“The deeper you drill into your own mind, the more interesting it gets.”
Interview by Jason Guest
With Björn Andersson (guitar) and Tobias Larsson (drums /vocals)
Thanks for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on Universums Härd, it’s a great album (reviewed here). For you, does the album mark a progression for the band since 2013’s Sten?
Björn: Yes! I would definitely say so. Where Sten was more of a statement, Universums härd is more dynamic. We are maintaining the heaviness with a different sound. The progression also lies in shorter songs and more up-tempo parts. I would say it is a different album compared to all our previous works.
Can you tell us about the album title, its meaning and how it relates to the music? What are the lyrical themes on the album, and where does inspiration come from?
Tobias: The true meaning of “Universums härd” in english I guess would be “The core of the Universe” – the source of power.Damn, that is why I shifted from English to Swedish lyrically. I can’t write good lyrics in English. You do not have the same vocabulary as in the Swedish language. In a foreign language it’s easy just to scream something. If you do that in your native tongue, it sounds stupid. It’s like… You can’t write exactly what you mean. It’s a celebration of the power that holds all life and matter in our Universe. It feels like Ocean Chief have looked beyond when we created the riffs, so I looked deep inside my mind for the lyrics. The deeper you drill into your own mind, the more interesting it gets. I have always liked to think about the creation of all. Not a man-made god creation. It’s more a quest to find the “beings” that made the Universe. Or Universes. We are all doomed! That is the theme of “Universums härd”.
When you were writing for this album, did you have an idea of what you wanted it to sound like or did this take shape as it was being developed?
Björn: I think we had an idea of just doing something different than Sten, and we were kind of sick of playing 20-minute songs. It takes a lot of work to get those long songs interesting both for yourself and others. So we booked the studio 6 months prior to recording and put some pressure on ourselves to start writing new songs. The result is, as mentioned, shorter songs and a more distinct approach to the very same.
What was the writing process for the album? Was it different in any way to your previous works?
Tobias: I’d say we have no typical process. Never thought about it. Björn booked the studio early just to get things moving. That’s different I guess.
Are there any tracks on the album that stand out for you? Are there any that you think mark a significant development for the band or indicate where you see the band heading in future?
Björn: Personally I think the title track is awesome. It has some great riffs in it and tempo changes that keeps your interest peeled. Also I like “Färden” and “Mörker”. “Färden” is a piece that goes back to 2007 if I remember correctly. It’s been something to jam on, and now we recorded it. I wouldn’t mind more laid back pieces like that in future music. At the same time nothing compares to total doom mayhem, like the opening riff of “Oändlighet”. What the future hold remains to be seen. We can do whatever we want!
Guitarist Christian Sandberg has been with the band since 2012 and makes his first recorded appearance on the new album. What did he bring to the band and how is that reflected on Universums Härd?
Björn: Well, he brought someone who can actually play the guitar! Ha ha, yeah but for real, I have never been that kind of solo-guitarist who can just jam out on the higher strings and everything sounds great. It’s mainly been about the (long) riff for me. I love the solo parts that Christian is doing and he also comes up with great riffs. It takes the relief of my back a bit and I can just relax and enjoy the ride. I have a feeling I will go out of the box even more on next album now that I’m used to the two guitars.
With two new members being added to the line-up beginning with Sten, how has this affected the writing and the sound of the band?
Tobias: The big difference from when we were three is the way you can make more harmonies. It’s awesome to rehearse with two guitarists and to practise with the synth from start. The downside is going to gigs, because it gets crowded in the car….
Now that there are five members in the band, how do you work together to create songs? Is it a collaborative effort or do you write individually? Do you discuss ideas about what you want to achieve with each track or is it an evolutionary process? Do all of the band members contribute?
Björn: Usually we present riffs to each other when rehearsing. Then we see where we can go with the different ideas. Tobias has riffs all the time and I prefer to get him started and then go home and think about where to go next. Get some sort of idea of a song. Sometimes I don’t play the guitar for weeks, and then I get periods when I get massive inspiration and just write and write new stuff and try to remember recording it for future use. I have been using my cellphone to record for years, but since a few months back I am able to record on my computer, which makes it a lot easier and fun. Although most of the time I prefer to listen to music.
As in all bands everyone contributes in their own way. If everyone should have ideas all the time it would be a huge mess. Being in a band could be compared to having a second family, which I think many other musicians would agree on.
Can you tell us about the album’s artwork? How does it relate to the music and themes of the album?
Björn: We wanted it to be spacey and at the same time holding on to the feeling from the brilliant artwork of Sten. It’s like there’s some stuff going on that you don’t immediately get your head around. The theme of the album is huge. You couldn’t have a more vast theme than the universe. The title Universums härd (The Hearth of the Universe)… I liked it immediately. Musically I don’t know if it sounds “universal”, maybe sometimes.
Who designed it? And what drew you to them for the artwork?
Björn: We have worked with Elaine Ni Cuana (a.k.a. Sgraffitto) for our last three albums. They are done with a soul behind it, from someone who appreciate the music and can relate to the topics and themes. For our earliest records we didn’t give a crap about artwork as long as someone did it for us, but I guess we have matured as a band and appreciate that the music to some point connect with the artwork.
How much direction did you give them in the design?
Björn: Just as stated earlier. We wanted it spacey.
Which format do you prefer, vinyl, CD, or digital download? And why?
Björn: I have come to realize that the medium isn’t really important as long as you can please people with your music. Sure, I would prefer that everyone were able to buy all music they wanted on vinyl or CD, but most people are not able to do that. So I totally understand the whole downloading/streaming side of it all and the convenience of having your collection right there in your hand. The last year or so I have chosen digital downloads quite some times, especially if there is a new band with maybe just a demo out. In that way I think it’s great, you get your fix in a few clicks, and the artist get some digital cash in return! Ten years ago I would not believe this was me talking, but times change, and people too.
Any touring plans for the support of the album? And will we be seeing you in the UK?
Björn: There’s a few festival gigs for the summer and a bunch of Swedish dates with Canadian band ZAUM late September. We have never been a touring band and I don’t think we will start living on the roads at this point. We would love to do more shows abroad, but the situation is what it is, and we can only be away for a few days at the time which makes it hard to break even for a band such as Ocean Chief.
What does the future hold for Ocean Chief? Early days I know as the album is set to be released on 27 June, but is there more music in the works?
Björn: We will have a break rehearsing new music until the fall of 2014. At that point I think all of us together will have material for a new album, and it would be great if we could keep up the work and releasing new stuff on proper basis.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Praise your Ocean Chief for rewards!