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From its songs to its artwork, Oceanic is a very strong conceptual piece as a whole. Was that concept for the album there from the beginning, or did it come about after the songwriting began?

Aaron: That's just been our approach since the beginning: try to have songs that fit together musically and to try to have interludes that tie them together well. And again, it's just something that we came as close as we could to perfecting on Oceanic.

We spent a long time figuring out what order the tracks needed to go in, and just wanted to devise a really solid flow for the record and the individual songs. Lyrically, it's something I've been trying to do from the beginning: write cohesive pieces and have each album sort of maintain a them throughout. When we began Oceanic I think I just had more time to flesh it all out and really pare it down so only the strongest elements of what I came up with made it on the album, and into the layout.

You also had some contributions on the album from members of the band 27.

[ isis ]

Aaron: Yes, Maria [Christopher] and Ayal [Naor].

Did you write parts specifically for them, or did they come in and try to compose something to compliment what had already been written?

Aaron: Basically, we just had them come do rehearsals for us, which they recorded on a four-track and took home to listen to and work on the parts that spoke to them, I guess. They heard things in their heads, and we really just let them do what they wanted. That's the reason we asked them to contribute in the first place. We like them and we knew that they were totally capable of contributing something of their own without taking away from the personality of what we'd already established. So we really just gave them the material and let them run with it. They had a bunch of ideas, came into the studio and laid them all down to tape, and then we picked what we liked the best.

Are these types of outside contributions something you'll continue to do?

Aaron: That's something we've wanted to do for a long time. And actually, in the live environment it's something we've done for the past three or four years -- having people from other bands we're on tour with come up onstage and play with us. We had Justin Broadrick do a remix for us, which was a collaboration of sorts, and it's definitely something we feel we gained from musically and personally. I'm sure it's something we'll continue to pursue.

I think Broadrick is an amazing gifted musician. He's just so passionately engaged in so many different types of sounds.

Aaron: Yeah, absolutely! We try to do the same sort of thing with our music, and all of us individually have different things that we work on from time to time. Justin was just another person that we respect and admire musically. We knew we could trust him to do something good with our music and we were more than happy with the results.

Along those lines, I think we're going to pursue an entire album of collaborations and remixes as our next project.

I was going to ask you about that. Do you have anything firmed up in regards to doing that?

Aaron: We have a list of contributors who have confirmed their participation, and apparently we actually have a couple of finished tracks on their way to us. We have yet to hear anything, but there's a bunch of people working on stuff now. We have our friend James Plotkin doing something, Justin Broadrick is going to participate again, Christian Fenna of Venetian Snares, Mike Patton, Buzz Osborne.

Wow...! That's the heavy of the heavy list.

Aaron: Yeah! We wrote out a wish list of people whose stuff we liked and who we wanted to work with, contacted them, and thankfully most of them wanted to do it. So we'll see how it all turns out.

Getting back to Justin Broadrick and the remix he did for you ["Celestial (Signal Fills the Void)] -- how did that come about?

Aaron: Actually, it was through the Neurot people. They are supposedly doing a record for one of his other projects, the ambient thing he does called Final, that has yet to come to fruition. They had a line of communication with him because of that, and we were talking about material we could add to the SGNL>05 EP they were putting out and it just seemed like a natural pairing I guess. Neurot contacted him and sent him the music. He liked it, and that was it, really. Since then we've been in contact with him. He's come to our shows in the UK, and has ended up being a good ally for the band.

One of the things I wanted to talk about was the roster you share at Ipecac and Neurot with bands like the Melvins and Neurosis, and just the peer level status you have with bands and people who have been obviously influential to you, but who now you also influence.

Aaron: We feel very fortunate to be in the sort of circle that we're now in. We've gotten to play with and hang out with the people who were our idols for a long time -- The Melvins, for example. All of us in the band have The Melvins in common as a past musical group who's defined our tastes and sorta brought us to where we are. So to be on the same label as them, and to be able to have toured with them, is amazing, really.

[ mosquito control ]
[ give a listen! ] "Hive Destruction" MP3
96kbs/34sec/416kb

There's not too many bands that we really wanted to play with that we haven't already done so. I feel pretty lucky to be in that kind of situation.

Your label, Hydra Head, has to date not released any of Isis' material. Is this something you've purposely avoided, or has the right time and place for a release just not happened yet?

Aaron: It is on purpose. We've done a couple of unofficial things like the demo and a couple of very limited releases, but for the most part I've tried to avoid it just because I see it as a conflict of interest. I don't want other bands on Hydra Head to think that my band is going to take priority simply because of the fact that it is both my band and my label. If there was a problem with a recording or some aspect of the production of the record, I wouldn't want to be the one [as label head] that the band came looking for to blame, so to speak.

[Laughs] You must fire yourself!

Aaron: It's just basically a way to avoid those types of sticky situations among band relations, which can be stressful anyway after spending lots of time together in a van, or in a small practice space, or so on. Also, from the beginning I wanted to see if there would be anybody interested enough in our music to release it, because it would have been very easy for me to do it on Hydra Head.

You were talking about having the time you needed with Oceanic to make it what you wanted it to be, and it seems that a label like Ipecac affords you that luxury.

Aaron: Certainly. Ipecac had way more resources than any label we had worked with before, and they have a wider reach with distribution. Both of those things were very alluring to us, and influential on us being able to make the kind of record we wanted to record, ultimately. It worked out very well, and we're very pleased with that whole scenario. They've been very cool to us a personal level, and they've been very on top of their game on a business level.

I think they're a very smart label and have done an amazing job of creating such a rich roster of artists.

Aaron: And that's another aspect of it. Ipecac are a label that does really interesting stuff, and they've got a good reputation, but they're not necessarily associated with one genre or another -- and that was important to us as well. We could have very easily stayed within the metal/hardcore realm which, to me, is fine. And certainly most of our roots is based in that, but there are so many other elements to our music that it really would have been limiting, I think, if we had just gone with a typical metal/hardcore label.

It raises an interesting point about when a band gets labeled with something like that. In an interview we did with Justin Broadrick last year [conducted by Mark Teppo], he talked about how fans metal were very narrow minded about what they expected a metal band should be, and any deviation wasn't tolerated. Whereas, he'd go out with Techno Animal and play clubs and festivals, and the kids there were very open to whatever sounds came out at them from off the stage.

Aaron: That's definitely more the path that we're trying to travel. I think we're stepping in the right direction, and it was important for us not to break away from the scene that we came from, but to expand upon it.

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