THE OCEAN’S ROBIN STAPS: THE SECOND METALSUCKS INTERVIEW!
Back in October, I took the time to chat via Skype with Robin Staps, founder and main songwriter of the Ocean Collective. We talked about the band’s new album Anthropocentric, discussed the unfortunate theft the band experienced while on tour, the band’s plans for U.S. touring in 2011, and more.
Hey. How are you doing? Where are you right now?
All right. Got a day off today, so everything’s pretty relaxing. I slept a ridiculous amount of hours last night for the first time on this tour. We’re in Manchester staying with some friends. All the other guys are just cooking this huge pasta pan, so I’m really looking forward to that.
How’s the tour been for you guys so far?
It’s been really good. All the shows were really good, and despite the fact that we’re on pretty early every night — I mean, we’re playing first — we’ve had usually packed venues and we’ve done really well. It seems like the Dillinger crowd is really open-minded, lots of people have heard about us already and our fans are coming out too so it’s been really good shows and we’re getting along great with the band, they’re just an amazing group of guys, and you know, probably the most influential band in heavy music in the last couple of years, at least for me. It’s a great pleasure to play with them and just to watch them live, watch them destroy every place in Europe that they go to, every single fucking night, for like 33 shows in a row. I haven’t missed a single show yet. We’re all really good friends and it’s just been awesome.
How many stops are left on the tour?
We have a day off today and then I think 6 more UK shows, then Damnation Fest. Then we’re driving back to Switzerland and we have one day off, then we’re continuing supporting Anathema for about 3 weeks. So we’ll be out until mid-November.
And that’s about when Anthropocentric is coming out, right?
Yeah, it just got pushed back in Europe due to problems with the extensive-as-usual artwork. But it’s like mid-November it’s coming out.
It’s a concept album, right?
Yeah, pretty much, it’s continuing our critique of Christianity that we started with Heliocentric from a slightly different angle but it’s also about the same religious subject. Heliocentric took a more historical approach with lyrics that had origins from the bible and then moving onto the Copernican turn and the discoveries that this guy named Copernicus made and the power of the church and belief and concluding with Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins. The new album’s a bit more personal; there are lots of quotes in the lyrics from different philosophers. But the main part of the album is based around a book called The Karamazov Brothers.
Yeah, I was excited about the announcement because I’ve read it.
Oh, you have? Yeah, it’s all based on the grand inquisitor chapter which is a conversation between Alyoskha and Ivan, the two brothers, one being an atheist and one being a monk, and they’re discussing the Theodicy problem from different perspectives and it’s really interesting, like you can make a lot of songs out of the pages in that chapter, and there’re lots of quotes throughout the book that are almost all in the lyrics to our songs. So that’s the main content of Anthropocentric.
How are you guys dealing with the whole theft thing?
We don’t know yet, to be honest. We were at a point where we considered aborting the tour, because we lost pretty much the entire sum of the fees we had received for this whole run of 33 shows, and we were supporting, you know. And as you and other people will know, support bands usually don’t get paid very well. So we lost pretty much everything, 6000 euros. Personally, I can cope, because I’ve got other sources and do all different kinds of work, but my bandmates are really struck by it in a terrible way and they’re all in a situation facing coming back from the tour with absolutely no payout to pay bills, and it’s just bullshit. So we were like, all right, what are we going to do? Are we going to continue or not?
In the end, we are. We decided to go on also because we started this donation thing, and it’s been working out really well. Heaps of people are pre-ordering Anthropocentric from our webshop, and everyone who does that has the opportunity to donate 5 euro or more when they order and 90 percent of the people are taking the chance. It’s great. I’m very happy that we have really devoted fans who are willing to support us and understand the situation and don’t want us disappear from the map. That’s really cool, and I’m very thankful for that. I mean, I don’t have delusions of getting anywhere close to getting the whole money back that we lost, but everything helps at this point, and the more the better, and I’m confident that it’s going to ease the situation quite a lot.
Actually, I think a lot of people have been donating. On the article we put up, I saw people saying “I’m not even a fan, but I’m going to donate because this is just terrible.”
That’s awesome. Thanks man.
Well, what does this mean for a US tour? Because I know there was planning for one in the spring, and we’re all wondering if that’s still going to happen because of this recent thing.
It is going to happen. We still don’t really know how to finance it, because it’s another support tour with bullshit fees, but it’s a great chance. I can’t really give you any details yet, because it hasn’t been officially announced, but it’s going to happen between April 15 and May 15, and there will possibly also be a set of headlining shows before or after these dates. I really want to do that, but it depends on whether the main act’s agent lets us do that. But we’ll see. It’s most likely going to happen. I’m really looking forward to that; we haven’t been there since 2008.
