By Sam Brokenshaw
Well where should I start? There really isn't a huge amount of bands making the kind of music that the ocean specialise in, actually, there are none. Period. Back in merry 2004 the band unloaded "Fluxion", consequently I got completely turned inside out. What the hell is this band doing?! They surely can't get away with mixing this kind of stuff together?! Can they?! Well, they did, join me and guitarist/maestro/captain Nemo Robin Staps as we venture under the sea in search of booty! Yarg!
Hey there! Whats happening in the ocean's world at the moment?
Way too many things at once...we're rehearsing 5 days a week for an extended European tour in March/April, just got the "Fluxion / Aeolian" 3xLPs in, after some fucking around with the test pressings for weeks, US promotion is getting started, new merch just arrived and I'm leaving to Costa Rica next week, so we're busy as usual.. aside from that it seems that we've been getting louder over the past months in our own rehearsal space / recording studio "Oceanland", we've recently been struggling with our neighbors there about noise issues, and I just hope we get all that straightened out in a peaceful way.
The world has just been ravaged by the beast, the beast's name is "Aeolian". This album is far more brutal and heavy than the first album, in fact quite a jump into a more dense and feverish sound. Why the sudden change? Are you guys into the really heavy stuff? I ask because the first seemed somehow more beautific with a few quite serene passages and more complex arrangements, which of these two styles will the Ocean pursue next?
"Aeolian" is indeed quite different from its predecessor "Fluxion", though both records were recorded in the same recording session, and all the songs are from the same period of song writing. To us, both records are perfectly representative of what we do as a band, and we play songs from both records live. "Aeolian" shows a side of us that's always been there, and people who have seen us live know that. A song like "Queen of the Food-Chain" is actually fairly old, we've been playing that song live for more than 3 years. So it's not that we have evolved so much or changed our style, it was all always there, the crushing, heavy parts alongside the atmospheric, epic passages - and it will most probably continue to be like that in the future. We recorded the drums and the guitars for both albums, "Fluxion" and "Aeolian", in January 2004, and originally the whole thing was meant to be released as a double CDs, but our labels back then didn't wanna do that. So we had to split up the songs, and we decided to do that in a way that would create 2 distinctly different outcomes: an orchestral record with various instrumental passages and classical instruments such as cellos, trombones, clarinets; an album that would convey kind of a film score feeling, an album that would be the link to our first official record "Fogdiver " (2003), which was entirely instrumental. This record was "Fluxion". And then the other one, the beast, "Aeolian": a reduction to the essential core of brutality; drums, bass, guitars, vocals, without all the orchestral embellishments of "Fogdiver" and "Fluxion". But though they are different from one another, you will also come across vast similarities: the riffing, the drumming style, the sound, the arrangements of the songs, it's all very much the same thing.
The Ocean's live performances have a certain reputation as being distinctly more in depth than the average metal/hardcore show has ever been. How did you put together this melding of sound and light? Will the band be playing on a wider scale, perhaps more of Europe and maybe America, in the future?
We'll be playing all over Europe in March/April, and hopefully we'll make it over to the US soon... I can't really say right now since the record has not even been released there, but from the reactions we've gotten so far I'm pretty confident. As for the way this whole big show came about, it is something that evolved, though I have been thinking of something larger, something that would go beyond the dimension of your average rock band from the beginning. the whole thing started because I had a friend who wanted to be in the band, but didn't play any instrument, so I was like, dude, why don't you come up with a serious light show? and he was into it... the visual aspect is very important for us, it makes up the whole atmosphere on stage... images and optical impressions can be a much more effective way of stirring up emotion in people than auditive stimulations. There is something essentially lacking if you only listen to our records. We have our own light-show that is pre-programmed and controlled by a sequencer. Imagine an array of mostly blue and green floor-spots, stroboscopes and blinders flashing synchronized to the beat of the music.. it's all programmed. we work a lot with dim colors and actually FEW light on stage, our faces are mostly left in the dark and we use a lot of completely black parts without any light to contrast the bright blinder-assaults.. that was quite difficult in the beginning, since we had to figure out how to play in more or less complete darkness in certain parts. It's got the atmosphere of David Lynch movies at times. Then we got videos that are just as much synchronized to the music and controlled by our sequencer. So the live show is an all-encompassing experience...
