Interview with … And Oceans — “I think it’s time to go back to the nineties.”

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The year was 1995, the fumes of Scandinavian black metal were poisoning the air and the second wave of black metal had taken a new form. … AND OCEANS emerged from the scene with an exceptional and unique symphonic approach to the music. 17 years after the release of “Cypher,” the band re-formed for a couple of shows and even started working on a new album.

AND OCEANS is now ready to release their fifth studio effort “Cosmic World Mother” on 8 May 2020 through Season Of Mist. We had the opportunity to talk about the upcoming release with guitarist Timo Kontio and vocalist Mathias Lillmåns. Read the entire interview here.

Hi there! First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. How are you guys doing?

Timo: Excellent!

Mathias: We’re good. I’ve got lots of things going on. I’m juggling between three different bands at the same time, four now actually.

Yeah and somehow most of your bands have something coming up soon. (laughs)

Mathias: Exactly! (laughs)

Well anyway, after 18 years of silence you decided to reform … AND OCEANS. You came back under some other forms, but never as … AND OCEANS. Why did you guys decide to start this project up again?

Timo: Maybe I can answer this.

Mathias: Yeah, it should be you.

Timo: Actually, yeah, technically, it has been 18 years since the last album was released. Of course, we did some touring and gigs after that but we stopped more or less in 2005. We came back and had our first rehearsals in 2017 during Christmas time. In between, of course, we founded HAVOC UNIT after we disbanded … AND OCEANS, which was more or less with the same guys. We only made one album and that’s it. Even though we have other bands, we had the idea of coming back with … AND OCEANS once or twice and rehearsed all the songs. We always wondered whether we should come back or whether we should just leave it there and have a good memory of the band. I don’t know what happened, we listened to those tracks, drank some beer, and thought that maybe it’s time to come back since we had rehearsed those songs, and the rehearsals went well. Something just clicked. I don’t know, now we are here (laughs)… I think it was bound to happen at some point.

Mathias: Yeah, it was. I remember in 2009 or was it 2010 when I joined MAGENTA HARVEST. When we started out, we actually discussed the possibility of naming it … AND OCEANS, but we decided to let it be at that point. 

Well, before releasing this album you guys also played at selected festivals, and you played some shows. I saw one of the concerts at Nosturi, and it seemed like something a lot of people had been waiting for as well. How has the experience been so far?

Timo: Actually that first one in Nosturi and the second one in Jyväskylä were really good shows. A lot of people came and the response was really good. Actually, if they would have been really bad experiences, maybe we wouldn’t have been here right now, but they were really good. We got a few festivals abroad in Estonia and Russia, and then Steelfest in Finland and Rites Of North in Oulu. We had quite a few great gigs and they gave us the idea that maybe we should really make an album. We didn’t make the decision right away, but at least I myself really wanted to make those new songs by … AND OCEANS, so it’s good we did those shows.

Some bands when they are doing a comeback have some material left from the past, leftovers basically. Like you just said you didn’t have any songs, how was the songwriting process in that sense. When did you start and was it different from what you did in the past?

Timo: No, it’s always more or less the same. I create riffs back home and then I will try to make arrangements for them and make ready songs. Then I would take them to the rehearsal space and rehearse them with our drummer. Of course, now we have a bit of a challenge since our drummer lives so far away. So, we just tried to make some arrangements and ready songs and then we rehearse them and see if they work or not. We didn’t have any leftovers from back then (laughs), so they are all new riffs and songs. 

I also understood that it was quite a puzzle for you to get the album production-wise since it was recorded in four different locations. Can you talk a little bit more about the studio process?

Timo: Maybe I can start. Yeah, of course, maybe the one biggest reason for this is that we live so far away and we all have day jobs, or almost all of us have day jobs. We have recorded here at Pietarsaari before, so it was really easy to work, and go record some guitars and then go home and repeat that the next day. Our drummer lives in Vantaa, so he did his drums there, our synth player lives in Jämsä and nowadays it’s really easy to record, keyboards home and track those different recordings.

Mathias: Yeah, I was sort of working as well at the place where we recorded the guitars. In the beginning, I was supposed to join just to produce the guitars (laughs) but it seems like I joined to do the vocals as well. So, the guitars were the easy choice because we were going to mix the album at Wolfthrone Studios anyway, so why not do the guitars since it’s closeby, and I know the owner of the studio and everybody knows him. He did the FESTERDAY album as well, so why not continue with this guy. As Timo said it’s really easy nowadays to record keyboards, it’s almost like stupid to pay studio time to play keyboards when you can do the same thing at home, it’s just plugging different cables in (laughs). So yeah, I was actually thinking about doing the vocals at Wolfthrone Studios where we did guitars as well, but then for the last two albums for our project MAGENTA HARVEST, we’ve been working with Juho Räihä in Kouvola, and I’ve been really pleased with the result that he’s done when he’s producing my vocals. We had some extra budget left for the album, so I just thought to bring him in as well, and it actually turned out really good. I will probably work with him in the future as well. I’ve been really pleased with what he does with the production.

In what sense do you think he is the best to work with. Do you think he challenges you as a vocalist? 

