Oceanlord: Interview With Guitarist And Vocalist Peter Willmott

Oceanlord’s debut album, Kingdom Cold, has made quite the splash since its release on Magnetic Eye Records this May. Their brand of accessible yet intense nautical doom has prompted many positive reviews from far beyond their native Melbourne. Luckily, I had the chance to catch up with them and took the opportunity to find out what makes them tick and where they are planning to go from here.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me. Kingdom Cold is still in the heavy rotation pile and shows no signs of being moved, so it’s good to catch up with you and fire a few questions your way.

Oceanlord - Photo by Jenny Jones
Oceanlord – Photo by Jenny Jones

I visited Melbourne a few years ago and loved the place. It’s really vibrant and has got an obviously flourishing arts scene. The one thing I don’t remember noticing whilst I was there – and to be fair, it was only a few days – was a visible heavy music hub. How is the metal scene in Melbourne, and is it something you guys are an active part of?

The heavy underground scene is flourishing in Melbourne! We’ve played at maybe 10 different venues and haven’t come close to covering them all. Aside from playing shows at the usual haunts (Bendigo Hotel, Cherry Bar, etc) I’ve been busy with a side hustle of lighting tech, backline hire and occasionally promoting shows and festivals. The depth and breadth of the scene in Melbourne is amazing, which presents another challenge of trying to book shows without a similar event a short distance away on the same night. We are very fortunate to have so many great bands to play alongside.

The heavy underground scene is flourishing in Melbourne…

The Sleeping Shaman readers are by definition always looking for something new, so is there one band from the scene that you would recommend they check out?

Just one… impossible! New music from Mammon’s Throne and Bongcleaner have been in high rotation for me lately.

I reviewed Kingdom Cold recently, and one of the things I made sure to mention was the music videos that you’ve made for some of the tracks. The animated video for 2340 is an obvious stand out – it’s an astonishing piece of work. How did that come about?

We joined the AI revolution… ‘Siri make me a video clip’. Well, not quite. It turns out you still need to find and hire some exceptional creative talent. We found someone online (weplants) whose work with AI we admired, and they developed the video using scene descriptions and lyrics to generate the different sections. He was able to help steer us towards images that worked and away from the ones that didn’t.

One scene that ended up on the cutting room floor was the idea of having lots of bodies falling from a ship into the water. It turned up looking like human confetti spraying from a ship – the comedy horror angle wasn’t what we were looking for! Then after the scene generation, there is editing to capture the mood and pacing of the song. We added in some additional colour grading and the titles to get the mood just right.

Oceanlord 'Kingdom Cold' Artwork
Oceanlord ‘Kingdom Cold’ Artwork

Your overall sound is quite difficult to describe. It’s heavy, yet accessible. I’m sure that across the three of you there are a sprawling array of influences, but are there a small number of bands that you can all agree upon that inform your sound maybe more than others?

We have tried to be limited in how we have brought influences into our music. For example, the massive fuzzed out bass dominating the sound was originally inspired by a local band Dr Colossus, and then we approached Esben from Monolord to mix and master the album, but we didn’t say ‘let’s sound just like Monolord’, we wanted to learn from their work creating a huge three-piece sound, and then apply that to our music. Rezn, All Them Witches and King Buffalo are all bands we collectively listened to while we were writing the album.

Some influences come deep in the writing process for me, there are a couple of bands with songs featuring ‘compelling bass lines that don’t follow the primary guitar’ that have featured heavily for me – Oranssi Pazuzu and Solstafir. I don’t think we really sound anything like them, but I have been very inspired by their work while crafting the different layers of bass and guitar in our songs.

Where does the nautical theme come from? Is it something you consciously try and keep in mind when you are writing, or does the link within the music just come about naturally?

It was very deliberate! The thematic inspiration for Oceanlord was heavily influenced by Lovecraft, especially his short story The Temple. I have always had a fascination about the terrors of the ocean. My most common nightmare since childhood has been standing on a beach watching a towering wave approach, waking up just as it crushes me to the ground.

On Kingdom Cold, the songs explore the theme of being consumed or dominated in some way by the ocean. One of the metaphors that has struck me is to think of mental illness like the vast unfathomable sea, sometimes dark and inscrutable, and other times violent and terrifying, much of the lyrics in the album have come from processing my families experience journeying through life under the shadow of depression and anxiety.

The thematic inspiration for Oceanlord was heavily influenced by Lovecraft…

There’s some great footage on YouTube of you guys playing live, and it looks like something you love to do. Do you have a dream act that you would like to tour with? If Iron Maiden came knocking tomorrow and asked you to support them on a mega-arena tour would you jump at the chance, or does that sound like hell on earth to you?!

Are they playing Rime of the Ancient Mariner? We’re in!!! We love so many different bands it would be hard to nail it down to just one, I think it would be just as exciting to play with legends like My Dying Bride and Iron Maiden as more contemporary underground stoner doom bands like Elephant Tree and All Them Witches. Are Hangman’s Chair coming to Australia soon? That said there are some audiences we haven’t managed to completely win over, one notable show was with nine grindcore bands, and while we made a couple new friends we also got a lot of ‘where is the double kick’ side-eye from the hardcore extreme metal crew.

Oceanlord - Photo by Jenny Jones
Oceanlord – Photo by Jenny Jones

Speaking of touring – you’ve been playing album-launch shows recently. What are your plans beyond that – are we likely to see on foreign soil any time soon?

As soon as we can! 2024 is the year we hope Desertfest drops us an email (hint hint). We’re all itching to head to the UK and Europe especially. It is a strange time in the touring world though, lots of uncertainty and difficulty for even very established bands to tour. We’re up for the challenge though, as soon as the siren’s song calls from across the dark waters.

Over in the UK we’ve seen loads of festivals cancelled and tours shelved – all linked to the massively spiralling costs associated with getting a band on the road. Is that something that has impacted you guys?

Locally we have seen tours cancelled (and lost a couple of great support slots at those shows) to rising costs. Everything seems to be a little chaotic at the minute, hopefully, the coming year will see things settle down. High costs also impact tourism and trade, so generally, given time, it will all swing back the other way and we can jump onto the comeback.

Live audiences are already getting a taste of the new material, all things going well we will be doing pre-production recordings later this year…

I’m being greedy and probably overly optimistic with this next question bearing in mind that Kingdom Cold has only just come out, but have you got any new material lined up for future releases, and if so, when might we expect to hear it?

We are deep into writing the next album! Live audiences are already getting a taste of the new material, all things going well we will be doing pre-production recordings later this year and starting to record by the end of the year. Using a home studio has some advantages, with our next album we will record a few songs at a time and hopefully have some singles or a split out as soon as we can. Just quietly, as much as I love albums, I think that we will see more smaller releases and ‘albums’ becoming collectors editions over time. The underground rock metal scene is very traditional, so we have still held onto albums as a core product long after the rest of the world has moved on, but I think change is inevitable and perhaps now is the time.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and please use this space for any final words…

Thank you for your generous review and insight into Kingdom Cold, and thanks to everyone who has bought the album or listened online! We are especially grateful for the amazing job Jadd and the Magnetic Eye team have done with our debut release – the reception has exceeded all of our expectations. Keep sharing the Oceanlord love, and one day soon we will bring our Aussie darkness abroad to haunt some unfamiliar shores.

Label: Magnetic Eye Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Interviewed by: David J McLaren