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October Burns Black, "Two Worlds Collide" - Genuine gothic art in a soundtrack of bleakness | Interview

"Two worlds collide, and time stands still From one burning ember grew a flame." Sometimes collisions bring spectacular results,this is the case of October Burns Black latest album.

October Burns Black - Two Worlds Collide

Outland Media

June 2022

If you're a Goth music lover, you're certainly aware of the legendary The Wake and its brilliant bass player James Tramel. October Burns Black is James' brainchild as mentioned on their official web page. They've been around since 2015 and along with a fine selection of distinguished musicians like Rod Hanna (Vocals),Lars Kappeler (Guitars),Tommy Olsson (Guitars) plus Simon Rippin beating the Drums , they've formed a dream team rooted across the world to bring a breath of fresh air with their irresistibly outstanding sounds to the Goth scene. OBB is not only here to stay,but we're also witnessing the rise of a classic Super Gothic Rock band.

After two EPs and a cover single , we're finally excited to have their first full album release . "Two Worlds Collide" was conceived, written and recorded in the death throes of the New World Order. Characterised by violent shifts in political, economic and societal tectonic plates the album encapsulates the external and internal friction wrought by fundamental changes to relationships on many planes.

The soundtrack to the bleakness is beautifully enhanced by the ever faithful and precise hand of Billy Phobia who has artistically interpreted the themes with disturbing accuracy."

Album is generally consisted of powerful, lush sounds , genuinely Gothic which give us an adrenaline rush from the very first moment. Simon's drums as well as Lars and Tommy's guitar playing, performed at their very best versions;binding greatly with the master of the bass, James. Rod's Characteristic deep and expressive vocals make it a pure delight to sit back and lose yourself in this extraordinary masterpiece OBB has managed for us. "Two Worlds Collide" is highly recommended if you wish to have a classic Gothic diamond in your selection.

ElektroSpank is enthusiastic about having the chance to discuss the music and the lyrics aspect of the album with James Tramel and Rod Hanna.

ES: James and Rod I'd like to welcome you and wholeheartedly thank you for making time for us. It's an honour and a great pleasure for Elektrospank to host you for a track by track interview on OBB's brand new and successful music statement. It's really hard to choose a favourite track from the album. Each one of them has a character of its own musically and lyrics-wise. It would be very interesting for us to know your perspective on each of them.

Rod: Hello Maria! First of all I would like to thank you very much for your kind words and to let you know it is an honour to be asked to do this interview. I will go through each track as asked.

James: Hello and thank you for giving OBB time to speak about our latest release, Two Worlds Collide. It is indeed a pleasure.

ES: First track, Divide and Conquer and I felt it expresses the hopelessness of our times when humanity is wilfully blindfolded to see they're being terrorized in order to become submissive. How important do you think it is for music to convey deeper messages?

Rod: You put it well when you remarked that it expresses the hopelessness many people feel living through these times. I was inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte and his strategy of divide and rule or conquer. Basically, the age old system of spreading misinformation and propaganda among the populace to turn factions against one another. Growing up in Belfast I witnessed this first hand, so many people fighting against one another at the behest of their leaders when in actual fact they had so much in common (living conditions, schooling, health system etc).

James: This is a very intriguing question with a highly debatable answer. With music, there are generally two different perspectives. One is from the artist and the other is from the listener. I find it a risk and a tad bit arrogant to attempt to write music from another person’s perspective as one can fail to the point of it being contrived or belittling to the listener. Plus, the message may lack enough context and miss the point of what the artist is hoping to convey, leaving the listener to figure it out. Though latter approach to songwriting CAN work, as the listener can relate to, and inspires and spawn ideas that the listener has never discovered yet, on their own. Conversely, an artist runs the risk of becoming irrelevant or canceled during this or future generations if the message is deemed or becomes inappropriate. Overall, if the listener or intended audience misses the point or cannot find the message, then the artist failed at what they should do, in my opinion.

ES: Is art in general, powerful enough to plant seeds?

James: Absolutely. It does, daily.

ES: While listening to Black Veil, second track of the album, I felt the guy was dealing with a vicious circle between him and a woman who wouldn't let him go but rather come back for another round. Not a rare thing in human relationships. What I'm wondering is how based on your life experiences are your lyrics?

