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7th October 2016
METAL DISCOVERY: In my review, I wrote of your vocal performance: “To label her singing as captivating would not fully convey just how awe-inspiring and emotionally enthralling her voice actually is. The music itself is already loaded with so much affective depth, but Gilbert manages to heighten the emotions in each song's instrumentation with a truly mesmerising grip.” So, where does such an amazing voice and performance come from? What’s your musical background?
CAMMIE: I’ve come to realise it’s very untrained! [Laughs] So, it’s sort of like an organic engagement with myself. I think every performance is on the verge of tears, almost, and letting the emotion come out to the point it doesn’t break my voice is the idea… erm… those are all very nice words… [Laughs] It’s, I guess, kind of pressing my voice to be there for me; it’s a relationship of sorts and, once it’s onstage, once it’s live, it’s completely different. I always think there’s three components – there’s in practice; there’s in the studio; and there’s live. In the studio, you’re under a microscope and it’s maddening how well you hear yourself! [Laughs] And then in the studio, like rehearsal time, it’s a bit more messy; it’s time to be able to practice different things. And then live, it’s sort of like hugging someone. It’s embracing someone and all the technical parts of the singing are kind of pushed to the back, and it’s like, can we see each other; can we connect with each other? So, it’s nice to know that it conveys in that way.
(Dobber Beverly on Oceans of Slumber's forthcoming Riverside tribute)
"...we’re doing ‘Time Travellers’, off the newest record, but nothing like the original in any way. It goes from kind of Jerry Goldsmith level cinematic score, a huge Shirley Bassey-type James Bond score, to total southern gospel."
Oceans of Slumber - promo shot
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2015 Jeremy Pierson
MD: Yeah, it sounds that way on the album too, I think. It sounds so natural. None of it sounds forced, just like the music too. The whole thing sounds very organic, including your singing.
CAMMIE: Yeah, it’s all done within a comfortable range of vocalisation and everything resonates with me so strongly; like, I’m a very sensitive person, so there’s no other way for it to come out of me… I’m stuck in it!
MD: You’ve made your cover of The Moody Blues’ ‘Nights in White Satin’ work fantastically. Initially, I thought it was not so much of an obvious choice of cover but, in the context of the album, the emotional essence and melancholy you’ve brought out of the song actually fit in perfectly. Did you choose that song to cover as you thought it would fit the flow of the album?
DOBBER: Well, let’s preface that whole thing with what a spectacular song that is. Again, we’re children of that time that kind of romanticise rock ‘n’ roll and atmosphere. Forlorn love, you know, and the fit within the context of what we went through is almost like the song was written before us, we dug it out and then, where are we supposed to put this in the story that you’re telling, and here’s the last piece. It’s a thing to where some people maybe recognise it to let’s say that Zeppelin, The Moody Blues, to Procol Harum and all that stuff, and if you were to dissect that a bit, how much does that have to do with doom metal and how much did tempos only dictate, and the levels of distortion dictate that it wasn’t any of that? Because, when I hear The Moody Blues, and I’ve heard that song fifteen million times, of course, and, you know, I heard all those sections and I thought that middle section was a perfect… it’s so lyrical, right? So, with the flute and the Mellotron stuff on the original, it’s meant to be lyrical, and things being lyrical are meant to be either a female or male voice in classical genres. I heard that and I thought to myself – how perfect is that as a heightened level of intensity?
Let’s say we’re not playing blast-beats because we’re some black metal band, and let’s say we’re playing blast-beats to punctuate, and that we’re using dynamic markers and tempos to bring the wash of the wave higher or lower. And, so, the idea behind The Moody Blues is that it is this incredibly moody song and that the centre section was this spot to where it could be kicked up a notch to bring the intensity of lovers, or the separation of two, and we use that and it’s just using our musical background and training to kind of recognise that. You know, those bands made us hear songs, and made us hear music that way, and I think that whole style is lost on the modern generation, and we’re losing a lot of the love and emotion that’s in music and behind music. And it’s really sad because it’s gonna knock the need for those kind of bands out, the further we go along.
MD: It’s almost like a whole different era of songwriting.
DOBBER: But, you know, they’re still packing theatres with Steven Wilson, Opeth, Riverside, Katatonia… all these guys are still pulling that crowd along because those are the guys that have been there and will be there. And these fly-by-night metal people, they’re not going to be, and it’s a sad thing because we’re not trying to cater for that. We’re trying to cater to real fans and real people, and it’s a thing that I learned a long time ago – I read in an interview with Tom Englund from Evergrey, and he was like, “I’m not coming on stage to be arrogant or an asshole about what we’re doing; I’m coming on stage because these people came to see an artist and I’m trying to be an artist, and I want there to be a separation between us and them so they have something to aspire to, listening-wise, or to see.”
If you see four dicks get out of the crowd with t-shirts and shorts on, and they go on stage and play a song, I mean, technically, they could be amazing, but they’ve obviously not given thought to the artistry of what they’re doing, and that’s a slap in the face. You know, you wanna see a show. I wanna play a show. I want it to look a certain way. And I run this like that - this band is absolutely like it. You need to perform first and that also means visually. And, so, if you’ve ever seen photos of us live, or her especially [gestures towards Cammie], she is so in over her head with it that I feel bad for her. You know, I know how much she’s into it and how much she feels, and it’s like asking somebody to come out and expose their heart to you every night, and that’s asking a lot of people. But, it’s cool because we need to do it and it needs to be done.
