Out Of Control

9 May 2012 | 7:15 am | Brendan Crabb

More The Ocean More The Ocean

An ambitious band since their 2000 formation, The Ocean took their experimentation to new heights via grandiose companion albums Heliocentric and Anthropocentric in 2010. After enlisting some new members, this marked a significant shift in the German collective's songwriting. “It's a very intimate, introverted approach,” founding guitarist Robin Staps explains. “I used to write everything myself, up until Heliocentric included, and only with Anthropocentric the other guys have been involved in the writing, contributing their own songs.

“[If] Jona [Nido, guitars] writes a song, then that's his song. He comes up with the complete arrangement, all the guitar parts and works on the drums with Luc [Hess] usually. Then they present the song to the rest of the band. I do the same thing. Then we start rehearsing, changing certain parts or seeing if it works in a live environment. If it doesn't, we're changing certain arrangements. But the initial ideas are contributed by one person. We're not really the kind of band that jams together in the rehearsal room; it's more of a classical songwriting approach. For the music we're writing it could only really be this way because it's usually fairly long and intricate compositions, with string arrangements and everything. That's just something you don't do spontaneously in a room.”

How was the experience of allowing others to take the creative reins? “At first it was not easy for me letting go, because I was so used to doing everything myself and that's very comfortable. If you have people contributing their own parts that means some sort of compromise. But it is a big relief because the people I play with nowadays do write music and whatever they write is just really what I was always looking for. I don't have to tell them, 'Can you play it like that, or try something else as that doesn't work?' It's usually the case that whatever they contribute is just awesome and better than anything I could have conceived of, not being a drummer or bass player myself. They were pushing for it of course… 'We don't want to just play your songs for the rest of our life'. And fair enough, of course I understand that.”

This joint approach has extended to their next record, which Staps sheds some light on. “It's going to be out next March/April most likely. It's a different approach. It's going to be one continuous piece of music that was written in one piece and designed to be listened to in one piece. So in that way it's different from the more song-based approach of the previous albums. It's a pretty heavy album; there's no piano ballads,” he laughs. “It's a bit more in the vein of (2007's) Precambrian, but with the new line-up and a more progressive approach to writing. It's going to be a concept album again, but it's not going to be so much of a nerdy, intellectual theme as these last few albums. It's going to be much more of an emotional, personal approach compared to the more philosophical approach on the past few albums.”

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The band will take a rare break from the studio and working on a new DVD in 2012 to make their maiden voyage to Australia. Intriguingly, second shows in Sydney and Melbourne will feature performances from side projects Kunz, Coilguns and possibly Staps DJing, followed by an Ocean set containing different material from the first show. “I'm looking forward to the shows,” Staps says. “I don't really know about what kind of standing we have down there. We've had a lot of orders in our web shop from Australians over the years, but I don't really know what that means in terms of turnout. I try to just be open-minded and see what happens.”