And Oceans - Interview
...And Oceans - is it metal or is it industrial-techno? You can't really categorize them and in my opinion you shouldn't even try. "Cypher", their recently released album will not answer those questions but it will show you how seamlessly those elements can be combined and how original and unique this band is. So, how did that mix of cold electronics and aggressive metal come to life? Kenny, the band's vocalist answers that and anything ...And Oceans. Here's the result of our conversation...
Would I be mistaken if I said that "Cypher" is a concept album? Can you tell us what is it about, a reason for 3-part song titles and describe the idea behind the title "Cypher"?
Each and every song is divided into three sections, but one of them stands as the profound title. The ones in cursive are the actual titles for each song, but it wasn't correct on the promo version. On the actual CD the titles are in bold and those are the correct titles. Making a concept album has been floating deep down in the corners of the mind for a while and as the music for "Cypher" turned out pretty compact, I chose to write the lyrics to go hand in hand with the music. The music is not complex and neither are the lyrics this time. The basics are pretty much the same throughout the whole album and decadence is under focus, but there are lots of different small nuances with different insights of what some people call reality. I have never been too concrete about anything and I never probably will because I always leave some space for the personal interpretation. It's like with any book, movie or painting: the first impression is your own interpretation. I can't see any relevance in the concrete forms before you have worked on it in your own personal way. It's better to formulate your own thoughts and if you then later on come to the same conclusion you feel much lighter and you can just sit back and enjoy with a tiny smile on your face. The lyrics on "Cypher" are covered in simplicity compared to the previous lyrics, but sure I have left some symbolic segments for the mind to chew on. It's not much different from the music itself, they are compact and therefore there are connections to one another. It's the same theme throughout the whole album and one can surely find the linking patterns, which the whole lyrical content is built upon. And what comes to the title itself is: "Cypher" has several meanings and most of its nuances are implanted behind the lyrical curtain, but one of the meanings stands more concretely out and bears a certain value, and that is "a person or thing of little importance" because it reflects the different perspectives in the lyrics. After reading the lyrics one will comprehend the actual meaning of the title. The word "Cypher" is so versatile so we decided to use it, as it reflects the different nuances in man and the presence of man. But what I was striving for with this title, in a more concrete form, of course, was the relevance of man's unimportance. I don't think I have ever made such "down to earth" lyrics as on "Cypher" and I think it's pretty obvious what the, so called message is, but of course I have left some gaps for the personal interpretation on the mental level.
On the album cover, does the writing on the wall, "Insect Angels and Devil Worms", only relate to the original title of your limited edition of "Cypher" or does it carry a special meaning?
The official CD version is titled "Cypher" and its subtitle is still "Insect Angels & Devil Worms", but this particular subtitle will more directly be used for the double vinyl version because as it is a double version we thought the bipartite title suited better the vinyl version. The original title "Insect Angels..." is taken from my forthcoming book which consists of the same topic and the title melted nicely into this theme of this new concept album. We also changed the title due to the fact that the cover artwork changed from its original form. We could of course have used the same title for both of the releases because they both represent the same idea and purpose, but we still wanted to divide these two formats from each other.
The band went through some personal changes did this in any way affect the songwriting or recording process of "Cypher"?
This time we have all been part of creating the music, and by having six members participating on the process all added their own salt to the soup. In a way it was easier than before, but at the same time much more difficult because you are very critical towards your own ideas nowadays. All in all the process of creating new material is always demanding and stressful if you have a schedule to follow. The new members of course brought whole lot of new ideas, ambition and most of all motivation to evolve the music into another shape.
Can you introduce the new members; tell us how you found them and about their musical background?
Well, I got in touch with Pete when he moved from Sweden to this shitty town and we just started to rehearse some material for some projects, and firstly he kind of was more of a stand-in musician when 7even ii was not present, but after a while Pete just melted into our mentality at the same time as 7even ii was drifting further and further away from us. And at that time we were already looking for a new drummer, but couldn't find a proper one for that job, so Kai from Rotten Sound was supposed to fill that gap as a session musician for "Cypher". After some weeks we just got the idea of trying out Sami, who we thought could be an option for us after hearing what he was able to do. We tried him and the package was ready to go. Pete's own death metal band is called Deathbound and they will release the debut album on Woodcut Records, but of course nowadays he is also involved in all these other bands and projects we are part of. Sami has at least two bands, All In Me being some sort of metal plus some other band, which plays Pearl Jam material.
Why did Martex and 7even ii leave the band?
When we started creating new material our old drummer Martex and the rest of the members got stuck in a gap called dilemma because Martex wanted to create something more melodic and music similar to our previous albums, but the rest of the members wanted to create something different and reach for new musical fields. And this time we decided not to do any compromises on this field, so Martex decided to leave us. Shortly after this the second guitarist 7even ii was drifting further and further away in a sinking boat and got finally replaced by a new member. There's no use in having members in the band when the chemistry isn't working together any more, so we needed some fresh energy and more motivation, which the new members brought along.
Which band member is the biggest industrial/techno fan and which one is still deep into metal?
