Interview with Swedish AOR Rock Band ‘Osukaru’


Osukaru logoOsukaru is the brainchild of Swedish guitarist, keyboardist and songwriter Oz Osukaru who wanted a melodic rock band delivering not only good music but an entire “all inclusive” AOR experience with the music, image and artwork – all being well thought out. The band have been consisting of various constellations but the current line-up is by far the most interesting. Having both male and female vocals on top of a big AOR soundscape where edgy hard rock guitars, atmospheric keyboards and a slick saxophone comes together makes the music of Osukaru something special for every fan of melodic rock.

In the following interview, we meet the band members in Osukaru. They speak about their musical background, things they like to do away from the band, their biggest fear,  key principles, their upcoming album “Transition” and much more.

TMR: Hey guys, this is The Metal Resource from Holland, how are things going there in Sweden?

Oz: It’s great! A pretty hot and almost tropical summer has come to an end and now we’re adding the final touches on our new CD “Transition”. It sounds and looks beautiful.

TMR: Could you Introduce yourself and the band please!

Oz: Of course. The current line-up of Osukaru features lead vocalist and guitarist Fredrik Werner, female lead vocalist Cecilia Camuii, drummer Vidar Mårtensson and myself, Oz Osukaru, on guitar and keyboards. We are also joined by studio musicians Fredrik Svensson on bass, Jens Björk on saxophone, and Ryan Coyle on additional drums and percussion.

Osukaru 1TMR: Please tell us the brief history of Osukaru.

Oz: Osukaru was, as an idea, created by me and my songwriting partner Ryan back in the fall of 2009 but the first actual line-up was formed around the summer of 2010. The idea was to not do things exactly by the book, yet still deliver great songs, hooks and lyrics that people can relate to along with an interesting artistic concept.

TMR: And why the name Osukaru? Is there a story behind it?

Oz: Nah. It’s actually my regular name, Oscar, in Japanese. I have no particular relation with Japan or anything but I am very interested in their culture and history.

TMR: Everyone, what is your musical background?

Oz: I started out as a heavy metal guitarist and my first known band was Katana which I founded back in 2004. I left the band in 2008 during the recording of their debut album “Heads Will Roll” which in 2011 got re-recorded and released all over the globe. Three songs on that album were written by me, the single “Heart of Tokyo” being one of them. I left the band because I never really saw myself as a heavy metal musician and in February 2009 I released the EP “2 Hearts” with the AOR band Eye. We got like a good year or so before we fell off the radar and in 2010 the first real constellation of Osukaru was born.

Fredrik: I started out solely as a guitarist. In the early years, when I created the fundament of me as a musician, I was very much inspired by classic rock acts like Thin Lizzy. I later discovered singing and got thrown into some great band adventures with extensive touring which I ultimately had to quit for other life priorities. I got back on the horse playing guitar in the band Mr. Artist and that eventually led into me getting in touch with Oz after one show we did together.

Cecilia: I’ve been singing since forever and studied music in school. I studied musical theatre for a year after that. I sung in a band called Panorama with Oz before joining Osukaru.

Vidar: I started playing congas at the age of 5 but around the age of 8 I got my first drum kit.
Four years later I started playing in my first band and everythig just went from there. Two years ago I became the new drummer of the bluesy hard rock band Siphon Fuel. which I am still a part of aside from Osukaru. My involvement with Osukaru however started out as a session job prior to thier show with H.E.A.T earlier this year but they wouldn’t let me leave so I guess I am a full time member now, haha.

TMR: Who writes the music and lyrics? How do you get in the mood for writing music? And which bands or situations have inspired you to write music and lyrics?

Oz: Nowadays most of our material is written by me and Fredrik Werner but sometimes Ryan have a few ideas up his sleeve as well. When it comes to inspiration I can only speak for myself but I rarely sit down just to write a song. I can get an idea by watching a movie or the people at the mall but most of my ideas comes from real situations in my life or when I travel. I recently went to London for a few days and that alone turned into songs for almost an entire album, haha. But of course I get a lot of inspiration when I listen to good music as well.

Fredrik: Oz is a really good arranger. In a scenario where I have some loose riff based ideas it is incredible how easy going the process of finding the right structure and gluing things together. It is often the same thing with lyrics where one of us may have a clear idea of what the song should be about lyricwise and the other fills in the blanks and makes it a whole. For my own part, when writing music, I usually start with the instrumental bits. I try to create a musical landscape and once it is created I can get in the right mood for suitable lyrics and melody.

TMR: Is there a highlight you will always remember, since the beginning of Osukaru?

Oz: Actually, my biggest highlight in Osukaru is right now. I’m surrounded by the greatest band members on earth and we not only got one but two wonderful record labels working extremely hard for our success.

