Oceans is the loudest debut in starting 2020 so far. A week ago their debut album The Sun And The Cold was released. When I listened to it, I already had a couple of questions to the band so I asked my chief editor for the interview. Vocalist and guitarist Timo Rotten agreed and here we are, talking about the band’s name, genre mixing, rehearsing when you live in different countries and mental illnesses.
Few days ago your debut album was released and it’s already been highly acclaimed by fans and critics. Did you expect this?
No, not really. Actually we didn’t really know what to expect, I would say because obviously it’s the first album. It could have been anything, you know.
Yeah, but it’s not your first release.
That is true. We didn’t get any reviews for EPs because I don’t know, people just don’t do reviews for EPs. So this was the first time we got a lot of press coverage, a lot of reviews, interviews and all that. And yes, it was a really pleasant surprise.
You told a fun story about choosing the band’s name. But what does it actually mean for you? What do you put in this name?
When we think of the name or when we think of the band at all, the music we do and topics we talk about, I always have this picture in my head, this image of the huge ocean right before the storm. When everything is calm before the storm and then the storm kicks in and there are waves that build up highest mountains that in the end crush down and crush everything that beneath them. Everything gets suck down into the deep darkness of the sea, to this dark abyss where is just nothing but blackness and darkness. I think this image really is what I see when I try to describe our music, this contrast between the calm ocean and the storm with crushing deadly waves and the darkness also. But then in the end after the storm there’s always this silver lining at the horizon, which is basically the message we trying to send, always trying to send. We always tell people that it’s important to never lose hope. We always try to send the positive message in the end even though we sing about really sad and depressive things.
Your quote: “We’ve all played in bands before. Those bands were all stuck in the bubble of their genres. Often we’d try to escape those already established labels, and it never worked.” In your opinion, why it didn’t worked, especially when the world is overfilled with music and you need to make something really original to get noticed?
I don’t know. I think this time it worked because we started fresh, like on the blank paper. We had this new band and nobody knew us, nobody had ever heard about it and we just could experiment and do whatever we wanted to do actually. In all the previous bands there was always an established fan base, an established genre at those bands we’re in. Whenever you try to break out of that, there is gonna be a lot of fans and people that disapproved and they don’t like what you doing. In my personal history it never worked. Yeah, it just never worked to change the style or to break out this genre you’re in. So it was really exciting this time to start new and do something totally fresh.
Don’t you afraid that one day Oceans will become the band that you described now? Like you will stuck in your own bubble of the genre?
Yeah, of course… I guess… Yeah, give us one or two more albums and we will do stuck in the label that Oceans has become, of course. But…
That’s what you don’t want to happen with the band?
The good thing is that this time we started this band from the beginning and we had the possibility or I had the possibility to shape the music and make the music exactly the way I wanted to do it, so now there’s no need to break out of that label to do what we want to do because we’re doing exactly what we want to do. I hope this will be the same in five years or even ten but of course I don’t know. Maybe we’ll change our mind and convert to free jazz in ten years or something.
Great! I will expect for your next albums and maybe somehow we will go back to this conversation, I’ll remind you. Was it hard for all of you to leave your bands and start everything all over again?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, we’ve all been in those bands for a long time. For Patrick (Zarske, guitarist) and me it was, I think ten years in that one band and yeah, it was a really hard decision to leave because it becomes like… When you in the warm bath, in the warm water and you don’t want to get out. Everything just fine, you’re in your comfort zone and everything just working out. We’ve been touring, we’ve been playing big shows and it wasn’t that easy to say “ok, here we stop”, leave all that and do it all over again. Because even though we have been in somehow popular bands before, there’s no guarantee that the new stuff you’re trying to do will be successful. So we took the chances with leap of faith. Luckily for us it worked out quite fine.
There is opinion that Oceans’ music is something new and original. As for me, you masterfully mixed totally different genres, which sometimes could be a really difficult task. What do you, yourselves wanted? To create something new or to mix and to fuse genres that you love?
