DATE OF INTERVIEW: 18th June 2018
THE SEA WITHIN
A rather tasty musical collaboration unleashed the fruits of their collective labour a day after the summer solstice. The band? The Sea Within. Their personnel? Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlöw; The Flower Kings' Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold; virtuosic drummer Marco Minnemann; former Yes/Debbie Harry/Meat Loaf keyboardist Tom Brislin and Flying Colors' Casey McPherson. On paper, this promised much. On record, they delivered a diversely progressive gem of a record; predominantly rooted in sounds of yore, but with a fresh take through said diversity. Metal Discovery quizzed Tom about this new venture, whereby he reveals that Daniel has already parted company with his musical comrades...
METAL DISCOVERY: Congrats on the new album – fantastic stuff! I gather the genesis of The Sea Within can be traced back to a conversation between Roine and Tomas Waber, whereby Roine told Tomas he “wanted to move in a fresh direction with new collaborations.” When you came on board, did Roine already have a clear idea of what form this “fresh direction” might take?
TOM: I think he knew that it would be progressive, but he was very open to having everyone just start creating and see where it took us.
(Tom Brislin on The Sea Within's collborative process)
"...it was decided from the beginning that we wanted to get together in the studio. There was still a fair bit of remote collaboration before and after our meeting, but I’m grateful that we could interact face-to-face and feed off the musical energy and have some “sonic dialogue”."
The Sea Within - promo shot
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2017 - Will Ireland
The Sea Within Official Website:
Thanks to Freddy Palmer for arranging the interview
The Sea Within Official Facebook:
The Sea Within Official Twitter:
Tom Brislin Official Website:
MD: How did the band take shape? At what point did you enter the fold? Who else was already involved?
TOM: Roine and Jonas were spearheading the project; they each contacted me to become a part of it, and they told me they had Marco and Daniel in mind. From there we started sharing song ideas, some more fully-formed than others. We worked separately for a few months before we met in London to record the album.
MD: Interestingly, the album combines many diverse elements but, on the whole, a lot of the songs don’t sound immediately diversified, as all the different genre components have been amalgamated in such a fluent, natural way. Is that a fair comment; that the album’s all about refined diversity, rather than in-your-face diversity?
TOM: The idea was to create ideas first and ask questions later. Granted, our musical personalities were going to shine through no matter what, so I think that was the unifying factor from track to track.
MD: There are so many side projects where musicians collaborate and share ideas remotely, via the internet, and even record everything remotely. However, it was decided The Sea Within should collaborate in the studio, so was it important for you all to initially have that human contact within the same time and space, when working on material?
TOM: I’m not opposed to remote collaboration; in fact, I think it’s great in that it has made some really great music possible that in years past would never happen. For The Sea Within, it was decided from the beginning that we wanted to get together in the studio. There was still a fair bit of remote collaboration before and after our meeting, but I’m grateful that we could interact face-to-face and feed off the musical energy and have some “sonic dialogue”.
MD: Do you think the songs would have had a different feeling and general vibe if you worked on everything remotely and didn’t have those studio sessions?
TOM: It’s certainly possible. There are just so many (perhaps too many) choices available to musicians now with regard to modern recording, in terms of sounds, editing, unlimited tracks, etc. By getting together and recording live, it set a tone.
MD: How long did you spend in Livingston Studios? Were the majority of ideas for songs written before? And how much was written and developed in the studio itself?
TOM: We were in the studio for close to a week. We had enough material prepared that we could’ve just worked on what was already written, but we made it a point to create in the moment, too.
MD: With band members living in Sweden, Austria and the USA, why did you opt to all congregate over here, in the UK?
TOM: It was the closest thing that resembled “meeting in the middle”, and there were so many great studio options. I’m glad we chose the Livingston Studios; it was a fantastic environment for us to really dig in.
MD: I gather songs were embellished remotely in home studio setups, after the original North London studio sessions. Was this still a collaborative process, or was there an inherent trust between all of you that you could go off and do your own things with the songs?
TOM: We were “doing our own thing” for the finishing touches, but there was still a lot of communication and experimenting with different variations on things. I’ll admit that some of this stage of the process would’ve been easier if we were still in the room together, but since that wasn’t the case, we just needed to use the tools at our disposal to achieve the finished product.
MD: There are three guest musicians who contributed to a song each on the album: Yes’ Jon Anderson, Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess and Rob Townsend. I’m guessing they would’ve been chosen for precisely what it was believed and hoped they could add to each of the tracks on which they appear, so were they allowed free reign to just do their thing?
TOM: With musicians of that caliber, not much needs to be said. I think you get the most fun and interesting results when left to their own devices.
