Melbourne metal band Ocean Grove will be in Brisbane for Dead Of Winter Festival in July. But before they get here, bassist Dale Tanner wants to clear the air.
Back in March, Ocean Grove played Download Festival in Melbourne and in an on-ground interview Dale made some comments about gender diversity on festival line-ups that were perceived as tone-deaf and incited an intense, social media backlash against him and the band.
Ahead of Ocean Grove’s headlining performance at Dead Of Winter Festival in Brisbane, Dale takes the opportunity to address his comments and the impact of the public fallout.
“I haven’t really chosen nor had the right moment to actually give a proper response regarding all this,” Dale begins.
“I'm really excited for Dead Of Winter Festival.”
“I did give my response and apology to anyone I might have offended on Twitter, but as for how I actually felt about the whole response: upon reflection, in ways I feel that happened for a reason and that it was actually a pretty life-changing moment because in ways I know, and everyone who got in touch with me knows, there was no malice behind what I was saying and there was no intention of disrespect or offence.
“Where I went wrong was the fact I failed to mention certain things and I left out pretty crucial points that would have changed the angle of the response as received by the public.
"The fact that although I still stand by the fact that it should be about the music and seeing the music for what it is regardless of who is behind the instrument, the integral part that I left out was the fact that the opportunities for these different artists and different styles of music to be out at the forefront aren’t always necessarily there in regards to things like government funding and getting grants.”
Admitting he was ill-informed, Dale goes on to explain that he has taken the situation as a learning experience and set out to become more educated about structural inequality and discrimination within the music industry.
“Now that I’ve gone away and done some reading on it and actually gotten a bit more informed on the subject I feel like it was all for a reason,” he says.
“Even though I feel like I’m pretty unbiased and respect any artist if they’re making good music, I feel like I don’t discriminate and I don’t hold any misogynistic view or anything like that.
"I just think that as a white male in a heavy music scene I latched onto this band and this idea, and went along with the ride. I feel like I’ve been lucky to not have experienced much discrimination that I know of or feelings of prejudice that obviously happens and other people are exposed to.”
Though he has largely treated the furore as a chance to deepen his understanding and bears no grudge against those who took legitimate issue with his comments, Dale says he was disappointed about how some people used it as an excuse to attack the band.
“All in all, I think that was the one thing that opened my eyes to some of these people that are fighting for the right thing but doing it in the wrong way,” he says.
“Because we did experience forms of cyber-bullying and hateful speech, getting called certain names and being brought down by people who don’t know who I am and what my background is.”
Even more disheartening says Dale, were some of his peers within the music industry who leveraged the backlash to their own advantage.
“There were certain bands that used it as a way to not only bring myself and our band Ocean Grove down, but as a way of elevating them up in the eye of the social justice crowd. I thought that was a really unfortunate part of the whole experience.”
With a fresh perspective and positive attitude, Dale says he and Ocean Grove are in a good place for Dead Of Winter Festival.
The band are still riding the back of their debut album, ‘The Rhapsody Tapes’ (February 2017), which took us into the strange realm of Oddworld and the adventures of its emissary, Donny Kershaw.
In working on their follow-up, Dale says they’re looking to move forward musically and thematically while retaining Oddworld as part of the Ocean Grove vision and accumulated mythology.
“We've found ourselves in a bit of a transition period at the moment where we're a year-and-a-half on from when the ‘The Rhapsody Tapes’ was released, let alone when it was written, and we've developed as people and musicians since then,” he explains.
“We'll always harness that Oddworld fictional side story where we see best-fit, but I think maybe using it to dictate how we go about everything I don’t think is necessarily the approach that we want moving forward or that we ever had.
"It’s always been something that's complemented our music and vision, and I would love to see that continue.
“As far as Donny and Oddworld go, we can happily say that we definitely want to continue that story and keep them part of everything but as I said that’s something that comes secondary and right now we’re focussed on writing this next record and working that out first, and then hopefully that should come quite naturally.”
When Ocean Grove play Dead Of Winter they’ll be sharing a line-up with the likes of Frenzal Rhomb, Polaris, Clowns and US band Radio Moscow rocking out across five stages between The Tivoli Theatre and The Jubilee Hotel.
“We’ve played The Tivoli before and I believe that’s the stage we’ll be playing. That’s a great venue,” Dale says.
“Over the years of 2015-17 our 18-plus Brisbane fan base just grew exponentially. It went from our first tour being the lowest ticket sales, lowest crowds, lowest fan base, to a complete turnaround when it came to our latest tours being the strongest crowds and ticket sales we’ve had.
“Over those years we’ve really seen a transition in the Brisbane 18-plus scene towards our music and that makes me really excited for this Dead Of Winter Festival coming up.”