Greetings cretins. I got a chance to have a very informative conversation with Oceano‘s guitarist Nick Conser and drummer Chason Westmoreland. We spoke about their ever changing personnel and the challenges that lie within and why they are the hardest working metal band of normal guys out there. I got some very candid responses and I am very pleased with the outcome of this interview. Not to mention, they then took the stage and absolutely killed it at The Studio at Webster Hall.
Click here for the full interview.
Let’s start off with a little word association. Tell me the first word that comes to mind.
Nick Conser- Sacrifice
Chason Westmoreland- Enjoyment.
NC- Can I use two words? Enjoyable and stressful.
CW- Yeah, same.
NC- I like having shows consistently.
That was actually my next word: consistency.
Both- Love it.
I want to expand on that last one. With your band’s historical turnover rate, how have you guys overcome the challenges coming into an established band? You [Nick] have been in for three years and you [Chason] are very new.
NC- For me, I came in during a time when the band was still earning respect. It was challenging because I had to write an album in three months. That’s when we wrote Contagion. I worked my ass off with our old drummer in the practice room twelve hours a day almost seven days a week, pumping out songs before a month and a half tour. It was a grind, but it was a beautiful thing. It taught me work ethic and what has to be done to keep your band afloat. The band hasn’t really suffered since. It’s always been on the ups and I’m completely proud of that. We played the best show of our life last night in front of four thousand plus people. It was unbelievable. The band and line up now is a beautiful thing. I love everybody in the band now and I love everybody in the past. There are no hard feelings. Things pop up and things happen. Sometimes personal life, well, always personal life takes over this life. We’re still here and we’re going to keep playing.
Now Chason, how did you get roped into drumming?
CW- I was in a band called Burning The Masses that fortunately toured with Oceano twice and I knew them even before Nick was in the band. I’ve seen three line-ups with these guys, well, maybe not complete line-ups, but I’ve seen lots of changes. I’ve known them for upwards of five years now, which is so awesome. Luckily they liked my style of playing enough for this guy [Nick] to give me a call.
NC- Branching off of that, as a guitarist, when I’m out at shows, I’m always watching the guitarists. Seeing the technicality and watching the technique and whatnot. When I was on tour with Chason and Burning The Masses, who was a completely talented band as a whole, but I would watch Chason every night. I found his drumming, even our old drummer, incredible. We are not a band that tries to poach off other bands and try to swing a better deal. I hit up Chason and he’s always been completely humble. We all know he’s great at drums, even though he doesn’t. He’s always trying to get better and we’re more than happy to have him in the band. It’s always nerve racking when you go on a tour and they [bands Oceano toured with] are used to a certain line up. They always ask, “Who’s this guy?” and then by day three, they love him. We always have our core, but to have our friends give that level of acceptance, It’s a beautiful thing.
It’s awesome to see you guys still carrying the torch, regardless of your personnel changes. Is that a motivator for you guys?
NC- Line-up changes? No, it’s not a motivator, it just happens. A lot of bands crumble, but we’re a type of band that has put so much into this band, we’re not going to stop because somebody can’t do it anymore.
That’s more what I was getting at. Despite all this, you still go and crush it out.
NC- Oh yeah man. You got to. This is what we love. We put everything into this. We started at the bottom and worked our way up to this. We were never handed anything. We have always worked for it and we are still working for it. I would rather have it that way than have someone give us a platter of options we don’t deserve. You appreciate it more and it makes you work harder.
Is it hard having this as a focal point of your band?
NC- No, it is what it is. To the bands that have had line-up changes for ten plus years, congratulations. That’s a great thing. We are a band that has struggled. Our rule in our band has always been if something happens in your personal life, that comes first. Whatever you choose to do with it, whether you choose to leave the band for it or ride it out and stick with us, that’s your choice. There are never hard feelings. That’s what happened with our last drummer. He had some personal issues at home that he needed to take care of and he could no longer tour. We’re still great friends with him. You just move forward and try to create a better line up. I feel we have accomplished that every single time.
I got an advance copy of your new album on Earache, Incisions, and I’ve been spinning it pretty hard. A couple songs that stood out to me: “Disservance” was an awesome, awesome instrumental, “Severed Appendages,” “Embrace Nothingness.” Any light you’d care to shed on those songs?
NC- Yeah! “Embrace Nothingness” is the one track we really wanted to do something different with. There’s no breakdowns, no really heavy part as far as heavy brutal goes. It’s a very emotional song and you’ll probably hear Adam talk about it tonight. We went through a lot personally the past couple years: relationships, deaths, struggles. He put it all on this record and we put it all in there musically. We’re so used to writing just heavy, brutal, breakdown blast beat death metal this album is a much more musical album.
That kind of segued into my next point. Describe the writing process with Incisions.
NC- We were at home working, we wrote and recorded at home. That was one of the tribulations. We’re not Motley Crüe and we’re not going to act like it. I think a lot of bands do. They walk around with their chin held high and act like their shit don’t stink. We’re regular civilians who work real jobs. We’re real people who just love making music. When we get home from tour, we go right back to work. No matter how big we get or how big people think we are, we’re always going to do that because one, it’s humbling and two we all hate sitting around doing jack shit. When I’m home, this life is not my life. I’m not a rockstar, I’m just a normal person. I don’t ever want to be a rockstar. I don’t ever want have people look at me like I’m better than them because I’m not. If somebody wants to talk to me, they can talk to me. All my friends at home really don’t understand. They’re all like “Oh my god, you’re a rockstar!” and I’m not. If I wanted to be a rockstar, I’d play rock and roll or pop. I love underground metal and always will.
