With the doom and gloom of the recession (or are we still calling it a “credit crunch”?), the music industry has naturally been indirectly affected due to people staying in more. In some unfortunate cases, a few have been directly affected. One such band is OAK, an industrial-metal group based in Kidderminster

I was recently introduced to OAK by a friend, and was struck by how polished they sounded; they possessed that vital spark that had been missing from the industrial scene for some time. I was further surprised to learn they had professionally made a music video for their song 'Torn', which was already a fantastic track in itself, but was elevated to a whole new level by the video.

This strong visual element follows through in their live performances, giving OAK a strong stage presence. This focus on dramatic flair adds a further fine edge to their music.

Pennyblackmusic found the chance to chat with Kleon, Neo, Drew, and Cardinal of OAK as they were preparing for some forthcoming gigs this autumn.

PB: As I understand, OAK was formed eight years ago, but can you tell me how you formed?

Drew: The band has managed to churn through thirteen members so far, but here’s the short story on the current line-up. We were first formed in 2001 by Cardinal and an ex-guitarist as a dark metal band. Kleon was originally our bassist but switched to vocals following the original singer leaving. In 2004 OAK underwent a transition to industrial rock when I joined the ranks as a session drummer for live gigs, but soon became a full member. Finally Neo joined the band as our bassist in 2006, after joking suggestions that he should join after a gig on the 6\6\6.

PB: What was the inspiration to become musicians and singers?

Cardinal: It was a way to assert myself against all the people that put me down through my life. Also, I treat it as an outlet for my creativity.

Kleon:I just wanted someone to teach me bass, but got roped into singing after bellowing along to 'Disturbed' down our local.

Drew: Ever since the age of three, I have been playing various instruments, and would enter competitions to play for schools etc. I also played in various bands playing guitar or bass, as well as solo acoustic gigs. I had been thinking about creating an electro/rock act when I met OAK and I couldn’t resist the chance to play drums for them. The rest is history, and I am now heavily involved in writing, and loving it.

Neo: I did it for the kittens. Seriously though, I was friends with Cardinal prior to joining, and he knew there was going to be an upcoming issue with losing a temporary member – I offered to step in as a mate. Plus, playing to an audience has always been a phobia, and it gave me an opportunity to confront that fear.

PB : Where do your ideas for your songs come from?

Drew: Life experience, largely relationship-oriented, and the feelings associated with listening to, and giving into your inner-demons. As you can tell from the lyrics, most of us have been through a few rough patches in that area (Laughs).

PB: I have noticed on your EP, 'OAK EP', a signature structure where Kleon sings the first line, before the music kicks in. Was this an intentional signature structure to your music?

Drew: There’s a variety. Some intro’s start with programming, others Kleon’s voice – it was deliberate, but it’s not an exclusive idea for all our tracks.

PB: How would you describe your musical style?

Drew:For the sake of definition, we describe the sound as industrial rock, but we have a pretty broad spectrum of genres we draw from to try and create something hybrid, something a little different. We like to cover our bases, because each member likes a lot of different things, from retro 80’s pop, to prog-rock, metal and electronica.

PB: Do you all collaborate in writing the songs?

Drew: Primarily it’s a 2-sided dynamic. Drew and Cardinal collaborate the most with the programming side, Kleon and Neo collaborate on the vocals mostly. There’s chopping and changing and things we all do independently, but for the most part, that pattern is consistent.

PB: The music video to 'Torn', which appears on the new EP, is quite frankly amazing. Was this how you always envisioned it? How much influence did you have in the video’s direction?

Drew: Not really! It was a nice surprise how it turned out. The cinematography side was all handled by professionals. But we got to choose the location, props and the women (Laughs)

PB: I've noticed that you have a strong visual element. Is this an intentional part of your music?

Drew: We get a lot of criticism for having this patchwork of different styles from some people, but we just go with it – we’re not really long for looking like everything else anymore than we want to sound like everything else. The image is almost a visual analogy for the sound – it’s hybrid – unconventional. Besides, we dress like this for work everyday...

PB: Are you satisfied with the EP? With hindsight, would you have made any changes?

Drew: Funnily enough we are thinking about a couple of last minute tweaks. We are real perfectionists, just stuff to the mixing though. During the time we were writing, mixing and mastering, we have learned so much. Rather than looking on changes we would make to the past, we are looking at it as more things we can bring to the second album that we have started work on.

PB: Second album? You've not released the first one though yet.

Drew: It’s all done! Distributing has been another issue – but that’s another story. We’re still looking for someone willing to get it out there. A manager who could actually ‘manage’ us, instead of just talk a lot about it would also be nice. Our last one was pretty poor in that respect.

PB: Have you found the internet has helped at all?

Drew: It has been very useful, mainly for getting in touch with people, arranging gigs, and right now internet radio is the primary way we are being heard overseas. So in that sense, it’s been incredibly useful. Without it, we would find it hard to be heard outside any of our gigs!

PB: The recession has naturally affected the music industry, but has also directly affected OAK hasn't it?

Drew:Yes, which brings us to that other story. Renaissance Records were going to be our distributors for the album, but ended up not taking us on, along with several other bands when the recession reached its apex earlier in the year. They had a blanket mandate of signing no more new acts to their label, as well as to drop existing bands from their label. Also, venues are folding, making gigs few and far between, and two of the members of OAK have lost their day-jobs as a consequence of it. It’s been a rough ride for us all.

PB: What does the future hold for OAK?

Drew: If we knew that already, it wouldn’t be interesting now would it? It might be obvious to say we would love to get signed, do this full-time and maybe even be able to live off it as professionals, but that would be our Holy-Grail. We would love to hear our tracks played on computer games, as part of a soundtrack or on television. For now, however, getting gigs that paid enough to cover our expenses getting there would be a good start!

PB: OAK, thank you.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Dave Charsley who rns the Decline Gothica website www.declinegothica.co.uk















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