Harry Hess | interview
Classic Harem keeps taking melodic rock higher.
The voice of Harem Scarem, Harry Hess, talks about the new album Higher, all things to do with theband and other stuff like producing and screaming on new tracks for Jack Frost.
Hi Harry, good to talk to you as usual. Thanks for sending me a preview ofthe JackFrosttrack.
He was in a band called Sabotage or Savatage, I guess, for a while. He was the guitar player. He's done a bunch of different projects. I think one is called Seven Witches or something like that.
He's from New Jersey. He's a guitar player and he called me up and asked me if I'd do two songs on his solo record with him, so I'm doing that.
It's kind of funny. It's metal, and I'm yelling. It's hilarious. I thought, "Well that would be funny; I haven't done anything like that in like 20 fuckin' years." So I thought that would be entertaining and it sure is.
Not since Blind Vengeance!
That's right, exactly. I haven't yelled like this in a long time.
I love your comment on the track rundown you did for me for Higher.
You said you were about to explode or something like that if you went any higher.
Yeah. It's getting higher and higher every day.
Fantastic. Speaking of... did Blind Vengeance ever come out on CD?
Yeah, it did. Some guy bought the rights to it here in Canada. I don't know what he did with it, to tell you the truth. I just heard that he did.
I've never heard it...
Is it? (laughs)
It's really bad. It really is.
Even more reason for me to track it down!
That's right. Track it down.
You've had a little bit of time to live with the new album now. What do you think?
You know what? I haven't listened to it in a while. I heard it after we mastered it. I thought the mastering job was okay. I didn't love it.
Yeah. It's a little bit bright in the high end, a little bit harsh sounding compared to the masters we had, but for the most part I'm pretty pleased with it. We were loving it when we were mixing it, you know. I can't remember making a record where we liked so many songs on it, especially while we were working on it. So I don't know. If that's any indication, I mean, we really enjoyed working on it from beginning to end. Usually by the end of it we're pretty sick of it and don't have a whole lot of perspective, but this one, we never really got sick of the songs. I don't know.
I think it's a bit of... you always do something a little different and there's a few tracks onhere that are a little different again... But there's a little bit of everything of you on there isn't it?
Yeah. Oh, for sure.
A little bit of Mood Swings. A little bit of the debut, a lot of the debut. A little bit of Voice of Reason. A little bit of Weight of the World.
Yeah, I think this record is actually pretty simple, but very melodic and I guess if you could go back and compare it to anything, the closest I can... I found the first record like that, you know? There wasn't really a whole lot of outrageous guitar playing or anything like that. They were just straight ahead rock songs and treated a certain way and I at least kinda felt this way with this, but when things do go off on a tangent, like things like "Reach" and some other songs, that's just because of where we've come from all these years and influences, and our influences like Mood Swings and Voice of Reason and stuff. Those types of elements, they always crop up in songs or parts of songs at least.
Yeah. Stuff like "Lies" and "Lost" and "Waited" are very muchlike the debut aren't they?
Yep. Very true.
I really like what you did with "Waited".
I think that's my favorite track on the album.
Yeah, I really like it too, I mean, a lot of people that have heard it think it's actually quite modern in the sense that it could be on American radio right now too. And same with "Torn Right Out". For me that's a good accomplishment because, you never want to just be, you know, doing... rehashing what we did 10, 12 years ago and stuff.
It's nice to stay current and stay fresh and not have it sound like a total '80s rock production, with still having all the elements that our fans like about what we do and enjoying it ourselves and at least feeling we're always moving forward and doing the types of productions that are contemporary and I guess worthy of what's going on today.
Yeah. In fact my favorite albums in the last - my tastes have sort of changed a little bit - my favorite albums in the last 12 months have been albums that have updated their sound... but stayed true to what the band were, or are, what they do best.
And there's definitely some modern production and songwriting on Higher. Is there any hope in hell of you finally getting a U.S. deal and this stuff getting on the radio? It's so wrong that it isn't.
We just don't have a real outlet for it. We're kind of in a position now where everybody knows us as that hard rock, heavy metal band from 10 years ago and it's really, really tough to get anybody to pay attention to what we're doing and most of the A&R guys out there, they're just looking to sign something fresh and new and get it out, you know.
You see what happens with Nickelback when someone takes a chance on it, you know?