I guess when it comes to music we are very open minded and we listen to a lot of different variations and genres of music. Anti and me are maybe the biggest techno-heads, but the rest of the members are also into industrial music, but maybe just not as much as the two of us are. We listen to music that feels great at a certain moment of time and it all depends on the mood may it be metal, techno, MTV or whatever. As long as the music feels good for that particular moment, it's great. I could never see myself categorized into only one genre. It would be like eating the same meal every day the rest of your life.
...And Oceans being above any style definitions and trends might be very hard to swallow for a typical metal fan and too heavy for the electronic/industrial crowd. Does the people's reaction concern you at all or do you write the music for your own pleasure first and foremost?
We make the music for ourselves because otherwise we wouldn't be honest to ourselves. And as we don't do this for money or fame it works more as therapy. But of course it's nice if people like the material we have done.
You came a long way from being a black metal band to today's version of ...And Oceans, can you tell us why did you chose this path and didn't try, let's say, symphonic black metal? Where did the fascination with electronics come from?
I don't think we have consciously chosen any certain path it's more like a development in a natural way. We had some so called symphonic elements inserted for a while, but it all took new forms after we got new soft- and hardware, and of course along the years the mental state has been pulsating its own life. We just wanted to create something more suitable for our minds of this presence. Maybe on the next album the electronics will be excluded, who knows? As we don't plan anything too much you can never actually know what kind of material will be created next time. The fascination of electronics is basically the atmosphere of a mechanical coldness that fascinates, as well as the wide range of possibilities to mix different blends of sounds and patterns.
Have you ever received any hate mail or personal threats regarding use of electronics and betraying black metal?
No, should we? Sending hate mail to people really shows how brilliant a person can be. We have received some mails from some moralists, who have pointed out that we are on the false path, but when their points of view had no impact on us they vanished. Seems like ignorance is still the strongest weapon. Haven't heard anything from any similar people in several years though.
Do you regret anything from your career? If so, do you try to plan next band's moves to avoid same mistakes or do you let everything fall into place?
I guess there are some moments that could have been left undone, but then again it's not like I'm ashamed of it or keeps me awake during nights. It's all in the past and has no affect on me anyway, so...but as we act out of impulses you never know what pops to your mind and what you manage to do.
I'm really interested in how ...And Oceans writes songs, do you first come up with electronic stuff and then add guitars and drums or is it still the way our fathers of metal did it: good riff first?
It varies from time to time sometimes a whole track can be based on a singular keyboard pattern and sometimes on a guitar riff. Some of the tracks on "Cypher" were created out of a drumbeat, keyboard pattern and a guitar riff. We don't have any particular formula to follow because one instrument affects the other as well as a certain pattern or sound affects the whole outcome of the track.
I think it has become an ...And Oceans tradition to make the last track fully electronic. Are you trying to prepare us for completely electronic album or just to piss off die-hard metal guys like me [laugh]. I have to say those are not my favorite ones from your catalogue.
Instead of having a cover track as bonus we usually tend to make a special track or a track done in collaboration with some other artist. This time we just wanted to get a cold oriented track for the end to wrap up the whole thing in the end. If the last track appears as an annoying one, I can sit down and just smile, [laughs].
Since the band is so dynamic and eclectic, it makes some wonder, does ...And Oceans have any musical restriction? For instance, would you limit yourselves to never play country, power metal or mix black with pop, or is the sky the limit?
We don't have any restrictions when it comes to creating material, but of course there are elements that never will appear in this constellation, and especially elements that don't appear in a positive way to us. Country is one of those repugnant elements, but it could work as an irritant, [laughs].
How do you deal with rather heavy involvement of the band's members in side projects? (Rotten Sound, Deathbound, Black Dawn, 6 Billion Ways To Die, Faeces - did I miss something?) Is ...And Oceans always everyone's main priority?
Yeah, you missed a couple: O, Irene's Kunt and Epäjärjestys. Each and every band is more of a main priority band, it just depends one, which one is under the microscope for the moment. At the moment we concentrate on ...And Oceans and Rotten Sound, next will be Deathbound and Black Dawn.
What are the promotional plans for "Cypher"? Where can we see you in a live environment?
Nothing special out of the ordinary: interviews and hopefully a European tour. I don't have any details on touring yet, but Century Media is keeping their eyes and ears open for a possible tour for us.
Speaking of tours, do you have any special or unusual requirements before you go on tour? What does your typical gig look like?
Nah, Century Media has been taking care of all the details when it comes that point, but of course it would be cool to make something really astonishing on a live performance. But we are just a tiny band among big stars and we can't require things that we really would like to do. We try to add something a bit more different to live shows, but unfortunately it's pretty difficult to do that during a tour. Something small will always be added, but we'll see what it will be this time [laughs].
I think that's all for now. Thank you for your time and patience answering my questions. Stay true to yourself, stay original and most important stay heavy. Anything you'd like to add?
Thanks for the interview and for the end: You are all my friends, if you got money and nothing to spend. It'll make no difference in a hundred years or so sooner or later we all make the little flowers grow. You will all get the fire and never get out of this world alive. Don't run and hide, it's no use I know, but sooner or later we all make the little flowers grow. All of you and the rest please don't blame me because I didn't start this mess. Some of us stay, but all of us will go, sooner or later we all make the little flowers grow. Thanks to Thrussell for lighting up the stars.
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