"Vague Picnic" is a fantastically vague phantasm fresh off the presses from the mythical legends known only as Ocular Panther. Words cannot describe the pleasure we at EB take in having "Vague Picnic" as our first full length album themed interview!! Join us in getting to know the members of Ocular Panther, and listen to a few tracks from the new record and beyond!!
EB: Have you all been taking a Zappa sabbatical over the last few months? The Zappa vibes are palpable on this release.
Collin: Actually, I don't think any of us have really been on a Zappa kick lately! It's always an underlying influence though and is always there.
EB: As always, the artwork is on point. Could you talk about the cover a bit? Also, what goes into acquiring a fancy album cover such as this?
Collin: This is a piece of art by Michael Hutter. Jason Gilly and myself are always sharing our favorite artists with each other, and we always had an eye on Michael Hutter's work. We decided that this particular album really seemed to reflect his style along with the current times. When we find an artist we like, we simply contact them and inquire if we can either commission them to create a piece of art or pay them to license us an existing piece of art. This particular piece had already existed but wasn't really displayed anywhere as he said it was "incomplete", although it's impossible to tell if you aren't the artist. To us it was perfect as is so we went with it.
EB: Is there some doubling when it comes to Bass on "Nilo"? It seems as if there is some programming to go along with the grooving bassline.
Collin: Yes, Mikey will often create synth lines and beats on a drum machine which we will go off of. This particular track had a thumping synth bassline that we decided to double for a more organic feel.
EB: Tristan, what could be some of the inspiration behind the groove that you play on "?Sera Cierto?" How do the other guys feel about the lush and somewhat aquatic space that this track occupies?
Tristan: I always try to play for what the song has in mind and what the other guys are doing layer-wise musically, as Mikey and Collin tend to try things out during a rehearsal, etc. I also have to always keep in mind what the synth and/or drum machine tracks are doing underneath us all, trying not to clutter the groove because there’s a lot going on during most tunes of ours. So, mainly I just tried to lay a fat slinky groove on top of the grooves and layers, and then usually Gilly and I figure out where to sit on the grooves and we go from there.
EB: Mike, what kind of sounds are you using on the glitchy little melody at the beginning of "Numbco"? Was any programming added to the percussion or is that all Tristan? Jason, what kind of gear are you using to achieve the swampmonster tone on this track?
Mike: My main synth is the Dave Smith Tempest and that is a sound I made on there as is the percussion that accompanies Tristan. This is my main tool for programming all of the synths and drum machine sounds you hear on the record.
Jason: I used an Ampeg 6 x 10 cab, Ampeg SVT 4 pro bass head and a 5 string Fender jazz bass.
EB: "Ellwanger Berry" kind of builds on the anthemic melodious nature of recent OP releases, yet provides some very interesting rhythmic/groove based ideas, not to mention some glorious panning. Take me through your individual thoughts on this song, be it the composition process or otherwise. How did the mothership landing at the end happen?
Collin: This song was built like many of our current tracks on this album where Mikey created the base of it on a sequencer and drum machine. We then got together and added our own lines and organized it as a group effort. The end is an open improvisation when we play it live that can go any sort of direction. In the studio we did it as a series of layers that we all added our own touch to.
EB: "Nodus Tollens" offers kind of a unique take on electronic rock, with a definite hint of fusion and video game music. I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts on this style. Additionally, was anyone in the group ever influenced by a video game soundtrack? The harp/synth sound on this track gives me Zelda vibes...
Collin: This is something that just came through without much thought. The Tempest really just lends itself to these types of sounds. None of us are big into video games but I will say for myself, Toe Jam and Earl was about the only video game I ever played as a kid and it has an awesome soundtrack which I still love to this day.
EB: "Nux Vomica" covers a somewhat tense underwater vibe, as well as traversing some groove space not usually occupied by Ocular Panther to this point. What went into the composition of this song? Tristan, what inspired this groove? It almost sounds as if there is some extra percussion on this track, is that so? Jason, how do you feel about playing bass lines such as the ones found on some of these tracks? They seem to be simpler, more rhythmically motivated lines with a very specific feel, even if you were only playing one or a few notes.
Tristan: Nux Vomica I originally had more of a Jeff Porcaro type groove including toms, but it tended to be a bit too much, so I just added the toms randomly when I felt they fit.
Jason: Definitely, I try to play simpler lines to leave space for all the other sounds and guitar lines that are constantly on top. Less is more for a lot of these compositions.
9) Collin, do you have a favorite guitar solo on this record?
Collin: Definitely Mikey's solo on "Instant Death". I just think it's full of energy and fits perfectly.
10) "Instant Death" features some 80's inspired synth tones as well as some added electronic percussion. Is there any feeling in the group that this specific sound is one of the group's ultimate goals? I feel as though it has been experimented with in the past, but is a little more pronounced on this record.
Collin: Definitely. This is a conscious direction we have been driving towards adding in new synths, sequencers and drum machines. We wanted to add in new sounds and elements into what we were already doing to round it out a bit and make it more interesting. As time goes on we are hashing it out more and more.
EB: What does the future have in store for Ocular Panther?
Collin: We will just keep driving this sound forward and creating as much music as we possibly can. We are already in the works on a follow up to this that will be a bit longer. It will definitely build off of what we are doing on this record and hopefully bring it to new places at the same time. We just want to keep moving forward and always keep creating new music.
EB: Favorite Star Wars movie of each member?
Collin: Definitely Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Can't beat the original and as it turns out it was released on May 25th which is also my birthday.
Mike: The Empire Strikes Back
Tristan: I haven’t really seen one episode or movie straight through but a few of my friends are die hard fans and so I even knew something about the characters a little bit, so I’d have to say my favorite character is R2D2 because he’s the closest to being a computer/drum machine!
Jason: Star Wars IV: A New Hope
thanks fellas, congrats on the new record, here's to many more...