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Oceansize

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Mike Vennart, am: 15.12.2003 ]

Oceansize sind die wohl spannendste Neuentdeckung von der britischen Insel in letzter Zeit, vor allem wenn man progressive, innovative und originelle Musik zu schätzen weiß, die sich weit abseits von gängigen Konventionen und Strukturen bewegt. Was die Jungs auf ihrem hervorragenden Debütalbum "Effloresce" ankündigen, ist live dann absolut großes Kino. Ich sprach mit Sänger und Gitarrist Mike anlässlich ihrer Europatour mit Aereogramme unter anderem über Labels, Drogen und Manchester.

 

Musicscan: Why don't you tell me a little bit about how the deal with Beggars came about?

Oceansize: We had been going for about three years before we got a record deal. We were looking for a deal at the time, a lot of major labels were very interested, but we kept turning them down because we are not the most commercially viable product, which is the most attractive proposition for a major label. Beggars just saw us play a gig in Leeds and there was nobody there except them. We didn't know they were there and after that everything is history. That took a long time to sort out, though. They are a very cool label, they give you a lot more freedom to pain the picture the way you want to paint it. They won't put you under any pressure to change what you are in order to make more money. They are not really interested in that. They just want you to make the best album that you can, that is why they signed you.

Musicscan: So I gather you are very happy on Beggars so far?

Oceansize: Oh yes, very much.

Musicscan: In how far are you connected to Manchester and the music scene there?

Oceansize: Well, we were part of it. But it is strange, because we are not actually from Manchester. We live in Manchester and we have lived there for nearly ten years now. We are all from different places in England and Scotland. Manchester is a great place, there are a lot of great bands. They just need more attention, they don't get half as much attention as they should. You will be hearing a lot from Amplifier for example. They just signed to Music For Nations and they are absolutely fantastic.

Musicscan: Aren't Elbow from Manchester, too?

Oceansize: Yes, they are, just outside of Manchester. We are very good friends with Elbow.

Musicscan: Would you say you would sound differently if weren't located in Manchester?

Oceansize: No, definitely no.

Musicscan: What do you deal with lyricwise since they are not printed in the booklet?

Oceansize: I write them, but I don't enjoy talking about them. I don't think there is any point in talking about them. They are just there for people. If people want to know what they are, they can try and work it out. I just wrote them. I don't want to explain what the mean, because that is boring and you should make your own mind up of what they are about.

Musicscan: Is that also why you didn't print them anywhere?

Oceansize: Yes, that is exactly why I didn't print them. I prefer it when you don't quite know for a start. Even though they mean a lot to me, they won't mean anything to anybody else I don't think, because it is quite personal. I don't think it would make sense to anybody else, so I wouldn't want to tell them exactly what they are about. It would be completely meaningless to them.

Musicscan: So how important are the lyrics compared to the music? Are the two separate entities or do they only work together?

Oceansize: I think they are very important. I don't think anybody else in the band thinks that they are as important as I think they are. They go with the music, because obviously the vocal melody comes when the music is written. So I then have to write words around the vocal melody and it will often be a phonetic noise in order to encourage the lyric. It is very important to me.

Musicscan: Is there a theme or a read thread between the songs on the album?

Oceansize: Musically?

Musicscan: Musically, lyrically, aesthetically...

Oceansize: I don't know. You know how many bands try to make every album different to their last album. We try to make each song different to the last song. If there is a song that sounds remotely like one of the other songs, we probably won't play it. We are very picky. So I couldn't say that there is a theme running through the album really. I don't know, I couldn't tell you. I feel too involved with the band, too immersed in it to be able to objectively comment on something like that. I just think that we went out of our way to make each song a masterpiece, a mission, a journey. It's got a lot of different colors in there, so the album is really eclectic because there is just so much to hear, so many different levels that you can appreciate it on.

Musicscan: So you didn't throw out any songs because they didn't fit on the album, that weren't really you?

Oceansize: We recorded a batch of songs, because obviously we had been a lot of the songs for quite a while, but then there also some brand new songs that made it on the album, like "Remember Where You Are", "Rinsed" and "One Day All This Could Be Yours". We all knew what songs have to go on the album. There was talk of certain songs not going on it like "You Wish" which we thought about keeping for the next album. But the we figured we should put it all out, because in two years when it is time to put out another album, we might not sound like this anymore. That is also half of the reason why the album is as long as it is, because we just wanted to give people as broad a picture as possible of what we are like.

Musicscan: What is the songwriting process like with you guys? I can imagine that it takes a considerable amount of time to write your songs, since they are quite complex and non-linear.

Oceansize: It is quite unique, because there is no songwriter in the band. None of us know how to write a song at all. So we just write little ideas, little motives on the guitar and that will be altered by the drummer and it will be picked apart by everybody. You come up with about 20 or 30 variations of one riff. It is just building blocks, it is just like Lego. You take little pieces and put this there and that there and so on. It is much easier now since we have a computer as well, because we don't even have to worry about trying to remember how to play something. We cut it up and work it out exactly how we want everything to sit. It is much easier to sit back and listen to how it is going to sound than having to concentrate so much on playing it correctly. So it is a bit of an uphill struggle, because everybody has equal input. There is no dictator in the band.

Musicscan: I guess there is a lot of fighting involved, too.

Oceansize: Oh, fuck yeah. After five years, we still haven't learned how to be nice to each other. But it's cool.

Musicscan: Doesn't the fighting escalate on tour sometimes?

