INTERVIEW: Chris Turner & Jake Noakes – Oceans Ate Alaska

Since their formation in 2010, OCEANS ATE ALASKA have been slowly rising to fame in the metalcore world, breaking through with their debut album Lost Isles in 2015 – winning new fans with their unique, frenetic, progressive and heavy sound. After having toured in America with Warped Tour in 2016, and playing to larger crowds more recently at Slam Dunk Festival, the band are out on the UK Tech-Metal Fest Tour ahead of the release of their new album Hikari, along with NAPOLEON and CARCER CITY. We caught up with drummer Chris Turner and new vocalist Jake Noakes in the tour van at their show in Manchester to see how they were getting on.

How’s the tour going so far for OCEANS ATE ALASKA?

Chris: It’s good man! It’s just started, this is the third show. So, it’s still early days to say whether it’s super sick or super shot, but so far it’s super sick.

Jake: The boys in NAPOLEON and CARCER CITY are all really chill lads, so yeah, so far it’s been fun.

What are your thoughts on other bands on the tour?

Jake: I used to listen to CARCER CITY a few years ago, I had a few of their singles – NAPOLEON as well. It’s cool, there’s a mutual sort of vibe.

Chris: Yeah, we’re all here for the same reason, so it’s pretty rad.

I’ve had a listen to your new album, and it’s awesome, how are you guys feeling about it?

Jake: I mean, it was written as a whole movement. A lot of bands will write music and do every song just the same because that’s just their style, we try to do it so it progresses and it’s not just the same thing. Each song is slightly different, each might adhere to a different person. So without just sounding like you’re trying to make everyone happy, we try and write music for ourselves.

Have there been any standout shows so far on the tour?

Jake: The first one was sick, it’s weird going from playing big shows in America and ones like Slam Dunk, to playing much smaller venues. At the same time, in some ways it can be a hell of a lot more fun. The people are going just as crazy and loving it just as much, it’s a big, hot, messy sweatbox. It just feels like a more close-knit, enjoyable thing. It’s going to be interesting today, with the 360 degree stage.

Chris: So, today there’s a stage that you can walk all the way around which is awesome. I think it’s gonna be rad to have people behind the kit and I can turn around and smile at people, so it should be quite fun actually.

How was the writing/recording process of the new album?

Chris: Fucking hell. [Laughs] To write our stuff is, for sure, intense. A lot of things influence it – you can’t force influence, you can’t force inspiration, so sometimes you just go through a period of complete dry, trying to push anything out because you have dead lines and it’s just not working. Then you have a month where you feel super inspired and everything works, and you pretty much scrap the past month that you forced because you don’t like it. So it’s pretty up and down. The recording process is pretty intense as well because our music is definitely pretty intricate stuff, and to get all the intricacies nailed is even more intricate. So it’s definitely a fucking sculpture. But yeah, it was a very long process, but that’s the fun. The journey of that is the fun of it. The highs and the lows, travelling the world to record it – half of it in America, flying home, flying back out to record more in America. Dude, it was six months just to record it. Six months of intensity and then the two and half years beforehand of writing it – three years on an album. People don’t realise the work that goes into one album, but when you listen back to it and you know that every second of it is polished, and you’re proud of it – dude, it’s beautiful.

Any themes, messages and concepts you wanted to get across on this record?

Chris: A hundred percent yeah.

Jake: The whole theme of it being Japanese was something that was Chris’ idea, and it’s something that hasn’t really been touched on by many other bands where you’re using traditional Japanese instrumentation.

Chris: It’s always been our thing to be organic and real, and we kind of abided by industry standard on the last record with triggered drums and the rest, and on this one we established that our own things is organic. So, we’ve got no midi on the album – it’s all real Japanese instruments, it’s all real drums.

Yeah, that was very audible in the mix…

Chris: Yup, no nothing, everything is a hundred percent real. I mean, the Japanese culture is remarkable in itself and it just ties in with everything we do, the whole calm before the storm, how our music is a dynamic journey. It just works, these things really do go hand in hand. If you’re talking about lyrical themes as well, we have a lot of stuff in there. I think the main message is positivity, that’s why the album is called Hikari – light.

Jake: There are a couple of tracks that very much touch on that positivity. There’s a kind of contrast, some songs are quite dark and heavy, so we have a nice balance. We write stuff that’s creative and not stuff that’s strict and to the point, we write stuff that’s metaphorical and that people can relate to, and hopefully can find help from in some aspects.

How do you think that compares to the first record in terms of the recording process and the way you’re writing?

Chris: It’s so different. Lost Isles, for example, was recorded in a month – everything with one producer, one engineer, all done with one person, which is definitely a horribly stressful experience. It can definitely suck creativity out, and just putting yourself in a horrible environment can really stifle certain things. There were certainly other factors – our age at the time, the age of music technology at the time, and of course our old vocalist. So, you put all that together and it was definitely incredibly different.

I’d like to talk about that actually, [to Jake] how are you finding being in OCEANS ATE ALASKA?

Chris: The band has never been happier.

Jake: I mean, me and Chris have known each other for a lot longer – going on eight years now. We went to college together, and from there me and Chris are the only ones that kept in contact. I was heading in my direction, I was in another band before, and the stars kinda aligned. I had my own style and the guys liked it, I got along with them incredibly well, they’re like best friends to me. I’m open minded, very open to criticism and new ideas, so working closely with Chris on vocal patterns meant we could make it so the vocals weren’t just on top of the music, but the whole thing is composed properly and it all compliments each other.

Chris: Answering the last question a bit more, that’s a huge difference between Lost Isles and this record – it’s very much that we wrote the music, James did his thing and it was just like two pieces kinda slapped together. This is definitely one whole product.

Jake: Yeah, again, everyone’s had input on everything. I mean, I joined in a bit late to have much input on the music but I still had some input and I would come over when they were writing stuff. My background is in guitar, and in terms of lyric-writing we would sit there and brainstorm concepts and ideas, and whether anyone had anything they really wanted to speak out about. Me and Chris worked very closely with the lyrics, so yeah, it’s definitely been a collective-band product.

To close, what plans do OCEANS ATE ALASKA have for the future – where’s OCEANS ATE ALASKA going next?

Chris: To take over the world, to own certain brands of food. Like, I would love it if I actually just owned…sushi. So, pretty much, sushi is Chris Turner’s. If anyone eats sushi they have to say “I’m eating Chris’ sushi”.

Jake: I mean, I wanna become Papa John. Legally, I want to be Papa John.

Chris: Word on the street is that if you buy a square foot of land, because you’re a landowner you can actually change your passport and license to ‘Lord’, so I’d quite like it if I changed my name to ‘Lord Chris’, for ‘Lord Chris’ Sushi’.

So, you’re going into big business, you’re going into aristocracy…

Jake: Yeah, we’re gonna start our own political party and stuff… [laughs]

Chris: [laughs] No, the band, we do OCEANS ATE ALASKA because it makes us happy. Sitting in an office doesn’t make us happy, and we’re gonna do this as long as we can. So, we’re gonna keep writing music for us, to keep us happy, and we’re gonna keep doing what we love doing – that is the future of OCEANS ATE ALASKA. Happiness, Hikari, light.

Hikari is set for release on July 28th via Fearless Records.

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