For a musician or a band, being stuck inside of an artistic box can be a terrible affliction. It’s even worse when it becomes obvious to outside observers that an act is sticking to one style. Contrasting that trend is Ontologics, a duo consisting of Coventry natives Ian Campopiano on electronics, guitar and vocals and Matthew Walshe on drums, percussion and keys. They blend rock, hip hop, funk and numerous other elements into a sonic cornucopia. Their latest installment is their third full-length album, “Heading To The Outer Realm,” which was self-released on December 20.
I had a talk recently with both Campopiano and Walshe about the making of the album, not abiding by music industry stereotypes, doing their own thing, and plans for hitting the road later on in the year.
Rob Duguay: “Heading To The Outer Realm” has this modern rock sound that’s very reminiscent of what was coming out in the late ’90s and the early 2000s. What were you and Matt trying to accomplish while making the album?
Ian Campopiano: We’re leaning more toward the progressive side. While making the album, we expanded our writing of odd meter instrumentation. We wanted to push the experimental side a bit further this time while layering acoustic and electronic tones with more depth.
Matt Walshe: We’ve branched into some sounds and arrangements I believe are pretty unique. It’s difficult to say what genre we’ve landed in, honestly. Some of our strongest influences in the early 2000s were founded in earlier progressive groups. These include King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa, Yes, Genesis and others. When considering our more modern and current influences, the resulting blend of progressive-fusion and hip-hop result in new sounds that almost any listener of modern music can sink their teeth into.
RD: You also produced the album yourselves. What was the experience like for the both of you when it came to being in control of both parts of making the record?
IC: It was a great learning experience while both producing and recording. We’ve always had a hand in production to a degree, but taking the leap into the producer role for this album really marks a turning point for us. It gives us more freedom moving forward and control of any budget concerns.
MW: We’re happy with the results and we’re thankful for what we’ve learned over the last 10 years of recording. We removed some of the constraints that come with the process which allowed us to stretch more within our own performance. However, it was certainly a collaboration of resources that allowed us to produce the best product possible.
RD: P-Nut from 311 lends his talents to the tracks “Thought Crimes” and “Hindsight Mind’s Right” on the album. How did you guys get connected with him?
IC: We’ve worked with P- Nut prior to this record, on a song titled “Primal Discourse” off Ontologics sophomore LP, Drones From Home, that came out in 2015. The relationship stems back to 2009, when some of our songwriting caught the attention of P-Nut. He actually talked about it in an interview with Popdose.com not too long ago.
MW: We’re thankful for his interest and we’ve really enjoyed collaborating with him.
RD: The music you guys create combine elements of rock, hip hop, progressive and electronica. What inspires you to fuse these sounds together?
IC: As songwriters, we’re always looking to create something unique and challenging. We enjoy blurring genres and removing the stereotypes that the industry has cemented in. Taking the contrasting sounds of progressive odd meter execution and blending it with elements of electronic minimalism is a recipe we have been conjuring since our conception in 2009. Our musical partnership really dates back to our progressive rock roots from a previous project called “Moments of Imagination” that we were in from 2001 to 2004.
MW: We’re inspired by everything and using electronics has allowed us to push the envelope in our own compositions. We’ve tried hard to let go and have fun only executing what entertains and challenges us as artists and musicians.
RD: What are some things you and Matt would like to accomplish in 2020?
IC: We’ll be doing some touring in support of the new album and looking to stretch out into the underground college radio scene across the states. We hope people enjoy the record, and enter the realm with us this year.
Rob Duguay is a Rhode Island-based music writer. Send him email at email@example.com.