Part 1: Terrorised by poignant etherealities - the prehistory of Seventh Harmonic...
This isn’t your usual rock band interview. Seventh Harmonic have no new product to plug, no big tour in the works, no particular need for publicity at this point. Come to that, they’re not even a rock band. We’re here simply because Caroline Jago - Seventh Harmonic’s founder, multi-instrumentalist, producer, conceptualist and all-round person-who-makes-things-happen - has a story to tell. And that strikes me as a far better reason to put my interviewer’s head on than the usual scrabble for music biz promo opportunities.
Caroline’s story is full of thrills and spills, triumphs and disasters, moments of crazy glory, and, at times, occasions when it all got distinctly Spinal Tap. Even if you’ve never heard of Seventh Harmonic before, I’m sure this tale will intrigue you. If you do know Seventh Harmonic, you might be surprised to discover just what was going on behind the cool, seamless, musical flow of the band’s albums. If you’ve ever been in a band yourself, I dare say there will be moments when you’ll find yourself nodding in rueful agreement as Caroline describes the illogical madness of a musical career. And if you’ve never been in a band, but you’ve toyed with the idea of forming one, you might find what follows functions as both an inspiration...and a cautionary tale.
Seventh Harmonic are often described as an ethereal band. Reviews of the band’s albums frequently reference Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, or assorted Projekt-label acts. I confess I’ve made exactly these references myself in my time. But such comparisons really short change a band which has never, in truth, been quite so easy to pigeonhole. You’ll hear folk and classical, bhangra and trance in Seventh Harmonic’s music: everything, in fact, except straightforward rock ‘n’ roll. So, you might be surprised to find that even before Seventh Harmonic came into existence Caroline already had a whole other career as a musician under her belt, in many different bands, playing many different styles - from gothic rock to country and western, from riot grrl to romo. You won’t necessarily hear any evidence of these musical adventures in Seventh Harmonic’s own sound, but I think it’s fair to say they all contributed in a ‘how we got here from there’ manner. And it all certainly makes for a good story.
It’s a story which, for the most part, Caroline will tell herself. There’s no need to force ourselves into the usual clunky question-and-answer interview routine when the tale flows so much better in the words of the person at the centre of everything, So, there won’t be much of Uncle Nemesis here (do I hear cheering?). I’ll simply interject, rather like the narrator in the Rocky Horror show, when the plot needs to be moved on a bit, or a particular point springs to mind, or a bit of background info is necessary.
Let’s start the saga right
at the beginning: the pre-history of Seventh Harmonic. I wondered if Caroline
had been interested in music from childhood...
My earliest memory is hearing ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and being completely and utterly bewitched by them, so yes - music really was my major passion from a really young age. When I was about 8 or 9 we were allowed to borrow those tiny Casiotone keyboards from school to take home, and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! It had a sustain button so I found the most poignant sound on it (you’re going to have to use your imagination here and believe that a Casiotone could actually sound poignant) and wrote my first song straight away, complete with lyrics which my younger brother sang, and recorded it onto tape. Someone in the class then broke theirs so they were recalled from all of us - I was heartbroken.
I suppose I started on the alternative tip quite young. Adam Ant was my first love, and then I discovered the German electronica band Propaganda when I was 11 and became totally obsessed - I think they were the first band I really wanted to emulate. Then my mother discovered an old acoustic guitar in the loft, so I started teaching myself bass on that, along to The The, as my hands were too small to play the guitar at the time! Looking back on it, I must have been a very boring child/teenager, as my one and only interest was music and it was all I ever talked about.
I think the real turning point came when I turned 15 and discovered ‘The Chart Show’, a tea-time TV show, which played videos by the top bands of the day. Once more I was besotted - first by The Sisters Of Mercy’s ‘This Corrosion’, then by the Nephilim’s ‘Trees Come Down’. I started furiously buying all these amazing new sounds. This was the music I really wanted to do!
This was the late eighties - the last period in which bands of the gothic persuasion were taken seriously by the UK media. Strange though it must seem at this distance, it really was possible to see the gothic rock heroes of the day on mainstream TV shows at that time. But it wasn’t long before Caroline progressed from being simply a fan of other people’s music to playing it for herself.
I studied music at school, but I was disappointed by the clinical analysis of it, and the fact that the class was full of girls politely playing their guitars and flutes, whilst I was imbued with the spirit of rock. My parents were sympathetic to my new passion, and bought me a £50 drum kit which they set up in the garage. I taught myself to play along to Inspiral Carpets and Sex Gang Children. I formed a joke school band with a couple of friends...the head of year terminated our first gig at the fifth year leaving party with the request that could we please stop as no-one else was enjoying it. I think my music career started as it was meant to go on!
Eventually, my first opportunity to join a ‘real’ band finally came. My favourite local band, Purple Room, needed a drummer. As fate would have it they walked into the place I worked (a goth/hippy record shop in Bath) to stick their ‘drummer wanted’ posters up. I couldn’t let the chance go, so I made myself known - and they laughed. Well, I was only 15 at the time...but hey, they couldn’t have had any other offers, so they let me in. The music was a cross between Ride/Cure/Joy Division, and I absolutely loved it. The first time we played London was probably one of the best nights of my life. I was absolutely gutted when I had to go to university and leave them behind. Having said that, they were starting to take a more ‘pop’ turn, which wasn’t inspiring me at all, so perhaps it was for the best.
When I got to university, at first I was horrified at what I’d let myself in for - the sleepy seaside resort of Exmouth was even more remote than Yatton Keynell, the small town where I’d grown up. I was never going to realise my ambitions here! I joined the college jazz funk band to release my drumming urges in the only way it seemed I could, and sadly resigned myself to chewing the musical cud for the next 3 years. I pined for my old band, and dragged them down for one last gig - organised by a fellow student named Mat Hook, who was later to form Psychophile.
Keen students of Mick Mercer’s Gothic Rock book may recall a cryptic reference to a band called Obsession Of Lilith, who don’t get their own entry but are tantalisingly (and somewhat bafflingly) namechecked in passing by ‘Cipher’ on page 110. Now a further scrap of information can be revealed: Obsession Of Lilith contained two future members of Seventh Harmonic...
There was another goth in the college! I stalked him for a few months, then one night drunkenly made myself known. He was a singer who was thinking about resuscitating the band he’d had to disband when he came to uni. They were called Obsession of Lilith. He’d found a guitarist and a violinist/pianist, and would I like to drum for them? The tape he gave me was wonderful, so he took me to the house where he lived with the rest of the band. That was when I met a strange creature who went by the name of Eilish McCracken - she was the aforementioned pianist/violinist. A bond was formed, and the college bar was soon terrorised by poignant etherealities interwoven with thrash covers of Mariah Carey songs. How we laughed when the Christian Union furiously took our posters down. Whatever was wrong with a picture of a nun playing baseball accompanied by the eye catching slogan ‘Sun, Surf, Sea, Sacrifice’?
