Monday, June 17, 2013

Interview with Robin Staps of The Ocean (6/17/2013)

The Ocean released their 6th album,
 Pelagial, this past April.

The Ocean is a progressive metal band from Berlin, Germany led by guitarist Robin Staps. The band released three albums between 2004 and 2008 as a revolving cast of musicians (nearly 40 by some accounts) before settling on its current five members. The quintet's sixth album, Pelagial, was released earlier this year on Metal Blade records. I interviewed Robin about his writing process, the new lineup, and their spot on the upcoming Summer Slaughter tour.

On your first three albums – Fluxion, Aeolian, and Precambrian – you used a collective of musicians. Can you compare the songwriting and production process of those from the last three, since you’ve have a solid lineup?

R: The story is actually a bit more difficult then it may seem to be. There were many people that were in and out of the band. At one point there were five guitarists, even though we never actually played with more than two. On those albums, before Anthropocentric, the songwriting was all done by myself. I wrote one hundred percent, including the drum parts. It wasn’t a collective in a creative way, it was a one man project. That changed when the Swiss musicians came in in 2008. While I wrote all of Heliocentric, there were five songs on Anthro that were written by Jona (guitarist Jonathan Nido); I would say that album was the most collective. Pelagial is an album I wrote all by myself, and that’s because of the specifics of the album. A project like that calls for a mastermind, someone behind it that has the scope of the whole project in their head. In between the albums, Jona and Louis (bassist Louis Jucker) were caught up in side projects and weren’t as interested in the writing, and that’s how it came together.

Your themes have ranged from geology to psychological thrillers. How do you choose your subject matter, and does it come before or after the music?

R: In this case it came before, and that made it different than the previous albums. Up until Anthro, it was always first music and then lyrics. In this case, it was the idea that came first and the music was written with that in mind in order to get that surface-to-deep progression to happen. I wanted chaotic and swirly in the beginning, and then songs with lower tuning that were heavier for the deep-sea part. I wanted to the music to focus on that, to really “audialize” that. It couldn’t have been any other way. Whenever I was writing a riff, I knew where it would fall on the timeline; where in the album it would be. Even though it wasn’t necessarily written chronologically, I knew where everything would go.

You have a DVD coming out this year titled Collective Oblivion which features many of the pre-Heliocentric songs. What was the process like having new musicians learn the older material?

R: Well that went fairly smoothly. When the “Swiss Invasion” happened in late 2007, early 2008 – after Precambrian was released – Jona came into the band, and the others followed one by one. When that happened, they of course had to learn preexisting music. We got together at one point and watched video of Precambrian, and after that he signed on. Now of course, everyone was involved in the last three  all the players were on them so they had more of a connection. They’re all professional enough to learn the old material and deliver it. Some of them actually like the old songs quite a bit, sometimes even more than the new ones. It’s always good to keep the old songs mixed in with the new, for both the band and the audience.

What bands are you most looking forward to playing with on the Summer Slaughter tour?

R: Well clearly the Dillinger Escape Plan, not just because they’re headlining but because they’re one of the most exciting bands in heavy music these days. We toured Europe with them a little while ago and Jona played with them every night. They really tear the place apart like nothing I’d ever seen before. I watched every single show of them for five weeks because, well, I’m also fan, and every night is different and every show is unpredictable. It’s very exciting. I’m also looking forward to Animals As Leaders. They’re a very exciting band, like a lot of the ones on the tour. It’s a great overall package. 

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