The release of the newest piece of work from The Ocean, “Pelagial”, is nearly upon us. ThisIsNotAScene got the chance to talk with main man Robin Staps about the new release and what we can expect from The Ocean in 2013.
So the release is making its rounds with the press how is it being received?
Absolutely great so far. We have made album of the month in two major European magazines. The press really seems to like it so far. Some people close to me and who’s opinions really matters to me also really love the album. All in all I am very thrilled with the reception.
Do you ever have a fear that what you write will not sound good or be good when it gets released?
No not really, I write music for myself and my band and if people like it, the that’s great, but to doesn’t affect what or how I write music.
How did you come up with this concept?
It is something I have been wanting to do for a while, since around 2008. Its funny that a band called The Ocean has never written about the ocean before… But when I came up with the idea I really didn’t know how to approach it, for a while. I knew that I wanted to start light and finish heavy but had a whole bunch of ideas floating around in my head and the question of how to do it was unclear for a long time. I tried a lot of different things and some of them failed but we all learn from our failures. I did have a solid concept in mind that just needed to be shaped somehow, and as I was writing riffs and music I always had a feeling of where whatever I was writing would end up in the end, whether that riff was more of a surface or more of a deep sea-riff so to speak, whether it would belong to the beginning or the end of the record.
Is it a challenge taking this from the studio to a live setting?
It is definitely a challenge, but it is one we enjoy taking up. We have had sort of a rehearsal residency at a venue last week, and we have played about four shows with this new material now and they have gone great. We are now doing European shows where out time slot will allow for us to play the album in its entirety, and that’s what we really want to do. However, during the Summer Slaughter tour in the US there wont be time to play the whole album so we will have to make some compromises.
Is that going to be painful to make those compromises?
Yes, it will be painful. The album was written to be listened to as a whole, and that’s how we wanna play it live. Everything else is essentially a compromise. But we’ll make it work somehow, this material is new and fresh and it’s exciting to play the stuff, we have been touring so long on our last 2 releases that we are all so excited to play new material now. There are really a couple of logical ways it can go, play the first half, play the last half, or play the first part and the last part and make cuts in the middle. We really don’t know though yet, we have to test all these approaches and anything else before we make a final decision. So for Summer Slaughter it will be a shorter set and we won’t play the album entirely, but I hope we can come back to the US later in the year as a headliner and play the full album then.
Is this abbreviated set time a function of the US or something else.
No, not really the US, it’s just a function of this tour package. There are like eleven bands in this package so its just logical we all can’t play for an hour. We are just excited to get over and be a part of this tour and we have a decent slot on the tour, somewhere in the middle part.
Having missed you on your last time in the US, do you use visuals in your performance or will there be visuals this time around.
Video projections are integral to how we want to perform this album live. The limited box set edition of the album comes with a DVD with a film by Craig Murray, that visualizes the 2 streaks of the journey that are at the heart of this album: the journey from the surface to the bottom of the sea; and metaphorically / with regards to lyrics, the journey from the surface into the abysses of the human mind. This DVD also has a 5.1 surround mix of the instrumental album, and to me this is truly the way the music is meant to be heard: together with the film and in 5.1. We will also show this film during our live performances. Yesterday we had some issues with our projector and couldn’t get the visuals projected and we were very bummed about that. I really feel that these visuals are important for the overall experience that is “Pelagial”.
What venue size do you think will be best suited for this release experience, small, medium or large?
All venue sizes have their pros and cons. We played big shows like Hellfest and Summer Breeze Festival and they were awesome shows, but I generally prefer the energy of a smaller sold out venue than a partially sold out medium sized venue. The energy of a packed intimate show is just tremendous. Personally, I tend to go to shows in venues that hold about 200-400 people usually. I love being close to the stage to get that experience with the band. I just feel a better connection to the music in this setting, as opposed to a big hall. And regarding festivals, daylight is really a problem for us. Our music comes across best in the dark, also because of the projections and the lighting. Seeing a band play dark, heavy music at 2 PM on a festival stage with the sun shining in their faces can only go wrong, really…
So what’s up coming for The Ocean.
We are starting out on a tour with Cult of Luna in Europe shortly, starting with Roadburn Fest in the Netherlands and concluding with Pelagic Fest in Germany. Then we’ll do a short European run with Mastodon. In July and August we will be on the Summer Slaughter tour. After that we head to Korea, China, and Taiwan. Then we fly into Siberia and take a train and do shows along the way back to Moscow and then end in St. Petersburg, then we head back to Europe. After that we will have to see, I would still love to get back to the US as a headline tour and do the full album.
How is Loic doing, I read that he has had some medical issues.
Loic is not doing too well at the moment. He actually has a nodule on his vocal chords and needs an operation to get it removed. But he hasn’t had time for that yet because the recovery time is so long, it would mean that we’d need to pause for a year or so… after taking a longer break in 2012 it looked better, when we recorded the vocals for this album he had no problems with his voice at all and it seemed like he had recovered. Then he started rehearsing with us last week and everything was fine during the rehearsals and first live shows, but then it got worse all of a sudden. So we played a few instrumental sets and for the band this worked out just fine; the album was originally written to be instrumental and is being released in 2 different versions, one with vocals and one instrumental version. They both stand on their own and are equally important to us and we knew we were going to play instrumental sets at one point… it just happened a little sooner than we were were expecting now, because of the unforeseen issues with Loic‘s voice.
How is Loic doing personally with this?
He is very depressed when he has to be off stage and watch us rather than be a part of it. Loic has worked so hard on this release, and he is important during our live shows interacting with the audience and getting that energy flowing out for them. He and we are all just gutted when he is unable to perform with us. We have a day off today and Loic is actually at a specialist getting his vocal chords examined again, so hopefully we’ll have some positive news tomorrow.
I hope Loic gets a favorable opinion from the doctor today. Time for the last question I know you have to run what are the top 5 bands you are listening to.
We did a show with Intronaut and The Atlas Moth so I got both their latest CDs at the show and have been playing them in the van all day today. To be honest I have been so busy in the studio and with rehearsals that I have not had any time to listen to new stuff recently. But I have a whole bunch of stuff on my iPod that I haven’t listened to yet, and I look forward to this tour with Cult of Luna where I can relax in my sleeper cab and catch up on my music listening.
Thanks for your time Robin