Transcending the Mundane / April 2024


Musician Scott Mosher has been a long time friend and he has contributed artwork and designed multiple logos for Transcending the Mundane. Just as important is that he’s an extremely talented musician and songwriter. The new Oceans Of Night album, Mindstorm, is out now and it’s a progressive metal masterpiece. Here is Scott for some discussion.

How are you today?  What is something good that's happened in your life recently?
Hi Brett, it’s been a minute. I guess the most obvious answer to your question is that finally! we’ve released Mindstorm - our 4th CD (my 8th overall) after a 10-year lapse since the last one, Midnight Rising (in 2014). Has it been that long? Yeah, it has! It’s true, that annoying adage your parents always tell you - time seems to move ever faster as we get older. At least our perception of it does. I think there’s a future Oceans of Night song in there.

How do you feel about Mindstorm?  Are you happy with how it came out?
Actually, yes, very. We have some new members, and some old ones - not literally, mind you - on board as well. Vivien Lalu (from Lalu) has donates some keyboard work on the song “New Dawn” and Scott Oliva is back on vocals for “Before the Fall”. I’m also welcoming some new vocalists into the Oceans of Night camp as well: Pablo Zuccalá from Brazil (“Closer to the Edge”, “No Turning Back”), April Rach, (“Windstorm”) and Nina “Derosnec” Hirten (“Siren”, “Distant”). Because of the wide range of vocal styles Scott, Pablo, Nina and April employ, we are fortunate to feature a diverse set of vocal approaches, and I think that makes our music - with the layers and dynamics and movement - more nuanced, impactful, and varied. My longtime friend, and the ‘other’ nice guy, Eric Stolz, handled the studio end of things, and it’s his engineering wizardry that really brings out the tonal qualities of the music and making it even more cinematic and evocative. There’s a nice balance between songs with vocals, and the instrumental pieces, and even within the songs themselves, those same dynamics and evocative soundscapes I love, are present and accounted for. So overall, very happy. I think it strikes a nice balance between heavy and atmospheric, melodic and adventurous. I think there’s growth between every one of our releases, but at this point as we’ve found our musical ‘sweet spot’, it’s perhaps less perceptible.

I can't believe it's been ten years since Midnight Rising- what changes have impacted Oceans Of Night in this part decade?
Ah, well, you name it and it probably happened or impacted us. I even alluded to it in the liner notes. An objective encapsulation would include bodily injuries, global pandemics, untimely deaths, computer dysfunctionality, inflation, software malfunctions, authoritarian neo- fascist political cults, demonic forces (ok that’s kind of an inside joke), inclimate weather (hey this is California!), time and Murphy… but not necessarily in that order. You know, the incidents almost all musicians go through at one point or another, sometimes on a daily basis.

One thing that I thought really stood out on this record is the keyboard work- they are often upfront and play a crucial role in your sound- how do you feel this instrument is integrated into your songwriting?
I write most (but not all) of my music on keyboards, so that is somewhat intentional. Interestingly, there were actually far MORE keyboards on many of the songs, but sitting on them while working through the time period I had in front of (and behind) me, allowed me to put more time into the sonic soundscape I wanted to present. So over time, I actually pulled out some of the synth layers and sounds, and actually we blew up the guitar sounds in some songs. In other songs the keyboards are very effective and at the forefront to create that ambience that I love. On other songs, the guitar is really a powerful force in the mix. It depends on the song, and even on the section IN the song. The heavier songs, those I often write on the guitar - my main instrument - as opposed to the keyboard, so they tend to be more guitar-driven, more intense and more ‘in your face’ as opposed to ‘in your head’. Writing songs for me is a mysterious and abstract process and hard to accurately explain without coming across a bit esoteric, but rhythm, melody and atmosphere are the 3 main components that are constantly in the back of my head when I’m composing and even arranging songs.

Fates Warning (especially some of the guitar work) and Rush are two bands that come to mind while listening to Mindstorm- what do you feel are the biggest influences on your songwriting?
No question. I’d also throw in Queensryche during their experimental years, Journey (surprise, I know), Dream Theater, and plenty of new age/electronic music (Kitaro, David Arkenstone, Tangerine Dream) as well as bands and musicians you wouldn’t expect and that probably don’t seep through in an obvious fashion such as Dokken, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, Prince, Sade, Earth Wind and Fire, and, well, the list goes on. But certainly Fates, Queensryche and Rush are the triumvirate as far as my favorite bands who’ve had an impact on me. Toss in the inspiration I get from space music and trance, and you’d have a pretty good picture of where I’m coming from musically, even if it might scare off some of your family members or looks weird on paper.

