Ghost Ship Octavius

GSO came almost out of nowhere and surprised the metalheads nicely. The band was formed by well-known members of the metal scene but it also has a budding vocalist on its ranks. Grande Rock contacted the composer & guitarist Matt Wicklund so as to learn more about this new band which has a lot more to offer…
Ghost Ship Octavius band pic
Hi Matt. First of all, congratulations on your self-titled debut album. It came out of nowhere and took us all by surprise! Kudos!
M: Thank you so much! We have been working on it for a long time so it’s really nice to finally have it out there.
Do tell me… when did Ghost Ship Octavius take shape and which were the music kinds that you wanted to combine with this new band?
M: It all started after Van and I played with Chris Amott at Loud Park Festival in Tokyo in 2012. We enjoyed playing together and thought it would be cool to keep that going. We started working on songs together and found our singer Adon through an online audition. Some time shortly after finding Adon, I came up with the name and through that the concept for what is now Ghost Ship Octavius. We were all tossing around hundreds of band name ideas and nothing seemed to fit just right. So, I was frustrated and started surfing around on YouTube for topics that I found entertaining. Through one of my searches for Ghost Stories, I found one on Ghost Ships. In this video was the story of the Octavius. The cool imagery and concepts that started flooding my mind were overwhelming. We all loved it and started moving forward as GSO with these ideas and this new inspiration. Soon after this, Chris decided to leave to focus all of his energies on his band Armageddon (the new Armageddon album is amazing by the way) and Van, Adon and I moved forward together and wrote an album between the three of us. When writing these songs, I never thought of trying to make it sound like it fit into any specific genre. I just tried to paint a picture as a composer that fit the feelings and images that were in my mind. There are elements from all of my favorite musical styles in there and I think the result came off as some kind of “Progressive Metal” but I feel that it stands pretty strongly as its own thing.
Apart from you (Matt) on guitars, there’s also the drummer Van Williams (Nevermore, Ashes of Ares) and the newcomer Adōn Fanion on vocals. Many fans are wondering where you found Adōn and what his previous experiences in music are – if this ain’t his debut in the music business.
M: As I mentioned above, we found Adon through an online audition process. We got numerous submissions from all over the world and some of them were quite good... but when we heard Adon’s voice we knew he was the perfect fit for the sound we had started creating. He was only 17 at the time and we were totally blown away! He has been playing music all of his life and can play just about any instrument you toss at him which is super cool in the creative process. He has played in some bands before but this is his first “professional” release.
Are there any guest appearances on the album by some friends of yours? At some point two guest appearances were announced by you… what happened finally?
M: There are five of our guitar playing friends that have solos on the album! This album has tons of guitar solos on it... hahaha. Jeff Loomis plays the final solo on “Pendulum”, Mattias “IA” Eklund plays the middle solo on “Mills of the Gods”, Chris Caffery plays the middle solo on “Silence”, Rusty Cooley plays the solo in “Bloodcaster” and Per Nilsson plays the second solo in the midsection of “Sea Storm”.
By the way, how did you come up with the band’s name Ghost Ship Octavius initially?
M: I was being a nerd and searching for Ghost Stories on YouTube! It's a legend of an 18th Century ship that daringly attempted to cross the Northern Passage in the Arctic Sea. The ship was thought to be lost until it was found by a fisherman in the waters off of Greenland some 13 years later. He boarded the ship and found the whole crew frozen solid and even found the Captain frozen with his pen still in hand writing in his log book. The fisherman returned to land to report what he had found and when they returned to find the ship again, it was gone and never to be seen again. Pretty cool story, huh? (i.n.: A great story for metal music…)
When did you start working on the album’s music? Had you predefined the dos and don’ts before starting working on the music?
M: I just started writing music that I thought would be cool and represent the band’s theme. I definitely wanted it to have metal characteristics but I also wanted to write without any limits. I never thought about genres when composing. I came up with several completed songs and would send them to Van and he would come up with his drum parts and then we would send to Adon and he would do his vocal parts. We would all talk often about ideas to tweak things or make things better until we were all satisfied. So, I came up with a lot of the initial song ideas but we would all be at the creative table together. We all put a lot of creative efforts into this one! The songs “Silence”, “Bloodcaster” and “Epitaph” are all born from Adon’s compositions and the others came initially from me... then we all got our hands in there and made them into what they are now! I have to say that our producer Aaron Smith was also extremely creative with us in the studio and helped us to shape the final product quite a bit. He is a really great fit for us in the studio.