I totally agree to what you said. We never thought that we were like reinventing the wheel or something. I think I said it in a lot of interviews now that I never thought we were doing something really new or something fresh, but everybody keeps telling me that (laughing). I think I always thought that we managed to mix a lot of different genres and styles and we work really hard to make that work, to develop that style when the whole album is a unit, you know. That it’s not just the collection of various songs that work for themselves but the unit, the whole thing, the whole album – it was really important for us that this works together as well, that we have this stream of thought and everything fits together. Not just music, also the visuals, the lyrics, the concept behind it, the videos, everything – that was really important for us.
The Sun And The Cold is a strong and solid album as for me and it’s really interesting, but Oceans is not the first band that fuses different genres and not the last one. With this it’s totally different genres like Nu Metal, Post Metal and Blackened Death Metal. But somehow you managed to mix it seamlessly and that’s what great about Oceans. What about that people say that it’s something new, maybe they just forgot what is Nu Metal.
Maybe! Or they just too young to remember. But the thing is, what I always say, what is so important for me: when I writing music, I don’t want to have a technical approach. I don’t want to think too much about genres, thinking “Is this technical? Is this guitar riff difficult enough that the metal community will like it?” What we always tried to do and what comes first is emotion. Emotion in Oceans is always before anything else. That’s the thing that that Nu Metal did in the 90s, I think. Nu Metal also was about raw emotions and transporting those emotions in the music and the lyrics: you hear the song and it speaks to your heart, not to your brain. That is what comes first for us, what I always try to do.
In the same interview you said that you are the Nu Metal guy in the band. What about the others? Who is responsible for Death Metal and Post Metal?
I mean there is not one person for each. I also love Death Metal. I guess I’m responsible for Nu Metal and more modern Death Metal, Deathcore things. Our drummer likes a lot of more Progressive things so he brings a lot of that what I was talking about, the technical aspect, especially for the drumming, of course. The other two like Post Rock much. It’s different; we listen to so many different styles. We also like to listen to Rap, Stoner Rock, I don’t know, electronic music, everything.
Another thing that impressed me is how you easily change your vocals from clean and melancholic to extreme growls and screaming. Did you studied to sing with coach or by yourself?
I’ve been doing the screaming and growling now for at least 15 years, I think. I once had like screaming lessons with the screaming coach but I never really had professional lessons or anything. I just… When people ask me how I do it, I always don’t know what to say. I have no clue about the techniques and how all this works. I just do it and it works. But I’ve never done clean singing before 2017, I think, when we were working on the first songs. When the first songs were done and I was working on the first lyrics and the first vocals, I started just like fooling around this clean singing then. I practiced a lot for clean singing, now I learn some techniques, especially for warning up, cooling down and stuff like that, but I never had any lessons of stuff like that. I just try out what I can do and what I cannot.
If we are talking about it, can you name me your three favorite vocalists?
Number one: Jonathan Davis. They are my most favorite band ever so I have to say it’s influenced me a lot. Who else?.. I guess probably Marilyn Manson as well but only the old stuff because he… I don’t know, he just fucked his voice up or drank too much, whatever it is. But his voice somehow sucks in the latest releases. So, a third one… I really don’t know… Maybe let’s go with the guy from Katatonia – he is the great singer, very-very emotional in everything he does. On stage he is very shy always, his voice hides behind his hair, you barely can see his face but he is a great vocalist.
Yeah, Jonas Renske, right! He is great! But it was somehow spontaneous now so if you ask me another time, it’s gonna be Jonathan Davis in list again but the other two might change.
In the end of your latest video “Hope” you wrote some warm words for people who struggling with mental illness. For me personally… I want to thank you so much for this.
What was the reason to put these words in the video?
