The Ocean

author PP date 22/12/07

The Ocean from Germany has been dubbed with many labels, ranging from progressive hardcore to the generic blanket genre 'metal'. They've dwelled just barely underneath the radar of all music lovers, but have so far produced a few EPs and a couple of full length albums that have been critically acclaimed almost everywhere they have been reviewed at. Their new album, "Precambrian", takes the band's ambitions even further, featuring 14 extensive tracks splite over two discs. It felt only natural to grab a hold of the band when the possibility popped up, and here we are, with their guitarist/songwriter Robin's email interview answers. Hi and thanks for doing this interview! To start out, please introduce your music to anyone out there who might be clueless :)
Robin: The Ocean is a vast sonic universe made up of many components, including the typical rock instruments such as drums, bass, guitars and vocals, but also including classical instruments such as strings and brass sections, electronics and non-aural mediums of art, such as live visuals and a conceptualized, synchronized light show. I suck at describing my own music with words but it ranges from short, furious songs to lengthy, orchestral compositions and a lot of people say that there is a cinematic quality to our sound, which is true in a way, I think.. You've been playing shows on every day in November and you're playing again soon. How are things so far? How are you handling a schedule that packed?
Robin: The tour has been great, turnouts were usually good, great sometimes, mediocre at other times, but it's always like that. Touring with all the other bands was awesome, we've become good friends and had some really intense times together. We're trying to take this band very serious and devote a lot of time and energy to it - some people more than others, but that's the case in any band. Some people cannot cope with the heavy touring schedules, but due to our being organized as a collective we have a number of people for the same position to draw upon, so not everyone who is actually in the band actually has to play every single tour. This year we have played shows with 5 different guitar players for example, and each of them is still a member of the band. Recently you released your new album "Precambrian" which is a double album. You tried to release your last two albums "Aeolian" and "Fluxion" as a double album as well, but that didn't work out. Why have you chosen to structure your albums like this instead of just writing "ordinary" albums?
Robin: We tried to make an album that as a whole, comprises the full spectrum of what this band is about, of what we have to offer, musically. Since this range goes from calm, atmospheric moments to fast, brutal parts, the question was how to combine all this in a way that makes sense. The idea of a double-album, consisting of 2 very different halfs appeared interesting to us. We tried to make the contrasts between those 2 halfs as large as they can possibly be - a risky undertaking, an enormous stretch, with the risk of tearing your muscles... but I am really happy with the result. Both albums can stand alone as separate entitites, but the songs also work in shuffle mode on the ipod... According to your website, the titles on the new album are geological terms, which seems quite an unusual topic for music to be about. How did you get inspired to base "Precambrian" around this theme?
Robin: The concept followed the music. When I wrote the songs, and when I was listenign to them, I always had images of erupting volcanoes and streams of red-glowing lava in my mind, and vast lakes with no living beings anywhere in sight... so the whole prehistoric idea wasn't that far off. The decision to make a double-album with 2 very distinct, different halfs, was there first. We were then looking for a concept to support and emphasize that division of the music, and the 'Precambrian' idea struck me immediately as perfectly fitting..

The Precambrian was the first chapter in the evolution of planet earth. It is subdivided into 2 eras, Hadean / Archaean and Proterozoic, the 2 discs carry these names. These eras are further subdivided into geological periods, which function as song-titles here. So the whole concept evolves around the early days of mother earth, which was then a terrifying place devoid of life and reigned by sulfur and red-glowing streams of lava... During the Proterozoic, the earth started to cool down a little bit and the atmosphere started to build, and first simple forms of life prang up. This is reflected in the music: The Hadean / Archaean part of the disc is raw and brutal, continuing where 'Aeolian' left off, with a basic instrumentation of drums, bass, guitars and vocals. The Proterozoic part of the disc is much more multi-layered and complex, more mellow and vast, still heavy at times, but with plenty of atmospheric moments that give the listener space to breathe in between the eruptions. Isn’t it quite ironic for a band called "The Ocean" to make an album that's apparently about "The Earth"?
Robin: The Ocean is part of the earth since more than 4 billion years, even during Precambrian times, there was no oxygen on earth, but the primal ocean was already there... Now that we’re on the topic, what made you come up with your bandname?
Robin: The Ocean is the place where everything begins and ends. The ocean can stand for a peaceful sunset scenery as much as for a stirred-up, man-eating storm-sea, swallowing everything in its path. This is true just as much for our music: there are plenty of peaceful, playful, instrumental passages on our previous records "fogdiver" and "fluxion" and on the 'Proterozoic'-half of the new 'Precambrian' record, but of course the category-4 hurricane parts are not missing either... Considering how Robin seems to think Myspace has a negative impact on music, I find it quite peculiar that you guys have a Myspace page. Can you elaborate on this, and also on why Robin thinks Myspace has a negative impact instead of a positive one? Do sites like carry the same effect?
Robin: I do not generally object to myspace, you're right when you say that we have our own page there and we use it to promote the band. The general idea is great, since it is essentially the users who keep the whole thing running and working and who make a band popular, in complete disregard of promotional budgets, so it's kind of a grassroots promotional tool, and I think that's great. However, myspace no longer works as a medium to share music and attract people to a band in order to make them pick up their records and dive into their art then, when they enjoy it - it has become an end in itself. With an unlimited amount of songs only a mouse-click away, the user simply doesn't do that next step anymore, but instead, clicks on to the next site. There is so much out there to discover, although 90% sounds the same, and it is that vague fear of missing out on something that keeps everyone in the loop. Adorno speaks about exactly this subject matter when he talks about culture industry in the 'dialectic of enlightenment', only that it's regarding radio there, and with myspace it is so much more obvious.