Then it all went a bit mad. By the time I reached my final year, not only was I in Obsession Of Lilith, but I was also cutting my bass playing teeth in another Devon goth band, All Living Fear (still going strong!). I played the first ever Whitby Gothic Weekend with them in 1994 - nobody even realised I was there as I hid behind a stack of amps the whole time!
Rock stardom then came a-calling. Well, almost. Enter the Frantic Spiders...
I’d also started drumming for a band who were getting a lot of alternative press - an all girl band from Exeter called Frantic Spiders, who had, by default, got caught up in the whole ‘Riot Grrrl’ scene that had the media in a froth at the time. We gigged all over the country, got a half page feature in ‘Melody Maker’, and John Peel gave our first 7” a good few airings on his BBC Radio One show. At one point, things were taking off to such an extent (well, if supporting Huggy Bear and the Voodoo Queens in various UK toilets counts as ‘taking off’!) that I thought I’d have to give up my uni course - which I was well prepared to do. In the end I compromised by doing my dissertations in the tour van between gigs! The moment I’d finished at university, the Frantic Spiders moved to London and we started seriously trying to ‘make it’, for want of a better phrase. But in the end, the fact that it wasn’t really the music I wanted to do became more and more apparent, and after a couple of years we split, pretty much on the verge of being signed by Elastica’s label. I didn’t really mind - we stayed friends, and that was the most important thing. But the void needed filling...I suspect many musicians experience those ‘almost giving up’ moments - and some, I suppose, actually do give up. But, having received that vital boost at just the right moment, Caroline’s musical odyssey continued - although not in the direction of trance. Quite the opposite, in fact. Gothic rock and country and western, anyone?
Throughout all this time I started doing things myself. Literally just fragments - little bass or keyboard lines I’d put on tape, pieces of ideas that I never really thought would go anywhere. Bands came and went, but I was finding it harder to compromise not only on music, but with the whole marketing/image thing. Already, two bands had insisted that I alter my appearance in publicity photos - the worst offenders being Frantic Spiders who actually tippexed out the top hat I wore at the time and drew in the rest of my head with black marker!
Then I spent a whole two weeks in DexDexter, who were briefly heroes of the Romo scene, and who had been splashed all over Melody Maker’s front page. They wanted me to wear all sorts of crap; and this, coupled with the fact that I was becomingly increasingly frustrated at being dependent on other people, also strengthened my urge to try and learn more for myself.
I approached one DJ Oberon, who played at my then-favourite club Escape From Samsara, to let me use his equipment in exchange for me doing odd jobs for him. He kindly obliged, then went to Israel to play a big trance party, and I locked myself in his house for a week and discovered the world of electronic music. I couldn’t believe how easy it made songwriting - having spent an age struggling with a 4 track, this was so clean, so quick, so conducive to getting ideas down there and then, in an uninterrupted flow. I couldn’t believe the speed with which the music seemed to pour from me - I was almost scared to go to bed in case I stopped this symphonic flow. I came away with a tape of apprentice trance, laden with choirs, strings, and all sorts of other melodramatic accoutrements. I sent them to my trance idol, Pablo Gargano (who ran his own label, Eve), expecting nothing - but incredibly, he called me and invited me around to his house. He sat me down, and talked to me a lot about the mechanics of music production. He said he got sent a lot of tapes, but my approach seemed very different from everyone else’s, and that was why he’d called. He told me I had a very long way to go - he wasn’t interested in signing me, but he wanted to get me around to tell me in person to work very, very hard - and to personally wish me luck. I know it’s a cliche, but that was a pivotal point, because I really was at the brink of giving up.
Then, bizarrely, I ended up joining both my favourite UK goth bands - Cries of Tammuz on drums, and This Burning Effigy on bass. Both bands honed my musicianship immensely. I was also asked to join a lesbian country and western band, the Well Oiled Sisters - they had asked me once before, but I wasn’t really interested. A mistake, seeing as they went on to tour Australia, but they lured me back with beer and I accepted the second time around. Inevitably, being in 3 active bands, gigs started to clash all over the shop - I usually made the wrong choice, torn between doing the music I loved, and playing and travelling, my other passion, so the whole time was a bit dogged with misfortune in that respect. But the girls won me over in the end, and the money I earned from gigs with the Well Oiled Sisters enabled me to buy own sampler/sequencer/FX unit. That was it. That was machine that changed my life, became my love, and upon which I started to form the sounds with which I would write and compose pretty much every Seventh Harmonic song.
I was proud of what I was doing, and made up tapes which I gave to all my friends and family as gifts. One of these was my old college chum and ex-band mate in Obsession Of Lilith, Eilish McCracken, who was extremely enthusiastic and asked whether I would like her to play violin on any songs? As the only thought I had for the compositions was to send them off to film production companies in the hope of gaining composition work, her offer got me thinking.
Even though I was rattling out all these tracks I had absolutely no notion of forming my own band. In fact, I remember around that time, a friend was unable to make some gig with whatever band I was in at the time. She said: ‘I’ll come and see you when you play in your own band!’ I just laughed and told her that would never happen! But with Eilish on board the first tentative steps to forming Seventh Harmonic began. I advertised for a singer in the Resurrection Records shop in London, and up popped a young Australian girl called Fionna...
In a scene where it sometimes seems that bands spring fully-formed out of the woodwork, it’s unusual to find a musician with Caroline’s varied background - and even more unusual to find a band which came about as the end product of such a lengthy evolution as Seventh Harmonic did. But with the musical ideas flowing and Fionna and Eilish also involved, it was time for the Seventh Harmonic story to really start. And it will - in part two.
Part 2: Raising the spirit of Mozart to jam with Aphex Twin - the early adventures of Seventh Harmonic
So, we’ve arrived at 1999
by a musically circuitous route, and Seventh Harmonic are taking shape.
Right from the start, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a standard
goth band...or, indeed, a standard band of any sort. So, what were the
ideas and influences that went in to Seventh Harmonic’s music?
The style of Seventh Harmonic wasn’t planned. All I know is, in addition to the personal impetuses I’ve already touched upon, it was that old cliche about wanting to make music I wanted to hear. Dead Can Dance are a well documented inspiration, not only in the music they make, but the fact they mix so many different styles - there are no musical boundaries or limits, no pigeonholes, and their music is absolutely timeless, untouched by musical fashions. With my songs, I just take a bunch of random sounds I like, play with them, write melodies with them, and weave them altogether. In fact I like to challenge myself with experimenting with sounds and instruments that you wouldn’t usually put together, whether it be a bhangra rhythm with a piano melody (‘Chains’), or a drum’n’bass rhythm on an 808 with a dulcimer solo over the top (‘The Dream’).