In a time period when everyone uses brutal vocals and screams are so “trendy’, which were the reasons that urged you to do otherwise and choose a melodic voice for GSO?
M: To be quite honest, I got tired of the screaming over the years. Aside from a couple bands, it’s just not something that I enjoy listening to. I like some aggression and some screaming where it adds something to a song but overall, I like melodic singers. I am not really concerned with fitting into a certain genre at all. I just love music and I listen to all kinds of music. I approached this band with that same attitude and freedom and made something that feels honest and something that I truly love all the way through.
The album was named after the band’s name which refers to the Ghost Ship Octavius that was found west of Greenland on October 11th, 1775. Do the lyrics of the album have to do with that Ghost Ship and other fictional stories about it?
M: Yes, they do... sometimes very directly like in “Epitaph” and other times more vaguely where things can be interpreted in many different ways or relate to multiple things. I think Adon did a wonderful job playing the line between literal and figurative. We are playing off the original legend for sure... but also creating our own fictional world born from the inspiration it gave us.
Please comment on each track…
M: “Saturn and Skies”: Whammy Pedal! I busted out the old Digitech Whammy Pedal that I used in God Forbid and started messing around with it and realized how much cool stuff there was to do with it! This song wrote itself it feels like. I think it will be a really fun one live because of the high energy and the groove. It’s all about the groove!
“Alive”: Guitar solos. Lots and lots of guitar solos! This is a really long one but has two distinct “movements” so it works out well.
“Silence”: It’s all about that groove and those drums! The chorus cadence and harmonies are a lot of fun on this song.
“Mills of the Gods”: This song is one of my favorites for a few reasons. First, Van goes wild in the midsection with a drum solo that leads into a beautiful guitar solo by Mattias IA Eklundh and the chorus is in a major key which gives it a cool uplifting vibe.
“In Dreams”: Our closest song to a “ballad” or a radio song but also one of my favorites. It’s a Prog Metal song anyone can listen to! Hahaha. I should also mention that I wrote the instrumental part of this song in a dream. I woke up and recorded it before it vanished with the morning dew and titled it “In Dreams” and sent it to Adon. He ran with the dream theme and finished it that same day if I’m not mistaken.
“Pendulum”: I wrote the majority of this song on the piano about 15 years ago when studying music theory in College. It has a Neo-Classical vibe that I like. It also features a guitar solo at the end by my close friend, mentor and teacher Jeff Loomis. So this is a special one for me.
“Bloodcaster”: Bombastic! This one will surely set the mosh pit on fire! Adon’s riffs in this song add some of that high energy spice that brings a cool dimension to the record. Ripping solo by Rusty Cooley in the middle as well.
“Epitaph”: Another one of Adon’s compositions and one of my favorite choruses. I get it stuck in my head for days!
“Burn Away”: This one also dances in the territory of an epic ballad. The end is my favorite part. To me, it has a touch of Katatonia and Amorphis with a twist of U2.
“Sea Storm”: When I wrote this one, I was trying to paint a picture of a sea storm with the music. It’s very dramatic, dark and has a lot of tension. It also features a shredding solo by my good friend Per Nilsson that blows my mind!
“Fate is Blind”: This is a straight up mid-tempo rocker. It’s dark and catchy, just the way I like it.
How did the cooperation with Aaron Smith at Envisage Audio in Seattle, WA occur? Are you satisfied with the album’s production in general?
M: We are extremely pleased with the production. Arron Smith did an amazing job all the way around. He was super creative in the studio and a lot of fun to work with. He has a fantastic ear and I feel that he really captures the best performances from the artist. I feel like he is an extended part of the band! He was recommended to us by Jeff Loomis as Aaron did Jeff’s last solo record. Check out Aaron’s audio production company called Envisage Audio (
You funded the album entirely through Kickstarter. Didn’t you want to cooperate with any labels at all? Did you decide to do it on your own from the beginning till the end? Why’s that?
M: There are a few reasons why we went this route. In the beginning, we sent the music off to all of the metal labels we could think of and most of them turned it down. It seemed like people thought the music was “too different” which to me meant “too risky” for them to touch. Instead of being discouraged, I got extra motivated and thought it would be fun to run the whole business top to bottom! I knew we had something special and I wanted to show the world that we could do something special on our own. I loved the idea of developing a direct connection with the fans and having complete freedom with the band. It has been a lot of work and a lot of fun for us all. I feel that it’s extra rewarding this way! We are extremely thankful that it worked out and we are looking forward to the next chapter.