Mathias: Yeah, that’s exactly what he does. He’s also not afraid to say what he thinks (laughs). So yeah, when you work with some producers or recording engineers, they are too easy on you, you know, all they say is that that was pretty good. But he is like “No, let’s do it again,” he also can usually tell why it wasn’t a good try and knows quite a lot about this growling style of vocals. If there’s something in my technique that is wrong, he sort of tells me what it is and, gives me a suggestion, for example, maybe you should breathe here and breath there or, now it’s too much on top of your esophagus, you should take it lower, the voice down, etc. He’s really easy to work with and a cool guy, on top of everything. 

I was also going to ask you since you officially only joined the band recently, how has the experience been so far. What are your expectations for this band?

Mathias: As I said before, I was sort of alongside this band since the nineties already. I’ve been listening to the first two albums already in the nineties when they came out, and I’ve been a good friend with Timo since the end of the nineties, ‘98 or something like that. I’ve been on the sidelines the whole time watching this band, so I’m really excited about this. I knew about their comeback and followed it, and it was really sad for me that I missed all their gigs because I was somewhere else every day, but yeah… Then one day Timo calls me up and asks me if I want to join, so yeah, of course, I was interested.

Sounds as if it was meant to be! Moving on to the album “Cosmic World Mother,” what can you tell me about the lyrics, is there a theme present?

Mathias: It’s actually a really strong concept album this time. It’s really connected to the artwork as well, so all the small details in the artwork are also connected to the lyrics in some way. It’s got some sort of a theme, but I don’t want to spoil too much. I think people need to think about it a little bit themselves, but in a way, the theme is concentrated around energy and maybe also human energy in some sense. 

Yeah, actually I was going to ask you about the cover art considering I really liked it. Who was the artist and how did the collaboration go?

Timo: His name is Adrien. He’s an employee of Season Of Mist. He does quite a lot of graphics for different bands for Season Of Mist, and other bands as well. It’s really easy to work with him, also because he’s from our label. 

Mathias: Adrien Bousson he’s called. He and I have been working together closely. We’ve been exchanging a lot of texts back and forth because there’s gonna be a booklet as well with paintings that are directly attached to the songs. So, there’s like big paintings for all the songs, so I gave him notes and everything from the lyrics, and the lyrics themselves, and he made these versions around my lyrics.

As you explained, the theme of the album is connected to the artwork. Is it important to have a finished product that is connected in every way? 

Mathias: Yeah, I think for me personally it is. I’ve always been really picky with lyrics. I think I have destroyed so many bands in my own mind just because I read their lyrics (laughs). For example, some bands are really great, but then they had really terrible lyrics, so I would have to skip the band and I couldn’t listen to them anymore. So, yeah, I think for me it’s really important. In … AND OCEANS, it’s always been the case that the lyrics, the concept, and the artwork always went hand in hand with the music. All the albums have been concept albums, so in a way, it’s a big deal. 

If you’re so picky about lyrics, is it for you more like writing poetry rather than writing songs or how do you usually go about it? 

Mathias: It depends on what kind of band it is. Sometimes with FINNTROLL, it’s more like writing poetry, it’s more like writing lore, in that sense. With this … AND OCEANS album it’s really more philosophical in a way. It’s not meant to be that poetic, it’s more… how to say it… The lyrics tell a deeper story rather than being just fine-sounding words. 

The year basically just started and you’re releasing your album in May, do you have any plans for the rest of the year? Are you having some shows? 

Timo: Well, we’re working on a tour, yes. We are booking club gigs as well, festivals, and everything we can get, of course (laughs). We are a bit late for next summer’s festivals because the album is released only in May. But we are trying to get as many shows as possible, and who knows, maybe next year will be a bit better. I think we can get enough gigs for sure. Of course, FINNTROLL is releasing their new album in August, so Mathias is going to be quite busy from then on.

Mathias: Until August we have all the time though, of course. We’re going to try not to concentrate on just one country or only in Finland, but we’re going to try to perform a little bit here and there as well, so it’s starting to look pretty okay now. 

You’re releasing “Cosmic World Mother” in May. Can you tell your fans what they can expect from the new album? 

Timo: What we already can tell you is that it’s going to be more like the first two albums. There’s not going to be too much of that electronic stuff, like on “A.M.G.O.D.” and “Cypher.” It’s leaning more towards symphonic black metal as style. 

Mathias: Yeah, it’s sort of going back to the roots a little bit. We are not making it too cyber.  There’s a little bit of the electronica in there, but not so much this time, also I think the whole industrial metal scene sort of went by already at the beginning of the 2000s, so yeah. I think it’s time to go back to the nineties.

Was it important for you guys to go a bit back to your roots sound-wise?

Timo: I don’t know if it’s important, but for me at least, I just like that symphonic black metal sound more than industrial metal, and of course, those two are our first two albums, so it’s nostalgic to go back to those releases.

Mathias: Yeah, I feel the same way about it. I also think that doing this retrospective thing to go back to the nineties really was the right choice to do judging by the result of the album. I’m really happy that we didn’t try to include too many industrial elements there. 

Timo: Or create something totally new (laughs).

Mathias: Yeah exactly. I think we should give the old fans something old, but old in a new way (laughs).

With that being said, I think I asked most of my questions. Do you guys have any last thoughts you want to share with our readers and your fans?

Mathias: We’re going to tour! So, check out the dates, and I hope you’ll come out to the shows and check us out. It’s been a long pause, but now we’re back…

Timo: … Stronger than ever.

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