I have to say, I found the ‘ethereal’ tag quite constraining in the light of all that. I suppose Seventh Harmonic’s music was ethereal in comparison to everything else that was around at the time, and my predeliction for strings and reverb, plus Fionna’s voice and appearance meant the description stuck, but I always tried to put oomph and structure into the songs rather than letting them drift faery-like into the ether...
At this time, the UK goth scene was heavily polarised between the trad-goths and the cybergoths, between fans of guitar and bleep. In truth, the dividing line was never quite as heavily drawn as some would have you believe, but nevertheless there was a feeling at the time that you had to be on one side or the other. In this climate, Seventh Harmonic, a band which existed entirely outside the normal scene-boundaries, seemed like a completely counter-intuitive idea. But counter-intuitive ideas sometimes win through.
Did you expect success? Or
was it all a great leap in the dark?
I thought people would ignore us, and that would be that! To be honest, I never really thought Seventh Harmonic was going to work, and I certainly never envisaged any great rustle within the scene. The main way of marketing yourself is by playing live, and I never saw that as our strong point, especially at the beginning. We were all quite shy onstage, logistics meant most of the music just had to be on Minidisc, and it took a long time to get acoustic instruments like the violin and the dulcimer producing anything other than feedback or silence. It was even more frightening because I knew what worked live both as a performer and an audience member - tunes to make the kids mosh, or at least someone with a big personality on stage - and we had none of those things! Even when things were OK on the sound front, we could never find appropriate bands to play with so we were generally sandwiched between rampaging noiseniks, looking slightly out of place. But it says a lot for the scene that this was actually a heartening experience. People were so supportive and encouraging - we made so many friends from playing with these other bands, and astonishingly our audiences started growing.
For me personally, much of performing live was a nightmare. I took on every duty and responsibility by myself - in most cases stage-managing the whole night to make sure we made it on time! The stress was exacerbated a hundredfold by the difficulties we always encountered with our sound - not to mention having promoters turn around at the end of the night and argue about whether we’d earned a fiver! The others really enjoyed it though - and once I’d stuffed enough beer into my frame to deal with it all I was generally bearable to be around...
So why did I do it? The reason was, the reaction we got in those early days was phenomenal. I was dumbfounded - no matter how much things went pear-shaped (which was frequently) we were on the receiving end of so much help and support, and a growing audience to boot. It really was the last thing I expected. I think if we hadn’t had all that we might not have made it beyond those first few feedback-fests. People seemed to be so open towards something different, and that encouragement really helped us to make a proper go of it.
Having ventured out onto the gig circuit, and received an unexpectedly positive reaction, it was soon time to make some recordings...
The Awakening was our first CD. Six tracks recorded in my bedroom on the most primitive equipment imaginable. I have fond memories of being sprawled in positions a Twister expert would shy away from, trying to simultaneously reach the necessary buttons on the 8 track whilst holding the home made vocal pop shield (tights wrapped around a coathanger) in front of Fionna’s mic whilst she shivered forlornly on my stairs, the second best place in my flat for natural reverb. (None of the leads would reach the bathroom!) Everything was pretty much one take as the more the tape got recorded over the more the quality would deteriorate.
The CD was released literally a couple of months after the band had formed - I just wanted to crack on and get moving and not let anything hold us back. I also really wanted to capture that first flush of inspiration and enthusiasm that we had about the whole thing, despite it being a compromise in terms of lack of money and gear. This was the one thing I thought would count against us, so I was absolutely flabbergasted when the CD just took off. One of the most gobsmacking things was that Audioglobe - the biggest European distributors of goth music - made it release of the month when it came out. Astounding!
The most galling thing is that The Awakening has sold 3 or 4 times more than our other CDs, which were painstakingly recorded on proper equipment and took months of toil. That tentative demo recording is therefore the only piece of Seventh Harmonic music that most people have ever heard - gah!
It wasn’t long after the release of the CD that before Seventh Harmonic experienced their first line-up change. The first of many, as it would turn out...
Fionna left a couple of months after The Awakening was released, but she stayed long enough to fulfill all the live dates that we had lined up at the time. Her boyfriend was in Sweden and they just couldn’t bear to be apart from each other for any longer - the band was the only thing really keeping her in the UK, so while the timing wasn’t great, her personal circumstances overtook that really. Of course I was totally devastated, as was Eilish. I really thought that was the end of Seventh Harmonic, but in the end too much had been put into it - and too much was coming out of it - to let it die.
Fortunately, a new vocalist stepped forward almost at once, in the rumbustious, PVC-clad form of Amandine Ferrari.
Amandine had been working as a barmaid at the Devonshire Arms, the notorious goth/punk pub in London where we had played a couple of times (and frequented on many others!) I remembered that she had been really fantastic with Fionna when she had been nervous before gigs. I guess word got out that we’d lost our singer so she just volunteered herself.
Now, at this point I think it’s fair to say that Seventh Harmonic changed quite a bit, because Amandine could not have been more different from Fionna. The band went from having an ethereal waif on vocals to being fronted by a rampaging industrial-strength warrior woman, half Diamanda Galas and half Queen Boudicea. You mentioned before that none of the members of Seventh Harmonic had that dominant on-stage personality which most bands rely upon to carry their performances - but surely that situation changed when Amandine joined the band? Did you stand there in your first rehearsal and think, hmmm, things will certainly be different from now on?
Um...yes, we did! When we rehearsed for the first time with Amandine, Eilish and I looked at each other with a mixture of astonishment and pleasure, and simultaneously just said ‘cool!’ - and laughed!
How did the audiences at the gigs react? Were you aware of sagging jaws all over the room, or did everyone take Ammandine in their stride? I always thought she really put the male half of the audiences on the spot. They didn’t know whether to fancy her or to be frightened of her!
I think most reviews of the gigs with her will back you up, actually! Yes, I think it was pretty gobsmacking for everyone that had seen us before. Just as we had been neatly profiled as that quiet girly ethereal band, along she came to blow that conception right away! It was pretty unbelievable, I have to say - and not to in any way knock the previous band line-up, but Amandine was an experienced frontwoman and I think it made a huge difference to how confident we were on stage as a whole, and you could see how the audience in turn fed off this. I am personally a lot more comfortable onstage if I feel I’m not a focal point, and I was happy to just let her take over the stage and command the audience’s attention entirely - which she did with no problems whatsoever!
And then Seventh Harmonic came to make their second album - The Ascent. This album was recorded in a much more sophisticated manner than The Awakening, thanks to the production expertise of John Hull, guitarist and main man from left-field metallers, Interlock - a typically unexpected collaboration, but one which brought great results.
John Interlock was our knight in shining armour for that album. I remember wheeling my primitive but precious EPS (the box of tricks I wrote practically every Seventh Harmonic song on) upon a knotted-together string of scarves down to the bus station in Hackney, desperately trying to avoid the litter and dog shit, to the utter bemusement of everyone who saw me (and it takes a ~lot~ to raise eyebrows in Hackney!) and finally getting my cargo safely to his studio, where we tried to make it communicate with his equipment. Something akin to a seance where one might try to raise the spirit of Mozart to jam with Aphex Twin, if I remember correctly...
