The Voice Of EmOcean
Who is Hubi Meisel? In the progressive metal world, there are some bands in which their unique approach, theories, approaches, etc., put them in a position of either being loved or hated. Period. There is no in between. No gray area. No divisions of love. This can be a good sign about a band's level of greatness, or an indication that a band is so unique and diverse, that there is the obvious respect, but could mean a very "tough" listen. Either way, it leads to notoriety, which to me cannot hurt a band in any way.
Enter Hubi Meisel. He is not new on the music scene, having been a member of many bands include the Italian speed metal project Maeve of Connacht, Dreamscape (a band now getting some recognition), and, for a time, Scenes. After leaving Scenes, he recorded a solo disc, Cut in which he recorded songs from the 80s. And now, in 2004, he has released his second solo disc, all originals, EmOcean.
Meisel has voice progressive metal fans will either love or hate ? it's a soft, emotional, almost feminine approach in tone and delivery - some say a cross between Rush's Geddy Lee ex-Angra vocalist Andre Matos, which I would agree with, but add in tons of emotion and attention to detail which sets him apart from the more famous singers I mention.
I had a chance to talk with Meisel about emotion, EmOcean and a whole lot more.
Larry "LarryD" Daglieri: ?Hubi, how are things going for you since the release of EmOcean???How is it being received around the world?
Hubi Meisel: The reactions from the press and the listeners around the world have been great so far! Many people told me that they felt touched when listening to the CD and that they could see their own "underwater movie" in their mind ? that really means a lot to me!
LD: You've obviously done your homework and research concerning the disc's theme, The Bermuda Triangle and Sargasso Sea and Atlantis. ?What inspired you to create your concept around these subjects?
HM: My inner voice has always been my main source of inspiration, and therefore it was rather easy for me to find a topic for this CD. The initial inspiration for EmOcean came from some very intense nightly dreams ? the morning after I was very taken with this idea and immediately started reading a lot about oceanic mysteries ? the original texts of Plato's unfinished Kritias, for example, have been very helpful to me, especially with regard to historical and philosophical aspects. I've always been a big fan of Greek philosophy and ancient Greek mythology, and I think that is reflected clearly in the concept story.
LD: How long did it take you to complete the project?? How would you describe the music to someone who didn't know anything about Hubi Meisel or your past work with progressive bands?
It took almost 15 months until EmOcean was completed. I think EmOcean can't be classified that easily ? but I'd say it's progressive rock with a good dose of melodic metal, combined with atmospheric moods that are hard to describe.
LD: You are working with some great musicians on your project.? How did you choose those particular musicians to work with?
HM: YES, they are all awesome and I feel happy and honoured to have had their support! 2 years ago, when I was writing the concept for EmOcean, I received an e-mail [from] French keyboardist Vivien Lalu after he had been surfing on my homepage. We started e-mailing each other and after he had sent me some keyboard MP3s, I was very impressed. I forwarded my EmOcean concept to him, and since he liked it a lot, I asked him if he would like to play the keys for this album ? but I soon noticed that he really seemed to understand my vision and what it should sound like, and so we finally decided a bit later that he would also compose the instrumental music according to my directions. We arranged each song together and discussed each of the songs until they matched my vision of EmOcean before I started working out my lyrics & vocal lines. It was a very special and nice experience to cooperate with Vivien and he's really a great musician! Dutch guitar master Marcel Coenen (Sun Caged, ex-Lemur Voice) had already played the guitars on my first solo CD CUT and I consider him as one of the best European guitar players. Especially his soloing is so fantastic that I sometimes can't believe it ;-)
Daniel Flores (Mind's Eye, XsaviouR) from Sweden is a good friend of mine and a killer on drums! I particularly like his Chilean roots and his unique style ... whenever I listen to his drumming I can feel that he puts his whole heart and soul into his playing. Jean B. Affon?o a.k.a. "Bamby" actually plays in a French hardcore band called Absolute. His different background appealed to me somehow and I think he played a very solid and groovy bass on EmOcean. Joop Wolters, another great guitarist from the Netherlands, played the bass and guitars on the two European/US bonus tracks! Johan Niemann (Therion) played the bass on the Japanese bonus track. He's really amazing, and I am happy that he will play all bass parts on my next album!
LD: ?You've mixed and produced both your solo disc CUT and now the EmOcean disc, which sounds great.? Do you have your own studio and were you considering using any outside producers to work on your disc?
HM: Thanks!! Yes, I have my own studio. It's not that big but very well equipped and specialised in vocal recordings and mixing. Producing, engineering and mixing my CDs on my own gives me a lot of artistic freedom and if I do all these things on my own, I can also identify with the final result at 100%, which is very important to me.
LD: ?Given your progressive roots and background, you've hooked up with a good progressive label in Lion Music.? How did that come about and do you have any future projects lined up for the label?