It's been a little over a year, if I'm not mistaken, since Chris' death- some of my best memories at the progressive power metal festivals (Prog Power/Powermad) was hanging out with you two- care to share a few words about what a tremendous loss his death is?
That was terrible as any loss among friends is. Especially long time friends…. friends you’ve grown up with, played in bands with, shared the musical concert going experience with (as you mentioned, ProgPower) and just explored large swaths of life with. As we get older, unfortunately, death is a growing part of it and it’s something that we always have to contend with. I have a dedication to Chris on one of the songs, “Vast and Infinite” - which is also dedicated to some other musical comrades of mine who’ve also left this mortal coil in recent years. Yeah, we had some fun at the various ProgPower events. Those are some of my fondest memories, minus the bubblegum vodka.

We've always had similar tastes in music, what are some bands that you have really enjoyed in the last 10 years?  What would you consider to be your favorite albums of all time?
I wish I could say I have my hands and ears on the pulse of music, but I don’t keep up as much as I’d like. It’s that damn TIME construct again. Besides the aforementioned bands, my music archive really runs the gamut of almost every genre of music, including rap, country and jazz, though opera and Hungarian forest folk music aren’t well represented. Hard rock, heavy metal and progressive metal are still my fallback genres and good heavy guitar-driven music is something that I’ll never tire of. I can say, there’s never a bad minute when cranking’ some classic Van Halen on whatever musical device is nearby. Otherwise, the list is long my friend.

Scott Oliva is such an incredible talent. I can't tell you how many times I've had friends come to me and say how good the singer in the Live After Death Iron Maiden tribute band is, but he's so diverse and talented. What do you feel he adds to your music?
He’s been singing professionally for so long, it’s really effortless for him. He’s got range, power, vibrato and the ability to alter the tone and timbre of his voice to reflect the song or even the dynamics of the song. That expressiveness is a key component in being a great singer. That’s what makes him an in-demand vocalist too and he’s always busy working on something musical. We’ve done 5 releases together now, and hopefully we’ll continue to work together. Now that I have some new vocalists that I’m working with - looking at you Pablo, April and Nina - we’re looking to continue along the musical road we’ve set ourselves upon, but perhaps expand our sound. Wiht MIndstorm, I think you can hear that we are moving in an exciting direction.

You've always been passionate about the environment and spend much of your time in the outdoors- what are some of your favorite excursions?
Hiking for sure - there’s no better way to break from being INdoors whether it’s working on music or my day job, as an art director and graphic designer, than to get OUTdoors. It’s what keeps me sane. It’s also a nice break from politics, society, traffic and the other trappings of modern technological society. It’s so egalitarian an experience - nature doesn’t care about anything about you or anyone else, it’s just there. To be explored, adventured in, and hopefully, treated with respect. So much beauty out there and it really helps balance a person. I also surf and travel a bit, so all that stuff is beyond enjoyable. Life is about experiences… and Dr Pepper.

There is a healthy balance of instrumental tracks and songs with vocals on Mindstorm- was this by design?
Absolutely. I touched on this above, but as much as I love vocal music - who doesn’t, really - instrumental songs as often just as fun, even though, at least in this genre of music, mostly tend to appeal to musicians and those who are musically inclined, the fun of writing instrumental music is to make it engaging and interesting for the listener in the hopes that it connects with them on a deeper level since there are no vocals to guide you. Hopefully instrumentals make some kind of musical statement or set some kind of vibe. There’s always a few instrumental tracks on our CDs that are interludes or even just sonic breaks that make listening to an entire CD all the way through, a more complete experience. That’s where song sequencing comes in that you lose with streaming. Anyone who is an album or CD fan, knows exactly what I’m talking about - ‘the album experience’. Listening to something from start to finish and getting what is almost like an audio movie.With that said, vocal music is still what makes the biggest and most profound impact on a listener, and is still the most challenging type of music to write and be successful at it. Hell, I’m still learning!

What are your personal and musical plans for 2024?
Promoting the new CD of course, that actually takes quite a bit of time and motivation especially as a self-financed and independent DIY musician. Maybe work on some new music for a future release. Work. Life. You know all that stuff. But really, just keep improving as a songwriter, and a person, hopefully, and continue to make music I like and that I hope others enjoy. Annoy the neighbors crankin’ George Lynch solos and funkin’ it up with Morris Day and the Time.

Final comments?  Please add anything we missed. Thank you so much for your time, for the logos, and the support!
Of course, I have to give you thanks for supporting my musical endeavors for what, over 20 years now? And for all you do for the metal scene - of any and all possible genres. Now that you’ve brought back Transcending the Mundane, people have no reason not to realize that you really are doing a great service for metal musicians - of which I consider myself and Oceans of Night, a metal band. And I’m really happy working with the musicians I have in the past, in the present - who are currently featured on Windstorm (Scott, Pablo, April, Nina, Vivien and Eric). Hopefully we’ll be around to annoy everyone with more music in whatever shape or form, as long as we’re able. Final words? Never steal another man’s fries. :)


Brett Van Putt c/o Transcending the Mundane.

 

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