I remember that. That was Precambrian support, right?
That was pretty much Precambrian support, yeah. It was Spring of 2008, we played a set of dates on the east coast with Kylesa and then did a couple of west coast shows with Intronaut. It was like a 4-month tour. It was the first time we had been out there, and it was awesome, so I’m really stoked to get back there. We’re going to be back another time next year, I’m pretty confident we’re going to be able to do 2 or even more US tours next year.
The tour lineup currently is just the 5 of you now, right? Since you can’t take 2/3 of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with you.
Pretty much. It’s the main band. For the Anathema tour, we’re probably going to have a cello player with us as an additional musician. We’re always trying to adapt our set to bands we’re playing with in a way that makes sense for us and for them. Like with Dillinger we’re playing a lot of Aeolian stuff, you know, like the heavy Heliocentric and Precambrian songs. And with Anathema, you know we’re going to focus on the epic, slower and more mellow Precambrian songs and Heliocentric songs, and those require strings, and the more you have live the better. So that’s why we take a cello player on that tour. But on this one, it’s just the 5 of us, and 2 more in the crew, so it’s pretty stripped down.
Yeah, there’s obviously a difference between playing something like “Killing the Flies” and “Rhyacian”.
Totally. It’s not like we’ve turned our back on these older songs, from the Aeolian record or Fluxion. We’re still playing songs from pretty much all the records live, and we just try to adapt it a little to the respective environment of the tour we’re on and to also make it more interesting for us, not to play the same set throughout the year, all the time.
I think Jona said you might even play some Fogdiver stuff when I last talked to him.
Yeah, I really want to. We used to play 3 songs off that album live, but that was with the old lineup. The guys that are in the band now, they’ve never played any of the Fogdiver songs live. But I really want to play one or two songs off that album live, and I think we’re going to have an intense rehearsal period next February or something like that. We have this weird show in Berlin on February 31 where we’re playing in a museum for musical instruments, and it’s just this bizarre thing that’s like a free show basically. For that we’re going to rehearse maybe like an acoustic set too and in that period we’re going to work on the new Anthropocentric material for the upcoming tours, and I hope we have some time to reproduce live some songs off Fogdiver too.
Yeah, I think a lot of people tend to overlook Fogdiver.
Yeah, it just never really had any proper distribution outside Germany. The songs are still up to date, and actually, some of the songs on that album were more recently written than some of the songs on Aeolian. “Queen of the Food-Chain” is one of the oldest songs that I’ve ever written for this band, while a song like “Endusers” was written much later than “Queen of the Food-Chain.” It was just that at that time we hooked up our first record deal with a small German label called Make My Day Records and they’re more like an indie label and they really liked our instrumental side but they didn’t really like the harsh vocals at that time, from our first vocalist Marcus. They were like “don’t you want to do a more instrumental album?” and we were like “why the fuck not?” I mean, we’re not an instrumental band but you know, it’s a chance to release an album. They offered us really solid promotion and distribution in Germany so we did it. And then we just selected the songs that would fit best just instrumentally and those ended up being the more recent songs so we held back songs like “Queen of the Food-Chain” until later, and it ended up on Aeolian like 2 years later.
Can you tell me about Anthropocentric musically?
Well, most people would probably say that it sounds heavier than Heliocentric. I’m not sure I would agree, because I do think Heliocentric was a pretty heavy album apart from the three piano-based songs on that record. It’s just a different kind of heaviness. Anthropocentric is more… rock and roll, it’s more technical at the same time and more straightforward, but it gets by without the big orchestrations. The last song, “The Almightiness Contradiction,” still has loads of classical instruments on it, but that’s the only song. All these songs didn’t really call for the large orchestrations. I tried adding some on a couple of those tracks, but I ended up abandoning it because it just didn’t feel necessary. The other 9 songs on the album are basically just drums, bass, guitar, vocals, and that was an intentional decision. We wanted to make an album where the core of the band really comes to shine. Everyone in the band had a lot of input on this album.
You’re going to be able to do more of it live without using samples.
Exactly. And that was another idea behind it. As much as I still like our approach of having all of these studio tracks come live from the sampler, it is of course better to do as much live as you can. We’ve played some shows with Heliocentric material where we had an extended lineup onstage, but we can’t do that on tour. That’s another part of Anthropocentric: we want to replicate the music live the way it is on record without any logistical or technical nightmares.
Great! I think that about covers it, unless there was anything else.
No, I’m pretty sure that’s all! Thanks for all the support you guys are giving us, by the way. It’s great. It’s really cool.
Well, you guys make great music, so we’re glad to support you. Thanks very much for your time.