Latest release: Stray Fire (Independent) Website: www.facebook.com/OpusOfAMachine

Things don’t always go to plan on tour. In fact, it would even be fair to say that having a plan for when things don’t go to plan is essential for anyone on the road. Take current tour partners Glass Ocean and Opus of a Machine for example. On the first stage of their three date east coast trip, before they even had a chance to play a note, Glass Ocean’s vocalist had to stand down from the gig. An unfortunate turn of events at the end of a 15-hour drive.

Opus of a Machine guitarist Zac Greensill takes up the story.

Tobias came down with a pretty bad case of tonsilitis apparently, and couldn’t make it. He was under doctor’s orders to stay home. The rest of the boys made it up; they played a show that was awesome. It translated really well and they were received really well. It was a great night, and He Danced Ivy and Inovo, the supports, they were fantastic as always. I’ve seen both of those bands a couple of times, and they just crush it. It was  a good night, man.

That really shows both the fans and other bands how to handle a situation like that. A lot of bands would have just cancelled.
Totally, man. We were joking about how Opus of a Machine must be kind of cursed, because the last tour we had, with Monuments, sort of the same thing happened with Chris, their singer. He had to bail out of most of the shows, too. I don’t know whether we’re just poisonous to everyone else, or something!

Well you don’t want to get a reputation for cursing the singers of other bands. You’ll never get a support slot ever again!
Totally!

But is he (Tobias) going to be ok for the rest of the tour now?
Hopefully. I haven’t heard from him in a little while, but usually these types of sicknesses don’t last very long, and now that he’s rested up, he should be good for Sydney. Which is their home show, so it’s important that he makes it.

I guess it is, but they’ve proved they can power through it if necessary. Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had to get through something like that?
Never. Absolutely never. We’ve always had onstage tech difficulties, and things that happen on the night, but never something where we’ve had to make a drastic decision like that.

Well let’s hope that doesn’t happen, because you’ve had quite a good twelve months – really good reviews for Stray Fire, which seems like it has been out for longer than it has.
It’s only been slightly over a year now, but it certainly feels like a long time for us. I’m sure you’re aware that, with bands, it could be about a year, a year and a half after the album’s all written and done and dusted before you even get to release it. These songs feel like older songs to us, so we’re certainly in the mindset of new material – some we’ve been premiering this tour. All sort of old ideas that we were working on tandem to [Stray Fire] but didn’t really fit that style, so now we’re revisiting a lot of stuff, writing a bunch of new tunes and we’re in a very different, new creative space which is really awesome, and it’s really kind of great to bring that on the road and show that to people.

Quite a few progressive bands are very willing to map out new songs live on stage, and it’s interesting when you say that the new songs are different to what you were doing before. Are you taking a different angle with your music for your next release: is it going to be very different?
I think so. When we had our second album, when we were writing that, we had a very specific style we were going for. We wanted to strip back a lot of the heavy elements of our music and make it focus more on songwriting and melody and lyrics, and really hone in on the atmospheric elements of our music. All the while, we were still writing stuff that didn’t quite fit but was really, really exciting to play and exciting to write. A lot of this stuff is what we’re working on now for our new album. It’s got a lot of the subtleties there and it’s still got a lot of the electronic elements and that weirder production that we like to do, but by and large it’s the heaviest thing we’ve ever done, it’s probably the most technical thing we’ve ever done. It’s uniquely us, but it’s the best of us and I can’t wait to finally premiere it. It’ll be a while before we finally get around to releasing it. 2020 will be a year of recording and trying to make this album the best thing we’ve ever done, but I’m itching to get it out there.

If most of the year  is going to taken up with writing, I would expect that the songs will probably change a lot in that time. I imagine it was the same when you were working on Stray Fire – did those songs come out very different to how they began?
Totally, man. I have a habit of overthinking the conceptual elements of an album. So I’ll have a roadmap in my head of where I want to take a project, or an album or something like that, but with the intention that it’s going to change. Because it always does! Things change, you start listening to new music, you get inspired by new things… so this roadmap I have in my head now – I think it’s pretty good, but it might change completely. It’s something that’s constantly evolving. And I let it evolve. I don’t like to get everything mapped out and planned out and then write ourselves into a rut because of that. The song’s never finished until it’s in someone’s hands and listening to on Spotify, or whatever the kids are listening to music on these days!

What I think is very, very positive is the development of the progressive music scene in Australia over the past decade. If you go right back to the early 70s, we’ve always had progressive bands, but now they seem to be very, very prominent and getting a lot of exposure, not just here but overseas as well. You’ve been part of the scene now for quite some time. Would you agree it’s very healthy in Australia at the moment?
Absolutely, and I think it’s only getting healthier. Back in those days, when I was growing up and when I was a teenager, there was these bands like Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus – well, they may have been a little bit later – but there was these bands really paving the way by playing this really, really interesting music that was heavy, progressive, melodic – all these things. But more to the point, it was uniquely Australian, and I think that’s what a lot of alternative music was missing in Australia before that. We had this sound that was so specifically Australian that it had to be from this country. And from that, there’s this large amount of bands that have grown from that. We’ve got incredibly diverse bands out there that are doing phenomenal things, and it’s all off the back of our heroes. It’s only getting bigger and bigger, with or without the support of any big mainstream radio stations or the big opportunities that all the other genres of music happen to get. We’ve just grinded at it and the scene’s flourishing because of it.

Dead Letter Circus are also from your part of the world, and it seems that there was some kind of a seed planted there, maybe through something like (the original) Progmetal.org, which was based in Brisbane, and now it feels like that’s where a lot of progressive music is coming from.
Totally! And there’s a lot of bands that share the same similarities but… I think the strong point in Australia is that the progressive scene isn’t about a style of music. If you look back at these really, really classic movements back in the 60s and 70s, even going into the 90s, you had these scene where these bands were feeding off these ideas… take something like the Gothenburg death metal scene. A lot of those guys were paving the way, doing these completely different riffs and rhythms and having these extremely heavy music with a lot of melodic aspects to it, but by and large they had a very similar sound. Whereas, you throw someone like Opus of a Machine, we would almost fit in the same scene as someone like Voyager or even Ne Obliviscaris. Three of those bands are completely different, yet we encapsulate this Australian scene, and that’s what I think is special about it: a lot of these bands are encouraged by the scene to be as unique as possible. They’re valued because of their uniqueness, and that’s what I love about them.

I think that’s something that some people don’t get about progressive music: it’s not really a genre in itself, it’s something that reaches across a lot of different ideas. For example, you could see a band like Hashshashin, who aren’t even really a rock band, but they are doing something that appeals to a very, very broad audience that would also be across a band like Opus – but they’re completely different.
Exactly, yeah. And it just makes for a better scene. I love going to metal concerts, and I love going to other concerts, but what I love about going to a show that has three or four prog-rock bands, or what you’d consider progressive music is, you know those bands are going to be completely different. Last Saturday was a classic example of that. All four bands that played were completely different in their own way but still shared this unique drive to explore and do something different. Our styles don’t tie us together. It’s about our expressiveness and our uniqueness, and I feel really humbled to be a part of.

Opus of a Machine and Glass Ocean play Sydney’s Factory Theatre this Saturday November 30 with Introspect and Code Atlantic, and the Bendigo Hotel in Melbourne December 7 with Phambam and Little Rituals. Tickets are through Wild Thing.