Oceansize: I don't really want to delve to deep in it, but like any other partnership or marriage you are going to have your ups and downs. I don't see it as a big problem really. It is just like having a band of brothers. I don't worry about it. You argue about nothing anyway. I often just switch off when this shit kicks off anyway.

Musicscan: What do you think are the best and worst aspects of touring?

Oceansize: The best aspects are obviously drinking Jägermeister every single night and promising that you are not going to get pissed, but you always do. On this tour it has been especially brilliant, because every night the audience has been amazing to us. Obviously they have never heard of us, but they really like us. In the UK it is different, people aren't as receptive. People in the UK when they are watching a gig, they are waiting for you to be shit, they are waiting for you to fuck up. Over here, they are waiting for you to get even better than you already are. It is a completely different bank, so we feel really lucky. But the worst thing about touring is soundchecks, just listening to somebody hit a snare drum 500 times. It is boring, so tedious. Other than that, it is fine. They only other thing I would change about our touring situation is I wish we had a bigger bus so we could sleep all day.

Musicscan: Coming back to the songwriting aspect a little bit. It is sort of a cheesy question to ask, but considering the music that you are creating, I was wondering what part drugs play in the equation?

Oceansize: Well, we smoke religiously, but we have calmed down a lot because we are getting a bit older. But the first rehearsal that we ever did, Marc our drummer had brought a lot of mushrooms and we just recorded everything that we played that night. We got about five or six songs out of it and we played until about three in the morning. We got "Amputee" and "Relapse" and a few other songs as well. Drugs had a big influence. We formed when we say Mogwai, we went to see them in a tiny club in Manchester years ago and we were just thinking about forming the band then and we were all on acid. That was it, it was religious and we thought "this is the best band that we have ever seen, we have got to do something like this". Let's just get three guitars and play them as loud as possible and turn on every effect paddle that we have got. That is how we started. When we used to rehearse, we just used to get a few cans of beer and some weed and just play and fuck about all night. It was more of a party for us, a get together and obviously we had to learn to take it more seriously and get more work done. Drugs are important, though, I wouldn't want to sound boastful about it. We are not The Queens Of The Stone Age or anything like that. I think the weed just stops us from killing each other sometimes.

Musicscan: Would you say you rely on drugs for your creative output?

Oceansize: I wouldn't say I rely on it, I could cut it out. I don't actually create anything when I take mushrooms. I just laugh a lot. The only drug I really do a lot is weed and caffeine and I think the caffeine really helps me to write stuff and the weed doesn't. I could probably get more work done, if I didn't smoke that much.

Musicscan: What makes for a good show in your opinion?

Oceansize: Ballons and confetti and fans on each side of the stage blowing wind, smoke and fireworks everywhere. Seeing my favorite band, The Cardiacs, is similar to seeing The Flaming Lips actually. It is a religious experience. I like energy as well, I like to see band give everything they have got.

Musicscan: Is it important how many people are there?

Oceansize: No, not really. I hate when people just stand at the back and there is nobody at the front. You just need to feel that people want to see you and the closer they get, the more enjoyable it is going to be for everybody.

Musicscan: Do you sometimes get the impression that people can't handle your music, that it is too complex for the live?

Oceansize: Yes, this music isn't for everyone. The people that don't understand, maybe they want to watch Pop Idol or they want to watch soap operas, they want an easy life. They don't want to have to engage their brain, because some people just want to listen to Travis. What we are doing is not rocket science, though. To me it sounds natural and like the most beautiful thing in the world, but I don't think a lot of people understand that. I am not bothered, though. We don't write music for the people anyway, that is the idea.

Musicscan: How important is the band in your life? What are some aspects that are equally important or come right after the band?

Oceansize: After the band there would be my girlfriend. Very good question by the way. I have just been going out with this girl for a couple of years and family is important, too. I don't have any other interests, I have no other hobbies, I don't do anything else at all. I watch a bit of TV and I listen to a lot of music, but I have nothing to sit in the same bracket as music. It is just everything to me and it is everything to everybody else in the band. That is the only thing that we talk about.

Musicscan: Where do you see yourself in 10 or 15 years down the road?

Oceansize: I would like to still be doing this. I just want to keep selling records so that people are coming to see us in our own right. I am not going to have some major label fuck me over. I want to do it on my terms, on our terms and we are not going to start cashing in.

Musicscan: You wouldn't even consider signing to a major at this point?

Oceansize: No, not at this point. BMG offered us a big deal and we turned it down. Simply because of the kind of people they are. It is just cocky bullshit, because we know full well that they would have dropped us after one album and then we'd be nowhere again and that wasn't an option. Overall, we don't have much money and it is really hard to pay the rent and it is quite hard to pay the food, but other than that Beggar's are a great label and we are all very happy.

Musicscan: What inspires you artistically, not necessarily limited to music?

Oceansize: The Cardiacs. Comedy. I am a big comedy fan, I love Bill Hicks. I get a lot of ideas for lyrics from people like that. "Massive Bereavement" is from a Chris Morris sketch. I don't know if you have that over here. He is sort of a comedy terrorist. He had to flee the country because he did a comedy show all about paedophilia and it is very dark, but absolutely hilarious. And "Massive Bereavement" is a quote from him and a lot of the songs that sounds so serious and so sad and so deep are probably inspired by some sketch that he did five years ago.

 
 Links:
  Oceansize
  Beggars Banquet Records
 
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