Interview mit Ben von OCEANICA
Interview mit Ben von OCEANICA
MH: I´m Amir from the German music magazine www.metal-heads.de – we are based in the Ruhr area, that you might know or have heard of with venues like the Zeche in Bochum, the Turock in Essen or Westfallenhalle in Dortmund.
First of all, I have to tell you honestly, that I had not heard from ENOCHIAN THEORY before I got to listen to OCEANICA. But hey, the scene is huge and there are so many bands coming and going all the time. It´s really hard to keep track. Anyway, I´m always interested to learn about „new“ bands and there music, especially if it´s prog oriented somehow. So I listened to your album, wrote a review and now I wann hear more…
BHH: Hi, Amir.
Thank you for allowing me the chance to talk about OCEANICA and other things! I played Zeche in Bochum a few years back, amongst many other German venues on tours with numerous
bands. (Spocks Beard, Threshold, etc). We also played Loreley at Night Of The Prog…which an amazing experience. You can find videos for ENOCHIAN THEORY online, playing live.
I always enjoyed touring in Europe.
MH: 1.) So I´d like to begin with the question, what attracted you, after your time in ENOCHIAN THEORY to do OCEANICA and would you call it a „solo album“?
How did OCEANICA come up?
BHH: Well, ENOCHIAN THEORY went on hiatus and I had a lot of music that I wanted to complete. Having not been able to complete anything for quite some time (5+ years), because I let that negative internal voice in my head repeatedly tell me I wasn’t good enough…I feel continuing and completing 3 albums with OCEANICA was just the right tonic for me, personally.
And I guess it’s subjective, but to me, it is definitely a solo album because I was the only person truly involved in it! I wrote, played every instrument, recorded, mixed and mastered the entire project…so, I guess it’s the true definition of a solo album? Admittedly, I had a co-mixer on the final album and a friend co-engineering the recording of the drums because
no one is perfect and sometimes admitting you need help is perfectly fine; especially on such a huge undertaking as true solo album. I also collaborated vocally on ‚Towards The Sun‘ with some other artists because I wanted a curveball of a track in there that links with the next 2 albums…but everything else is just me…on my lonesome…
MH: 2.) Where do you see a particular difference, I mean, what could you do now, that you couldn´t with ENOCHIAN THEORY?
BHH: Well, E.T went on hiatus, so I needed an output for my creative approaches. I reached a place where I needed to complete some music and this was the right time. I guess with doing a project on your own, you don’t have to consider other people’s opinions, abilities or thoughts in regards to your own creative vision. That’s how it could be seen. But for me, it was more about challenging myself to see if I could do it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the band environment and what can be achieved as a collective…but for me in this exact moment in my life, I wanted to try to do a record…or in this case, 3 albums because I had so much varied material; on my own. I always wanted to try it and I feel that just completing such an undertaking was a massive boost for my mental health after a few years of struggling to finish anything.
Two drummers talking…
MH: 3.) As a drummer, that cannot play any other instrument, I´m really impressed, that you played all the instruments by yourself (except drums, right!?)? How did you start playing instruments at all, and how did it develop further on?
BHH: Ah, greetings fellow drummer! I started playing drums when I was 8 years old and played in bands for years before I picked up the guitar as a way to express myself differently and to write my own full arrangements. Bass came next, then keys/piano and that was really the process of personal development. I wanted to, after years of playing, be able to write and arrange for all the instruments I’d learned.
I don’t profess to be an expert at any instrument, but I am confident enough in my ability to give anything a good effort; once I get some practice under my belt. Over the years I favoured certain instruments over others because of whatever band situation I would find myself in, but about 2-3 years ago I decided to really practice all the key ‚rock‘ instruments again and get around to completing the OCEANICA project. Again, I feel this was a very, very positive thing to do.
MH: 4.) Let´s talk about influences! I guess, when someone writes songs, there is always a musical input from somewhere? What are your musical influences these days and in the past months?
Life is a big influence
BHH: Life. The day to day existence of life is more than enough influence for me! I don’t keep myself up to date with too much new music to be honest…which is possibly a bad thing, but when I get firmly into a writing phase I don’t like to be influenced unduly. And I just like what I know…or rather, want to write whatever I feel I want to write. I tend to get shown some new things by friends, come across things by luck or hear something when I’m out…and it could be any genre. My favourite recent enjoyments from other bands have been the last Chase & Status album, the last Archspire and Alkaloid records, the entire Grouplove back catalogue and Alan Walker. Not exactly Prog…heh heh.
MH: 5.) How would you describe your personal development regarding the music in the last years and with
the releases you created?
BHH: I tend to keep my Prog/Rock/Metal projects separate from my other musical endeavors, which have helped me develop as a musician. I feel that exploring other musical styles has allowed me to revisit Rock music and simply enjoy it again for what it is…but also I am able to come at it with new ideas that I developed while writing electronica/dance
music or from my film sound design work. I like a lot of different music, so my recent developments have been more around other genres and working on that…like different production styles and approaches. I also feel that ‚OneDark‘ is a simpler output when compared to say, ‚Life…And All It Entails‘, that I did under ENOCHIAN THEORY, because back then I was firmly into orchestral composition and fumbling my way through that. ‘OneDark’ is just me not caring about anyone else thoughts or opinions on what I should be doing. As a self-taught musician, it’s always harder to develop but what I have learned and accepted is that I have my own processes and ways that work for me and that’s my signature, if that makes sense. When I play anything I write to close friends, they always say „Yeah, that’s definitely you“…which I guess I like. Sure, I am influenced by a ton of musicians but I have my own approach to things.
