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Orden Ogan: A Stunner in epic symphonic power metal

Interview with vocalist/guitarist Seeb of Orden Ogan by Vera in March 2010

Orden Ogan… quite a strange name, isn’t it? But it leaps to the eye! At least, that’s what it did with me. Ogan is old Celtic for “fear”; so Orden Ogan means the order of fear. That’s being said, let’s focus on the music. They released their second full length album ‘Easton Hope’ late January: an overwhelming blend of tight power metal, symphonic and cinematic arrangements and impressive choirs, all relished with Blind Guardianeske catchiness. No time to loose, we contacted the band and had a long conversation with frontman Seeb, who appeared to be a true Jack-of-all-trades.

To be honest, ‘Easton Hope’ is my first encounter with the band…
I think it is quite normal for most of the people, because it is the first international release. We have made a few demos and we released our first album ‘Vale’ in 2008 on Yonah Records. But this is the first album for AFM Records.

And you are formed in 1996, that’s quite a while ago…
That’s right, but this is like a misinformation. I started making music with the drummer Ghnu in 1996, but in the beginning it was death metal, with a different name. In 1998 we changed the name. But we really started to make melodic metal with this name in 2004 with a record called ‘Testimonium A.D.’. This is the time when the career of the band started.

And I also found out than it was a bit more folksy in the beginning…
Yes, ‘Testimonium A.D.’ is a little bit folksier than ‘Vale’ and ‘Easton Hope’ now. Mainly the same style as now, it just turned out a little bit more folky because we recorded a lot acoustic guitars and flute and less electric guitars than we intended to do. Due to the harmonies and melodies you can still hear that it is Orden Ogan. Even now there are some folky influences on this record.

Yes it reminded me a bit of Turisas sometimes…
I have never heard that comparison before. Nice. It is good that you see it this way; I can always point out the same thing, because journalists always tend to compare bands with other bands and this is okay in some way, because if you don’t know a band, then you at least get an impression of how it will be. I think Blind Guardian is the band that is closest to our sound, but I think it is still like comparing EBM to techno.

But I also have a kind of Manowar feel with the choirs, late Manowar I mean…
Yes, I can live with that (laughs). Personally I don’t listen to power and melodic metal stuff anymore at all. I love the old Blind Guardian records like ‘Imaginations From The Other Side’ and I also love the old Running Wild records, like ‘Death Or Glory’ which was one of the reasons why we wrote this song ‘We Are Pirates’, but after 1996 there was nothing anymore really appealing to me. So I am a lot into film music and folk stuff, even pop music, but when it comes to metal, I only listen to the heavier stuff, like death metal.

Can you tell something about the concept of the record?
Yes, ‘Easton Hope’ is the name of the city you see on the cover artwork. The record we did before was called ‘Vale’ and that’s the name of the main character Alister Vale. And ‘Easton Hope’ tells the story that takes place before the events in ‘Vale’, so we tell it backwards. On ‘Vale’ it is mainly about Alister Vale, he is cursed and he has to walk on and on and everything he leaves goes down behind him in a way. Everything goes wrong. ‘Easton Hope’ is the story how he became this guy. It is a fantasy story, but it is not that kitschy, it is not about dungeons and dragons. If you see it metaphorical, it deals with what people do with the freedom that is given to them and what has more weight: the good of many or the good of a single person.

It sounds rather apocalyptical…
Yes, and I am really glad that it turned into a dark record.

What can you tell me about the recording process? I see it is recorded in the Green Man Studios in Arnsberg, that’s where you live, isn’t it?
Correct. I got my own studio where I recorded for years and last year I decided together with a friend of mine – his name is Lars and he is a very experienced sound engineer, he works with bands like Caliban – to make our own studio here. It is comfortable: if I have an idea, I can record it right away. Most of the other guys, especially our keyboard player Nils and guitarist Tobi, send me their ideas, but always just fragments and I put it together for songs. We arrange it when we rehearse. I think it is a very good way to write songs, because you get an impression right away of how it might sound afterwards.

And that’s probably also the reason why you were in charge for the mix as well?
Yes, that was one reason but there was a second reason. The ‘Vale’ record was mixed by R.D. Liapakis, the singer from Mystic Prophecy, he did a good job, I can still listen to the album, but we recorded a lot more orchestrations and keyboards that did not make it to the record. He mixed the guitars really loud and all the atmospheric layers are in the background. It really sounds like a melodic power metal record. We thought it would be the right decision, because we might be blind by working so long on that record, we better do what he thinks, it might be okay, but some months later we realized there is so much missing in the songs. We did not want to have that problem again. That is also the reason why there will be a re-release with a remix done by us. I think it will already come in the middle of the year. Maybe even before Wacken, via AFM Records. It is always difficult to do your own stuff, because you are so close to it, but I had a lot of practising last years, I did many productions and mixes for other bands. I think ‘Easton Hope’ turned out great. We tried out many things, different amplifiers and things like that. In the end it was worth the time, because I am really satisfied with the sound.

The mastering was done by Michael Schwabe at Monoposto Studios.

The choirs are really impressive as well…
We recorded the choirs in a cathedral, in North Germany here. In Wildeshausen, that’s near Bremen. I am studying music and a friend who studies with me has an a-capella group and so he knows a lot of people who are singing. He also plays the organ in the cathedral over there, that’s why it was no problem to go there. We were blown away by the sound, I think you cannot do that in a studio. It won’t sound like this.