James: I identify more with the music than with the lyrics. I have always done so, even with my time in The Wake. My moods and emotions are expressed through the music or through the tone of my bass guitar. With The Wake, my bass sound was more textured, processed, and ambient, as that is what the music called for. But in OBB, my tone is more straightforward without processed bass effects. Listen to Light on Light, Arrowhead, Shimmer, Fickle, Dark Times Ahead, Tightrope for instance. Each track is different and has their own vibe and feel. I expressed what I was feeling at the time. I made no retakes or retracks. They were all one time takes. Every one of those tracks were different, and to be clear, when OBB writes music, I send over the bare basics: click track and bass line. Lars, Tommy, Gordon, Simon and Rod then interpret what they feel and add their bits to it. In the end, the track either becomes an ugly duckling or a fucking beautiful peacock, with feathers out and large hairy bollocks. But in the end, every track we write is meant to stand on its own.

Rod: Black Veil is actually the sequel to The Predator, a track that featured on our ‘Reflections’ ep. I had promised to write a follow up so I did! This track sees the return of the wicked Succubus who haunted the poor fellow in the first song. Once again, she torments him yet he still seems to want a bit more of the same, hehe! A touch of sado masochism with an occult edge really! You perceived the lyrical aspect of the song very well! I am yet to be haunted by a Succubus though, just a few people who will go unnamed here!

ES: "Dance on the tightrope with me" is a phrase taken from the third track and you can spot the controversy. One simply can't dance on a tightrope, but if you try to picture it, how does it make you feel? I feel stressed.

James: Free. Relieved. Gathered. Safe. Secure.

ES: This track is about all the anxiety and uncertainty which have a negative impact on our everything. James , how do you choose to cope with hardships ?

James: Through music and self-reflection.

ES: What helps you release tension and frustrating feelings?

James: Work in progress. I have no solution or answer for that.

Rod: Yes exactly, this song really does describe the daily grind of modern life and how it can stress us to the point of insanity. We really do dance a virtual tightrope every day. It is the uncertainty of life, the unknown and the unexpected. This can be both exhilarating and very frightening. We live in uncertain times and I suppose I am describing how fragile our very lives are in the face of the turmoil we face globally today. I am like many other people when I find comfort in my family and friends, not to mention the occasional bottle of a good Red Wine hehe!

ES: Regress, fourth track to follow is one of the tracks that gives me goosebumps. Music is divine and the lyrics so sarcastic. Like talking straight to the contemporary man, calling names at his face. I'd like you to elaborate on that: Who is this song actually addressed to and what for?

James: I would like to know the answer to this, as well. Rod?? Is this song about me, Belfast Boy??

Rod: Cheers James! No it isn’t about you hehe! This is the angry song! Written during a time when populist politicians were on the rise globally (Trump in the US, Johnson in the UK, Bolsonaro in Brazil). I noticed on social media there were masses of supporters for them, racism, homophobia, misogyny disguised as ‘liberal and progressive politics’. The track was not aimed at anyone in particular, just those I noticed giving their support to these revolting demagogues. What angered me the most was the sly and underhand way they would show their support under the guise of libertarianism when in actual fact they were the 21st century version of Mussolini’s Black shirts. An angry song for angry times I suppose.

ES: We need to calm down after the intensity felt and Fickle comes right on time. Smooth and deep. I have to admit, I love the whispering vocal parts; so atmospheric. Gist of the track, the difficulty to keep faith and trust when dreading that everything will finally collapse. Is fear part of our self-protection or self-destruction?
Rod: This one leaves the realm of political unrest and delves into the at times very conflicting world of human relationships. You mentioned trust and that is indeed the key talking point for this track. Trust is very fragile and can be broken so easily and it is almost impossible to regain once it is broken too. The mood of the music fit the lyrics perfectly I must say.

James: As I said earlier I identify more with the music than the lyrics so that’s what I’ll do here. The bass line centers on what you precisely extracted from the track. I love John Entwistle’s bass playing. He revolutionized the instrument and made it acceptable to be a bass player. John’s tone has a lot of mid-range and this is where bass players typically do not play on a track, live or in studio. Notes are not articulate and are muddied, especially on a 5 string when playing a lot of open low B string notes. I want to both hear and feel the bass. I often play just below the octave note on my bass guitar. I live in the mid-range as the bass guitar certainly makes a statement when dropping down into the lower registry. That is dynamic. The same with Fickle. The song starts slow and then builds into a more traditional bass line, but one that drives the music to the very end, and then fades. Much like self-protection or in some cases self-destruction. Fear can be both, depending on the situation the person is in or what they are experiencing at the time.