Anyway, John managed it by some electronic alchemy in the end, and that’s when the fun started. I think we spent a good couple of months translating everything over to his gear, whereupon he could flesh out and maximise the vastness of the sound I wished to accomplish -sometimes in ways I never dreamed possible. I was deliriously happy, and what in a way was the best thing of all, was that I never had to communicate what I wanted, and he never had to ask - he just knew. But by the time we’d got to adding the other performers over the top of the music, time was running out - and some of the songs weren’t even complete as far as lyrics and vocal lines went!
So, it’s the autumn of 2000 and Amandine had become well established as Seventh Harmonic’s singer, but she wasn’t the only new member of the band. Paul Nemeth, former vocalist with Cries Of Tammuz, also stepped in as an occasional second vocalist.
I remember being slightly
bemused the first time I saw Paul on stage with Seventh Harmonic, wearing
his blue hoodie and generally looking Not Very Goth (and not even very
ethereal!) because the last time I’d clapped eyes on him he was on stage
with Cries Of Tammuz at the Marquee, wearing a voluminous red velvet cape
and emoting dramatically about Sumerian mythology. Did you lure him out
of Gothic Retirement?
(Cackles copiously) I think Paul was disassociating himself from that aforementioned period extremely dramatically by his attire that night (one of many times I have regretted not being more of a dictator!) However, he never stopped writing music - inordinately good music as well, it’s a crying shame it was never released - and we had stayed friends after Cries Of Tammuz split. So I just asked if he would contribute to my tracks, and because I didn’t want that fantastic voice to go to waste!
The band also recruited another musician at this time - Kate Arnold, on dulcimer. But where did she come from? I imagine there aren’t that many dulcimer players out there (there was certainly never a ‘Dulcimer players available’ column in the Melody Maker’s musicians’ classifieds) - so how did you find a classical musician who was willing to throw in her lot with a bunch of ethereal goth ‘n’ rollers...?
Actually, she’d been on the sidelines for a while; she gave music lessons at the same school as Eilish, who - discovering that her musical tastes were sympathetic - lured her along to one of our first gigs where I remember chatting to her. She is predominantly a violinist, but Eilish mentioned in passing one day that she also played the dulcimer. I nearly choked on my Guinness in disbelief that this info had not been revealed to me before, and the next day she was in!
Getting the new, expanded, line-up of the band together to make the album wasn’t altogether easy, however. Much of what we hear on The Ascent is the product of some rather haphazard personnel logistics and swiftly-organised impromptu recording sessions. But the ideas were in full flow, and it all worked out rather well...
Paul and Amandine literally met once at my house to come up with something for ‘Transformation’, for which I was keen to have something Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra-esque - in the end, it was written on the spot while we were recording! And likewise ‘Swansong’ and ‘The Reflection’ - I remember Amandine staggering up to my flat at 10pm before the last night of recording, me thrusting some lyrics at her, whereupon she listened to the tracks a couple of times and with nary a bat of an eyelid combined these two disparate elements into two of the best tracks on the album the very next morning. Likewise with Kate - she was in the band and on the recording within a week - and again, her dulcimer solo on ‘The Dream’ was improvised on the spot. Eilish came in and did all her violin lines in an afternoon.So you’d think the album would sound ramshackle and hurried - or at least have benefited from a little more time. But I think I can honestly say I can’t imagine how it could have turned out more perfectly. It captures a rush of ideas and inspiration perfectly, and working that way seemed to bring out the best performances from everyone - I think Amandine did all her vocals in one take! John and I are both perfectionists so theoretically it could have taken forever, but out it went on time - it couldn’t have been hotter off the press when it came out, and I have to confess I was a little panic-stricken by it all. But our reward came at the end of the year, when Meltdown magazine readers voted it best album of 2002, and the reviews were unanimous in their enthusiasm for it!
Were Seventh Harmonic operating more as a traditional band by now, or was it more a case of assorted individuals getting together once in a while to play music which you’d written, arranged and directed? I’m thinking here of a remark I overheard Ammandine make, about ‘that girl who plays the xylophone...’ And you had to put her right: ‘She’s not ‘that girl’, she’s Kate! And it’s not a xylophone, it’s a dulcimer!’ I was left with the impression that the various people in the band didn’t really know each other very well!
Well, I think the above account confirms your suspicions really! The main thing this was down to really was people’s schedules - Eilish not living in London and having a very demanding job didn’t help, and as Amandine worked evenings and nights, and Kate worked weekends, so it was actually very hard to get everyone together in one place at one time! (I, on the other hand, didn’t have a job at all!) So mostly it was a case of everyone having the main body of the tracks I’d written and put down onto what was the live backing track to rehearse to in their free time, which seemed to work fine as when we did get together everything seemed to gel. But yes, occasionally it was the case that band members were introduced to each other for the first time at gigs...
Now here’s a slight digression from the chronology. Previously, you’ve remarked that Seventh Harmonic more or less became an ethereal band by default - but this wasn’t your target genre, as it were. And yet the way the band was marketed (inasmuch as a resolutely un-corporate project like an independent, DIY band ever could be ‘marketed’) was very ‘trad-ethereal’. The pastoral scenes on the album artwork, all soft focus and sepia tones. The band-shots, in which everybody was shown gazing soulfully into the middle distance, as if transported to higher planes. That always seemed to me to be a bit of a red herring - the band members themselves just weren’t like that in real life. A more accurate portrayal would’ve had everyone sitting around a table littered with empty Guinness glasses! So, was all this a deliberate attempt to give the etheral fans the kind of stuff they expected? Was it a kind of target-genre positioning strategy? Or do you just like photos of trees ‘n’ flowers....?
Well, yes, I’m sure everyone who knew us laughed at those pictures (and you wouldn’t actually believe how hard it was to get a shot where at least one person wasn’t smirking!) But the music wasn’t exactly Russ Abbot, so photos of us having a lark wouldn’t really have fitted - perhaps shots of us gazing soulfully into the Guinness would have been a compromise! But I think the imagery on album covers should give some idea of the music contained therein, and the musicians shouldn’t necessarily be the main focus in my opinion. In fact, the only reason band shots were included on the CD artwork in the first place was for the practicality of not having to print up photos for promo packs separately! I do love that kind of natural imagery anyway, and judging by covers of many other bands I’m not the only one...