HM: I had been in contact with the boss of Lion Music several times in the past and I have always impressed by their high quality releases. Lion Music was definitely the right choice for EmOcean. I'm not bound to them for any future CDs but I could imagine that we will cooperate again. Recently I recorded vocals for 3 songs for a Melodic PowerMetal project called Book of Reflections, feat. Vitalji Kupriji, Lars Eric Mattson, Andy Engberg and other cool musicians. This album will be released through Lion Music on June, 25, 2004. Later this year, Lion Music will release Mistheria's Messenger Of The Gods album. This CD will feature a huge array of international guests like Rob Rock, Anders Johansson, Matt Bissonette, just to name a few. I did the vocals & lyrics for the ballad "Eternity" and I can?t wait to hear the whole album!
LD: Can you give us a little history lesson on your past projects, such as Dreamscape, Scenes, and other bands that you have been involved with?
HM: Between the years 1990-1998, I was the singer of various local acts, like for example Triple X, who I was staying with for 3 years. That was more of a hard rock band, but with slight progressive influences. We played live quite a lot, about 80 gigs per year. In 1998, shortly after I had moved to Munich, I happened to meet Dreamscape and joined the band. In January 1999, our CD Very was released, which made us known among Prog listeners around the world. In summer 1999 we went separate ways due to musical differences, however. Then I was - for a very short time only - member of the Progressive youngsters Scenes but I soon I realized that I was on the completely wrong path and left the band. I simply felt that I have to go my own way and started my solo career in fall 2000.
LD: Will you continue to be a solo project, or will you look to hook up with a band in the future?? Do you find it easier or more difficult to take on an entire project as you have, as far as the creative input and recording process goes?
HM: Right now the main focus is definitely on my solo activities and I simply love the freedom and the possibility to realize my dreams? But who knows? Maybe I will become a constant member of a group again someday...
LD: You don't seem old enough to have listened to the cover songs (when they were originally released)?that you recorded on your solo disc CUT? [chuckles].? What inspired you to?record this disc, and why did you choose the songs that you did?
HM: Haha, I'm not as young as you may think! I was born in 1974 and I was in fact growing up with all these 80s hits. CUT was a one-time just-for-fun project and you could consider it as the realisation of an old childhood dream: I had listened to these songs quite a lot during my childhood and early youth (before I got in contact with Metal in 1989) but I always wanted them to sound heavier ? In 2000 I thought it was the the right time to finally realize this idea of re-arranging these classics in a rock/metal style.
LD: You're obviously very familiar and comfortable in a progressive music setting.? When and how did you get into progressive music, and what bands / music?do you listen to on a regular basis?
HM: I got in contact with this type of music in 1988/89, when the albums Operation Mindcrime of Queensryche and When Dream And Day Unite of Dream Theater caught my attention. These albums enchanted me immediately and I felt attracted by this sophisticated kind of music. Apart from these 2 bands, I listen a lot to Shadow Gallery and Steve Vai, who is one of my favourite musicians. But I also like other stuff, like for example classic music (Mozart, Vivaldi), Tori Amos and Michael Jackson ? it always depends on the mood I'm in :-)
LD: Will you continue to work in the progressive genre, or do you see yourself branching out into another style of music??
HM: Due to the fact that I simply love progressive music, I will probably keep on focusing on this genre ? but in general I don't care too much about styles and categories. I always act like I feel, and so I cannot yet tell what will come next?
LD: Are there any particular musicians you would like to work with in the future?
HM: I'd love to work with Gary Wehrkamp! His expressive playing moves me very much and his guitars and keys are simply great to sing on. Cooperating with Kevin Moore would be awesome as well!
LD: ?Who are some of your musical influences, and do you play any musical instruments besides singing?
HM: No, I don't play any instrument apart from my vocal chords ? haha! As already mentioned above, I have been influenced by many different styles and groups but I always set great store by individualism and I've never tried to copy anyone.
LD: ?When did you first start singing?? Of course, having one of the most recognizable voices in?music must be tough to handle.? Some people say that your voice is too "light" for the heavier bands and music that you front.? What do you say to this?
HM: I have been addicted to singing ever since I can remember? at the age of 16 I finally started singing in rock bands. Yeah, sometimes it's really amusing to read the comments of other people who consider me as "weak" or "too female." That's definitely nothing that makes me angry and I don't really feel offended by such comments. But I simply don't feel like singing "as heavy and hard as possible," and I hate pretending things I don't feel inside. I certainly accept if certain people don't like my vocal approach ? when you do something that clearly differs from the mainstream you are much more exposed to criticism ? that's normal. But I must say that I sometimes got the impression that some people are maybe too much influenced by established clich?s.
LD: Hubi, what are some of your personal goals that you will pursue over the next 5 years?
HM: I would like to produce and release some more interesting CDs and I hope that more and more people start getting interested in my albums! Apart from that, I want to progress further as a human being in all aspects of life.
Triple X - Dreamdancer (1996)
Dreamscape - Very (1999)
Maeve Of Connacht - Imaginary Tales (2001)
Book Of Reflections - Book Of Reflections (2004)