Harry Hess | interview

I think the very first question can't be any other but why did you change yourname back to Harem Scarem? And why did you change it to Rubber a few years ago?
"We haven't had much luck in North America after our first three records so the name change was to get anew start, especially in Canada. It worked pretty good. We got a couple of top 20 singles out of it and heavy rotation on the video for 4 months. Now that we are no longer with Warner we can start over again and it seems clear to us that in Europe and Asia we have built up a good following and probably shouldn't have changed our name in the first place."

Are you not afraid to confuse your fans with all the name changes? I meanfirst HaremScarem,then Rubber, and now Harem Scarem again! It's not easy to follow you!?
"Yes, I admit it is extremely strange. Hopefully people will see the situation we were in and forgive usfor it. Our record deal was based out of Canada and we all felt a need to succeed in our own country."

Your new album "Weight Of The World" is said to continue the style of your debut and "MoodSwings". Why did you decide to go back to the roots after all the years and albums on which you tried to sound modern and close to the pulse of time?
"As I'm sure any Harem Scarem fan will tell you, we have never been consistent in terms of style from record to record in any regard. The name change just seemed to emphasize it. We were also heavily influenced by British pop rock at that time and not so slick productions. It has been so long since we've done anything like this that it was actually exciting for us to do. When you've made as many records as we have you have to keep yourself inspired and a lot of times for us that's changing things up a bit."

Would you agree that "Weight Of The World" is a present to all the early fans of theband??
"Yes, and also for us. I think it encompasses everything that we have done and learned over the last 12 years but people need to know that it is something we wanted to do. This will be very obvious when you hear the time and effort that we put into the songs and the production. This is definitely our most ambitious recording to date."

We currently have a poll running on our website and one of the things people can vote foris themost eagerly awaited album in 2002. The new Harem Scarem album is one of the most voted albums. Do you think that you can fulfill these high hopes with "Weight Of The World"???
"I think it is our best recording to date. It has songs, production, heaviness, melody. If you're into this kind of stuff I think you'll like it."

The cover artwork of your new album features the classic Harem Scarem logo of "MoodSwings". It seems that you choose it to emphasize that "Weigth Of The World" is a return to your Melodic Rock days!?
"That was actually an idea from our Japanese label. It definitely sets a tone if you pick up the record before you even put it on."

Harem Scarem did a lot of stylistical changes from album to album. Many of your early fans didn't like these changes. Can you understand their disapproving attitude or does it hurt you as an artist when people limit you on your first two albums?
"I completely understand were they are coming from, I feel the same way when a band I love puts out arecord that I don't like for whatever reason. I never thought that all the records were that dissimilar. It was more the production and approach. We used to play some of the old and new back to back live and people would them see that given the same treatment that are not that different. Within reason."

Another cool thing the return of your former drummer Darren Smith as background singer for the new album. Why did you call him for this job and how was working with him again after all the years?
"We've continued to be friends, Darren just decided to pursue something else. With regards to getting himto sing on the new record: Darren and I used to do most of the backing vocals together in the "Mood Swings" days, so I thought it would be cool to do that again and make it even more authentic."

Are there any plans for further cooperations with Darren? I heard he isworking on a solo album so can we maybe look forward to hear you or Pete singing/playing on his album?
"Yes, we have been talking about it. Darren is going to start working on song ideas in the next while. I may be involved in some sort of production capacity, we're just talking about it now so I'm not really sure."

Another thing some of your fans confused were the different versions of your albums released in Japan, Canada and Europe. What about "Weight Of The World" will there be any differences??
"These differences have always come about because all the different labels involved. It is not our personal desire to do this, but it is a reality when dealing with different markets. Just the fact that with every Japanese release they require a bonus track makes the record different. As far as North America goes, we are in the process of talking labels about a release. We've some recent success as Rubber here in Canada so I am sure that will be an issue. It's all just a big pile of shit."

Do you still have a contract with Warner Music Canada and Japan or means the new album also a new orientation regarding your contractual situationsin these territories?
"I still have a great relationship with Warner. I just mixed two records for them that will be released in the new year. A new band called CRUSH - which rock fans will love - and another band called GREAT BIG SEA who have sold millions of records around the world. I have not contractual obligations as a recording artist with Warner anymore."