Crowdfunding platforms are very popular these days… but do you have in mind to sign to a music label in the future if there’s an offer which will cover the band’s needs?
M: I will always keep an open mind for business but at this point, I see no need for a label. We are running it day to day as a label ourselves under our own company called Iceburn Multimedia. I would love to keep it growing as it is! We will be partnering with other labels for licensing deals and such though. But like I said, if a label approached us with a mutually beneficial business proposal that would help the band to grow, I would definitely entertain the idea.
Having been a part of bands which were supported by labels, how was the feeling to do things on your own? Was it stressful at times? What do you think of today’s DIY music movement on the whole?
M: It was stressful but exciting. I think it was a lot of fun to learn how to run a business like this. I am all for it. It made me care about everything even more.
There’s already a lyric video out for “Mills of the Gods” and a couple of other tracks that were uploaded in 2014 & 2013. Are you gonna release a concept video one of these days?
M: We are very interested in making a very elaborate video. I know that it would be awesome too because of the tons of visual elements the band could play with... the Arctic Sea, a Ghost Ship, Ghosts, Ice, Water, etc. In order to do the video properly, it will be quite expensive, so we will do it when the time is right.
Are there any plans to give some live shows in the near future?
M: We are working on that phase right now. I think we will start with some festivals and one-offs around the world and then get into the full world tour! GSO Worldwide!
Ghost Ship Octavius band pic
Many fans are wondering if GSO is a real band or a project. Do you plan to go on with this band for as long as it takes? Is GSO the band that you had been longing to form?
M: GSO is the band I have wanted to form my whole career. This is very much a full time band and will be priority number one. We are going all the way with this and will take it as far as it can go!
What does the future hold for GSO and what are your expectations regarding GSO?
M: Full time touring and recording band. We are going to be extremely productive and will give it everything we have.
Time for our “weird questions”! Which music kind can’t you bear to hear at all?
M: Poorly written music! Hahaha... I don’t hate any specific genre of music but I can say that I don’t care for most Rap Music.
Best heavy metal line-up according to you (band mates should be excluded)?
M: There’s a million fun fantasy metal bands I could create! For today, I would pick Andy LaRocque and Nuno Bettencourt on guitars, Sharlee D'Angelo on bass, Chris Cornell on vocals and Adrian Erlandsson on drums. Now that would be an interesting sounding band! (i.n.: Some put these in a studio right away!)
How do you see the “free downloading issue” of our time? What can a band or a label do to change that thing?
M: I am not sure that it can be changed. It’s kind of hard to fight the internet! I have seen through my experience with Kickstarter that people are still very happy and willing to support a band they believe in and buy their merchandise.
What are those things that you do not like in the music industry nowadays?
M: Mainly, I don’t like the fact that the artists that create the music have the hardest time making a living doing so while the other people involved in the business do better. As an artist, it is frustrating to see this happen.
Best 3 prog metal albums of all time?
M: Nevermore – “Dead Heart in a Dead World”…
Opeth – “Watershed”…
Extreme – “III Sides to Every Story” (although most wouldn’t consider this metal but who cares... it is progressive and it rules!!!!)…

Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
M: The Beatles – “Abbey Road”…
Which is the most overrated musician/band of all time?
M: I have no idea... I just know what I like!
Best pick-up line that has worked for you several times in the past?
M: Hahaha... I don’t use pick-up lines. Not my style… smiley
Which of the Seven Deadly Sins do you reckon is the one, that’s more likely to send you straight to Hell, in the afterlife?
M: They’re all pretty bad... but let’s go with greed. Greed stems from an absence of love, compassion and caring for others and that’s just rotten.
Which character from the “Game of Thrones” would you have been – if you lived in the Seven Kingdoms? The other guys from the band?
M: I am one of the few that doesn’t follow “Game of Thrones”. I’m too busy! Hahaha…
Imagine that your girlfriend/wife is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react? J
M: It would be time to find myself a better suited companion… (i.n.: Right to the point! Hehehehe…)
That’s all for now Matt… close this interview in your own way. Thx for the music dude! Take care!
M: Thank you so much for the interview and thank you to all of the fans that have helped us make this a reality and get this music out there! We look forward to getting out and playing music for all of you and building the GSO Crew around the World! Ghost Ship Octavius is just getting started...