An ever-shifting but perpetual leviathan, the seas have remained largely intact for billions of years. Similarly, guitarist / songwriter Robin Staps of Progressive Metal mainstays The Ocean (also referred to as The Ocean Collective) has endured enormous change since their inception in 2000. We caught up with the singer to discuss the latest tour, the new album’s incomprehensible scale and thoughts on his “collective.”
Staps notes the band are on the verge of leaving Berlin on Monday for a pre-production session, tour rehearsal and live clip filming at Godhead City Studios in Nuremberg. “It’s going to be pretty awesome!” he chimes excitedly. “It will be over a week and it’s residential, so there’s time for individual members to work on parts while we record the live clip in a nice, big studio. Then we’re doing a three-week European tour with Rosetta and Arabrot.”
A mixture of rested elation and kinetic excitement pangs his voice. “We’re super stoked to get out on the road again and play live, as we haven’t since 2016 or 2017… since the last Australian tour, actually.” Noting the incredible worldwide tour for ‘Pelagial,’ Staps admits, “It’s sometimes in the spirit of the band to take a step back as a band and say ‘do we want to continue doing this?'”
“We’ve played over 300 shows supporting ‘Pelagial,’ and it was written for studio and live to be played start to finish. To play the same songs, the same order, every night – that got a little boring. That’s no surprise to anyone, we’d say. We all got to the point where we NEEDED something new.” With a pointed pause, he adds, “That’s the point where you have to pull the emergency brake.”
Thankfully, the allure of new material appears to have enlivened Staps and his crew. “We all were super stoked to start working on a new record, which is coming out November 2nd.”
Reflecting on the monotony that was playing a one-album gauntlet last time, he notes that, “The European tour is going to have some, but definitely not all new songs.
“People always ask for certain songs and they’ll always want it,” he adds. “It’s a compromise between playing what the fans want to hear and promoting a new record – the latter isn’t such a smart idea straight away.” A good call, as the band’s music is often something best given time to digest.
In good news for us Down Under though, he hints that they may actually pull out a start-to-finish of upcoming record ‘Phanerozoic: Paleozoic’ on the upcoming ProgFest tour. “No givens, but it’s definitely an option!” Get pre-ordering and listening, people.
Staps expresses gratitude for his chance to be touring Australia on the ProgFest bill. “It’s going to expose us to a lot of people who haven’t seen us before, with a promoter we’ve used before (Wild Things) – they’re also releasing the album in Australia and we have a fantastic relationship with them. Its no experiment, we know what we get – it’s going to be awesome.”
In general, Staps’ relationship with Australia is close-knit. He shares an actual love of our continent that clearly emanates from his discussion of our land.
“We all love touring Australia, despite distances it’s comfortable because it’s a relatively small amount of dates you can do,” he notes. “It’s not like touring the United States where you’re stuck on a van or a bus for a month, driving eight hours every day.”
The band are careful to schedule breaks where they can when touring here, for that reason.
“It’s usually an intense run on weekends so in between, we can go to the beach and explore nature. It’s such a beautiful continent – nature is always inspiring and it’s never better than Australia.”
Describing in detail his travels up the west coast from Perth to Darwin, and time spent backpacking down the East Coast, he has an air of gratitude about the place. “I’ve seen a fair bit of your continent, I love the nature, and people, and I love the good food there – you have bakeries and cafes, good healthy food and coffee. And smiling people.” We like to think so, too!
Delving deeper (pun intended), the conversation naturally steers towards Staps’ musical and lyrical inspirations for new album ‘Paleozoic.’
“I always end up with these grand natural metaphors because it just fits so well with the music. When I hear heavy epic riffs, I close my eyes and just think of great, grand images of nature, stormy seas, volcanoes – that’s how we end up with that grandiose sound.
“Whereas ‘Pelagial’ was conceptually about going from the surface to the abyss, this time the music was written before the concept,” he remarks. He describes the album as a sonic, conceptual and scientific link between Precambrian, Heliocentric and Anthropocene, reflective of both changes in those epochs and the band itself.
Acknowledging the perpetual lineup changes and chaos at stages, Staps is happy to assure the band, and those surrounding it, are a solid collective now. “We have The Ocean Collective as a name because outside of the musicians, we have very important people on video projection, the crew, artists and concept designers etc, who are all an important part of the Collective.”
Staps notes the solidarity of band and crew reflects their interpersonal maturity, too. “It’s a matter of growing up and realising what an amazing privilege this is, that allows us to travel, tour and pay our bills somehow – we’re all super grateful for that, which brings a certain level of respect to it.”
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, however.
“It’s a difficult thing being in a band,” Staps remarks. “It’s like being in a relationship with five other alpha males – no one would choose that in their private life, you have to make it work. You need a lot of respect for each other. We’re very grateful to be playing, recording albums, touring and of each other, which is why we’re now stronger than ever.”
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