I know. And again, we might be a little bit guilty of not pursuing it to the fullest extent either. We just kind of go, well that's our situation and there you go. Because we tried so many times in the past and it's just one of those weird things with us now and we really haven't bothered in the last few years to tell you the truth. We've got a little Canadian Indie deal here in Canada for Weight of the World and he's just about to put it out now; it's taken him so long to get to it.
Is that not out already?
Yeah. There's a little bit of debauchery there with all that stuff, but...
How many other bands are out there have 8 or 9 studio albums behind them?!
I know. That's like this Jack Frost guy. He's... I guess that Savatage band were signed to Atlantic for a while and now he's doing records for Sanctuary, and he says the same thing. He says, "Look, everybody that... here's this stuff and I can't believe it never came out in America." And I say, "Well, you've got to remember, we were trying at a time when hard rock was just, I mean, you couldn't even tell anyone that you were in a hard rock band, like when we first started because it was all grunge and that's what we were dealing with." And major labels, as you know, all they're interested in is what's happening right now. Not what happened two years ago, so fuck, it's really no surprise to me looking back that we never got a U.S. release, but at the same time, with our whole catalogue now and a bit of a resurgence in hard rock again, and when bands like Nickelback and Creed can go out and sell millions and millions of records, I think there's a place for us somewhere in the middle, you know?
Yeah, there's got to be. Not everybody... I sort of started off liking pop/rock and then started looking for something that was a little bit more of a harder edge, something with a little bit more impact, that'll blow you right through. There's got to be a lot of other people out there that want something between Avril Lavigne and Creed, you know?
Yeah, for sure.
Any dates or promotions you'll be doing in Japan or just phone interviews?
There's nothing solidified yet. We're talking to some promoters about an actual tour and that's just kind of ongoing right now. So we'll see what happens with that. And the European release is almost a month later.
Did you go to Japan for Weight of the World?
Oh, yeah. We've toured on every record there except for the first two.
Right. Okay. It's a good little market, isn't it?
Yeah, it's been great for us.
Yeah, great for a lot of people. The European release... any dates inEurope?
Yeah. It's always been really, really tough and, you know, it's just a financial thing, it's not for the lack of not wanting to go, we'd love to go.
We'd love to go everywhere and play, but it's just the reality of how much it costs to fly 4 or 5 people around and deal with hotels and cars and all that crap while we're there and it's just so expensive that unless you're selling records, and a promoter is willing to take a chance and give you some money to come over and do it, it's really next to impossible, so we just pick and choose the opportunities that come up and make the most sense and try to get everybody on board to help us out and get down there.
So that's kind of the situation. It's very tough.
Absolutely. I get a lot of questions... a lot of people asking about Canadian dates. Do you ever play live in Canada any more?
Very rarely. The last time we played was when the Rubber albums came out and it was actually received very well and we did a lot of dates and it went great, but we literally haven't put anything out since the first Rubber album in Canada because there's been no reason to. Even this last one, Weight of the World, it hasn't come out yet, so if it does, who knows, we might do some warm-up shows here in Canada, like before a Japanese tour or a European thing.
Yeah, I do get some emails from guys who say, "Look, I live 15 minutes from these guys and I can't get their records here." It's complicated isn't it?
Yeah. It's very, very odd.
How do you move on from here, where do you go from here? You've been busy - with Weight of the World, you've had the live album, the archive release. Any idea where you'd like to go from here?
Well, I don't know. I think, you know, even what I'm doing here tonight, like doing something a little bit different, you know, and as far as side projects go I'd like to do things that take me in a little bit of a different direction because I don't want to do the same thing over and over again.
But the Harem Scarem records, they're actually a lot of fun to make now because there's really... it's not like there's a lot of pressure on us when we're making them. It's just pretty much Pete and I doing what we do and then the guys come in and do their stuff and we've kind of got it down as far as what we want to do and what we're going to do when we make a Harem Scarem record. It is just a matter of sitting down and writing the songs and actually taking the time to do it. It's just become 2nd nature and a real pleasure to do, so as long as people want us to do them, we'll do them because it's actually quite fun and easy these days.
So you pretty much see yourself sitting down once a year to do that?
Yeah. I think so, yeah.
Unless people say stop.
Haha... I don't think you'll get that just yet. What about solo records?
