October Burns Black Interview from Sonic Seducer Magazine by Stephan Wolf
(reprinted with kind permission from October Burns Black)
(reprinted with kind permission from October Burns Black)
Hi James and Ger,
First of all:
Thank you very much – for your time and interest.
And, of course, – for your brilliant EP!
James: You are very welcome, Stephan. Thank you for the opportunity to us share some aspects of OBB.
Ger: Thank you. It seems to have gone down very well with people and we’re finding new fans as well as bringing those who know us from our various other projects, both historic and current.
1) How can we briefly sum up the genesis of OBB?
James: I think it is only fair to start with the idea behind the band.
I narrowed OBB down through focus and elimination of what I know I did not want the sound to be. It also helped that I had the style of music in mind before looking for the right musicians. Both the music and the vocals are unique enough and must be understood that way. Forcing them to fit, when they do not, only yields sub-par results.
The musicians’ style had to have some overlap but also enough differences to make the music sound if not unique, but fresh. There are many great bands out there now, and some older bands are reforming and picking up where they left off, so getting noticed or standing out is very difficult and never a guarantee, even with well written and well-produced music.
Ger: Honestly, it’s so long now the chain of events are hazy at best! But anyway, out of the blue (from my perspective at least) James reached out to me regarding an idea he had for a project, he explained the concept and what he had in mind etc. I was in the middle of a few other things at the time, so was unsure if I would have the time to take something else on BUT needless to say I was intrigued enough to have him fire me over some rough ideas and the rest as they say is history.
James: I was delighted when Ger came on board. The sound of the band is the vocalist, to a lot of people, so in my mind it was crucial to find someone who had stage presence, have vocal range and was comfortable fronting a band. I also wanted a singer who used his voice as an instrument, which Ger has proven many times over.
Ultimately OBB is to be a touring band, spending more time on the road than in studio. We are not yet at that frequent touring stage but are headed in the right direction.
Ger: To my mind, what started out as an idea in 2015 has taken its time to come to fruition so it’s been more of an evolution than a single spark. The crucial factor in coming together was that there was an underlying understanding of what each band member could and would contribute to the sound – there’s plenty of material out there which points towards that. However, like with other combinations in the past you never really know how it’s going to turn out.
2) Do you draw the lines between traditional goth rock values, modern ingredients – and a timeless approach?
James: No. I draw from ideas I have experienced emotionally, musically, spiritually and the like, regardless of their origins or sensibilities. It just so happens that I like Gothic rock, as it is disguised as rock and roll with a black heart in my mind. Growing up, I listened to musical and solo acts from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, mainly, which have remained close to my heart. Listen to our music, and if you isolate each instrument in each track, you will certainly hear our respective musical influences.
Ger: I’m not sure it’s possible to answer that question. I don’t think or see the world in those terms but everything is of course connected and interconnected and there are conscious decisions to do certain things or take certain approaches (as there are conscious decisions NOT to do or approach things in a certain way) and no matter how organic and unbiased you try to be, there always will be some collective or internal set of directives, narratives, parameters…call them what you will…that focus the generation and exploration of ideas and if that lends itself to all or none or part of the above question then I’m fine with that. Plus we have to put this in context of the OBB mandate and not all our other personal projects.
3) Would you be so kind and disclose some details concerning both the songwriting and the intercontinental production process?
James: Songwriting is collective. “fault line” are ideas that I tossed over to Tommy, Lars and Ger who then added their respective bits in the way they interpreted the idea. I personally do not limit creativity for any of the others, as I want them to play what they feel naturally than what I want them to feel. For the next release, which we are now working on, ideas have come from Ger, Tommy and Lars, and the tracks are taking on a life of their own which surely will be recognised as OBB and nothing short of that.
Ger: You also have to appreciate that technology has a big part to play in the process. The approach for a typical band is to share ideas with at least a couple of the band members in the same room but due to the geographical separation this was not an option, so I suppose this is at the very core of what OBB is and informs a lot of decision making and stylizing. As James said, he wanted OBB to be a collaborative endeavour and not him just saying “Here are the songs I want you all to do”. So for all intents and purposes OBB functions as any other band does in the writing/production sense, it just took about a year to work out what we were all talking about especially in the ‘cold text’ of the email and social media. Can get a bit Tower of Babel at times and, in the case of OBB, that’s both biblically and literally.
