the next EP?
“Summer is inspiring for that. You just sit by a bright window, and you just go.”