The band has a quite bewildering array of members performing different roles, could you introduce us to the core of the band and explain their roles, and explain why the band is so damn big?!
Torge Liessmann - Our drummer. He's got the toughest job of all, trying to figure out the sick drum fills that I come up with on my machines, trying to humanize the inhuman...
Gerd Kornmann - He's got a number of toms and oil barrels and weird self-made percussive instruments that he's beating the shit out of in a live environment. He's also the master of the grinding tool.
Gordon Hünies - Bass guitars. web design. bad jokes.
Andreas Hillebrand - Guitars. favourite model for our caricature drawing competitions in the van.
Maik Antrack - Guitars, when Andreas doesn't have time for us.
Robin Staps - Guitars. always. additional percussion. songwriting. light-programming. recording engineer. producer. tax declarations. creative despotism.
Meta Bünte - Tearing his throat to shreds. scaring away the audience. drinking too much absinthe.
Nico Webers - High-pitched screaming. live sequencer control. light technician.
NIls Lindenhayn - Video design. He's working at home, he's no longer on stage with us cause he's sick of the smell in the van.
That's the core. Apart from that, there's a number of classical musicians that we're working with whenever expedient and possible, both live and in the studio-
why all this? to "make the shit fat", as we would say in German. Haha...come see us live and you'll believe it.
With the band being so big and so multifaceted, the way you guys write songs must be pretty interesting, how exactly does the process work?
Pretty simple: I write all the songs, from the first guitar riff to the last drum fill and bass line. We're not a jam-band. I've been playing in this type of bands for years and none of these bands ever really got anywhere. With The Ocean, I have chosen a different approach: I compose all the music from scratch and by myself, I program the drums, write the guitar-riffs, the bass-lines and the lyrics. This was the concept from the beginning and I have been looking for people who are into this idea and who can play in a band with the idea of "the whole" in mind and without strong individual urges of self-realization or whatever. I record everything, from programmed drums and bass lines to guitars, string and synth arrangements to vocals in form of a pre-production and play it to the other guys... we then talk about it, discuss which songs we're gonna realize and which not, and then we start rehearsing them. Some things are fixed, others might be changed when we realize they don't work the way they were intended. It also happens at times that I come up with a drum-fill that is impossible to play live, then Torge, our drummer, scoffs at me and offers a different fill... but it is really composed music, all the way. You just get more in-depth that way, you're able to realize a high degree of intricacy as for what the arrangements and actual parts are concerned [about], a degree that you wouldn't be able to realize with a contingent jam-approach.
What kind of bands and other music influence The Ocean? I find it pretty hard to pin it down to maybe one or two points of reference, it seems like a lot more of a melting pot of many things to me.
That's totally true, if you look at the individual musical backgrounds of each member, they are so diverse that we essentially end up fighting about the music in the van when we're on tour...but that's part of the challenge. Personally, I'm a hardcore kid. I grew up listening to Judge, Side by Side and early sXe stuff, then Unbroken, Neurosis, Groundwork, Absinthe, Converge, Coalesce, Breach, Refused, etc. I always loved the Melvins and the Swans. I'm also into a lot of arab music. I was in Syria this spring and bought a bunch of awesome tapes there. Might leave its mark on our next record. I listen to jazz, to classical music, especially eastern European composers like Dvorczak and Terterjan, I'm into Tom Waits and Zappa and Diamanda Galas... and most of this stuff has influenced me in some way or another.
Does The Ocean belong to any kind of scene in Germany? Any other up and coming German bands you'd like to recommend to us?