On ‘Nothing Remains’ Thomen Stauch (ex-Blind Guardian, ex-Savage Circus) does a guest appearance on drums. How did that work out?
It was really funny, if not scary, because we were rehearsing that song and there was a part where originally, there was a double bass beat intended and our drummer suddenly changed the beat into a thrash metal beat from an old Blind Guardian record, the beat Thomas always used to play. We laughed and said: ‘Yeah, if you play it that way, it really sounds like Blind Guardian.’ If we would do it this way, there can just be one guy who is allowed to do it this way. We didn’t think about it anymore and when I came home I logged in to our MySpace profile and – that’s no joke - right on top of the list there was a picture of Thomen Stauch with a friend request. Of course I accepted him and ask if he would like to play on our record. He was honoured because he liked our sound. I was really amazed! That’s fate!

And what about the other guest, Majk Moti (ex-Running Wild)?
We recorded ‘We Are Pirates’ as a homage to Running Wild. It is our thank you to that band, because you know they split up last year on Wacken. Though their last fifteen years were absolutely catastrophic, the early albums were really great. We decided to write a song that has to sound like Running Wild, because it is a homage, it is not a copy. Tobi and I really think that ‘Death Or Glory’ is the best record they ever made, if not THE best record ever made in metal. So it was obvious that it would be Rock ‘n’ Rolf Kasparek or Majk Moti. We thought it was even cooler to ask Moti because he left the band in 1987 or something and nobody ever heard anything from him anymore. He completely vanished. At that time I was in touch with Jens Pohl, who is the webmaster of Running Wild, and I asked him if he still had contact with Majk. He had and I told him what we were planning to do. Few hours later I had an email in my inbox from Majk that he would enjoy to do that. It went smooth.

And what was he doing now? Was he still in music?
No, I think he really missed twenty years of musical development. When he left Running Wild he was one of the first guys who was really into this IT market and he started his own IT company and he does pretty well I think. He did not care at all about the metal scene. He did not know the bands Blind Guardian or In Flames for example. But he is a great guy and we are still in touch with him. The best thing about it was hearing all those old stories about Running Wild.

But you are still studying music now?
Yes, at the university I am studying and I will be finished in half a year. After that I will be writing my doctor thesis. It seems like I will be a doctor in music (laughs).

What about live gigs?
In 2008 when ‘Vale’ came out, we played about sixty/seventy shows, quite a lot. We have played in Belgium, at the Biebob and also in many other European countries, like Greece and Norway and after that we really concentrated on writing new stuff. Now we are finished with the record and rehearsing a lot to bring the new songs live, but until now we did not put too much effort in the bookings. We have a new booking agency now which is Dragon Productions who are doing bands like Rage or Volbeat for example, they are doing a good job. In 2010 the absolute highlight will be the gig at Wacken Open Air of course. We are also planning to do a European tour at the end of the year and we also want to go to the United States, but at the moment nothing is confirmed, there are negotiations. The problem is that we are not yet living from the music, if you get an offer for a tour you always have to check if five people can get off from their normal job. It is pretty hard, but I am pretty confident that we will be on a European tour at the end of the year. I really hope that we can make it to the States too!

You have been tour guitarist for Suidakra as well?
Yes, in March 2009 I was on tour for four weeks in the US with Alestorm, Tyr and it was a great experience. I love those guys, especially Arkadius and the drummer Lars. They came to me because I am also organizing a festival in Germany. It is called Winternachts Traum and they played there two times and when they heard that their guitarist was not able to go to the States, they asked me and I had holidays. Actually I better like playing guitar than singing. I have been thinking about taking a second guitar player for Orden Ogan, so I can concentrate on the vocals on stage because it is not so easy to combine. You have to be focused on both things constantly plus entertaining the crowd and this can be exhausting.

What about a new videoclip? You have made one for ‘Lords Of The Flies’ in the past. Are there any plans in that direction?
Actually we already shot it, for the song ‘All These Dark Years’ because we all think that this is maybe the best song of the record. We shot it in front of a green screen; it will be a kind of 3D clip. Nils and I are very much into this technological stuff. It is very much work. We had the Winternachts Traum festival last week and finally we will have time to work it out in the next weeks. I think it will come in March or April.

The artwork was done by Andreas Marshall…
Andreas Marshall was responsible for the artwork of the best records ever made. Except the last ones, he did everything for Blind Guardian. He also painted for HammerFall, Dimmu Borgir or In Flames, Grave Digger and Nightwish. He did a lot of work in the nineties, like ‘Agent Orange’ from Sodom. He did a lot for Kreator. After the nineties he started to focus on music clips and I am pretty sure he did a movie as well. Most of the bands he worked with do not have his artwork anymore. It was a very funny thing. We were arguing about the artwork and somebody dropped his name. We did not expect it could be possible, because he even did not paint for the big bands anymore and most of all: nothing knew how to contact him. He seemed like a ghost. Fortunately I got his email from a friend. First he was not interested, but later on he did ‘Vale’ and now ‘Easton Hope’. He does not do it that much anymore, though I think the newest Obituary is done by him too.

Check out “the making of” of this album on these pages, their studio reports are ace! And so is their music!!!

Geplaatst door Vera op vrijdag 19 maart 2010 - 13:39:36
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