ES: Then comes another track I have deeply loved and listened to dozens of times. The Grand Leveller is a track of epic sound and if I tried to interpret the lyrics I'd say it's about death. Its presence is a fact, inevitable and relentless. As you may have realised I'm very excited about the poetic side of the album. Are lyrics equally important to the music?

James: I feel the lyrics take a solid second place to the singer’s voice. How many tracks have you either stopped mid-way through or just stopped completely when the singer begins to sing because you could not tolerate the voice? It happens more than what people care to admit. The voice is an instrument. The voice fits with the music or it does not. With Fickle, you mentioned you like the whispers in the track. That is what happens when Rod and Simon come together for a recording session. The small nuances DO make a difference. The whispers fit and only the vocals could have done that to make it effective. If the listener does manage to get past the singer’s voice, then I am hoping the lyrics are complementary to the music. People may often hum music, but they will also sing lyrics or the chorus to a song. The answer to your question is in there, somewhere.

Rod: My personal favourite track on the album! I go into first person narrator mode here, and the character portrayed is indeed Death itself. I think we can all agree it is the one abiding fear we all of us share. I describe how death manifests itself continuously on every aspect of our lives. It has a stranglehold on our hopes, our ambitions, our dreams. In other words, no matter what we aspire to, or work towards it is this inevitable factor that keeps us in check. I am not saying ‘give up and don’t try!’ I simply describe how powerful this profane force really is and how much it consumes our every waking moment.

ES: We're more than halfway to the end with Blind Faith. A track concerning the manipulation of the masses . Why do you think people tend to blindly follow politicians, religious leaders, artists or even nowadays so-called influencers ?

James: I am not so sure this tendency will ever go away. The vast majority of us have always had an authoritative figure in our lives, whether positive or negative. We may even expect to listen to someone else to give us direction or tell us what we should do with our lives because most don’t know. To a degree, I feel most people will gravitate to what they know, or what they want, and influencers appear to have what many want, as do religious leaders, politicians, movie stars, etc.
In the past few years, life has become increasingly difficult for us, so we look for a silver bullet, an immediate cure, to make all that ails us, go away. Once that happens, life will be good. Will it? I reckon people feel following someone blindly, who gives the impression they have good intentions, will lead them to the life they want and dream of

Rod: Blind Faith is a tale of manipulation. I think humanity has been guilty of blindly following religious leaders for an eternity. I believe it stems from fear and ignorance, the inability to question what we are taught at a young age for example. I am an atheist it is true but others having a personal faith is not so much a problem, whatever comfort we have to get through this life is ok by me, it is the corrupt institution of organised religion that I despise. It teaches division, sets us apart from one another and creates enemies where none need exist. Again, I have witnessed this from growing up in Belfast. Communities used as pawns for power by those who have a vested interest in retaining power. The enemy of organised religion is the individual who can think for themselves. You mentioned ‘influencers’ and I suppose it is a similar theme, these days there are countless talented idiots who are treated as immortals because they have thousands of followers on bloody Tik Tok!

ES: Condemned is the eighth track and sounds to me like it's a track about misleading people, but from the villain's aspect this time. The album's lyrical content is generally about all the hardships we're currently facing given in a poetic and philosophical way. As an artist how essential is it to you express your own philosophy through your work?

Rod: We go back to the murky world of political turmoil on this one. The target of my never-ending ire on this track is aimed at the tyrannical despots we see around the world. A cult of personality if you will based around nothing more than violent subjugation. I have justifiable complaints regarding the state of the western world for sure but I am still very grateful I can say the things I want to say without being taken out and shot! There are so many places in the world where that is simply not an option and their leaders rule without anyone daring to question their authority.

James: I do not feel it is important for music to convey a message. What is important is how it makes one feel. I do not understand a lot of classic music, but I love how it makes me feel. The same with Jazz music, and noir films and other visual forms of artwork. I am someone who, when watching a movie, concentrates on the scenery, not the dialogue. So, I am sure I am missing the message or have received only part of it. My philosophy is not for everyone, just like my opinion, so I keep both to myself.

ES: All I Never Wanted is a clever title for a song and a guy who seems to be trying to find himself and his inner peace. In his effort to get there he breaks another person's heart only to realise it wasn't what he wanted. Why do people struggle so much to find inner balance?