Did you ever hear about the Canadian band EMERALD RAIN and what do you think about them? Especially over here in Europe people liked them due to the fact that they sounded very close to your debut and "MoodSwings"...
"Thank you for the information, I will launch a lawsuit immediately. I know Murray from the band and speak with him every now and then. He actually hooked me up with Mark Ashton from Now & Then in the U.K. I have heard people make the comparison before. It must be something in the water down here."

Does the return of Harem Scarem mean the end of Rubber or do you still have plans to keep onusing this name for any further releases?? I heard you have plans for a solo album maybe as Rubber?
"As I mentioned before I do anticipate some problems with Canada and them wanting to us the Rubber name but nothing has come up yet. I am currently working on a solo record which I hope to have finished sometime in the summer. It will not be under the Rubber name. I'll make up yet another one to further confuse the issue."

What can we expect from your solo album? I mean will it be a more modern Rock album like Rubber or will it also move in the Melodic Rock style a la Harem Scarem?
"I have only written a couple of songs so far so it is hard to say, but It will be very melodic and songwriter based."

I really love the last Rubber album "Ultra Feel" and think it was a perfect combination of the classic Harem Scarem hooklines and modern arrangements/songwriting. Do you think the album will ever officially be released over here in Europe?
"Not unless Warner decides to, which I don't think they will. Another possibility is to re-record some of our favorite songs from all the records past and put it out in Europe as a domestic release under our new label."

I have read your comments about each new song on the melodicrock.com website and it seems that"WeightOf The World" has become a surprisingly heavy and mainly up-tempo album. How would you describe the new album in general?
"-Surprisingly heavy and mainly up-tempo."- / -"One of the best films of the year. If you only see one "Weight of the world" this summer make sure it's this one."- / - "Not since "Heintje" have I heard such horrible singing."- / You get the idea..."

On your last albums you shared some of the lead vocal parts within the band. What about "WeightOf TheWorld" is it only you who's singing lead vocals?
"Yes it is only me. If we were to attempt to get that traditional Harem Scarem sound we thought it would be more appropriate for me to sing."

Most of the new tracks were co-written by you and Pete Lesperance. Can you describe the special chemistry of the songwriting duo Hess/Lesperance???
"We definitely have something going on with the way Pete plays and my melodies and lyrics. With that combination and hard rock production style it is unmistakably Harem Scarem. We have written and recorded over one hundred songs as Harem Scarem and it is still fun and challenging to top the last record."

The lyrics of the new album have a very positive message or are partially meant a little ironic. How important are good lyrics for you as a songwriter? I think many of nowadays listeners seem not to care about the quality of lyrics when songs with "Nah Nah Nah Oh Oh Oh Hey Ho Hey Ho!"lyrics can storm thecharts!?
"See you too can be a hit song writer! It doesn't matter to me what other people are doing so much as it is to know I'm getting better as a songwriter. I always try to do the best I can and I'm not satisfied or finished until I think so. I find these lyrics are stylistically appropriate in the sense that you can write some deeper stuff with a heavier background. They seem to go hand and hand nicely."

Since you signed a multi album deal with Frontiers Records I guess that "Weight Of TheWorld" was not a one time thing and you are planning to go on as Harem Scarem and release a few more classic Melodic Rock albums, right?
"Absolutely, we plan to continue to make records as long as people like them and we feel we're being challenged creatively."

Are you working on any other projects? Maybe another Fiore album or something like that?
"The only thing I have planned right now is a solo record and a little bit a studio work engineering and mixing."

Do you have any plans for live activities over here in Europe?? Maybe playing at the next The Gods festival??
"Yes, we will be doing some dates in Europe for the new release. We hope to have a more constant presence from now on with the new label and all."

Any closing message to your fans around the globe?
"What I always say: Thanks for sticking with us all these years it really is appreciated."

OK, that's it. Thanx for taking the time and patience to answer my questions. I really appreciate it!
"My pleasure..."

Interview by Marco Spaeth
Originally posted at On The Rocks