Michael Ocean interviewed by Gabe Durham
Michael Ocean’s The Manual will be released by Nanaki Records on December 11, 2007. It is available for pre-order.
Gather Round, Children: You said that The Manual was based on the conclusion that “for an album to be truly great, it must teach its listeners how to live.” Could you unpack that statement and give a few examples of albums that have succeeded in this way?
Michael Ocean: Now, the idea was that if an album is going to be really great, and really change your life, you’d have to learn a lot about yourself when you listen to it over and over again. “Pinkerton” was the first one for me. It taught me a lot about how not to live, actually. But it also taught me a lot about myself… like the extent to which a guy would go to get a certain girl. I mean, scaring the girl by writing a song for her like “Getchoo” is definitely not how to win her over, but it taught me just how far I might go sometimes… Queen’s “A Night At The Opera” is another one. That one teaches the listener a whole mess about vices. There’s songs like “I’m In Love With My Car,” which would be false idolatry, and “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” would represent gluttony, in a way. And what’s at the end of the road if you follow vice… I’m thinking specifically of “Bohemian Rhapsody” when I say, “the end of the road.” It goes to a lot of dark places, and hopefully, people can learn from that.
Yeah, the “Pinkerton” songs are either Rivers making a bad decision or chastising himself for having made bad decisions. Plus he saved many of us potential heartbreak by letting us know what pink triangle symbolized. But I do hear the “how not to live” in your own lyrics, many which are straightforward protests. Did you decide early in on in the process that you wanted to write lyrics as naked as, say, “Cin”?
Yeah, I really did. When I started writing “Cin,” I was on a train with a pen and a pad, and I had a list of the most awful things that I had ever done in my head, and without specifically going into details about them in the song, I wanted to address the few biggest ones, clear the air, and say, ‘see, a real man can admit his mistakes, and I want so desperately to be a real man. Can you admit to yours?’ And I hope that people learn from that.