The very structure of the site itself, allowing no more than 4 songs, in terrible sound quality, essentially means that something is being compromised in the end. And more than anything, it is the idea of the album. I am a huge fan of the idea of making an album, rather than a loose assembly of songs. All albums that mean something to me are albums have this cohesion, this inevitability, where you don't wanna skip a single track, where you want to listen to the whole album all the way through. This whole realm is being lost these days, with everyone's attention span being reduced to 4 songs and a few clicks, with bands spending too much time trying to write the one perfect song and neglecting everything else. And this is what we stand up against, by releasing a double-album in a slick packaging with immense artwork and an all-encompassing concept, that hopefully offers more than just a few good songs, to the people who care.

About PureVolume, I have never really investigated the site but from what I know it is subject to the same problems and implications as Myspace. Your band is formally called "The Ocean Collective" which makes all kinds of sense, seeing how many people you have listed as bandmembers. How do you manage to make things work with so many people in the band, and how many of those guys are actually with you on the tour?
Robin: We don't really know ourselves... on the album, there are 26 musicians playing, but in a live environment we're usually between 5 and 9, depending on whether it's a tour or a single show, and on logistic as well as timing issues. At this moment we have 5 guitarists in the ocean collective, but apart from our recod release show in berlin on November 30th, we only play with 2 of them at the same time. I am very happy that we are in a position now where a lot of people are asking to be part of it, so there is no longer a shortage of musicians. It has its advantages and disadvantages when you have constantly different people around you. New people bring in a fresh breeze, and personally I just wouldn't wanna tour for 10 years with the same lame old farts you know..? There are so many brilliantly talented young musicians out there nowadays, as compared to 5 years ago, it's amazing. The downside is that of course everyone needs rehearsals and when a lot of people are involved you need to rehearse a lot more than you would have to with a never-changing line-up. Thing is, I wouldn't generally object to having a steady line-up, if it is the right people. But it's really hard, if a band doesn't pay the bills for everyone involved, to find people who are in the position that they can dedicate their lives to it and put up with the heavy touring schedules that we have. It is usually something that works for a while, or for one tour a year or something like that, since everyone has other jobs and duties in their lives. Describe what makes a concert by The Ocean stand out from other concerts.
Robin: What you can expect on stage is a heap of faceless, agonized human bodies thrashing the shit out of their instruments, all indulged in mostly blue-, green-colored lights flashing to the beat of the music. We want people to feel our movements, our bodies, our wood. There are no breaks in between songs, everything is linked, we don't talk on stage, we want people to get lost in our music for the duration of the entire show, not just for a song. We have interludes between songs and a sequencer-controlled light-show that is custom-fit to the music. We kind of try to conjure upon stage the atmosphere of David Lynch movies. Thanks for the interview, any last comments for your fans?
Robin: Go out and check out 'Precambrian'. It is our musically most advanced album, the songwriting is better than ever before, and the arrangements not just within the songs but also of all the songs on the album and their specific order and how they work together in the context of the whole is much better here, the sound is also much closer to what this band actually sounds like, it is huge, heavy, yet airy and has a lot of ambience to it. Go support bands and musicians who do it for the love of it and who care about artwork and packaging and BUY their albums, don't just download some data from a website. thanks.

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