Tell me about the gear you guys use. Do you have any brand loyalties or sponsorships?
NC- We just got a new endorsement trough a boutique company called Legator guitars. They’re an up and coming company, but they’ve got some really big names like Anthrax and Hellyeah. They just got Within The Ruins, us, The Acacia Strain. They are quality people with a quality product. They really care about their endorsees, which is a beautiful thing. I was under Ibanez for a while and I still love the guys over there, I love the company and their instruments, but I think they have a little bit too much on their plate. I’m a small fish in a big sea in that company. When you have somebody that wants to work with you rather than you feel like you’re working for them, you’re going to go with someone who wants to work with you. We worked hard for our endorsement, we got it and I’ve never been more proud of myself.
How did you get it?
NC-One of the guys over at Ibanez had talked to Devin, our old guitarist. They were just shooting the shit between themselves. Devin one day said to him “I’m really interested in an Ibanez endorsement,” he saw a lot of faith in our band and he was interested in our band. They sent us a contract and then were like “Here, what do you want?” I remember being a kid thinking “I hope I have an Ibanez one day!” Legator, I just love the guy’s drive with the band. He really loves the band and really wants to work with the band and we’re excited about it.
CW- Also D’Addario, which branches of beautifully for me because they have the exact stick company that I swear by, which is ProMark. Not to downplay Vic Firth or Vater, I just think ProMark has more innovative product. They make sticks out of oak and they don’t fucking break. I throw those sticks away before they’re even close to breaking. We also got Evans heads, which I’m really stoked about. They have a lot of innovative product as well. They have Kevlar heads now. Super excited about that. Those are two dream companies for me as well.
On a scale of slap fight to gory fucking massacre, where does the lyrical content of Incisions lie?
NC- Right in the middle. We have songs that are literally just metal as shit and then we have songs that are different for us. There are a lot of personal songs and there’s a track on the album called Internal War, and that is very personal for Adam. I was even shocked about he lyrics. He’s a closed book a lot of the time. He writes it from an alternate perspective, one not his own. The last track on the album, “The Reclaimation,” it’s about kids nowadays not understanding the past music scene and how much it influenced the scene now. They only look at the bands now and say that they’re the innovators. They don’t even understand these old bands. Bands like Bleeding Through, Eighteen Visions, At The Gates were the ones I looked up to. They don’t appreciate the old stuff that basically opened up this giant world of metal and underground and this scene.
With Protest the Hero’s wildly successful crowd-sourced funding campaign, what are your thoughts on other bands doing the same?
NC- Not to sound to conceited or pat our own backs, but we worked for our first van or our first trailer and our second trailer. There was never a hand out. It was always like “Let’s go out there, let’s play shows, and let’s work from home.” You appreciate it more, the small and big things. I think if you can’t do it on your own and you have to ask for help, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you can’t do it, work harder. If you can’t do it better, work harder than that. If you’re not doing something every day to benefit your band or yourself, then you’re doing things wrong in my opinion.
Sounds like you guys would never consider doing this.
NC- Um, no. If you are going to do something like that, give something back. For example, The Acacia Strain got in two van wrecks within five days. They didn’t start a Kickstarter, but they created a shirt to raise the funds for the repairs. I thought that was the greatest way of doing it. They didn’t just take and I think a lot of people are getting used to just taking, just putting their hand out and expecting something put into it. I don’t appreciate that. If we put one up, yeah, people would donate, but I would feel terrible about it.
You guys ever shit yourself on stage?
NC- I have thrown up on stage though. I had chicken parmesan before our show at the Palladium up in Worcester, Mass. The air was extremely thick in there and midway through the set I just let out a little bleh, and then more after the set.
What do you want to say to your fans right now?
NC- Obviously, thank you for the support. We are going to be kicking for as long as we can. As long as we can physically and mentally do this band, we are going to keep being a band. There are a lot of big plans for the band. We have a new management team we are very happy about and we just added another booking agent. We play angry music, but we are not mean people. Come talk to us, say hi, shoot the shit. We’re normal people. Don’t just support us, support music. Don’t think you just have to buy our albums, buy everyone’s. We’re not a selfish band and we promote every band we think deserves of that.
CW- I’d say the biggest thing for me is to come talk to me, and us. I know I look like a fucking monster on stage and I’m crazy looking, but I’m like the mellowest guy ever. I love connecting with fans. I even love giving advice to people. They ask me these questions like “How can we make it? How do we do it?” and I have given up hours telling them what I think they should be doing and sharing the mistakes that I have made and my previous bands have made. Just come talk and hang out. I wanna know the people buying our albums. I wanna associate with all of you.
NC- It doesn’t even have to be about the band. We can talk about your favorite hobby. I would prefer that actually. There’s more to our lives than just music and more to your life than our band.