Fredrik: As we progress and developing as a band there are constantly new highlights coming up. The last highlight was when I first heard the mastered mix of the new song “Arrows” which revealed a significant progress since “Triumphant”. The fact that we worked well together as a live band when we opened for H.E.A.T earlier this year was another highlight. I feel this band has potential.

Cecilia: I have to agree with Fredrik even though I was unable to play the H.E.A.T gig, something I regret to this day.

Vidar: For me, the biggest highlight is yet to come. With our future plans in mind I’m really looking forward to it. We also have one hell of a record coming out.

TMR: And the worst thing were (if there is one)?

Cecilia: Nothing yet. : )

Oz: I don’t want to go into details but if you listen to our song “Mafia Rules” and read the lyrics with an open mind, it’s actually about an incident that happened within an earlier constellation of the band some years ago. That’s all I want to say about it.

Vidar: There are no negative things in particular but the recording process is a bit too drawn out for my taste.

TMR: Speaking of recording, your new album “Transition” will be released this fall. What can you tell us about the album (such as the recording process so far, the songs, cover artwork etc).

Oz: “Transition” will be our 5th official release to date and the recording process so far have been nothing but a true pleasure. Everyone is giving their heart and soul into the production and this time we’re also working with an excellent local mixing engineer named Attila Bokor as well as Kevin McNoldy, known for his work with Dave Matthews and the Backstreet Boys. Musically it’s AOR and melodic rock with a slighlty harder edge and for the first time around we’ve also included a song with a more progressive touch. The artwork is created by me and the blindfolded girl on the cover is none other than our singer Cecilia. On the previous Osukaru releases we hired a model portraying as this mascot of ours and when Cecilia joined the band in the fall of 2012, I had already taken the photos of the model for the “Triumphant” album. Cecilia told me that for the next release, she’d be very much interested in taking over the blindfold, so to speak, and I had the very same idea myself. The result ended up being our most beautiful cover art yet.

TMR: About the cover artwork. Since you are creating it yourself, do you think it is as important as your music? Does it visualize the lyrics of your songs or what’s the actual story behind its concept?

Oz: Well kind of, yes. To me, artwork is about 50% of an album because the music is what you hear and the art is what you see. Even though the music and the songs in particular need to come first, the artwork has to be well done and just as interesting. Bands like Kiss, Yes, Asia and Iron Maiden have become pure gold for collectors not only because of their amazing music but for their well thought out art and concept as well. Osukaru has this blindfolded girl on our cover art and while we actually do have a song about her on our coming record “Transition”, this is our first. The reason for that is because when Cecilia took over as the mascot, we wanted to add more depth to the character. Instead of being this lost soul, like on our previous releases, Cecilia and I made her more of an upfront, blind and badass vigalante. A symbol of our transition as a band, kind of.

Cecilia: I think it enhances an album and add to the feeling of the band. But I think the music will always come first. Especially since I only buy digital albums. Most often, booklets and artwork isn’t included so the music has to speak for itself.

TMR: What was the last album you bought?

Cecilia: I think it was the latest Sabaton album, or maybe Kerbera.

Oz: I recently bought a great deal of albums, like the new gems from Night Ranger (“High Road”), Asia (“Gravitas”), LRS (“Down To the Core”), Tuomas Holopainen (“The Life and Times of Scrooge”) and the superb classic “Waking Up the Neighbours” by Bryan Adams.

Fredrik: I mainly consume music through applications like Spotify but I am also a vinyl record collector. The last vinyl records I bought were some Duke Ellington jazz records for use at a cocktail party I hosted.

Vidar: That’d be “Pariah’s Child” by Sonata Arctica and “Heroes” by Sabaton.

osakaruTMR: Your new album will be released on CD via City Of Light Records and digitally via Simply Boundless Records. How did you get signed by them and how come you don’t release both formats on the same label?

Oz: I’ve been a good friend with the CEO of City of Lights Records, Franko Sturm, for about 8 years now and he knows how driven I am and how much work I put into it. He released our last album “Triumphant” and while being quite satisfied with the sales, he green-lighted our new CD “Transition” and some other future releases of mine as well. The thing is, City of Lights does not work with digital downloads so for that particular version of our release, we wanted a label who not only distribute the music to iTunes and what not, but includes a PDF booklet to make it a digital package worth its name as well as good promotion. We finally found that label in Simply Boundless Records.

TMR: Are you visiting many gigs and what do you listen to these days?

Oz: Whenever I get around to it, yes. I listen to a lot of stuff but right now I enjoy the purchases that I mentioned earlier on plus the latest albums from Alien and Within Temptation. I also listen to a lot of Journey, Foreigner, Styx, Def Leppard, Stryper, Michael Bolton, Nightwish, Pantera, Christina Aguilera, movie soundtracks and some good old country music like Brooks & Dunn or the Swedish country singer Jill Johnson.

Cecilia: I go as much as I can, I love live shows! I listen to a lot of metal and electronic music like Sabaton, Ghost, Nachtmahr, Sonata Arctica and Voltaire. I also love musicals so there are lots of those present in my Spotify lists as well.