But this reminds me of how I felt when I found out that someone I knew in the 80s lived in the same tower block in the Isle of Dogs as Dead Can Dance. She started to tell me about how she had a fight with Lisa Gerrard over a mirror and I was horrified - I didn’t want to know any more details! As far as I was concerned, Dead Can Dance were otherworldly beings who lived in a Transylvanian castle and that was that! Tower blocks...Isle of Dogs...too unethereal to compute. Not that I imagine for an instant that we’re held in that anything like that sort of veneration but - well - I did have my address on our first CD, and a guy did show up one day. I’m sure the tower block in Hackney I was living in at the time impressed him no end...
(By the way, Lisa got the mirror - just in case you wanted to know!)
So, Seventh Harmonic had become an established band on the UK scene, and success seemed to be building. But that old rock ‘n’ roll roller coaster was about to take a dip - as we shall discover in part 3...
Part 3: Halfway to madness - the later misadventures of Seventh Harmonic
The story so far. We’re up
to 2001. The new, expanded Caroline/Eilish/Kate/Amandine/Paul line-up of
Seventh Harmonic was going strong at this point. The Ascent had been very
well received, Amandine was making a big impact, lots of gigs were happening
- did you have that ‘This it it!’ kind of feeling, that sense that it was
all coming together and success was just over the horizon? From a punter’s
point of view (and also as a promoter) it did seem as if Seventh Harmonic
were definitely coming up to that elusive breakthrough point at this time.
I guess in retrospect then yes, it really did feel like this was it - that things had crystallised, and that we stood on the verge of something really good. But I’m not sure whether it really registered at the time - things were always moving so fast I’m not sure how much time there was to sit back and let the sense of achievement sink in. There was literally only several weeks to bask in the glory before Amandine left thus rendering The Ascent obsolete, and I had to crack on with composing a new album!
Ah, yes - Amandine left rather abruptly, towards the end of 2001. If I recall the story correctly, you came home one day to find that she’d had left you a ‘Dear John’ type letter and vanished to France, never to be seen again! How did this unexpected hitch go down with the band? I imagine there was a certain amount of stress and swearing behind the scenes...
It was September 2001 - I remember it very clearly, as the last time I saw her was September 12th, and I was still mesmerised by footage of the twin towers being replayed endlessly on News 24. She came around to pick up her stuff as I was going away for a week (she’d had some personal problems which meant she’d been crashing at my house for some time), looked at the TV, emitted her trademark ‘fuckin’ ‘ell!’, then turned around and immediately started discussing her own problems before bidding adieu. I came home a week later to a letter from France with no forwarding address saying she wasn’t coming back. This was less than two months after the release of The Ascent, and we had four gigs lined up, so it had a wider impact on a lot of people outside the band. In addition, I was left seriously out of pocket with an unpromotable album. So yes, you could say she wasn’t the most popular person on the planet after I’d informed the rest of the band...
And so Kate (and her dulcimer) stepped up to the front and became Seventh Harmonic’s new lead singer.
Hats off to Kate big-time for providing that seamless transition. She had started working on backing vocals with Amandine, so it was a suggestion that was put in the arena almost immediately. But yes, it was stressful for her - anyone who saw Amandine knew she was a hard act to follow, and Kate hadn’t sung for quite a while. She bit the bullet, started having weekly singing lessons, and worked extremely hard to ensure that the show could go on!
As it happens, the whole thing turned out very much for the best. The more recent tracks I’d written had moved on from The Ascent, in both a darker and also more Eastern-influenced direction, and I’m not sure those songs would have suited Amandine’s style or tastes; whereas they were perfect for Kate, who had both interest in and knowledge of Eastern vocal styles and languages.
This line-up did actually have an unexpected asset in that the dulcimer was now right under the noses of the audience, and given that most people had probably never seen such a contraption before I think this did scare up a bit of additional interest. But obviously Kate was very different to Amandine, not just in vocal style: the on-stage personality of the band was wrenched in yet another new direction. Did this cause any bother, or did you just shamelessly blag your way through the gigs as if Kate had always been there? Did anyone actually say, ‘Hang on - that’s not the singer on the album and/or at the last gig!’ ?
I think people were actually becoming quite used to our ever-changing vocalists by that stage! We just got on with it, and hoped that people would appreciate that we were giving them a bit of variety!
The next episode in the Seventh Harmonic saga came in early 2002, when you played the Eurorock festival in Belgium. On the face of it, the opportunity to appear at a major European event should be a great boost for any band, but as I recall it all turned out to be a bit of a Spinal Tap-style disaster. The experience of playing a major Euro-fest - at least if you’re a relatively unknown down-the-bill band - isn’t quite the glorious experience it’s sometimes assumed to be. So, what was the full gory story....?
(Takes enormous breath.) OK. We managed to get booked for the second day of the Eurorock festival. Basically all the established acts played on the first day and all the struggling impoverished bands played the second day - the organisers struck on the genius idea of the former being in essence paid by the latter, as yes - you guessed it - for us minnows, it was pay to play. Well, we had to bump up our European profile, and as most European festival organisers don’t touch UK acts with a barge pole, we had to like it or lump it.
So off we went on the Eurolines coach. First hurdle was, it being January, the weather was abominable so we were hugely delayed and staggered into Antwerp at an ungodly hour, eventually locating the hostel the organisers were supposed to have booked us into. (Only booked us into you understand - we had to pay for all that ourselves as well.) Hey, guess what? They hadn’t bothered to make the booking, so as the hostel was full, we were forced to sleep in the stinking boiler room, where one room was apocalyptically hot and the other was Arctic temperature - goodbye to any remote chance of sleep. We had to be up early in the morning, so double checked with the hostel owners that they’d be around to supply breakfast and book us a cab to the venue (if we weren’t there by 10am, we’d simply be struck off the bill, no matter what the reason was. No refunds, of course!) Next morning - a Sunday - there was no-one to be found. When it got to 9am I was reduced to a steaming pile of hysterical terror, and simply ran out onto the deserted street imploring any English speakers to please help.
We found someone who told us how to use a Belgian phone box, found a cab number and ordered the cab for us. We made it to the venue with seconds to spare. The band order was decided by picking names out of a hat at 10.30am, and I was praying with all my might that we’d get a decent time. In possibly the only act of fortune for the entire weekend, we got somewhere around 7pm. Unfortunately, that still left us with nine hours to kill - of course there were the other bands to watch, but this venue was in the middle of nowhere next to a motorway, and all we really wanted to do was find somewhere we could have a decent breakfast and relax, rather than hanging around the venue all day.
At that point, there was really only one course of action to take to avoid evaporating with stress, and that was to blot it all out. The bands only got 1 free beer per member but we found a way around that... We befriended another band from Sweden called Severe Illusion (who had managed to bag the final slot at 10.30), established that they could lend me both their bass and Minidisc player, and proceeded to drown our sorrows with them...