James: The first release, as was the tour, was a massive challenge, but it was necessary to set the standard for future releases. We live in different countries with the exception of Lars and Ger, and they, like Tommy and me, have other musical endeavors with tight deadlines, so their schedules do not always sync. Emails and messages we send to each other are not always answered the same day or even within three days, let’s say. As we tracked and mixed, it became relevant that the one who mixes and the one who masters MUST be close in both proximity and in musical style. Just like with the band members, I find it far more beneficial that there be overlap in musical styles and genres than for everyone to act and sound and like the exact same thing.
Ger: The other important factor is that everyone in the band is a songwriter. Usually the lead is taken by one or two individuals and the other band members fill in. With OBB the ideas come from all angles as James says.
I suppose being the singer I have quite a bit of freedom with shaping the overall structure of the tracks from a vocal flow point of view but everything goes back to the vote at the end of the day and we try to incorporate everyone’s thoughts as much as possible, especially if something is a real sticking point as opposed to a ‘I can live with it’ one, the usual compromise stuff.
Regarding the mixing and mastering, actually that was meant to done by someone else which didn’t work out and it was only by chance that while we were on tour in the UK and while talking with Simon [Rippin] about what was going on he asked if he could do a rough mix and see what we thought. I have known Simon for years and worked with him in This Burning Effigy so I certainly had no problem with that, he got it straight away and so, there are a couple of months no-one is getting back – what can be resolved in a matter of minutes when you are in the same room takes a lot longer than when messaging. It was Simon who suggested getting Gordon [Young] for mastering and with both of them working closely on that side of things, I think the final results certainly stack up against anything else out there. I look forward to working with them again on future releases.
4) Have you experienced pure harmony and endorsement? Or rather some creative clash of different ideas and opinions?
Ger: No creative process worth its salt is without differences of opinions. Each of us comes from a different background and so brings a different edge stylistically, each of which is very distinct. That’s what makes OBB.
Each of us knew each other’s musical history and to a great extent there were no surprises so any differences of opinion have been at the margins. However, it’s at the margins where the difference between a decent track and a great track is so noticeable. It’s probably fair to say that as the vocalist, I have the greatest influence over the final sound but I have total faith in the experience and skills of the others so it’s less of a clash of ideas and more of subtle finessing.
James: Whenever a band of such calibre comes together, with the collective musical CVs that we have, some opinions will be heard more loudly than others. It is to be expected. We all have opinions of how a song is to be structured or how the band is marketed and so forth. If we trust each other enough to be in the same project, then we should trust each other enough to make a decision regarding a track on behalf of the entire band – which is what Ger is referring to when he says there aren’t really clashes of ideas.
5) “Nothing fancy. No gimmicks. Just goth.” Is it possible to clarify this credo (or mission statement) a bit more detailed? Is it about artistic dedication? Or even about a lifetime axiom?
James: The quote is something that prefaces the band. The direction, the sound, the dedication, the appreciation for gothic rock and what OBB is.
Ger: It’s pretty simple conceptually. We’ve all been around for far too long to be bothered about being an over-complicated band surrounded by mystic imagery and inaccessible to fans. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for that and many people like and enjoy it.
Our approach has been very direct, with a strong social media presence and an open attitude to people who want to engage with us, but above all it is about the music. Sure, it’s taken a while…and probably a bit longer than we’d hoped…but the EP represents a turning point for us. At its core it’s about writing songs which we like and hope that others will too.
6) What are we going to expect from OBB next?
James: Next up is Germany; that is our focus. We hope to tour Germany in 2019 and I have shared that idea with the others, including Ed [Shorrock] (our manager). We all agree it is the next logical step for OBB, and also to continue one theme of touring. We are working on a new release which we are hoping will come together much faster than ‘fault line.’ It may take more time as we are aiming for a full length but considering where OBB is, after having 4 or 5 tracks completed, we will have a much better idea if we will track a full length or release an EP.
Ger: We’re working on a number of tracks at the moment, both from the set which we played in April and also new material – all around our existing commitments to our other projects. Eyes are definitely on a full length release but we can’t rule out another EP if the feeling is right – fans seem to prefer a little and often rather than waiting overly long for an album, but it’s a fine balancing act.
James: Other than that, we have the same key people on board, so mixing and producing are well-represented. Simon and Gordon both did outstanding jobs in the studio. We are all pleased, as are many others, with ‘fault line.’
Ger: Back to live dates, we really enjoyed the UK and had a great time but next on our agenda are German dates which we are hoping to firm up in the next few months. Given where we are all based travel and logistics present more challenges than with most bands so it takes a lot more planning than usual and time horizons are a lot longer.
James: Hope to see you all on the road in 2019.
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