We don't really feel part of any scene. We simply play the music that feels right to us and we invite everyone to enjoy it with us. In fact, we have all different types of people coming to our shows: there are thick-glassed fall-on-the-floor emo kids, metal heads, black-haired button-dudes, Betty Page Girls, Neurosis-Crusties...everything you can think of. And I think that's great. The German scene is pretty weak, because it's so damn insecure. Most bands are peering over to Scandinavia or to the US all the time, and they feel inferior before they even grab a guitar. That's ridiculous. There has always been a scene for experimental music here, but strangely enough mostly a scene of "listeners", not of "partakers". Germany has not really spawned any good bands that we can relate to, musically, so we feel a bit isolated in our own country... German media are very conservative. They don't support local bands a lot, it's not like in the UK or in Scandinavia, for example. Here, they don't appreciate bands who try to reinvent themselves with every record, this is confusing to many of them. It is strange but true that we are getting almost more attention from British, French or Scandinavian media than from German. I don't like this fucking country. It's cold and rainy and people suck. We're gonna emigrate one day... to the South, to Italy, Spain or Greece. German bands to check out: Tephra. www.tephra.de
. they rock. Monochrome. Not many more.
The Ocean manages to be considerably more epic than your average band, yet always seems to be to the point and concise. In this way the band has a unique musical identity, how important is this to you?
Of course it's important to us to have a strong musical identity, but this is nothing we are concerned about, it is something that happens naturally. I think we have really developed our own sound, both with the orchestral, multi-layered approach we've taken with our previous record "Fluxion" and with the heavy bastard "aeolian". I think it is really hard to pin down with a few words what we're trying to do, because there's so many different aspects involved, and we've been consequently refusing to limit ourselves to playing a certain style of music. And despite that, or maybe because of it, because certain people feel helpless and don't know where to place us in their system of categories and limitations, they always draw comparisons. That's a natural thing that people draw comparisons to things they are familiar with, our brain simply works like that, but these comparisons never work and they always cut it down to something that doesn't do it justice. If I play our old records to my father, he says that we sound like Pink Floyd -- this is because he doesn't know many modern metal and noise-bands, thus Pink Floyd is his closest reference. I think it's funny.
"Aeolian" features a song called "Necrobabes.com", I checked out the website, and laughed my ass off for a good ten minutes... whats the deal with that song title?
see, sometimes people think we're super serious and pretentious dudes, that seems to be an inevitable implication if you're following a holistic, conceptual approach. Good to see we made ya laugh!
Ever since I saw your tech rider .pdf file on your website, I've been wondering... what exactly is the "oil rig" and what does it do? Is it on either of your albums? If so could you point it out?
the oil rig... it's being battered in all the time by our merciless viking Gerd Kornmann. It also serves as a platform for the use of his grinding tool. We use it more in a live environment than on record. As I pointed out before, we're trying to do something more live than just reproducing the record. We add visuals, different instruments, more samples, more percussion, sometimes we even change arrangements. You can hear the grinding tool in "Isla del Sol" on "Fluxion", for example.
Slightly bizarre question: A Swedish friend of mine wanted to know, how come Germans go to Sweden to shoot moose?
That's something I've always been wondering. We don't have moose in Germany, and they're pretty big and frightening animals if they run to you, so everything freaks out when they go to Sweden and see one. And these German tourists think it's super exciting and special, while for a Swede, seeing a moose is like seeing a dove, or a pig, or something. They're all over the place. And then these German nerds plaster their cars with moose-stickers cuz they think it's soooo Scandinavian, or whatever. ya know... tourist nerds. ask your Swedish friend why all Swedes come to Germany to get drunk.. well I know that answer...
Many thanks for your time and all the best to The Ocean and their future endeavors! Any last words?
Thanks. If you like "Aeolian", you should definitely go and grab a copy of "Fluxion", to us the 2 records belong together.. you should still be able to get some copies through the Relapse store. For all vinyl nerds: "Fluxion" and "Aeolian" were just released as a gate fold 3xLP on three different wax colors, you can order them exclusively through our www.theoceancollective.com
or through Throne Records from Spain- peace.
The Ocean Collective
Metal Blade Official Website