Suffice it to say, I remember very little after 3pm, and only came around when finally onstage when the first disaster of the night occurred - I’d forgotten to plug the Minidisc we’d borrowed into the mains with the result that it swiftly ran out of batteries, and we stood there looking very silly as 95% of our musical output vanished into the ether. However, since the huge venue had failed to fill with anyone who wasn’t from one of the other bands it wasn’t as if it really mattered; but it was supposed to be a competition and I had been informed by one of the Side-Line magazine crew that we were very hotly tipped to win one of the categories. The prize was the chance to play a bigger festival in summer; but that didn’t matter either as Eilish informed me on the coach up that she couldn’t make that date as she was booked to play a friend’s wedding.
Anyway, another Minidisc player was procured so off we went again, whereupon Kate forgot all the words to ‘Inside’. Hey ho. Off we came, drank some more, and all piled back onstage a couple of hours later to improvise with Severe Illusion - we had no idea what they sounded like, even what sort of genre their music was (a kind of harsh power electronics as it turned out) but who cared anymore? The other two did a fantastic job, and I set about demolishing a drumkit that someone had unwisely left miked up on the stage. The hall emptied. We got a cab back to the hostel, whereupon I passed out.
We spent another nightmarish day travelling back on Eurolines - a delayed ferry journey due to the stormy weather conditions, and lots of vomiting in the coach toilet from yours truly. When we returned, I wrote an outraged rant to a newsgroup about how shocking the whole thing had been - I don’t expect red carpets, but as well as being fleeced alive the bands were treated like cattle. A few people connected with the festival got wind of it and were not impressed, thinking it was just sour grapes on my part that we hadn’t won. I think the evidence outlined above makes it very clear that that prospect had never occurred to us...but anyway - the festival never happened again, and I like to think that this was not a coincidence and that I’d had a hand in no band ever having to go through this experience again.
Towards the end of 2002, Promise Of Sacrifice, Seventh Harmonic’s third album, was released. The album has a confident, upbeat sound, as if the band were having fun with the creative process in the studio. But, knowing the inevitable shenanigans that seem to attend everything Seventh Harmonic do, was that really the case?
I’m glad it sounds like it was a fun album to make, but sadly nothing could be further from the truth - I think it’s safe to say it drove me halfway to madness and still can’t hear the damn thing without emitting an involuntary shudder!
I couldn’t find anyone suitable with enough free time to produce the album (John Interlock was my first choice of course, but he was too busy with his own band). Although I was nowhere near confident of my abilities as a producer, there was no choice but to do the job myself. So, I started spending 12 hours a day in the studio to get myself up to scratch. It all happened thanks to the fact that I’d got myself on a music production course with Community Music - a kind of externally funded collective to help mainly urban artists get equipped with the skills to make a career out of their music (Asian Dub Foundation were their most well-known alumni, and put a lot back into it after they got their deal). There were about a dozen of us on the course, and we worked together on a lot of stuff, which as you can imagine made for interesting listening (ethereal drum ‘n’ bass is better than you’d think!) So I could never be accused of neglecting the kitchen sink, I decided to incorporate elements from this incongruous environment in a subliminal way on a couple of Seventh Harmonic tracks, so the drum loops you hear on ‘De Terra Fons Exoritur’ and ‘A Ship, Dreaming’ are actually speed garage loops I un-sped. Booyakasha!
As part of the project I got some free studio time, so despite it coming so soon into the new line-up, we had to grab it with both hands. Yep, you guessed it - this resulted in almost all the vocal parts being written right there in the studio...again! Eilish managed to do all her violin parts for the whole album in an afternoon; whilst Kate constructed her vocals/lyrics whist recording in the odd times she could get off work. My production work took several months. I was experiencing this nightmarish Groundhog Day where I was going back and forth to the studio every day, nudging and tweaking and gradually honing the tracks, thinking everything is sounding great on the studio speakers, but getting home, playing them on various stereos - and the day’s efforts seemed completely wasted. An average night’s sleep started to clock in at around 2-3 hours, which impacted on my mental health to the extent that my girlfriend left me, and my relationship with Kate in response to certain band matters started to rapidly deteriorate...
‘Parisina’ (with our old vocalist Fionna) was the first track to be done, and pretty much set the scene for the rest of the album in every way. Fionna was visiting London, I’d just dashed off a piece whilst experimenting with the posh consoles in the nice University of Westminster studios we got for two weeks in summer while the paying students were on holiday, and Fionna was still keen to sing with us. Fionna agreed to come into the studio and see what she could come up with. On the way there I thought, ‘Shit! Lyrics!’, grabbed the nearest appropriate book (an anthology of Byron, Keats and Shelley) from my diminutive collection, opened it randomly on the tube and what lay right there on the page sounded great to me. Fionna agreed, and it was laid down from scratch in a couple of hours. I have to laugh when I listen to that song - it is probably my favourite one on the album, but everything about its construction happened even more by pure chance than usual. Normally, at least the main body of the song was painstakingly constructed before the others improvised over it, but this one was made so quickly even the crescendo part happened as a consequence of me jumping when the guy I was supposed to be working with walked in unexpectedly while I was playing it!
In amongst all this, I was approached by the Greek folk group Daemonia Nymphe at one of our gigs who were interested in working with us. I literally only had time to give them a few tracks that didn’t make it onto the album and some lyrics, and I thought little of it - until they came back with what they’d done and I was blown away enough to instantly include two of the tracks - ‘Immortal Selene’ - and ‘To The Mother Of Gods ‘ on the album. We tried to start work on a separate album before they unexpectedly found themselves pregnant and had to return to Greece halfway through. Anyway, to cut a long story short, eventually the bastard was finished, and I escaped to Russia for a fortnight to try and regain my sanity (a place not recommended for this purpose, by the way.)
After the hassle of creating the Promise Of Scarifice album, all the stress building up between Kate and yourself, and the ordeal of the festival in Belgium, is it fair to say that things were never really the same within the band? Were the cracks starting to show?
The Eurorock experience was enough to put everyone off; especially as Eilish even had to take unpaid leave for the privilege, if I remember rightly. It was very frustrating - my main ambition with Seventh Harmonic was always to play beyond the UK, a country I’d found an inhibition for many years; but Eurorock had proved how utterly impractical it was for the rest of the band. We were subsequently offered a US tour which we had to turn down...
In any case, mainly due mainly to the aforementioned issues between myself and Kate, before the album was even returned from the pressing plant she had already decided to leave, but she stayed on for a few months longer in order to promote the album. We did four gigs after the album release, and called it a day.
One of those gigs was at the Hinouema club - London’s home of left-field industrial, powernoise, and neo-folk. Did you ever envisage Seventh Harmonic making any headway with the neo-folk crowd?
I personally had been getting more interested in the dark ambient/neo-folk scenes - something I tried to explore in some songs on Promise of Sacrifice - and there was a small crossover in the fan bases, which is how we got the gig. But live, those were not the songs we were performing, and I cannot pretend that gig was a success. We played with nice wafty images of lakes and forests as our backdrop, which was swiftly replaced the moment we got off with Nazi porn!