Like I said, we are always trying to send the positive message in the end. The whole concept, the whole lyrical concept and also the visions behind Oceans are themed around this topic, mental illness. We sing about depression, about suicide, about struggling with mental illness, hiding mental illness like hiding your own demons. This is just a topic that is very important to us due to various reasons. We all have our own experiences with mental illness in our personal lives, professional lives, at work… Just different experiences and this is why it is something we are passionate about, something we care for and we think that it is important to talk about it. Especially nowadays because with social media and with time changing everything getting faster and faster, burnout is becoming more frequent, depression is an issue and more stuff coming up. We think it’s important to talk about those issues, to encourage people to come forward and not to hide their illness, not to be ashamed of it. Because that’s what it is, it’s illness; it’s not something you have to be ashamed of. If you have a cold, you go to the doctor and you not ashamed of it. Having depression is not something else than an illness you have. It can be treated and it helps to talk about it. That’s why we always try to encourage people to do that. And that’s also why we try to send this positive message and say “You’re not alone! We are many, we are struggling” and it’s easier to get there.
You know, I take really serious what you just said, I really appreciate it but you mentioned also social media. Nowadays this topic about mental illness, somehow it’s hyped.
Yes, it’s true.
Because many people who actually just kind of real attention seeker and not really struggling from mental illness, the write that they have a depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and all the stuff. They posting their shit on social media and somehow this topic became a fashion.
A little bit, that’s true.
In your opinion, what can people who really struggling or people that want to help their relatives with such illness can do with this. Because who is really struggling because of this hype they are really sick people that really need attention and really need some care.
For people who are fighting, I think one thing is what I’ve just said: not to be ashamed of and talk about it because talking about stuff that troubles you it always helps, it puts the weight of it away from you. So that’s the first thing, I think. And then of course is always seek for help, that’s the best thing you can do. If you can make it somehow, go to therapy and seek for professional help, that’s for sure. For people that want to help or have like relatives or close ones that are struggling, I think the best thing is try to have an open mind and an open ear. Maybe not all the time but every now and then, just reach out to the one of them, to your friends and family and just ask “Hey, how are you doing?” I mean really ask and listen, not just small talk. These are two simple things that everyone can do in their daily life that just helps everyone because helping others makes you happier. That’s just a way. I think that’s a good start. And not talking about problems, just trying to solve and fight everything on your own is never a good idea.
Thank you. Let’s get back to the band: as I know, Oceans can be called an international band. You, Patrick and Thomas live and Germany and J.F., your drummer lives in Austria, am I right?
I live in Austria as well. I lived in Germany but I moved to Vienna a couple of years ago, so it’s two in Vienna, two in Germany.
Anyway, how do you rehearse, especially before the tours?
Yeah, that’s complicated. Whenever we manage, and this way, way too less, but whenever we manage, drummer and I rehearse in Vienna, just two of us. Then sometimes Thomas (Winkelmann, bass), he lives in Berlin, for him it’s easy: he just jumps on a plane and gets down to Vienna then the three of us can rehearse. For Patrick it’s complicated because he lives in Northern Bavaria, there’s no airport or anything, it’s pretty much in the countryside. That’s where we’re driving right now because the tour starts tomorrow (17.01.2020) and this is kind of starting point where we all come together. So before tour and before big shows we all drive to Bavaria actually and rehearse for a short time, intense as much as we can.
You will start your tour with Equilibrium, Lord Of The Lost and Nailed To Obscurity. What do you expect from this tour?
Well, we really excited about it. Unfortunately we are not doing the whole tour, just for shows in Germany and Switzerland. We expect them to be really awesome. These are Equilibrium and Lord Of The Lost, both are really big bands right now and we expect huge shows, huge crowds. We gonna give everything we have. We just excited, this gonna be really cool and a cool opportunity to celebrate the release of our album, I think.
The last question: as a band, what is your biggest dream?
Biggest dream… Well, as a band I don’t know. For me it’s touring with Korn (laughs). As a band I guess we just want to make more huge tours but as well tour North America, South America; I’ve never had tours in Japan or something. That basically a dream that every band has, I guess. It’s not different from all the others.
Thank you! I wish you good luck, a good tour and I hope one day your dreams will come true.
Thank you very much!
All photos were taken from the band’s facebook page.
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