MD: From both the band’s lineup, and the three guests, who surprised you the most with what they contributed to the album? And did you surprise yourself by the directions in which your own input took the songs?
TOM: I was pleasantly surprised to hear Rob Townsend’s sax approach on ‘Ashes of Dawn’, since the original demos didn’t really “go there”. I think everyone contributed what we all hoped they would; for each of us to just be ourselves and find that common ground.
MD: There are many nods towards 70s rock/prog idioms in the music, but it still manages to sound very fresh. Were you all aiming to freshen up old, retro vibes?
TOM: That’s one of the biggest challenges in this genre, isn’t it? We love to celebrate the classic vibe, but there’s not much point to re-hash it over and over again. I think we all just lean toward what we love in music, whether that’s the inspiration that came from the original era, or new sounds, new directions. There are a ton of influences among the band, and we’re music lovers at heart, so it was bound to have a lot of diverse elements.
MD: There’s a kind of David Bowie vibe about the vocal delivery and phrasing on 'An Eye for an Eye for an Eye', 'The Hiding of Truth' and even more so in 'The Roaring Silence'. Was Bowie an influence at all, in your approach to these songs?
TOM: I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve loved David Bowie’s music for as long as I can remember. The three songs you mention are quite different from each other, in my opinion, but I think it’s interesting that one can hear these unifying threads in the style. I think it’s a testament to the impact that Bowie has had on rock that aims to be creative.
MD: The cover art by Marcela Bolivar is absolutely phenomenal. Where did you find her, and was she allowed autonomy for the piece, or was it explained what the artwork should represent? And what is it supposed to represent?
TOM: Roine had hipped us to her work, and the piece we selected for the cover was something she had already created. As soon as I saw it, it had my vote. Just a beautiful work, and I didn’t read into it too much. I think the image of the woman dressed in a vase lent itself well to the idea of “The Sea Within”.
MD: It states in press blurb that you struggled to decide on a band name for a while and, before settling on The Sea Within, you had a list of “some really crazy, funny and ridiculous ones.” Can you reveal some of the most ridiculous band names that were ultimately abandoned? Was there a close second to The Sea Within?
TOM: I’m not sure if there was a close second! There were lists and lists and lists. Inevitably, the brainstorming sessions would lead to “joke” names, which of course are easier to come up with because you don’t think you’ll ever really use them. Then again, one of us might want to, so I better keep that list a tightly guarded secret.
MD: You have some live shows planned, the first of which will be at Night Of The Prog in Loreley, Germany, mid-July this year. It’s been said there’ll be some special guests for the occasion, so is there anything you can reveal about that, at this stage? Are we talking about any of the album’s special guests making an appearance, perhaps?
TOM: I can’t say for certain, but I do think that with this being the band’s first show, the important part is gelling as a unit and delivering a satisfying performance. I was about to say “keep it simple”, but that’s not exactly fitting for this music! It’s very involved, but I’m still focused on the fundamentals: good feel, powerful emotion, and building that energy on stage.
MD: I gather that Daniel will not be performing live with The Sea Within for the time being, due to his Pain of Salvation commitments. Do you anticipate his absence changing the dynamic of the band and how you perform the music in any way? Or do you regard the studio and live collaborations as two distinct entities, and the music will continue to develop with a life of its own in a live context?
TOM: Daniel has a strong musical personality in addition to his strong vocal delivery. The dynamic will certainly change without him, but that’s part of the “liquid” nature of The Sea Within. This is the state of the music biz in 2018. There are a lot of logistics to work out with a band made up of players from different parts of the world, who each play in numerous bands. We just adjust the sails of the ship as we need to (who knew this “sea” metaphor would come in so handy!)
MD: I’ve read that Flying Colors’ Casey McPherson will be standing in for him in the live shows? Was he the immediate choice, seeing as he already sung on a couple of the tracks on the album?
TOM: Casey is now the lead singer of The Sea Within. He’s not merely standing in. When we learned that Daniel wouldn’t be able to continue with the group, we were still putting the finishing touches on the album. When we brought Casey onboard, Roine thought it would be vital for him to make his mark on the album. I think it was a great idea, and it adds some nice diversity to the overall work.
MD: So then, apart from the planned live activity, what does the future hold for The Sea Within? Are we talking about this being a one-off collaboration with a few shows; a sporadic side project with further albums down the line; or a fully-fledged new band?
TOM: We would like to tour next year after we perform on Cruise to the Edge. If our album and shows are connecting well with the audience, the vibe is good, and logistics allow, why not make some more music?
MD: Thanks for the interview and I sincerely hope the album does really well for you!
TOM: Thank you!