MD: Are you a Riverside fan? You mentioned them just now…
DOBBER: Absolutely.
MD: It was heartbreaking about Piotr Grudzinski.
DOBBER: Oh my god, what a loss.
MD: I’ve followed that band since seeing their first ever gig outside of Poland at ProgPower in Holland, back in 2004. He was such a nice man, and what an incredible musician.
DOBBER: The heartbreaking part, other than the death and loss of that guy, is that Riverside were at the brink. They were there; where they’re supposed to be. It’s like a large magnitude loss because we’re fans of Riverside, you know. We’ve actually put together… we’re doing ‘Time Travellers’, off the newest record, but nothing like the original in any way. It goes from kind of Jerry Goldsmith level cinematic score, a huge Shirley Bassey-type James Bond score, to total southern gospel. And it’s absolutely in admiration and tribute to them. When he died, it was two weeks straight of us all – Sean and I, especially – sitting around and moping about it, because we had just seen them at ProgPower in the US. And, yeah, you know, that sucks.
MD: Have you recorded this song already?
DOBBER: I’ve finished all the arrangements; all the instrumentation’s done. When we get back home, she’s gonna track everything. And then we’ve got to assemble a full gospel choir. If you can imagine Nick Cave meets jazz fusion at the end and, at the beginning, it’s almost like ‘Lion King’ level epic.
MD: I want to hear this now! It sounds amazing.
DOBBER: It’s beautiful, man.
MD: The new Riverside album comes out in a couple of weeks and it’s incredible. It’s mainly ambient, instrumental stuff but with a few vocals, and some remixes, some new stuff, etc.
DOBBER: Like Lunatic Soul type stuff?
MD: Kind of; maybe more so. It also has the last stuff Piotr ever recorded and it’s so emotional to listen to that. Tear jerking. Really tear jerking.
DOBBER: It’s like ‘The Endless River’, you know, whenever you listen to the latest Floyd thing. I remember reading an Arcturus interview when they did the ‘The Sham Mirrors’ and the keyboard player had mentioned that the ending section out of ‘For to End Yet Again’, that it was an ending and a very sad moment for them when they were tracking that record and finishing the mix, that the piano piece was significant of leaving. Kris/Garm was leaving the band, and everybody was leaving. So, when you hear something like ‘The Endless River’ or ‘Love, Fear and the Time Machine’, it’s a thing to where a song like ‘Time Travellers’ is a leaving, and when it actually happens, you just don’t really correlate the two, and then when it happens you’re like, man, it’s so much more impactful now. Because half of that record is him asking where someone is and where are you now, my friend.
MD: Exactly, it’s truly heartbreaking. I gather you’re all big fans of Anneke van Giersbergen…
DOBBER: [Laughs]
MD: And I gather she’s also a fan of your band, so that must be amazing to find out… someone you love, who loves you too.
CAMMIE: [Laughs]
MD: How incredible was that?
DOBBER: Too much!
DOBBER: I’m probably one of her biggest fans. When Oceans of Slumber started out, I wanted it to be female fronted from the get-go. The other guys were not into it because the expanse of what they got into didn’t include that. So I told them it was ridiculous; it was stupid to even rule that out because the intricacies, the delicacies, the kindness that can be taken, and the power that could be in the matriarchal-type thing…
MD: Which is just what Anneke has – the range, the power… everything. There are certain inflections in your delivery that are very Anneke-esque, so I presume she’s a big inspiration on your singing?
CAMMIE: Yeah, for sure. We actually got to meet her at ProgPower last month. I was like this giddy kid! [Laughs]
MD: She’s such a lovely lady as well, isn’t she.
CAMMIE: Very lovely. Potentially, she’ll come and she us in Leeuwarden. We’ve been in touch, which has been super exciting, and then she’s there with The Gentle Storm. I always think if it was not for her and The Gathering and everything she’s done, I wouldn’t be here with Oceans and the dynamic that we are.
DOBBER: In multiple ways, because…
CAMMIE: In all the ways!
DOBBER: …if I hadn’t have gotten the ‘Identity’ compilation when Century Media debuted her, back before we had internet, when you had to get a compilation to find out what was good that was coming out…
MD: I remember those days, yeah.
DOBBER: Oh, it was amazing.
MD: And The Gathering paved the way when ‘Mandylion’ came out.
DOBBER: Yeah. And, when I heard that song, I was about 16 or something, smoking pot and sitting in my room and, “what the fuck is this?!” I’m looking at my CD player and, “who’s this?”, and then seeing it’s The Gathering and seeing her picture, I’m in love with this person as a teenage boy. I had the same types of feelings towards music and how that sounds, you know. And I liked The Gathering before ‘Mandylion’ – you know, ‘Always’ and all that. You know, they weren’t mindblowing but it was that era of really good… Tiamat and everybody was around at the same time, and everybody’s got this doom/death thing, and it’s really cool. But, when I heard that, it stuck with me forever, and I followed her from the get-go.
By the time we formed this band, I was saying to myself, “I wanna do what I wanna do, finally. “ I was telling them that and they were like, “oh no, and I don’t know if we can find a female vocalist.” They’re kind of bitchin’ about it and I’m like, “trust me on what this can do and what it’s capable of doing, and trust me on how good this would be because you need that.” This is a male-dominated genre of music, so there’s no getting around that; now, having some dominant band that’s female-fronted, that’s something to make you stand to attention, and something to bring back your chivalry and listening and you know…