After being left in limbo when their tour was cancelled earlier this year, German progressive metal outfit The Ocean are returning to Perth this week. JESSICA WILLOUGHBY chats to songwriter and guitarist Robin Straps ahead of their show this Sunday, April 19 at Amplifier Bar.
How far would you go to make a dream a reality? This was the question The Ocean’s founder and songwriter Robin Straps asked himself when it came to writing their latest effort, Pelagial.
Released in 2013, this 53-minute record has been crowned as the German band’s piece de resistance – a complex album that flows like a single song, taking listeners on a conceptual journey from the bubbles and waves of the sea’s surface to the darkest pits of its floor. An idea that had been floating around in Strap’s head since his primary school days, it had been put on the backburner for decades until the guitarist sat down in 2011 to make this beast a reality.
“The difference between this record and any previous record we’ve made is that all of Pelagial was written as one piece of music,” Straps tell X-Press. “It is basically one long track. Keeping the same intensity and dynamic development for such a long period of time was a real challenge. That’s what made me chicken out for a long time because I didn’t really know how to do that. But when I started, it all came together pretty naturally.”
Composing the masterpiece entirely on his own and tracking it at home with his bandmates, bringing the piece together to release this album wasn’t actually the hardest part – keeping the band together was. Drummer Luc Hess and guitarist Jonathan Nido left the band shortly after. “It was clear fairly early on when we started playing that album live that it wouldn’t work out with those guys,” Straps explains. “The band was kind of in a bad state before we got new members – we were all fighting a lot. Luc and Jonathan didn’t really give a fuck about the band anymore. Being best friends with guys in a band, and having them super committed and be outstanding musicians – just doesn’t exist. So I have learned to compromise over the years. But I didn’t realise how far I’d let myself compromise, and it was way too far. I shouldn’t have let it go on like that, but keeping The Ocean together was something I put before everything else.
“So I started looking out for other alternatives. When Damian (Murdoch; guitarist) and Paul (Seidel; drums) joined, it was like the whole band had been rejuvenated – there is just such positive energy. It made it enjoyable to tour again.”
With the new line-up now performing Pelagial in its entirety for the past year, The Ocean will be making their way to Australian shores again to play the album for local audiences for the first time this month.
To complete the experience, they will be marrying their live sound with the visuals created artist Craig Murray – known for his work with Nine Inch Nails and Converge – for the full length. This gorgeous extended clip even features footage shot by Straps himself from a scuba diving exhibition he took when he was last in Australia. “I have much respect for Craig as an artist,” Straps says. “I told him about the project and at first he wasn’t really excited. Then I showed him the music and he was game. I think he had a lot of regrets afterwards. It took forever. There’s a massive difference between doing a film clip for a five minute song and doing one for 60-minutes. I really wanted all of the visuals to be in-sync with the music also. I think he cursed me for doing this but, at the same time, it was very rewarding for both of us.”