Vidar: I actually dont visit as many gigs as I’d like to these days. I am currently listening to a lot of symphonic metal and pomp music.

Fredrik: I’ve told myself to go and see more live shows. I usually listen to a great mixture of soul, blues, jazz and rock. I don’t usually listen to the more extreme subgenres. Over the past three months I guess I’ve listened a lot to James Morrison, First Aid Kit and John Mayer. When it comes to melodic rock I am big fan of Foreigner and Lou Gramm in particular.

TMR: How do you promote your band and shows?

Oz: While the internet is all fine and dandy, I still see great potential in doing it old school with having ads in magazines, word-of-mouth, posters all over town and flyers being given to you at concert arenas and what not. Like, when people see a cool looking poster on the wall, it’ll stick to their subconsciousness and before you know it, they’ll be googling your name. With that said, of course you need to do a lot of online promotion and have your pages frequently updated but don’t forget the real world in which we all live and breathe. Unfortunately, a lot of bands do.

TMR: How do you prepare for a show?

Oz: We’re on in five… we’re on in f… we’re on… I need to pee!

Cecilia: I pee, a lot! And drink excessive amounts of water aaaand, repeat.

Fredrik: I’m going through the music and lyrics in my head while checking my equipment for the twenty-eighth time.

Vidar: And I run up and down the stairs, getting paranoid.

TMR: What are the biggest obstacles for a band?

Oz: The toughest part of having a band for me is without a doubt to find the right members. People who not only supports your vision but that understand it and want to work on the same terms as you. I am sure there are bands out there who were built in a day or so but for Osukaru, it was never that easy. On our four CD’s released we had just as many changes in the line-up. Our new CD “Transition” is the first to include almost the same line-up as our last release and the reason for that is because I’ve finally found the team of my dreams. In a way it feels like we’re a brand new band.

TMR: What advice would you give to fellow bands?

Oz: Work hard, have fun and always put your songs first.

TMR: So, what makes you laugh?

Oz: Mr Bean, Ricky Gervais, Gabriel Iglesias and stupid people on Youtube.

Cecilia: I am a sucker for british comedians.

Fredrik: Jerry Seinfeld and my ridiculous friends.

Vidar: Internet Memes and Jim Carrey.

TMR: And what is your biggest fear?

Oz: I’m afraid of heights and small spaces.

Vidar: What Oz just said.

Cecilia: Insects, extreme skin conditions, small spaces and failing at life.

Fredrik: Stagnation. I need to feel that something is in progress, constantly.

TMR: Are there some key principles or phylosophies that you hold onto as foundational stones as who you are as a person?

Oz: I often say that the bigger the adversity, the greater the success.

Cecilia: I go by the idea that everything will work out, one way or another. Everything you want is retrievable if you want it bad enough.

Fredrik: Challenge yourself, learn from your mistakes and see how quickly you develop as you look back.

Vidar: I play drums, what do I know?

TMR: What is the dumbest question you have ever been asked?

Cecilia: “Is that your real hair colour?”

Oz: “So you’re a guitar player? Then you must love Guitar Hero!?” Ehm… no!

Vidar: Not a question but “cut your hair and get a job” still bugs me.

Fredrik: I probably did not care to remember that particular question.

Osukaru 2TMR: What are some of the things you like to do away from the band?

Fredrik: Away from the band I assume you mean from music in general because otherwise I listen to a lot of music and try to write stuff in various genres. I need that output to be able to focus on Osukaru when I need to. Away from music I share interests with probably 99.9% of everyone else (traveling, watching good TV-shows, hanging out with friends and loved ones etc.)

Oz: I’m a huge movie buff so I love to watch, collect and discuss movies. I also create a lot of visual art, do a bit of traveling and in November I’m going to be a father so I prepare for that as well.

Vidar: I am actually a part of a songwriter trio who write pop music. I’m also composing a lot of cinematic music.

Cecilia: I play video games, exercise, modelling, hang out with my friends, watch tv-series and party.

TMR: What are your plans for the near future? European tour maybe?

Oz: We would love to tour Europe in 2015! We’re doing our very best to make that happen.

TMR: Guys, thank you for your time and the interview. We wish Osukaru all the best… Is there anything you wanna add?

Oz: Thank you Eelco and the rest of The Metal Resource – superb site guys! And thanks to everyone who’s reading this! Make sure to keep an eye out for our CD “Transition” this fall and please, let us know what you think.

“Gbg2la” (EP – 2010)
“Never too Late” (EP -2011)
“Salvation (CD – 2012)
“Triumphant (CD – 2013)
“Transition” (CD – 2014)

Weblinks: Website / Facebook

Video below ‘Arrows’ [New Song from “Transition”]

Video below ‘Prisoner of the Night’ [Song taken from the album “Triumphant”]



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