James: This is a question that requires its own podcast, l am afraid. Inner balance is a life-long quest and one that requires constant attention and devotion, dedication. My contention is that some of us, maybe the majority, are too scared to do a deep dive into themselves, as they may not like what they find. This self-reflection may reveal that a person is not really a good person after all, so then a person may struggle with that. Or they identify with an identify that is receiving social backlash to the point of that person not comfortable expressing themselves, so they internalize it, fighting within. Also, people identify themselves in ways they feel comfortable which others may not. The more aware people become of themselves, and express themselves in that manner, the more potential backlash a person will receive. I see it as a case of being understood AND understanding. Not one or the other. Perhaps people should put down their cell phones and disengage from the internet and all forms of social media for a spell, and have a heart to heart with themselves. If one is unhappy, then find the reason or reasons why. We have to start somewhere, and from within is one place to start from. I have had success with locus of control. I was a sceptic after taking such a test, but after doing a deep dive, I realize how accurate it is for me. Albeit, it covers the “health” of a person, but mental health champions physical health, no? What you do with the results is your choice.

Rod: Thank you! A tad confessional this one actually, certainly the most personal song on the album. I address many of my own faults on this track, past behaviour when I have made mistakes and hurt people I should not have. You are correct when you talk of finding an inner balance and how difficult that can be. Life is a learning process and we make many mistakes along the way, we just have to learn and mature as individuals. I feel I have made that effort in recent years and have become a better person for it. Becoming a father to my son definitely helped as it changed my perspective on what is important so much. The shallowness has hopefully gone from my being and I concentrate more on what truly matters. I am still a grumpy bastard though hehe!

ES: Is it a trait of our era ?

James: No. I think finding inner peace is something most of humanity has struggled with for centuries. I feel it is becoming more socially acceptable for someone who is ailing, to seek help from professionals or from someone who shares their plight

ES: Final track, the wonderful piece of music which gave its name to the album. Two Worlds Collide is certain to touch you deeply with its darkly romantic words which are about the lack of real profound bonds between people. "Mistake your touch for love" What are the two worlds colliding?

Rod: The title track. This song is actually quite old and had been in development for some time prior to release. Lyrically it describes two very charismatic people who come into contact with one another and the impact that makes on both of them. Like a huge collision between two very strong-willed people who are both powerfully attracted to one another but hate one another at the same time. A tale of obsession really, how powerful the sentiments of love and hate really are. I love the finale to this track, a powerful crescendo to finish the album.

James: Love and hate. Good and evil. Blue and black denim. Truth and lies. Innocence and corruption. Perception and reality. This is up to the listener to decide.

ES: What is there, you'll intensely remember from the making of this album?

Rod: The amount of hard work and dedication shown by my bandmates and myself to make the very best recording we could. I hope it shows too. I loved the creative aspect, the preparation and attention to detail we gave to both the music and the artistic direction of the artwork. I was very satisfied with the final product. A big shout out to my bandmates for their talent and work ethic.

James: That OBB was able to answer the many questions and demands of the OBB faithful and present them what we feel is one of the best releases they have listened to over the past 1, 2 or 3 years, if not longer. We were in a fortunate position with songs that would not have been well received had they been released previously. With OBB, we thrive on doing what is best at that time and then moving on.

ES: I'm sure you can't pick a favourite track, still I'd like to ask if there's one or more that deeply speak to your heart. It would be beautiful to share with us.

Rod: I mentioned ‘The Grand Leveller’ previously and I must say it is the song that speaks to me the most both musically and lyrically. I think both combined perfectly on this song, very intense and atmospheric. I love hearing feedback from all who listened to the album and what they feel are the strongest tracks on the album, I also love differing interpretations of my lyrics too. On a closing note I would like to thank you once again Maria and to reiterate what James said about the next release. Expect the unexpected next time, there will be a few surprises for sure! Cheers, Rod.

James: Once the music is released, I do not go back and listen to the music. Besides, it is no longer our music. It is your music – for public consumption. It is our gift to you. The track that is near and dear to me is not on Two Worlds. It is one that we are working on and I think it is ahead of its time, so to speak, of what this release is about and would not compliment Two Worlds. The next release is still undecided in terms of format, full length, EP, date of release, but I have my ideas of the musical direction we should go. OBB is starting to mature and expand musically as a collective unit, so do not be surprised if you hear violins or a saxophone, tribal drums, mandolins and/or ambient noises and ethereal keys on the next release. But they are not to be expected, either. Just know we are expanding our musical palate and Two Worlds Collide should indicate that.
See you on the road!








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