Our gig at the Verge in Camden was advertised as our ‘last London gig’, because whatever the future held I had felt that we had achieved all we could in London; and as a consequence this meant that any future plans I had to go further afield were no use to Eilish, who had started to pick up a lot of extra work as a result of her performances with Seventh Harmonic anyway.
Promise of Sacrifice was not a fantastic success - it didn’t really have the opportunity to be, but in any case that didn’t bother me unduly. After all, I had intended to make a darker album with the full knowledge that it would alienate those who were attracted by ‘Ascent’ tracks like ‘Inside’ and ‘BC’. By the time the final gig came around, I couldn’t wait for it to end, and though I suspected it wouldn’t be the final chapter, I was really grateful to at last have the chance to have a rest. After putting out 3 CDs in as many years and being entirely responsible for every aspect of the band (composing, recording, producing, promoting, financing, managing, and personnel counselling to name just a few!) I really had had enough.
But this was not the end of Seventh Harmonic after all - as we shall see in part 4...
Part 4: We live in different
countries and speak different languages - how Seventh Harmonic unexpectedly
It’s 2003. With Seventh Harmonic on ice for the forseeable future, Caroline ended up playing drums with yet another band - Misnomer, who supported Faith & The Muse in London in October that year.
Is this the return of your
‘many bands at once’ strategy, or was it just a one-off while Seventh Harmonic
were going through their, um, ‘existence holiday?’ How did it feel to play
rock drums again? It’s quite ironic that Faith And The Muse were always
the band which Seventh Harmonic should have supported, and yet when the
opportunity actually did come up, Seventh Harmonic weren’t there to do
Yes, that was gutting, but oh so typical in the Seventh Harmonic run of misfortune. I have been mates with Misnomer ever since they supported us in 2002 - I paid only scanty attention to them at the time as I’d just met Mrs Jago and wasn’t really paying attention to anything at all (poor girl - only our third date and already I had her installed behind the merchandise stand!) However, it’s something I regret to this day as we swapped CDs afterwards and I was completely blown away. I made sure they supported us at our last London gig though, and joining the band was just a natural progression from that really.
But my only contribution to Misnomer was playing drums at the Faith & The Muse gig and on one studio track. Basically, years of bashing/coaxing/caressing beautiful sounds out of disintegrating instruments has taken its toll on my body, with the result that I now have a rather poor case of RSI - some instruments can be endured for longer than others, but drums are now a definite no-no. (Tinnitus too - I’m only 31!) I don’t mind too much anyway - I’m more than happy to leave all the rock ‘n’ roll shenanigans to the youngsters, and Misnomer are certainly not short of members in any case.
When you look back on the haphazard history of Seventh Harmonic so far, do you feel that you’ve gained any vital insights, or learned any lessons?
The main thing I have learnt is ultimately that you can’t control anything. No matter what provisions you make for people or for circumstances, no matter how many guts you bust working towards something, ultimately the unexpected will happen and blow away all the things you carefully try to control - or drop something into your lap when you least expect it.
Personnel wise, I’m still very close friends with Eilish, Paul and Fionna; and personally couldn’t have had much control over the revolving door of singers - two left due to external factors in their lives; whilst Kate and I eventually brought out the worst in each other and there wasn’t a great deal either of us could do about that apart from accept it and move on. As fate had it, all this worked out ideally as far each singer being perfectly suited to the record they were on.
Seventh Harmonic music is available on more or less every MP3 site on the web. The music seems universally popular: the songs hit the higher reaches of the various download charts and generally get good reactions. It does seem that you’ve found your audience here. But does this popularity translate into sales of the hard-copy CDs? Or does it seem that the download-audience is a phenomenon unto itself - many people chose to consume music virtually these days, and aren’t necessarily inclined to have an actual CD on the shelf?
If we accept that the future
of music is virtual (which may be a bit of an assumption, but the Seventh
Harmonic experience suggests that it’s going that way) would you think
of doing the next Seventh Harmonic album as a download-only release? Perhaps
with an inlay card on the website so that anyone who wanted to burn their
own CD could print it out and make a bona-fide looking item - but essentially
cutting out the old-skool business of manufacturing CDs and distributing
them to retailers. Is this where the future might lie?
Yes, I check the stats every now and then and it astonishes me - there seem to be two entirely separate audiences, as there appears to be no correlation between downloads and CD sales at all. I guess in a downloading culture where people are used to getting all their music for free or very cheaply, they’re not going to bother going to the hassle of tracking down and shelling out for a hard copy, especially if they can’t lay their mitts on it straight away - and let’s face it, why should they? I have to say I share that mindset - I don’t want a load of CDs taking up space, and am happier selecting from a couple of hundred songs in one place on my hard drive than 12 songs on a CD for roughly the same price. All future Seventh Harmonic releases will be download only. I hadn’t thought as far ahead as putting the artwork online, but why not? In any case, it will all be free!
Now, this may seem like a silly question, but here it comes anyway: have you ever made any money out of Seventh Harmonic?
I realise you’ll probably
greet the very idea with a hollow laugh, but I ask because so many people
seem to think that there are huge sums of money sloshing around all levels
of the music biz, and anyone who’s involved with music must, therefore,
be quids in. I have met plenty of people who vaguely assume that any band
which is appearing fairly regularly on the gig circuit, and has a CD or
two out, must be making hefty sums of dosh. So, just to spell it out to
everyone who thinks we’re all gleefully dipping in to the pot of gold at
the end of the rock ‘n’ roll rainbow, has Seventh Harmonic ever made financial
Being in bands is far more expensive than anyone who doesn’t do it can ever start to comprehend - instruments and their maintenance, rehearsal rooms, transport, recording studio costs, CD manufacturing costs, promotion costs...shall I go on?
The basic financial premise with Seventh Harmonic was that I paid for pretty much everything, and whenever the debt dipped below four figures, money from gigs was shared out equally. Otherwise it went towards covering the considerable costs the CD releases incurred. Eilish’s share generally covered her train fare (as she lives outside London), mine went back into reducing the debt - and that was pretty much that!
The Awakening has been far and away the best seller - something that annoys me, as the least work went into that one and the recording quality is extremely primitive. I can only conclude that it is because it is a mini album and therefore the cheapest - however, it didn’t make a fantastic gain as it required selling twice as many copies as usual to break even! But it eventually made a small profit which helped The Ascent along. However, by the time it got around to Promise of Sacrifice I was reduced to selling my body to the pharmaceutical industry to finance it. I finally limped into the black last month - sort of - when I hit upon the genius plan of removing the inlays and CDs from the boxes, which I then sold on to my employers! But I’m only talking about the physical costs of CD manufacture here - I’ll certainly never break even on every cost Seventh Harmonic has accrued throughout the years.
