Saturday, January 26, 2013

Okular Interview

All answers by Andreas Aubert (composition & lyrics, additional & backing vocals)
1. Can you give us an update on what is going on with the band these days?
Besides the new album coming up, we have recently gathered a full live lineup. The rehearsals have been going very well, and we are planning to play several gigs in the near future.
2. How would you describe the musical sound of the new album and how it differs from the last one?

The album features a balanced blend of technicality, melody and brutality. All presented within a framework of progressive songwriting. We also have a fairly modern approach to the sound. The sound is far from old school, although influences range from old school bands such as Immolation, to modern bands such as in example Gojira.The new album might have a slightly more organic sound than the debut, with a more balanced mix. This time, more space has been given to the drums and the bass guitar, while the guitars still provide the foundation for everything. We have also experimented further with various vocal styles, including more clean singing, plus we have added some piano, synth and orchestral parts on a few songs, which adds a new dimension to the music which was not present on our debut.

The album is more complex and varied than the first one, yet still perhaps more accessible. Although this album has some songs/parts which are somewhat “easy” to play, the songs are still quite complex in their structure. On the first album, almost everything was quite technical. On the other hand, the new album also has riffs and songs which are even more technical and crazy than what you can find on the debut album. So you have a little bit of everything.

The debut had some traces of a “Gothenburg” influence, this is less obvious on the new album. This album is perhaps slightly more groovy, and also more dissonant at times.
3. What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the new release explores?

All the lyrics deal with aspects of what it means to be human. Big questions such as freedom, choice, authenticity vs conformity are among the topics discussed. The aim is to describe inner and outer struggles and victories related to these themes. The presentation emphasizes describing internal states, and weaving poetic landscapes, rather than presenting this as a purely theoretical/philosophical discourse.

4. What is the meaning and inspiration behind the bands name?
When I was 15 years old, we had some experiments in school in the natural science class. When using a microscope, the teacher told us to look into the “okular” (the lense of the microscope). An Ocular (Okular in Norwegian) is the part of any optical instrument that is kept closest to the eye (when you see through the instrument).  I immediately thought it was a cool word, mostly because it sounded similar to the word “occult” (which might be fascinating for a 15 year old who is into metal), and I thought to myself “I will have a band named Okular”.  When we recorded our  debut album in 2010, we needed a name, and I remembered the word Okular. I had used it for a few “garage projects” previously (just for fun, nothing serious). I still thought the name was cool. I see the band name as having to do with seeing – and not only in the visual sense, but also in the sense of becoming aware of internal states, social dynamics etc. Seeing, in a metaphorical sense. The aim of the lyrics is to take an honest look at psychological, social and perhaps even spiritual issues. Like the music, the lyrics have a penetrating quality to them, as in “cutting through the bullshit”. I find that as a unity, the music and the lyrics is like an Okular which hopefully will help the listener get a deeper glimpse into themselves and connect more deeply with something which feels subjectively meaningful and true.

5. What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and how would you describe your stage performance?
We have not played any concerts yet, but my vision is that the stage performance might instill a sense of awe in the audience. Especially considering the sheer craziness and technicality of the music, while it still has plenty of groove and melody to captivate the headbanging maniacs.

6. Do you have any touring plans for the future?
Yes, not fixed plans yet, but we are working on it.

7. Currently you are unsigned, are you looking for a label and if so what kind of label do you feel that would be a perfect fit for the music?
Our sense is that unless the label is willing to commit themselves to a decent level of effort in promoting the material, there is little benefit of signing a record deal. For the time being, it seems better to be in charge ourselves, while still seeking assistance from other people for certain tasks.
This is not to say that it would not be interesting to work with a label in the future. It would be important that the label should understand the vision behind the music, and that they should appreciate and support our wish of doing something slightly different and experimental.
8. On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of progressive death metal?
Judging from the reviews of the first album, it has been received very well. The majority of the reviewers gave scores from 7/10 all the way up to 9.5/10 (the latter happened on four webzines). The reviews have been coming from as diverse countries as USA, Turkey, Israel, Germany, Sweden, Romania, Poland, France etc. So it looks like we managed to create something which appeals to fans of progressive death metal of many different cultural backgrounds. That is very pleasing, as part of the vision behind the music, is to create something that is not confined to any particular cultural framework. The aim is rather to explore and encourage creativity as it arises spontaneously, prior to and beyond internal cencorship defined by ones cultural framework.  Thus there is a “primal” edge to the music and lyrics, but also very much an elevated and sophisticated element. The primal and the “cultivated” may not be in a state of antagonism with each other.

9. What is going on with the other musical projects these days?
Marius Skarsem Pedersen (guitar/vocals) and Bjørn Tore Erlandsen (drums) are playing in a band called Aspherium. Although quite different from Okular, Aspherium too might fit into the label “progressive death metal”. They are laying the finishing touches on their upcoming second album. The drums were recorded at Fascination Street Studios, and will be mixed and mastered there too, by the genius Jens Bogren. I think the album will be very exciting. A release is expected around fall 2013.

Myself (Andreas Aubert), I have plenty of acoustic guitar material recorded, but it is not yet clear when and in which context this might be released in the future. Martin Berger (who plays bass on Sexforce) is busy with his band Zerozonic, and his music studio/production company “Skar Productions”.

10. What direction do you see your music heading into on future releases?
It will go in many different directions. Sometimes more straightforward, sometimes even more complex. I would like to make more use of orchestral elements in the future, but also to make some songs which are simpler, with fewer layers of guitars and perhaps not as technical. I find that with Sexforce, we have managed to experiment with all of these different elements, while still having it feel as an organic unity.

11. What are some bands or musical styles that have influenced your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Pantera was very important during my first year as a metalhead. Later, the Gothenburg style was important, after that I started listening more to death metal, also the more technical and progressive bands. Some of the bands that has been most influential to me, are: Morbid Angel, Death, Gojira, In Flames, At The Gates, Decapitated, Immolation, Pantera, Kreator, Killswitch Engage. To name a few… More recently, I have been very excited about the band Lykathea Aflame, which I would characterize as a kind of over the top progressive/atmospheric death metal/grindcore.

12. Outside of music what are some of your interests?
Speaking for myself, I would say yoga, meditation, psychological and spiritual growth, health and nutrition. Basically, exploring all kinds of things which I find helps me to lead a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

13. Any final words or thoughts before we wrap up this interview?
Thanks for the support!

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