Harry Hess | interview

I love Harem Scarem. I mean, I love Harem Scarem. It is so cool that we get to interview Harry Hess, lead singer of the band I love: Harem Scarem.

Harry can you tell us what you've been up to?
The web site is www.haremscarem.net. It's got everything you would ever want to know about Harem Scarem and a few things you probably didn't. We finished working on our new record "OVERLOAD" on Feb. 21. We're really happy with it and I'm sure our fans won't be disappointed.

When will the CD be released, what style can we expect, and on what label?
It's definitely a "rock" record. We've touched on power pop at times in the past but this all about big guitar riffs and choruses. It's out in Asia through Avalon/Marquee at the end of May, and in Europe through Frontiers at the end of May as well.

Any plans of a tour to support it?
We usually do dates in Europe and Japan and we hope to continue that on this record.

Harem Scarem is a great melodic rock band. Why haven't you guys seen more success in the U.S.?
Well, we were on Warner for 11 years and in that time they were never able to get us an American release. We were signed to a world deal but out of Canada. We didn't know how political it was getting releases in other territories until it was too late. We're really hoping to get something going on in America with this record so fans in North America don't have to pay so much to get our records.

Looking back over your long career, what are you most proud of and what do you wish never saw the light of day?
Looking back is always a strange thing but I can honestly say that I don't have any regrets. We could have done many things to further our careers but we were always true to ourselves and made the records that we wanted to make. (A lot of people really hate that about us) I think every record we've made has been a highlight in our lives. Also, arriving in Japan for our first tour and finding out that it's sold out. I find it hard to watch any video that we've ever made. They could all disappear and I wouldn't be too sad.

Last year or so, you released a solo CD "Just Another Day." How was this CD received and any plans on more solo material?
It depends on who you ask. The die hard rock fans really didn't like my solo record because it wasn't a "rock" record. I was aware of that when I made it. I made it for open minded people who could judge it and its musical merit and songwriting, not if the recording sounded a certain way. The whole point to making a solo record was to do something different! Do I sound bitter? Well I am, so there. We shall never speak of "the solo record" again. Just kidding. I like it.

You recently sang on Liberty n' Justice's last CD "Welcome To The Revolution" with Christian rocker Mike Roe. LNJ covered a Harem Scarem song. What did you think of the cover tune and why did you get involved in this project?
It's very flattering when something like that happens. We've been lucky enough to have a few covers in our career and in my mind as a songwriter there is nothing better. In the case of LNJ I even got to sing on it! Bonus. The reason I got involved was because of their impeccable taste in spotting talent and picking songs! He he.

On the new Liberty n' Justice CD "Soundtrack Of A Soul" you again have a part, but this time as engineer on the song featuring Phil Naro called "Hope & Pray (Ballad Of King David)." What was it like working with Phil and what can we expect from this song?
I haven't worked with Phil since recording his "Press Play" record many years ago.

Can you tell us three of the highest and lowest points so far in your musical career?
I always say that this job is like being on a roller coaster, a lot of ups and downs and your ass hurts when it's all over.
High point: 1. Signing our deal with Warner. 2. Sold out tour of Japan. 3. Recording in Italy, Belgium and Indonesia.
Low points: There have been so many it not really fair to just pick three, but here goes: 1. Definitely being stuffed into the back of a van for 18 hours to drive to a gig for 5 people. (That happened a lot in the early days) 2. A girl and her friend were standing beside me once and I overheard one of them say "That looks like the singer for Harem Scarem" and the other girl said: "NO! the singer for Harem Scarem isn't that ugly." 3. Signing our deal with Warner.

A few years ago you changed the name of Harem Scarem to Rubber...why?
We decided to change it in Canada because the music was so different from our early records that it was like a new band. We soon learned that was a dumb idea. (I highly recommend changing the name of your band once you've had success and built up a loyal following. Yeah there's nothing like a good old name change to throw those pesky fans off the trail when looking to buy your record!)

What do you believe spiritually?
I believe in a higher power (God). There are a lot of issues with religion and spirituality that are hard for me to nail down and define but I live my life respecting everyone else and try to be the best person I can.

The last of Harry Hess
last CD you bought: The Killers
last song you wrote: "Understand You," on the new HS record
last interview you did before this one: Some rock mag in Germany
last time you played live in The States: About ten years ago in Buffalo

You are from Canada, correct? So musically who do you feel is Canada's greatest export?
I'm actually very proud of the impact Canadian artists have had on an international level. For such a small population we have had a lot of big international bands and comedians. It's play music or freeze! and this makes us funny. Mike Myers, Jim Carey, I rest my case.

We know you own Vespa Studio. Do you take outside clients and how can someone book your studio? (BTW we will not charge for this free advertisement)
It's primarily a place for me to do the records that I produce and Harem Scarem but I also have a hand full of outside clients that keep it booked all the time. Some Canadians bands that have been in the studio are : Three Days Grace, Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven, Simple Plan, Blue Rodeo, Great Big Sea, Sarah Harmer, Ian Thornely, and Billy Talent.

How did you find out about your first demo's being sold for $995 US? How did you feel about it?
I'm pretty sure it was Andrew McNiece from MelodicRock.com that pointed it out to me. I felt horrible. That's why we put together a compilation of our pre-deal material and released it as "The Early Years" so that the people who wanted it wouldn't have to pay $995.

What does 2005 and beyond hold for Harry Hess?
We'll more than likely do some playing and I'll work an a few records for other artists.

And finally, a Liberty n' Justice 4-ALL word association. We will mention a name or thing, and you give us your thoughts:
Darren Smith (drummer): Nutcase, rock star, fun
Eric Martin (Mr.Big): One of the best voices in rock!
Serafino Perugino (Frontier Records): Passionate about melodic rock
Pete Lesperance (Harem Scarem): my other wife (I spend far to much time with this person)
Sebastion Bach (Skid Row): A bit of a crazy man.
Tony Harnell (TNT): Great Guy! Awesome talent.
Andrew McNeice (melodicrock.com): Now here's a guy that loves music.
Ray Coburn (Honeymoon Suite keyboard player): Good friend and the coolest keyboard player I know.
Gary Hughes (singer): I don't know him well but when we spoke he was a true gentleman.
Steve Perry (Journey): Major influence

Interview by Liberty n' Justice
Originally posted at Liberty n' Justice