I wouldn't do what I did again in the sense that... trying to do something on my own. Like I said, like doing what I'm doing tonight just maybe collaborating with more musicians. It's a lot more fun and to get more feedback working with other people. I just would like to broaden my horizons rather than just repeat doing what I do and just kind of staying in my own little bubble and only going with what I know, so I kind of would be interested in kind of expanding my horizons a little bit more and working on different material.
That's cool. You did that with the Once and Future King track, didn't you?
Yeah. I actually just sang background on an Eric Martin track for his next record too.
Did you really?
Yeah, which is awesome. Really, really cool.
I love Eric...
He's a great, great singer.
Isn't he just. I've been a fan of his since like his debut solo album in the early '80s.
Yeah, he's such a nice guy too. Real down to earth and he's just really, really cool; I like him a lot.
Fantastic. I look forward to hearing that. Anything else sort of in the pipeline?
I've been doing a lot of mixing for bands around here. What else? That's really it. It's been pretty crazy since we came off the Weight of the World album. We did a little bit of a tour and then I came back and did the solo record, and right after the solo record started the Higher record and here we are now. So really, like the last 2 years it's been every day going non-stop, and lots of mixing projects in the middle and recording stuff here at the studio. There's lots of records being done in my place too when I'm not in here that have done really well. There's a band from Canada called Three Days Grace; it's a young band and they're doing real well. They've got a U.S. deal, and then there's another band called Billy Talent that was done here, which got a deal with Atlantic in America. So lots of great things have been happening. It's all been good. No complaints.
I looked up your site and saw the resume on there. It's quite an impressive resume there now,isn't it? Especially yourself. You've produced a lot of stuff, haven't you?
I really enjoyed the Crush album.
Oh, yeah. Me too. I think it's very cool. I've got to remember to send that out to some people because I don't think they ever got that record released beyond Canada.
They did a new record now, which is great as well. I'm a big fan of those guys. They're great.
Again, stuff that just should be all over the radio.
You've still got a lot of unreleased stuff. Do you think you might do an Archive Vol. 2?
Yeah, you know what. It's possible. We do have a lot of stuff. I don't know specifically how many tracks and the quality of it. That would be something I'd have to sit down and check out and see if it's worth putting together.
How about a boxed set?
Yeah. I never thought of that, actually.
Just get a FedEx package, stick all the tracks into it, send it to me and I'll put it together for you!!!
That'd be awesome.
I'll save you the time (laughs).
I'll start bootlegging it, start sending them over the net without you even knowing about it.
Yeah (laughs). Sure. Why not.
$995 for the Harem Scarem CD.
Yeah, I tell that story in every interview.
It's great stuff, isn't it?
If only I had a box full of that.
Fuck. I know. Crazy.
Good stuff. The Early Years turned out well.
Yeah, it did turn out pretty good. It's a funny little package. I love the pictures and stuff. It's hilarious. It's funny to see.
I actually got a copy of the Japanese... of the video you put out. It's out in Japan on DVD now.
Yeah, your first 6 or 7 videos.
They put it out on DVD, eh? Was it Warner that did that?
There were about 8 clips on there, after the Believe or something like that.
They didn't even tell us.
Didn't they? (laughs)
No. I didn't know that.
I'll e-mail you the cover sleeve.
Yeah, maybe they'll send me a copy one day.
Yeah, that would be nice wouldn't it?
Yeah, very nice of them.
There's some big hair on there isn't there?
Oh, yeah. I had the real rock hairdo.
Pete was guilty too. Actually, Pete just sent me... he's producing a band called, One Short. Doyou keep up with what he's doing?
Oh, One Short. Who sent you that?
The guys in the band.
Yeah, they did a couple of Harem... a couple of your songs, didn't they?
They did. They did. A crazy version or two.
What do you think of that?
You know. I thought it was pretty cool. They're a good little band. Real nice guys. They're really young. I think they're like 17 or 18 years old.
Is that right?
Yeah. Real young guys and they're good, you know? I don't know how much luck they're having with it, getting it out there, but they're a good little band.
I'm going to feature them on the site and do whatever I can.
Give them a bit of PR. I enjoy them. You can't substitute the originals though.
Anything you'd like to add, Harry? I think we've covered it all...
Yeah. No, that's cool. That's great. Great talking. Thanks and take care.
Cheers Harry!Interview by Andrew McNeice
Originally posted at melodicrock.com