MH: 6.) What bands would you like to go on tour with?
BHH: Sting, Grouplove, Tool, Meshuggah, Paul Simon, LTJ Bukem and pretty much any band/act that would invite me! But being that I can’t tour right now…it’s a moot point! Hahaha.
Let´s make it three albums
MH: 7.) As far as I understood, this is the first album of a trilogy. Can you explain to us the idea behind it
and a little bit about what to expect from part II and III?
BHH: Well, I originally wanted to do an album of music ranging from various styles, but I couldn’t seem to get the satisfaction I expected from doing one album. You see, I had so much music that I couldn’t resolve into one record… that, and I also eventually felt that it would never all fit cohesively into one disc unless I compromised on my vision. So, I then decided to do 3 E.P’s that showcased a variety of said progressive music that I had written over the last 7-8 years, then I changed it AGAIN to 3 albums because I kept finding myself feeling sad that I had to cut songs from the EP format tracklisting due to the amount I’d written. The main battle I had initially was that I didn’t feel I could do an album again; especially after years of being
defeated by my own mind in terms of confidence and because it’s such a huge undertaking…but eventually I worked out that it all doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I needed to do this all for myself, first and foremost…and that won through eventually.
Let´s get positive
My pessimistic and negative outlook on my abilities got swept away and I just thought „Stuff it, I NEED to prove
to myself that I can do this“…and the rest is history! So, what we have now is 3 albums of thematically linked music and lyrics that range from rock/metal on ‚OneDark‘, to acoustic/choral/string quartet music on ‚TwoLight‘ and soundtrack/ambient on ‚ThreeGrey‘. It covers everything I wanted to say from the last 7-8 years. Competition of this cycle of 3 albums, which will be released over the next 18-36 months, was the perfect tonic for me and it’s allowed the creative spark to ignite a flame in me that is currently fuelling the next part of the OCEANICA project, which is a double-album entitled ‚Let There Be A Way Through The Waters‘. But I’ve got to be careful not to push too far ahead without giving the care and attention to the first 3 albums, so I need to be mindful of that…but it’s very exciting for me to just write without hindrance or a defeatist attitude.
MH: 8.) A look in the future – where do you see yourself in 10 years – regarding the music and life in
A look in the future
BHH: Who knows? I could be dead. Hahaha. Honestly, I can never say really, but I guess would just let continue on the path of being happy and seeing where the spiral goes. The rest is merely a bonus.
MH: 9.) Are there any plans to play festivals in 2020 or go on tour with the album?
BHH: I don’t at the moment, purely because I resolved to not tour again a few years back. I’m currently traveling the world (currently in The Philippines!) and enjoying seeing this beautiful planet at a leisurely pace which you cannot do when touring because touring is a time-consuming business venture with lots of people relying on you. Don’t get me wrong, I miss playing live…but I don’t miss how difficult it all is logistically, monetarily and mentally. The toll that touring takes on not just yourself, but also those that are back home is staggering at times.
Once I’ve seen some more the world and settled somewhere, and if I can find like-minded people to work with, maybe I’ll consider doing some shows…but it has to be right for me. I resolved to myself that music should be fun and I won’t ever let it not be enjoyable again.
MH: 10.) Towards the end of this interview, I´d like to know some things about your other interests and
hobbies – I mean apart from consuming and creating/performing music. Please tell us about that!
For the love of…food
BHH: I love food. Preparation, cooking and consuming of food! During my current world travels, I am getting to embrace my love of trying new foods and new ways of creating foods; sometimes from things I never tried before. So, that is a particular love of mine. I devour books rapidly, so reading is another part-time I enjoy. Despite my adoration of technology, I don’t really like things like Kindles and digital books. I much prefer the tactile aspect of a good book.
The smell, the feel and the immersive realm of a book is magical to me. As mentioned, I’m traveling around the world on my own terms, so travelling and embracing different cultures is an eye-opener and my latest addiction. There’s just so much out there. I’ve got into shooting, editing and creating my own videos too, but I don’t have much time to do that on the road.
MH: 11.) It´s a tradition for us to leave the last words to our interview partners. Do you have a final message for our readers out there? About yourself, music in general or the new album…whatever…
BHH: Well, first of all, thank you for reading this. I tend to tangent a bit, so apologies if some of this interview doesn’t make sense…but what you’ve got here is the 2019 edition of Ben! It’s a stripped-back, more positive and laid-back person…and I’m happy I realized the negative things in my life and cast them aside. I’m someone that is a lot happier in his own skin now than he’s ever been…and if I can say anything to anyone who is struggling with any form of depression, anxiety or other health problem… please do what makes you happy, whatever that is and I hope you find a way to be happy. In regards to the music…
Initial reviews for ‘OneDark’ have been VERY positive, with 10/10, 9/10 ratings and other very positive reviews…so, I hope you’ll check it out and give it a good listen. I think there’s something in there for a lot of Progressive music fans…but hey, what do I know? So, dive in…you may just enjoy the journey!…and if anyone would like to reach out to me to discuss the record in a positive way, then I’m always happy to talk to people. Thanks again for this chance to chat, Amir. Good luck with your projects and stay positive.
MH: Thanx for your time and hope to see you on tour sometime in the future!
- OCEANICA – ALbum cover: Progressive Gears Records
- OCEANICA – Album cover – Beitragsbild: Progressive Gears Records