The other thing is that you don’t sell CDs, you give them away! The very nature of this scene is that pretty much everyone involved in it is promoting it in some way - whether they DJ, write reviews, put gigs on, or are in another band; so the vast majority of CDs we’ve got rid of have gone out on promo for free. If anyone is in this scene to make money, the absolute last thing they’d choose to be would be an artist (though I’m realising you might dispute this, having experienced the financial nightmare of being a promoter!)
Still, relatively speaking our overheads were pretty low - we rehearsed in my flat, and for 2 and a half of the 3 CDs I did all the engineering, recording and production; which gives you some idea of how much other bands must lose, and lose they do! Despite what we and all other bands would like you to believe about our success, I’ve never known of a UK band who has incurred anything other than hefty debts. As far as our sales went, our only middle man was the distribution network, but again I don’t think people have any idea of how little you get back once a third party is involved - for each CD sold via our distributors, we get an average of around £3-£4 for a CD sold for £12-£15, depending on the country (if you’re signed to a label, you get even less!)
We were approached by a couple of labels but the offers either weren’t good enough (in that we still had to cover all the costs we were covering anyway!) or vanished into the ether at the last moment. I didn’t mind too much about that, but a good middle ground would have been a manager, which we were all keen for but never really found anyone suitable or stupid enough to accept (no, I haven’t forgotten Eilish drunkenly trying to coerce a certain Uncle Nemesis on numerous occasions!) As musicians tend to be such a temperamental/mistrustful bunch anyway, it’s probably a case of the less people involved the better really, so in a way perhaps it worked out for the best. On the other hand, it’s crazy to have one band member trying to take care of everything. In the end, composing new tracks was pushed to the bottom of the list of priorities until in the end I found I had no time left for the music at all. So yes, in the extremely unlikely event that anyone reads all this and still wants to sign/manage us, I’m open to offers! (laughs into the middle of next week).
Wait a minute - all of a sudden, Caroline is talking about Seventh Harmonic in the present tense. That’s because the band has, against the odds, re-emerged with yet another new line-up. But this time it’s not simply a case of bringing in a replacement vocalist. Things are different now. The latest incarnation of Seventh Harmonic is essentially a two-way partnership between Caroline and Keltia, a vocalist and harpist from Liège, Belgium. It was Keltia who rekindled Caroline’s enthusiasm for music once more...
Keltia - a songwriter and performer in her own right - was introduced to me by a mutual friend and fan of both our music. Knowing that the only possible way I’d consider resuscitating the band was for the purpose of progressing beyond the UK, he sent me an email suggesting I check her out at a time when Seventh Harmonic was the furthest thing from my mind - my life had changed in every possible way since the break, and I was quite happily enjoying it!
Nevertheless, I checked out her website, saw that we were obviously coming from the same place and dashed off an email to her on New Year’s day 2004, without really thinking about it, saying we had a vacant vocal position, directing her to the mp3s, and asking her to get in touch if she was interested. She wrote back the next day saying she was really up for it, we swapped CDs and a few more emails, and suddenly - to my astonishment - I became really enthusiastic about the whole thing again.
I started chasing up some of the offers from Europe we’d got in the past and been unable to take up. Keltia was really keen to break new ground as well. In the space of a few months she adapted old songs, wrote new ones, and we performed our first gig Budapest (where we met for the first time!) and then another in Brussels. With Keltia already on the continent, those gigs needed for the next stage of our development are much more practically achievable. Responsibility wise, it seems that things have evolved naturally too - Keltia has been using her resources and contacts to try and get gigs as well, and I have noticed a huge difference in my general bearing at gigs now - whereas at a London gig I was generally extremely stressed and running about trying to organise 101 things, now it’s wonderful, partly because - as Keltia takes on the entire responsibility for her vocal effects and harp - all I have to worry about is what I’m doing; now there’s just two of us it feels like things are more shared. And we’ve done all this whilst negotiating the inconveniences of neither of us being able to do anything in term-time and the fact we live in different countries and speak different languages!
It does feel totally fresh and new, and for once I’m lost for words to the extent that that’s all I can say really, except that this is the most peaceful and relaxed I have ever felt about the whole thing. Musically, of course it still sounds like us - how could it sound like anyone else? Some of the songs have now been sung by four different singers, but they still sound like different songs each time. At this point, it’s still ‘work in progress’ so I don’t want to say too much - however, I think for the time being for live purposes we are likely to stay as a two-piece because it is working very well, and practically it is much easier and more flexible. For recordings though, we’ve a few interested additional parties - Eilish is up for recording if it fits in with her schedule, and Louisa John-Krol has also offered to contribute vocally which would be an enormous privilege. We’ll see!
If Keltia hadn’t come along and injected new life into Seventh Harmonic, I’m not sure I’d have had the heart to chase for it one more time. All I know is that all the time I was so desperate for us to achieve, it was a constant uphill struggle. Now I’ve relinquished that feeling of being absolutely possessed by it, things have started to happen again and after all these years I feel like I’m finally enjoying it.
And finally - nothing would have been achievable without the incredible kindness and help of certain people - those who have put on gigs for us from their own pockets, or who have devoted their time or energy to helping us, promoting us or supporting us anyway they can. At the risk of sounding like a tiresome hippy, I’d really like to thank those people!
And that’s the Seventh Harmonic story so far. A more chequered tale than most bands can tell, I’ll warrant, but it’s not over yet - and I suspect that the best may be yet to come.
Essential Seventh Harmonic links:
The Seventh Harmonic website Full discography including EPs, compilation appearances and ephemera not mentioned in the interview - plus gigs, downloads, biography, archived reviews, and CD sales direct from the band: http://vzone.virgin.net/seventh.harmonic
Seventh Harmonic on Mperia.com
Downloads of recent tracks:
Seventh Harmonic's vocalist has her own website:
Seventh Harmonic collaborators:
Sometime collaborators/producers of Seventh Harmonic - highly recommended, but musically very different!
Links to some of Caroline's former bands, mentioned in the interview:
Obsession Of Lilith
Never famous, and very little evidence that the band ever existed can now be found. But an old demo tape gets a review here:
(Click on the band's name in the list, or scroll down)
Well Oiled Sisters
The band has now split up, and no official website exists. These two links are fairly minimal, but they represent all that remains:
Now long defunct, but if the many references on the web are any guide, still remembered with affection. Former guitarist Charley (who later joined Gay Dad) maintains this memorial page:
All Living Fear
Alive and well, gigging and recording fairly frequently:
Heroes of the romo scene in the mid-nineties, even if nobody could quite decide how their name should be rendered. Now split, but a basic web page still exists for the band:
This Burning Effigy
Gone, but their recorded works remain:
http://www.gravenewsltd.com/page557.htm Guitarist Steve is now in Adoration.
Cries Of Tammuz
Gone, but some CDs are still available:
Alive and well, probably playing a gig as I type: