Epic, indispensible interview with Caroline by Uncle Nemesis, 2005
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.
Caroline’s tale 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. Read on…
Femme Metal webzine
Interview with Caroline, Ann-Mari and Lesley, October 2011
So you’re here to talk about Seventh Harmonic and your new album. Can you please give us a little biographical resume about the band?
Caroline: Seventh Harmonic was a very active project around a decade ago, where we were based entirely in and around London – we self-released our first few CDs, and eventually the project reached a logical conclusion. I later met Ann-Mari when both bands we were in at the time (Sol Invictus and Arcana) performed together in London a couple of years ago, and she expressed an interest in singing on some of my songs – which I was absolutely delighted to accept, despite the challenges of her being based in Sweden. The rest of the band came together very naturally from existing musical connections, including SH’s last singer Frederique, who plays harp with us. So we are spread around four different countries at the moment!
‘Garden of Dilmun’ came out last month on Out of Line records, nine years after the release of ‘Promise of Sacrifice’ with a totally new line-up. Why did it take such a long time for you to release a new record?
Caroline: Mainly to do with circumstances mentioned above, really. In the early days it was such a lot of work and I was doing pretty much everything (writing and composition, producing, releasing, promoting, managing etc) by myself. Around the time of the last album ‘Promise of Sacrifice’, I was working on it 18 hours a day, which was actually making me ill, so I needed a clean break for a while. I wasn’t looking to start it up again, but when Ann-Mari offered all those years later, I realised how much I had missed it, and that this was the most perfect opportunity for a fresh new beginning. That is also why we signed to a label, because I didn’t want to fall into that trap of exhausting myself again; and also because I knew this record would be the most important one for us and wanted to give it the best chance it could possibly have.
How was the genesis of this new album? When did you feel that was the right time to come out with a new record?
Caroline: It all happened very quickly and naturally. Neither Ann-Mari nor I felt it appropriate to re-do songs from the past (although we had to at first, to be ready to perform live shows), and after such a long gap the inspiration was very full in me! I wrote ‘Soporanimi’ literally on the first night I set up my new sound modules and Ann-Mari added to it immediately, her vocals and lyrics just perfect for this new neoclassical sound. We sent the first four demos we wrote around to record companies, and were very encouraged by the responses – especially as we did not have high expectations, what with the current state of the music industry. Out of Line made an excellent impression immediately, and so far we have been very happy to have chosen them.
According to Wikipedia, Dilmun is associated with an ancient Mesopotamian population and zone that now corresponds to a city in Bahrain. Dilmun is described as “The place where the sun rises” and “The Land of the Living”. Connecting the dots, how did you come up with this title and in your words what do you want to express with the title ‘Garden of Dilmun’? Also, did you know about this historical fact? Tying in with the mythological meaning, do you want describe with your songs a kind of Eden?
Ann-Mari: The first time I heard of the Garden of Dilmun was when I stumbled over an historical article telling about its location and the mythology around it. I was very intrigued by the idea of a theoretical earthly Garden of Eden and for me it became a concept and a metaphor for a certain state of mind and a stage in life when pieces fall into place and make sense. With my lyrics I want to describe a path to this inner Dilmun, which leads you through wastelands, darkness and cold to meadows, sunlight and warmth. Also the prologue and epilogue I wrote for the album tries to illustrate this and how the three concepts of the lyrics are interlinked into one.
I found the songs titles really affected and elegant, I suppose that are not English since I wasn’t able to found a match for their meaning. Can you explain us this little mystery?
Ann-Mari: The song titles are a mixture of different things; ‘Valensanimi’, ‘Soporanimi’ and ‘Equianimi’ are based on Latin, and mean strong at heart, rest at heart, and equal at heart. Imbolc, Mabon, Eostre, Beltane, Litha and Samhain are Celtic and Wiccan festivals and Aoide, Melete, and Mneme are the names of the three original Muses in Greek mythology.
Talking about the graphics, the photos etc are amazing, The one that hits me totally was the album cover. What does it represent?
Lesley: I do all the photography and artwork, so thank you! The image on the cover is a photo I took years ago in a cemetery in Budapest. When I started selecting images for the CD booklet this just leapt out at me as the right one for the cover. The richness of the gold makes a change from the usual black-dominated album artwork in this scene and it evokes the lyrical themes of hope, joy and renewal. The sun and the three groups of three rays suggest the eternal cycles and primal symbols that inspired the lyrics, and the solar eclipse on the back complements, or is the reverse of, the cover – ascent into light/descent into darkness – again a theme throughout the album. People often tell us that they find our music very visual and that it evokes very distinct mental images while they listen. So we’ve worked on creating a strong visual complement to the music, such as the album artwork and visuals for the live show.
After 12 years of activity, Caroline, are you happy with your achievements? What are your next projects/goals?
Caroline: Yes, I am very happy indeed with what we achieved, all of it. Even the times that were difficult taught me many valuable lessons, and as for the future – I have always been very open about that. I would love for us to now play as many concerts and festivals as possible, and have also always had an ambition to work on film soundtracks. But as I am already working with many artists that have been a great influence on me and Seventh Harmonic, really I have been very lucky already!
I reckon Seventh Harmonic is a ethereal/ambient supergroup – Caroline and Lesley play with Sol Invictus, Ann-Mari with Arcana, Nuria with Narsilion. How are you were able to bring all these musical characters into the band?
Caroline: It has been a natural progression really, as we have all met each other because of playing in other bands. Nuria actually joined by accident, she helped us out onstage when two other band members fell ill! And she plays with Arcana with Ann-Mari, and Lesley and I now play in her main band Narsilion. Everything evolves perfectly!
Ann-Mari, connected to the previous question, how did you join Seventh Harmonic? Can we consider you a permanent singer of the band?
Ann-Mari: I met Caroline and Lesley one autumn night in London when they performed with Sol Invictus and I with Arcana at the same venue. Our band members became friends immediately and Caroline and Lesley came to visit Sweden the next summer. During their visit Caroline told me about her music and I asked to hear it. I was charmed by it at once and told her instantly that I would love to sing to it if she ever decided to awake the project once more. That’s how it all began and I do consider myself a permanent singer of the band.
What are the next Seventh Harmonic projects, in terms of gigs and stuff like that?
Caroline: At the moment, we have forthcoming concerts in London, and also at the Villa Festival in Italy. But we have a new booking agent in Germany now, which will hopefully lead to more opportunities. We are all busy with other bands so we have plenty to keep us occupied in the meantime!
I always end with this question: mainly my webzine promotes metal bands, which is distant from your music but in some ways close in ideas. So what five ambient albums would you sugegst to a beginner?
Caroline: Maybe not ambient as such, but the most inspiring to me musically: The first three Dead Can Dance albums are essential (‘Dead Can Dance’, ‘Spleen and Ideal’, ‘Within the Realm of a Dying Sun’.) The album ‘Les Marronniers’ by Collection D’Arnell Andrea is exquisite, an absolute gem. And finally, I would probably say ‘But What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?’, by Death in June.
Ann-Mari: Arcana’s ‘Inner Pale Sun’ and ‘Raspail’ of course!
© Femme Metal webzine | http://www.femmemetalwebzine.net
Interview with Caroline, Ann-Mari and Lesley, July 2011
Symph nymphs Seventh Harmonic have been around in one form or another for over a decade now. Initially formed in 1999 by Caroline Jago the band self-released several albums, worked with a range of vocalists, and was put to rest. But in 2009 Ann-Mari Thim of Arcana fame joined the ranks and a new drive was given to the project. Fast forward to 2011 and the band’s first release on Out Of Line records, ‘Garden Of Dilmun’, has already received strong reviews from both the press and music fans. Dominion caught up with Caroline, Ann-Mari and drummer Lesley to get their thoughts on the album’s reception, comparision’s to Dead Can Dance and working together over long distances.
Your new album ‘Garden of Dilmun’ draws a lot of inspiration from the muses and the cycle of the year, how did you go about translating these ideas into song?
Ann-Mari: The album lyrics are based on three different concepts that are supposed to merge into one. They consist of the seasons of the heart, seasons of the year and the three original muses from Greek mythology. More or less they are about inspiration, creativity, wisdom and inner ascension. The concepts are supposed to weave together into one in a way, which I try to illustrate with the prologue and the epilogue I wrote for the album.
How have you found the reaction to the new album?
Caroline: The reaction has been amazing – 10/10 reviews, ‘Neoclassical/Heavenly Voices album of the year’ in Zillo, and many new fans who seem very excited by it! It is a very happy outcome for us.
Ann-Mari: Yes, so far most of the reactions have been really positive and inspiring; a truly great reward after lots of hard work to get the songs and the album as a whole how we wanted.
Lesley: I find it especially pleasing when people who don’t normally listen to this kind of music hear the album and are blown away. It transcends genre, and the complexity and depth of the whole album means that people respond to it in all sorts of ways. Some people get what we’re doing completely and others pick up on things that we never realised ourselves. I like that a lot.
How have you found the songs work live?
Caroline: That’s a process we’re still going through to some extent, but currently we have around half the album tracks in our live set, and they are receiving a very enthusiastic response. From our next concert onwards, the drums will be almost completely live, and that is a new step forward for us – we really want to bring the impact of the new songs out live as much as possible, although often that is down to the practicalities on the night.
Lesley: Seventh Harmonic’s music has always been driven by a strong drum sound and powerful rhythms, and the new album probably even more so. I’m enjoying starting to bring that to life on stage, and give the show the added energy of live drums. When we have a singer with such a rich and intense vocal style, it’s great to have a more organic kind of musical performance to accompany that.
You’ve been compared to the likes of Dead Can Dance. Do you find this to be a compliment or a limiting label?
Caroline: Dead Can Dance are my main inspiration, so in that respect it is an enormous compliment. But we’re not just another DCD copy band – for one, the vocals are completely different. I prefer to take the comparison not so literally, but more in the way that they experimented with a large number of musical styles and never sat in one pigeonhole – something which is actually quite hard to achieve in the segmented music industry these days.
Ann-Mari: I hardly ever listen to Dead Can Dance actually and am a bit astonished when my vocals are compared to the vocals of Lisa Gerrard in reviews. Even in reviews for Arcana’s albums they mention this fact sometimes and it surprises me every time.
You signed with Out Of Line records for this album. How did that partnership come about?
Caroline: We were looking for a label last summer, and while we had a number of offers, theirs was by far the best. Having self-released all our previous CDs, we were really thinking big for this one, and so far Out of Line have been fantastic in every respect. We’ve always tried to think and work ‘outside the box’, so to go with a label that was less obviously associated with our kind of music was a gamble, but one which paid off.
Seventh Harmonic is proudly declared “an all-female project”. How has this affected the way the band operates and the writing style of the music?
Caroline: We are proud of that, but we’re not marketed as an all-female band, and I don’t think any of us would want that. It does bring a different energy to the band and I guess also the way we communicate, but in terms of the music I don’t see it as a big issue, and hope it becomes less of one in the future.
You’re already part of successful bands, in the forms of Sol Invictus and Arcana. How did you come together for this project?
Caroline: We met when both bands played together in Autumn 2008, and immediately all became friends. Ann-Mari suggested singing on some of my tracks a year later, and I was absolutely delighted to accept.
What was the recording process like with Ann-Mari based in Sweden?
Caroline: In some ways it was straightforward with sending audio files back and forth, and our roles are clearly defined with respect to the vocals/lyrics and composition/music. It wasn’t so easy when we wanted to suggest changes, especially at the production stage – our producer had the patience of the proverbial saint! Relying on email for all communication was actually pretty stressful at times; I think next time it would be nicer for things to be more natural with some time spent writing together in person and just hanging out like normal bands do. But at the end of the day, the distance made us so focused with the result that our visions came together so perfectly, that in retrospect I wouldn’t change how we did it.
Ann-Mari: When it comes to recording the vocals for the album it was easier for me to do it myself in Sweden, considering how time-consuming it can be to write melodies and harmonies that work well with the dynamic music. I like experimenting a lot with different melodies and doing it in my own time helped me develop the vocals further then I probably would have done if I travelled to London to record them. I prefer to work this way actually; even with Arcana, whom I share the studio space with as it helps my creativity to flow better.
How does working with Seventh Harmonic compare to working with your other bands?
Caroline: As I’ve mentioned, working long-distance is the key element… although for all of us it is actually becoming the norm as we all work as part of other projects based overseas (Lesley and I play with Monica Richards from Faith and the Muse, who is based in the US, and also the Catalonian band Narsilion, while Ann-Mari collaborates with many projects all over Europe.) For me as the composer and principal musician, obviously it is the band that I have the most emotional investment and creative freedom in, so I guess that is the main difference.
Ann-Mari: The cooperation within Seventh Harmonic is very different compared to the cooperation we have within Arcana. I have been fully responsible for the vocal melodies, harmonies and recording in Seventh Harmonic, which is quite different in Arcana. However, in the future I will get the chance to experience more on my own with the vocal recordings for Arcana as well and I am looking forward to that very much. However, in general when I collaborate with other projects, they send the music to me and I get the freedom to record whatever vocals I find fit for the songs, which is challenging in a good way, offering free scope to my creativity.
The band has been around for over a decade. In that time how has Seventh Harmonic’s raison d’etre evolved up until this point?
Caroline: Initially, Seventh Harmonic was really only active for several years when we began in 1999, and then the project became dormant. When we revived again it was with largely a new line-up, and any old songs were rewritten with Ann-Mari’s lyrics and melodies; so in many ways it feels like a different band rather a continuation of what went before – especially now are spread across Europe rather than being confined to any one location and ‘scene’. All these elements point to external changes which in some ways have given us more opportunities, but the ethos at the heart of the band remains the same, and in fact has been strengthened by the empathetic ideals of Ann-Mari.
At one point you seemingly put the band to rest permanently. What was the decision behind this and what led to its eventual resurrection?
Caroline: I burnt myself out with doing every element of SH pretty much entirely by myself – composing, recording, producing, releasing, promoting, and everything else. I got to the stage where I had less and less time to be creative, and the positive energy and intention behind the band was becoming increasingly negative. I did two overseas concerts with Keltia, a young singer/harpist from Belgium, which ended on a high – but the project had gone as far as it could under its own steam. I tested the waters again in 2006 by doing a low-key mp3 release of a track called ‘Ice Inferno’, which was quite different to our previous sound, and also featured Tony Wakeford (who I work with in Sol Invictus), and Louisa John-Krol, a wonderful ethereal artist from Australia – I felt if it was our swansong, it seemed an appropriate one. But the resurrection was entirely due to Ann-Mari’s offer in 2009, and then it just seemed that – in contrast to much of what went before – fortune was on our side. I still can’t take in how amazing it has all been since.
Who else is involved with the band and how did they come to be recruited?
Caroline: The project has always been fairly fluid with a number of different vocalists – this time, it is the other musicians who join as and when they can. Lesley is the other main member, responsible for percussion and all visuals (live, videos, artwork etc). The other founding member Éilish McCracken will be playing violin with us at our forthcoming UK gig, but as this is the only performance to date that has been outside mainland Europe, our live members tend to be based there. At the moment, our previous singer Keltia is playing harp for us for Northern European gigs, and Nuria from Narsilion plays with us for Southern Europe ones!
What are the plans for promoting the album through the year?
Caroline: We haven’t thought of any particularly unusual ways to do this, but are open to offers. Promotional angel tears? I’m sure someone can take the ethereal theme and run with it…
© Terrorizer | http://www.terrorizer.com/dominion/dominionfeatures/interview-seventh-harmonic/
Interview with Caroline, Ann-Mari and Lesley, June 2011
You’ve been going as a band for over a decade now! How do you feel about this – do you think your fan base has changed, and how do you feel you’ve progressed as artists?
Caroline: Well, actually it does not feel like that, for several reasons. Seventh Harmonic started with a very concentrated burst of activity, releasing several albums in the space of a couple of years. Not surprisingly, this was quite exhausting, so the rest of the time from about 2004 onwards, very little happened at all and the project was in effect dormant. So when we met Ann-Mari and everything began again, it felt like a new beginning in so many ways – a new line-up, a new way of doing things, working with a label for the first time, and being based across Europe rather than locally in London. So it feels like two completely separate stages of the band rather than a continuation of what went before.
When was the first moment you realised that you really wanted to start a band with the music style you have today?
Caroline: It wasn’t really a ‘eureka’ moment, more a natural progression. I had been playing in many bands previously, mostly as a drummer, and actually had no intention to initiate my own project for many years, perhaps because I didn’t think I was capable of it. But then I increasingly became frustrated with being at the whims of others, as bands that I put a lot of investment of time, money and energy into broke up; so really this was the primary impetus I guess for gradually moving towards what eventually became Seventh Harmonic. Initially I was just writing instrumentals and giving tapes to friends as gifts with no thoughts beyond that, but it was only when those friends encouraged me to go further – and in the case of Éilish, our original violinist – offered to accompany me musically, that I decided to make a go of it. As for the style we have today, neoclassical has always been my favourite style of music, and I think it is quite under-represented; so I just wanted to put more of it out there!
At first did you find it difficult breaking into the music world as an all-female group, and what has the response from your fans been towards this so far?Caroline: We didn’t find it difficult to start off with, partly because people seem to like the novelty value of any new band. I like to think we also got some extra respect for not playing on our sexuality; but on the other hand I’m sure there is a minority of people who find us interesting just on the basis of the fact that we all happen to be female. On a practical level, old-fashioned sexism still seems to affect us – when we perform, sound techs are occasionally patronising and over-riding of our wishes because they assume we don’t know what we’re doing. But ultimately my attitude has always been to let the music speak for itself, and hope that the issue will one day be seen as less and less significant – it is a shame in this day and age really that it still is.
Lesley: I’ve never had the impression that gender has been a big issue for our fans. And we’re not being marketed by our label as an all-female group, which is pleasing. The music is complex and multi-layered and people respond to it in a lot of different ways. There are those that like the vocals and lyrical style, which are quite specifically female I guess, but the sound has always been very driven by a powerful drum sound with some martial and ritual overtones – especially on this album – which other people are drawn to. We don’t fit particularly neatly into any musical or genre categories, and ‘all-female group’ while factually correct doesn’t say anything about the music or the audience we appeal to.
You’ve said that your latest album ‘Garden of Dilmun’ is based around a concept of the muses, the wheel of the year, and seasons of the heart. What does this mean, and where did the album name come from?
Ann-Mari: The name Garden of Dilmun comes from the Sumerian creation myth and means ‘The place where the sun rises’ and ‘The Land of the Living’. When it comes to our album it is meant to be used as a metaphor for a certain state of mind and stage in life when things fall into place and bring one meaning. The three concepts on which the album lyrics are based, are about inspiration, creativity, wisdom, reverence to life and inner ascension. The concepts are supposed to weave together in a path containing all these symbolic elements, taking one through both withering and thriving times and eventually possibly even to one’s own Garden of Dilmun.
What is your favourite song from the new album, and why?
Caroline: Difficult question! I think I’ve gone through having most of them as my favourite at one time or another, but have settled on ‘Melete’, the penultimate track (I think this is a really important place on an album, as leads up to its climax.) As well as being perfect musically, lyrically and vocally in its representation of Seventh Harmonic; for me personally it represents the perfect crystallisation of the past and the future of the band. There is a musical refrain/reference to one of our older and most significant tracks lyrically, ‘The Search’, which was also a penultimate track, on our album ‘The Ascent’. And ‘Melete’ was the very last song of the album that I wrote, immediately after Out of Line offered to sign us, and I think it captures that feeling of triumph and complete delight that finally all the work had paid off and we had made it.
Ann-Mari: This is difficult for me as there are several ones I would like to list but I think that ultimately I must say ‘Equianimi’ as it does not only contain beautiful music and an uplifting rhythm; but also the lyrics mean something special to me as a romantic wish for the future.
Lesley: It changes all the time, but at the moment I would say ‘Mabon’. The powerful lyrics, the rich string sounds and Ann-Mari’s voice all work perfectly together – it’s a gorgeous piece musically, and for me is maybe the most emotionally complex track on the album.
Many of your previous albums were self-released and now you’re signed to Out Of Line Records, that your new album is being released through. Do you prefer this or do you miss the DIY way?
Caroline: I will be completely honest and say that I don’t miss the DIY way at all! But I brought myself to the point of exhaustion with it by managing everything by myself – composing, recording, producing, releasing, promoting, and the millions of bits of admin that go along with all that… all of which eventually take away from the whole point of it, as I ultimately had no time or energy to be creative anymore. While I never thought I would be in the position of singing the praises of a label (one reason I DIY-ed for so long was because I simply didn’t trust them), really I don’t think any artist can appreciate exactly how much a label does for them until they have tried to do it all themselves. Of course, the caveat here should be a GOOD label… the industry descending into a state of increasing financial peril does not help the existence of these at all.
You played Wave Gotik Treffen last year – how was it, and would you play again if asked? On top of that, you’re playing Villa Festival in Italy this year – how do you feel about this opportunity? Excited?
Caroline: WGT was actually our first concert since reforming, with just three of us. Unfortunately everything running late on the night meant that we did not get a soundcheck, so that performance was a very difficult one because we couldn’t hear anything onstage. It was hard to read the reviews afterwards, because the poor performance was not our fault; so yes, we hope to play there again next year perhaps, to compensate for this. As for the Villa Festival – yes, we are very excited! It will be the first time for us in Italy, and the promoters of the festival are going to great effort to make the whole event very special and unique. We feel very privileged to have been invited to take part.
Lesley: The Villa Festival is very new, this is only its second year. It has a very appealing (and unusual) non-commercial ethos – it’s set in an old house by a lake, the couple that run it want to promote music that they care about personally, and a very limited number of tickets are sold. I personally like playing more intimate venues so I’m really looking forward to it.
Your music is quite influenced by mythicism and tales of fantasy – have you always been interested in these themes or has it developed as the band has progressed?
Ann-Mari: I have been fascinated by fairy tales, mysticism and mythology since I was a little girl. I guess that it is something that has been reflected much in my taste in literature, music, movies and ultimately also my own creativity. I do not always write lyrics influenced by this but when I do I find it very natural.
© Sonic Shocks | sonicshocks.com
Interview with Caroline, May 2010
You were formed as a band in 1999. What was the main reason that push you to form Seventh Harmonic?
Music has always been my number one love, and I had been playing in other bands for many years before I felt the irrepressible urge to create my own music. It was partly born from a wish to make more of the music I wanted to hear, and personally I felt it was the best way to express myself to others also.
All your albums so far are self-released. Why didn’t you get a record label?
The band was really only active for a few years between 2000-2003, and in this time I released 6 albums – 3 proper official releases, and 3 less official CD-Rs; all of these had different line-ups. I was writing nearly every day and just wanted to have the music out there as soon as possible and not be delayed by anything, whereas labels have to stick to release schedules. However, self-releasing means that you can only go so far – you do need proper support behind you. I was spending more and more time doing all the admin work and less time on composing, so when we reached as far as we could go, I decided to put the band on hold for a while. Since the band reformed in Autumn however, things have been very different. We are actively seeking a label for the first time now, we want to do things properly.
How do you describe your music?
It is difficult, because I try to incorporate many different influences to create something new. But if I were to be brief, I would say neoclassical meets the mysticism of the East… and darkness meets light.
Where does your inspiration comes from?
I’m not sure I can really answer that, the music comes from my very essence. I could relate it to the intense experiences of my life – experiences of the heart, and travel, and nature especially… I would also say the mysterious side of life is a big inspiration; the subconscious and unknown and primal forces that modern life forces us to pay less heed to.
How did Ann-Mari Thim became your new singer?
I have always been a very big fan of Arcana, and have frequently named them as a major influence on Seventh Harmonic. I play in the band Sol Invictus, and for one gig we had Arcana supporting us. I was really happy about this, and even happier upon meeting them and discovering what lovely people they are. We stayed friends, and on a visit to them in Sweden I was chatting with Ann-Mari about Seventh Harmonic – which had been dormant for a long time by that stage – and she offered to sing for us. I was very surprised and happy , and started the band up again immediately! Living in different countries does have its drawbacks of course, but they are more than outweighed by the benefits of what is turning out to be an absolutely wonderful creative partnership.
You’re recording a new album – can you give us some more details?
We are currently writing the new album – recording will come later when we hopefully have the backing of a label. We will continue work on this over summer – at the moment, we have almost half of it written. So far it is sounding very powerful and symphonic!
You have a lot of live experience. How do you feel when you play in front of a crowd?
Like most bands I think we really feed on the response of an audience – if they are reacting positively to us, we put on a performance to match! For me, I spend much of the gig concentrating on playing well. It is really easy to get up there and for your mind to go a blank, no matter how many years you have been playing the songs.
You are scheduled for this year’s Wave Gotik Treffen, the biggest gothic festival in Europe. How do you feel about that?
Very nervous! It has been a very big rush to have everything ready in time, to write and rehearse new songs for this festival (realistically, we were aiming to be ready for our first gig in July). But we could not turn this opportunity down. We have only had one chance to rehearse once altogether, and the songs were not completely finished then, so it will be an interesting new experience for us as well as the audience!
Are there any new bands that you like?
I have to confess, I have had no chance to listen to any new music recently. It is difficult to balance the demands of the band with a full-time job, so at the moment any spare time I have is focused on all the work that Seventh Harmonic entails. However, I am really pleased we have these festival dates coming up, as I am really keen to discover some great new bands. So ask me again at the end of the summer!
Tell me about how fans react to your music? Did you receive good comments?
We have only put a couple of demo versions of tracks up on Myspace and not really promoted them very much at all, but the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. I am getting more and more emails from fans in different parts of the world asking us to play near them – at the moment this is not possible, but we hope to be able to honour some of them one day.
What makes you different to other bands?
I think the reviews we have received speak for themselves:
“Seventh Harmonic manage the neat trick of never sounding like anyone other than Seventh Harmonic” – “What is remarkably refreshing about Seventh Harmonic is that they are not just another ethereal band like other bands, but have evolved their sound. You can hear the normal influences, but more importantly, you can also hear the influences of classical training and of musicians who have never kept themselves isolated with one genre of music” – “Seventh Harmonic will take you aback with their ideas, their tangents, their myriad influences: it’s as if there’s nowhere the band won’t go, no music they won’t absorb and transform into their own uniquely cool brew.”
A message to all the people that support you all this years?
Thankyou from the bottom of my heart for your loyal support and faith in us, your messages mean so much. We hope to give you much to look forward to this year and in those to come!
© Subexistance | http://www.subexistance.com/?q=interviews/seventh-harmonic
Interview with Caroline and Ann-Mari, January 2010
Can you give a brief introduction to Seventh Harmonic?
Caroline: Seventh Harmonic is an all-female project marrying electronic and symphonic elements with the intention of creating beauty.
What is beauty for you?
Caroline: Broadly speaking, anything that communicates a sense of purity, wonder or eternity; I see this most in the power and majesty of nature. But it can be anything that lifts you out of the humdrum into an appreciation of and gratitude for the moment, or aids you in transcending it.
Ann-Mari: Beauty for me is when something is true, genuine and spontaneous; less manipulated and motivated. It can be either bright or dark, just as long as it reflects something real.
You founded Seventh Harmonic 10 years ago, What were your original plans and goals? Have they changed over the years?
Caroline: My original aim really was both to create music that led on from music which inspired me, and also that which wove together different influences (as with my primary inspiration, Dead Can Dance). With strings and classical sounds as a base, I wanted to be experimental and try as many things as possible and be as creative as I could with what was to hand. This led to some interesting sonic experiments and while it was great fun to be so creatively unfettered, the consequence of that was that it was very hard to market as the music didn’t fit into an easy pigeonhole. So the wisdom of hindsight has meant that that the music will focus on developing its symphonic heart, and the all-encompassing sound we strove towards in the past will become bigger and better with the involvement of a full band. And now we have the confidence to aim high!
Would you ever consider changing things in order to make it easier to sell
Caroline: No, because once you consciously do something like that, in my opinion, you are diluting it; and the whole thing becomes tainted with cynicism. You hear music which is made to sell and often it is evident that there is little or no genuine heart or inspiration in it. I would try to make Seventh Harmonic easier to market, because those are the rules of the game and you have to play along with them to some extent otherwise you just end up shouting into the void; but there is no question of compromising the sound for sales. Something like remixes are obvious exceptions though – we’ve had tracks remixed in the past, and found it really interesting and inspiring.
2009 was the 10th anniversary of Seventh Harmonic. Did you celebrate this anniversary in a special way?
Caroline: As the project had been dormant for some years, my original intentions were simply to release an archive of old material for free and quietly let it go, but fate had other ideas… I had nearly finished this task, and took a trip to Sweden to visit Ia and Peter from Arcana. While I was there I got chatting to Ann-Mari about this project and she simply offered to sing for Seventh Harmonic pretty much there and then. At the time I had no intention of starting it up again, but this was a magical opportunity that I couldn’t possibly refuse. It turned out that the night she had offered was 10 years to the day that our first singer Fionna had joined and crystallized the band for the first time.
When you look back at 10 years of Seventh Harmonic, what were the highlights for you?
Caroline: It is quite amazing really to look back – I have worked with people who have been enormous influences, and I would never have dreamt this would happen in the beginning. There’s nothing like the feeling of having written a song that you are happy with, and that feeling comes back again when singers of the amazing calibre that I’ve worked with add their vocals to it. But aside from that, I would say the main highlight has been the people I have met along the way – people who supported the band by either promoting us or coming to the gigs, or getting in touch to communicate their appreciation… all those people feed back into the energy of the project in these ways. As a band we had a lot of bad fortune along the way, so this meant even more and encouraged me not to give up. In terms of events though, I would have to say the last gig we did in Belgium was absolutely fantastic in every possible sense, and I feel certain that the gigs coming up will be wonderful experiences with the new line up, new songs and the new sense of direction. I hope it is possible to pick up from where we left off in that respect.
Your music makes me very often think in images, When you create it, do you think in images as well or in music?
Caroline: I don’t think at all, I think many musicians would say writing is quite an unconscious process for them! But I am happy that you say that, as that is definitely what I want to create in the listener, a world where we can let the subconscious in. I do find when I am writing that often my dreams start replaying before my eyes – I usually forget them immediately upon waking, so the visions are awakened for me as well! Also, there has always been an interest in writing music for film; and there will be a much stronger visual element to the project than before, such as videos to accompany new songs and stage visuals. I want to try and bring that element of the music out more now – we started by having gorgeous unique artwork for each of archive tracks, and will progress in even more exciting new directions in the coming year.
How would you describe your music yourself?
Caroline: I have heard so many different descriptions of it from others, I am wary about being too prescriptive about it myself. At the moment I would simply say it was primarily strong neo-classically inspired melodies with Eastern influences, but really that is only the beginning. For anyone that hasn’t heard us, our music has a similar ethno-symphonic feel to that of bands like Dead Can Dance, but also draws on influences as diverse as Aphex Twin and Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra… I’ve always been interested in bringing an element of the unexpected to my compositions.
Throughout the years you have worked with many great singers, how do you get them interested in a collaboration and how do you keep them involved?
Caroline: Actually, things tended to evolve naturally and in almost every instance singers approached us and asked to be involved. As I was able to be prolific with song writing, it was occasionally the case that I’d be working with several singers at the same time on different songs, as the last album, ‘Promise of Sacrifice’, demonstrated. We were also fortunate that the singers we worked with were so gifted and adaptable, which enabled us to incorporate an extraordinary amount of influences across our recorded output. We got a great response for doing something so different, and that meant that we were not short of offers from people who liked the ever-changing and flexible nature of the project… singers really could pick and choose the songs that suited them.
What is the reason you did all these collaborations instead of working with just one singer?
Caroline: Actually on each of our official albums it was a traditional band set-up centred around one vocalist, but those people left due to various other commitments so in the beginning it was more by circumstance than design. But also I would say that it has definitely worked out for the best – of those three very different releases, each singer was perfect for the album they were on to the extent that I couldn’t imagine that they could have sounded better with anyone else singing on them. Other singers (such as Daemonia Nymphe and Louisa John-Krol) offered to guest on the tracks, so it was more of an organic development. As a composer I draw on so many diverse influences and inspirations, that it is more suitable for both creative flow and the fact that I play a number of different instruments to work with lots of different people and types of music. Before forming Seventh Harmonic I played in many other bands of many different genres, and I think it keeps things fresh and interesting.
In 2004 you put Seventh Harmonic into hibernation. Why was this, and what did you do in this period of time?
Caroline: Very boring, I’m afraid – I had been working full time on Seventh Harmonic for a few years, was financially poor at the end of it, and my employability in the real world needed attention. So I had a full-time proper job, and was also studying part-time for an MSc to do the job I wanted – there was no time for music, or anything else!
Was it hard to start Seventh Harmonic again or were you full of ideas?
Caroline: I won’t deny that I was apprehensive, mainly for my own ability to write songs as good as I had done in the past once again. It was hard on a technical level also as all my old equipment no longer worked, so I’ve started from scratch with all new gear – although this has unleashed all sorts of exciting new musical opportunities and meant that I can work with rich new sounds for a new start. The main thing that it is hard to adjust to is the fact that formerly I could work on music all hours of the day and night, now I have a job and responsibilities and it is less easy to fit into the creative mindspace on cue in the time I have. But this is something I think can be really positive as well, in that it forces me again to work in a new way, and approach the processes of creating music differently, which is all good for my development as a composer. The new tracks I have written have gone down very well with the rest of the band; and hearing what Ann-Mari has done to the old tracks and her unique vocal and lyrical style have inspired me further.
At the moment Ann-Mari Thim of Arcana is the singer of Seventh Harmonic. How did the two of you meet and what does she add to Seventh Harmonic?
Caroline: I play bass in Sol Invictus, and in Autumn 2008 we played a gig with Arcana. I was very thrilled about this, as they are one of my favourite bands – if you read older interviews you will see they are mentioned as an influence quite frequently! Ia and Peter from Arcana are also fans of Sol Invictus, so you can imagine it was a real love-in backstage and needless to say, we became good friends on this night and kept in touch. Ia invited us over to Sweden to celebrate her birthday in summer 2009, I got chatting to Ann-Mari at her party, and the rest is history. As for what Ann-Mari adds, she is an incredibly powerful and gifted singer; bringing a flawless classical vocal style, versatility, and imagination which perfectly compliments the large symphonic sound I want to create. I am really enjoying being able to write songs specifically for her vocals – we have built up a good collaborative rapport and friendship, and it feels like the band now has a solid creative core which I’m really happy about.
Ann-Mari: Seventh Harmonic is already bringing me inspiration and great friendship. I only have good things to say about our collaboration and I cannot wait until we perform live together this summer. I hope to be able to bring Seventh Harmonic vocals that can adorn the ethereal tunes in the best way possible and contribute with strong vocal melodies.
Ann-Mari, can you introduce yourself to the people who don’t know you already?
Ann-Mari: I guess I’m an energetic person, who loves to keep busy with as much as I possibly can. I’m pretty driven by nature and always up for a good adventure. I can also be very impatient and I hate wasting time. If things don’t go as I plan I can get quite frustrated and I have to remind myself that at least I have learnt something from it. I love to stay awake during the nocturnal hours but since I have a day time job I have to find a balance. I often spend most of my time in the studio during the weekends though, in which the time stands still. I love that feeling of being outside of time and space and just focus on the music, preferably with a good drink at hand…
What does music mean for you? In what way has it influenced your life?
Ann-Mari: Music is a part of who I am and always has been. I started taking ballet classes when I was 5 years old and started singing with the local church choir at the age of 7. During school I performed in the school music shows and when I hit the teens I started singing in a band with some friends of mine, called Chain of Pain, doing dark electro music, and that is how it all started… Today I sing with several bands and I guest perform with other and I have tried a variety of different genres. I just want to try everything; the only thing holding me back is the lack of time.
At what point did you decide you wanted to be a singer, and was it hard to become one, what have you done to reach the status you now have?
Ann-Mari: I never really made an active decision about becoming a singer; it has just always been a part of me. I can’t help it or chose not to sing, it comes naturally anytime anywhere. Sometimes I catch myself singing out loud in the office where work and not many things make me as happy as a jamming session together with friends. I started taking vocal classes when I was around 20 and I have been ever since in various forms. If something has been hard over the years, it has been trying to live up to my own expectations as a vocalist when it comes to techniques and performances. I have to remind myself sometimes to relax and have fun and stop being such a perfectionist. But I guess that the perfectionist in me walks hand in hand with my inner driving force and ambitions and that is what has brought me further as a vocalist. That and also the fact that I have many great musicians as close friends, who make fantastic music for me to sing to and have helped me develop as a singer and as a person.
Did you made any goals for yourself and have they changed over the years?
Ann-Mari: My goals have never been really firm; they are pretty dynamic and can change from one day to the next. I don’t ever think that I will feel like I have reached my goals completely, since they keep advancing over time. I’d rather consider them stepping-stones to a future inner satisfaction, whenever that may occur.
What projects or bands are you participating in at the moment? What makes you decide whether you will work on another project or not?
Ann-Mari: Foremost I work with Arcana and Seventh Harmonic but as I am full of energy I like keeping myself busy. I sing in a project called Veil of Blue, which I founded together with Mikael Lindblom from Subluna a few years back. The music is melancholic and dreamy pop rock and we are right now working on new material. We also hope to be able to start to perform live soon as well. Another project I am involved in is VoidWork, in which I work with Xavier from Belgium. The music is haunting and horror inspired dark ambient and I enjoy working with it, since I have always loved horror movies and the eerie music in them. It’s a little girl’s dream come true, haha! I recently started another band with a good friend of mine and brilliant guitarist Cristian Ellingsen. The music is atmospheric metal and right now we are experimenting with the sound and the structure of the newly written songs. I really love to sing to heavy music so I am looking forward to rehearsing for future gigs with a full line up. Cristian and I actually have another music project together as well; some kind of acoustic dark folk with lyrics focusing on mythology and ancient folklore. Mattias Borgh from Arcana has been helping us with drums on some recordings. On the side of this I have two more projects rolling (not yet to speak of though) and I am also working with a couple of tracks for Tábor Radosti from the Czech Republic next album. I met the guys when I performed in Prague with Arcana last year and really enjoyed their music and visual concept.
So far you released newer version of older songs with Ann-Mari on vocals, did you had the feeling they were not ready yet or missing something? Why choose this path instead of releasing new songs?
Caroline: This was for a couple of reasons. One was purely practical, and I have already alluded to in that it took time to get hold of and set up new equipment to write new songs with. The second was mainly for the benefit of people who have followed our music from the beginning – they like these songs, and if we were keeping the name and the ethos of the project it would not make sense to jettison all these strong songs from the past. Neither of us felt comfortable using lyrics and vocal melodies from previous singers, and so Ann-Mari has been reshaping these; and while I did not think they were missing anything in the past, now I have heard what she has done to them I think they are absolutely phenomenal and stronger than ever.
Ann-Mari: What I have done is that I have used my own lyrics and reworked the vocals from scratch on the old songs. I have tried to avoid listening to the old versions with vocals and have instead been focusing on the instrumental versions given to me by Caroline; this not to subconsciously copy the old vocals as I am trying to put my own touch on the songs. It has been really fun reworking these songs but to be honest I do prefer to work with the new songs, since I feel some inner pressure not to copy the old vocals and to make something interesting out of already established songs. It can be pretty tricky.
Is there any song you wished you have written or performed yourself?
Ann-Mari: As for the songs by Seventh Harmonic I am already given the opportunity to put my own vocals and lyrics to my favorite songs, so I don’t really reason in that way. Caroline and I have chosen the best tracks together for us to focus on and I am quite happy the way things are!
Who else is involved in Seventh Harmonic?
Caroline: At the moment the band is taking an interesting shape! Lesley is a quiet backbone of the band – she plays alongside me in Sol Invictus on drums, a role she reprises in Seventh Harmonic. She has also done videos and artwork for us, and will be responsible for the visual elements of the band, which is a new direction for us. She will also be helping out with other behind-the-scenes things as we have no manager, which will free me up to concentrate on composing. Then there is our original violin player Eilish, who since Seventh Harmonic went into hibernation has been playing with lots of other bands (including Sol Invictus!) She will be part of the live line-up whenever possible, and I will be working on new material with her and hopefully also a cello player in the new year. At our next gig we will also have our last singer Keltia on stage playing harp, which worked very well last time we played; so we are looking forward to developing that further as it will work well with Ann-Mari’s voice and bring the classical element to the fore. As she is based in Belgium, Seventh Harmonic is currently spread across three countries!
How do the both of you work together since you live in different countries?
Ann-Mari: We have pretty clear areas of responsibility divided between us; Caroline is taking full responsibility for the music and I am writing the lyrics and work out the vocal melodies and structure. But this does not mean that we don’t give each other feedback or help each other out if we need it. Caroline is sending me the songs over the Internet and I record vocals for them in the studio I have. So far it has been working out pretty good and I am actually quite comfortable with this way of working. The disadvantage, however, is that we are not able to rehearse often or just hang out and have a good time. Caroline and Lesley are coming over for a visit at the end of March though and we are going to rehearse together then. I am really looking forward to that; it will make it all feel much more real and like we actually are in a band together. I think we are going to have a great time!
Music can be created from a conflict of visions or shared visions. What do you prefer or would both work for you?
Ann-Mari: I find that the best thing is to share the same visions with your band colleagues in order not to disappoint anyone and to be sure to work in the same direction together. I have been in bands where the band members’ visions have been a bit out of sync and that has just led to disillusionment in the end. Sometimes it is good though if sources of inspiration can differ; to be able to create a vivid sound and to progress, but that is something different from a conflict of visions. It is really important to communicate with each other and Caroline and I are pretty good at that.
Your music has both electronic as well as acoustic instruments. Does this make recording harder? How do you find the balance?
Caroline: In the past it hasn’t been too difficult as the electric violin and dulcimer were relatively straightforward – also I had the time to spend on production, but this time around I would want it to be done properly. Recording is not the priority at the moment – we are focusing on working on new songs to do live, and planning to use a more diverse range of instruments than before… harp, violin, cello and percussion for forthcoming gigs, and anything else that presents itself.
In what way is the visual part of Seventh Harmonic important?
Caroline: I think this is something that is becoming apparent as things are crystallizing. You mentioned yourself – and it is something I hear often – that visual response is a strong reaction to the music, and whereas I put a lot of time and energy into working on CDs last time around, now going to be focusing more on gigs now where potential for interesting work with visuals is much greater, and brings out that element of the music which we didn’t have much opportunity to do before. Now we have Lesley and her visual skills in the band we are able to explore this much more – I think building a strong visual identity is very important these days, especially for playing gigs where a ‘show’ has become much more of an element of live performance than it was when we were playing originally. The videos of the tracks we have released so far have had more hits than the tracks themselves, and we learn from and build on that.
You will play at the 2010 edition of the Belgium Gothic Festival. How do you prepare for such a big event, do you have any strange rituals before going on stage?
Caroline: We have started preparing for it already – Lesley and I have played that venue with Sol Invictus, and we know it is a big place to conquer (in fact our preparation that time was running round the venue 5 minutes before we were due onstage trying to find a drum as our technical rider had gone missing!) This time, perhaps we will think of a strange ritual like massaging each other with Belgian chocolate or something…
Ann-Mari: Haha, oh dear! Well, I don’t know if that’s my thing really, getting all messy and sticky from the chocolate. A ritual that works pretty well for me is simply to warm up my voice a bit and relax backstage with a nice glass of rosé or red wine…
Ann-Mari, you will be onstage with both Arcana as well as Seventh Harmonic. What do you do at a festival to keep your voice in a good shape?
Ann-Mari: It’s going to be very interesting to perform with both bands at that festival but I’m a little nervous! I will try not to stress in between the concerts, but my voice is actually not that fragile that I need to be silent, left alone or behave in a certain way; I just have to stay healthy and go easy on the drinks!
What is your favorite drink?
Ann-Mari: Well Flamingo Blush is really enjoyable and absolutely one of my favorite drinks, but I really love a nice full-bodied red wine. I am addicted to coffee and drink many cups of it each day. With plenty of milk! To be honest, I like most drinks; I’m really not that particular and hard to please.
What will be next for Seventh Harmonic?
Caroline: At the moment we are focusing on getting the live set together so we are ready to play for summer, whereupon – as well as the Gothic Festival – hopefully other European dates we are in the process of organizing will work out. If all goes to plan then the live set will be half reworked old tracks and half new ones, so writing the latter is very much my priority right now. I am only just beginning to explore the creative possibilities with Ann-Mari, plus other instruments/musicians – there is all sorts of exciting potential there, so it will be a creative year of songwriting ahead. The Seventh Harmonic sound and style is well-established, and new chemistry and musical possibilities will hopefully continue to please long-time fans and win new ones. Then we will see where things take us.
Any last words for the readers?
Caroline: Life is short – follow your dreams!
Ann-Mari: Stay healthy and tuned in and thanks for your interest and support! Long live Flamingo Blush!
Dark Spirit in a Candle webzine
Interview with Caroline and Kate, November 2003
Seventh Harmonic – a talented neoclassic oriented British band formed of Eilish, Kate and Caroline – have already received some wonderful feedback with their first CD ‘The Ascent’, released in 2001 on First Light Recordings. It reveals some influences like Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins, but labelling this original band as a Dead Can Dance clone is false… especially when listening to their new child ‘Promise of Sacrifice’, released in January 2003, also on First Light Recordings. Their universe is enigmatic, exotic and fascinating… Caroline and Kate share their views.
I would first like to ask you which stories, personal thoughts or symbols can be seen behind the moniker ‘Seventh Harmonic’. Some remembrances of Sumerian religion? Or Apollo’s cult? Or something different?
Caroline: I find out more and more about the significance of the name as time goes on, but the truth is it was born more as a combination of two different concepts. The power of the number seven is well documented, but that which interested me most at the time was the connection between music and light – seven colours of the spectrum aligned with seven notes of the (Western) octave, as well as the seven planets, days of the week, and the archangels which ruled them. The word ‘harmonic’ leapt out at me some time later, and I instantly knew – with its connections to music and mathematics – that the two should be combined. It was only later that I discovered that in astrology it means the mastery of fate and creative destiny, as well as many other things.
In what circumstances did you create Seventh Harmonic? Could you say more about the evolution?
Caroline: After a lengthy period of playing drums in many bands, I started writing instrumentals on my own, which I gave to friends as presents. One of these was Eilish – we had played in bands together before, and she offered to play violin on some tracks. A singer seemed the next logical progression, and after a few experiments with a male vocalist and a male guitarist, we found Fionna through an ad in the London goth record shop, and she fitted perfectly (this was in 1999). Subsequent members were people who had attended gigs and approached us, so it all worked out perfectly.
Since your last release,’The Ascent’, you have a new member in the band, Kate Arnold, who seem to be an astonishing unending well with multilingual capabilities (indeed she perfectly manages to sing some Arabic vocal lines, in the same vein as Lisa Gerrard). How did you discover this artistic pearl?
Caroline: Kate knew Eilish and started coming to our gigs, and then asked if she could join – initially she joined as a dulcimer player, then as a singer.
What does the presence of Kate bring to the new album ‘Promise of Sacrifice’?
Caroline: She studied in Egypt for a year, and has always been interested in and knowledgeable about Eastern music which was very much a path I was eager to explore. She is multi-lingual and this also adds to the intrigue I wished us to create.
In what order do you compose – vocals first and music after or the contrary?
Caroline: Always music first – everything else comes afterwards
Since ‘The Ascent’ you began a travel through Eastern universes, landscapes. So you decided to go further into ‘Promise of Sacrifice’. Is there any philosophical aspect to the album? Is Seventh Harmonic a quest for serenity? For love in its largest meaning?
Kate: As far as the lyrical content goes, no there wasn’t any great philosophical point I was trying to get across, no ultimate purpose. Though by the time all the lyrics were written they did seem to fit into a kind of theme. I think they are quite visual; built around images and symbols inspired by nature and folklore, history and mythology. Some of the songs have a more personal element, but in general they’ve come much more from my imagination; I like to try and create little stories, but stories that leave room for the listener to interpret the symbols as they wish. I suppose the lyrics do express a kind of naive romanticism; as for serenity and love, aren’t they alternative words for human beings’ desire for union with the eternal? The romantic part of me would like to see music as another expression of this desire. There was no conscious effort on my part to ‘easternize’ the music; I just did what seemed to fit. I’ve always listened to lots of different types of music from different places and times. Having studied Arabic and lived for a while in Egypt, I would be surprised if that influence hadn’t affected the material.
Caroline: It’s hard to generalise regarding the lyrics, as we’ve had several different lyricists, but yes, the quest for ‘love in its largest meaning’ is probably the driving force behind many of the lyrics (indeed – two of our singers left the band to join their lovers in other countries) and certainly all of the music. Love matters more than anything to me – as I imagine it does to most people – and I would surrender anything to be with the one I love. Much of the time I was writing the music for Seventh Harmonic I was single, and I can hear that ache in the music when listening to it now, and I think it comes across very strongly in my lyrics. This feeling can come from not only being with someone, but from feeling the beauty and awe of nature – that is why I tried to make the music sound so huge, so vast, so all-encompassing and eternal.
Your music is pretty hard to define and classify, and that’s a good thing I guess. It seems you’re close to Dead Can Dance concerning the musical approach, spirit and way of composing. What’s your usual way of creating? Do you compose all together in the band, locked in a rehearsing room or does everyone bring little by little some of her fragments to weave the tapestry?
Caroline: I write the body of the songs alone – mostly using keyboards – and then pass them on to Kate and Eilish, who add their magic; so we all work individually on each track.
Are you self-taught, or do some members have classical training?
Caroline: I am self taught, but Kate and Eilish are both classically trained.
Daemonia Nymphe joined you for a vocal appearance in ‘Immortal Selene’ adapted from Homer. How did you come to work with them?
Caroline: They approached me when they were over in London and suggested it, so I gave them some songs and the rest is history! It is a shame we did not get longer to work together, but they had to return to Greece.
Will you collaborate in the future with other bands maybe? Do you think it could be possible for you to share some musical experimentations with Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard for example?
Caroline: I certainly don’t think that is a possibility, sadly – I’m sure hundreds of people want to work with them!
I read that Kate plays also dulcimer and I already noticed the use of this one by other musicians. Can you tell us a little more about this instrument with such beautiful resonance? What does it bring to the atmosphere of the songs?
Kate: Dulcimers seem to be getting a bit more attention lately, and rightly so! There are different sorts but the one I play is the hammered dulcimer. It’s basically a flat wooden box with steel strings stretched across it, which you hit with little wooden hammers; the principle is like a piano but without the keyboard. It’s the perfect combination of a stringed instrument and a percussion instrument. It has a natural reverb that allows you to build up these gorgeous layers of harmony, plus a driving rhythmic quality that you wouldn’t necessarily find on other melodic instruments. It’s very old and has variants on every continent, but the one I use is tuned in such a way that it’s often easier to play in the old mediaeval modes rather than modern major/minor keys. So it can have an ancient-sounding, otherwordly quality. People are enchanted by it!
I read that your music was also played on TV to accompany some documentaries and I confess I didn’t know that. Can you explain us your works for TV?
Caroline: Nothing has been broadcast yet, but songs off ‘The Ascent’ are soundtracking a film about Gothic culture which will be broadcast in the UK this spring, and hopefully overseas sometime.
As Lisa Gerrard does at the moment on her own career, would you like to compose some soundtracks for movies, short ones or stuff like that?
Caroline: I have soundtracked a couple of short films – it has always been an ambition of mine.
In which circumstances did you work with Paul Nemeth from Cries of Tammuz? As they are considered part of the gothic scene, do you feel yourself quite connected to this culture?
Caroline: I met Paul when I joined Cries of Tammuz (who I was a fan of) as their drummer a few years ago. We have remained friends ever since, and he was my first choice when I thought about a male vocalist. I’ve considered myself a goth since I was 15, though my tastes stretch to many other things as well, and I no longer look as overtly gothic as I used to. Yes, I feel very connected with it all, though less so than I used to – there seems to be very little evidence of the art and culture which initially attracted me anymore. These days it’s all about techno/metal, and it’s very hard to get anywhere if you’re not doing those (though ironically, techno/trance was the first type of music I started to write, around six years ago.)
It’s a pity not to see Seventh Harmonic more often on stage outside England. Are there any tour dates planned for the band in a next future? Have you some visual effects on stage? A special atmosphere created around the music? As your universe is a diverse one, full of cultural references, etc. do you plan also to make some video clips or live recordings for the fans?
Caroline: There are no dates planned as yet as we’re having a little rest after the album – hopefully some European dates will occur before the end of the year though. There’s no specific visual effects as yet as we are not yet in a position to be able to afford things like that, sadly. But we have a live video of one track available – ‘Transformation’ – and the link to that should be on our website. We have someone putting images to our songs as I write.
How’s the feedback in England – you seem to be well-known there – and abroad?
Caroline: The feedback has been wonderful, all around the world. It is difficult to promote yourself without a label, but we seem to be reaching out and touching people which is all I ever wanted to do.
And how are the conditions of musicians in England?
Caroline: I can’t really answer that as I have nothing to compare it to. In my experience it is good because Social Security meant I could work on these albums, which I could never have done it if I’d had a job. I also studied a course in music production for free, which gave me access to a studio to do this album, so in many ways I have been very lucky with opportunities in this country.
Kate: Obviously, financially speaking, being a musician has never really been a shrewd career move in any country. However, there is something particularly concerning going on here at the moment. It seems that the government are trying to tighten up the entertainment licensing laws for live venues. The Musicians’ Union and other organisations are lobbying against it, but if that doesn’t work it’s going to be even more difficult for musicians to be heard in England and Wales. Watch this space I guess.
Just a last question – what does music represent for each one?
Kate: For me music represents the chance to make a fool of myself in public and get the occasional free beer…
Caroline: That which can never be expressed in words!
Interview with Caroline, Kate, and Eilish, April 2002
Being an all-girl band in the Gothic scene is not a completely unusual thing, but Seventh Harmonic are, in and of themselves, completely unique. A mix of Middle Eastern and Gothic influences, they have constantly and consistently evolved and recreated their music and sound. Seventh Harmonic have undergone some line-up changes, but this has not deterred the ladies and their steadfast belief in music and in what they create.
We met in a lovely wine bar in Camden earlier this year, where the atmosphere created by the classical music in the background and the luxurious couches lent itself completely to the sound the band creates and the depth of their talent and intelligence. However, this interview was subsequently redone via email as the aforementioned classical music drowned out the entire recording!
What is the main difference, with the cast changes, to the music of the band?Eilish: There’s a slightly more middle eastern sound sneaking in – there were elements of this before, but they are now becoming evident in the vocal lines.
Where do you think Seventh Harmonic falls in the gothic world? More ethereal? Or does it have its fingers in many different genres?
Eilish: Well my Granny likes it and I don’t think she’d have a clue about the different genres and sub-genres of the modern underground scene!! People with a wide variety of tastes seem to like it for different reasons and can usually relate to some part of it. I guess they would be better informed as to which category our music fits!
Caroline: I’m not interested in any pigeonholes, and I try, almost wilfully sometimes, to write material with different influences. People have different perceptions of ‘gothic’, ‘ethereal’ and other terms anyway. I would say our sound encompasses both these elements and many others, but never lingers in any one camp (except that of copious reverb…!)
There is a strong Middle Eastern influence in the music, that being ostensibly I would guess from Kate. What other influences strongly lay claim on the band and where do they comes from?
Caroline: The Eastern influence was around before Kate joined, but she has been a complete godsend as we have been able to develop that element, which I was very keen to explore, in a fuller and more ‘real’ way in the light of her musical background and knowledge. Other influences… well, I guess it’s pretty obvious that Dead Can Dance are a huge influence on myself and Kate especially, and one of the reasons I admire them so much is because they embraced so many genres and styles. I listen to many things, but when I write the music I don’t consciously try and incorporate anything or anyone – what comes out is as much a surprise to me as anyone else!
There also seems to be a strong spiritual side to the lyrics. Where does that come from?
Caroline: Well, we are performing lyrics written by five different people now… But all of us have ‘spiritual’ beliefs of some description. I believe a lot of people go looking for some kind of fulfilment outside themselves when what they need lies within.
There aren’t many all-woman bands to begin with especially in the genres and labels that can be applied to the band. Do you find it to be a positive or negative
Eilish: DEFINITELY a positive thing! Great from the PR point of view(!), although we have come across a few sound engineers who take my natural blonde hair to be the yardstick by which our combined technical musical expertise is measured… People also think that there is a man lurking somewhere who is responsible for our backing track, but it is all Caroline’s work. She also happens to be a top class drummer, hence the interesting rhythms driving the music. But, don’t forget Paul who duets with Kate on occasion – as far as I know, he is a man!!
Caroline: I never consciously set out to start an all-girl band – the embryonic formation of Seventh Harmonic was actually myself with a male singer and male guitarist. I’ve rarely found the fact that we’re all women to be an issue, apart from the infuriating instances cited by Eilish above. But the girls sure know how to shift CDs… I never ask how…
Your music has been used in some TV shows and documentaries. Tell us more about those. How, if at all, has the music been influenced by the project or has all the music previously existed prior to co-operation with the projects themselves?
Caroline: Well, a bit of both – we’ve been asked to allow ‘Swansong’ to be used on a forthcoming Anglia TV documentary about goth entitled ‘Sex, Death And Eyeliner’… I also compose for film (on a very small scale right now, of course) but as I compose such a large amount of music, I do tend to use pre-existing material as I’ve generally something that fits the bill for what I’ve been asked to do so far (no slapstick comedies yet, obviously…) Eilish is actually one up on me in that department as she played violin on ‘Secrets of The Dead’ recently!
Is soundtrack music, etc, something that you would like to get more into?
Caroline: Absolutely, it is my ultimate ambition.
What music influences the sound of Seventh Harmonic? I hear so much of The Changelings and even Rhea’s Obsession. What bands would you compare yourself to? What contemporaries?
Caroline: Well, it seems a bit egotistical to compare ourselves to the bands that influence us so I won’t, but we all love Dead Can Dance, Faith And The Muse and Lycia. In this country, I can’t really think of anyone who is treading a similar path stylistically – it is always a big problem to find appropriate bands to play with – so I don’t really know if we have any contemporaries as such, but we have a great amount of friendship with fellow UK bands on the scene.
Eilish, how did you get such a various and diverse training background?
Eilish: I have always been interested in music and learnt to play quite a few instruments by ear (as a result of my family’s Irish background). I developed a passion for the piano and started formal lessons at the age of 6, and then the violin, which I started to learn at 9. I also studied it at Uni, but thankfully was not put off! I learnt to transcribe and arrange by simply being the only person dumb enough to volunteer for various projects (I have a nasty habit of becoming wildly enthusiatic about something and then getting landed with having to do it) and discovered that I could transcribe by ear from tapes, which is quite useful! I have written music for plays etc on commission and have several orchestral pieces trapped in my head, just dying for the moment when someone needs them to be written out. Personally, it is only more recently that I have considered my musical background to be quite diverse. Up until then I never really thought about it!
With so many difference experiences in music, what is the common thread between all of them that propels the sound that you yourself create?
Eilish: Anything I write could have been inspired from anything I’ve heard in the past. I particularly like strong sonorous harmonies of the mournful kind. I get a very strong sense of whether I feel it works or not and will try many ideas before I’m happy with the melody/harmony. Of course, other people may not agree…!
How does your Celtic background influence what you do today and what you create?
Eilish: Well, it influences my intense liking for Guinness! Like all of the other styles of music which have formed my musical background, the Celtic style is apparent from time to time. There are some violin techniques that definitely give a more Celtic sound and seem appropriate for more wistful, desolate pieces. Also, the Celtic tradition of improvising and playing by ear had certainly come in useful.
You have been teaching yourself guitar and bass – when can we have the honour of hearing them played live for us?
Eilish: Ah, well, that’s pretty unlikely unless it’s VERY late at night and the alcohol has managed to convince me that I can play anything, whilst simultaneously convincing my ears that the sounds they are hearing are in fact perfect examples of what an acoustic/electric guitar/bass should be! I think the accuracy would be directly proportional to the amount of distortion required! It would be a true Beavis and Butthead moment, that’s for sure!
Caroline, you mention that you like to travel, yet stay at home. How do those two things work together?
Caroline: I live in London where there are so many distractions, and it’s easy to get swept away by them… As my time is so important to me, I choose to stay at home and compose and use the solitude to try and clear my mind. But as we all know, perspectives away from one’s own environments and thoughts are so important, hence the travel. I hunger for new places and new people for fresh impressions which will bring me inspiration… everything that happens to me I try and quantify as something I can process and share through music, if that doesn’t sound horribly pretentious.
Where have you travelled to and where do you dream of travelling?
Caroline: Like most people, I’m not as well travelled as I’d like to be! I’ve explored quite a lot of Europe, which is beautiful, but the trip that made the most impact on me was a month’s visit to the natural parts of California (OK, so I partied in San Francisco as well!) Yosemite and Big Sur especially are incredible places, and I was so inspired I returned and formed Seventh Harmonic immediately – something, after years of playing drums/bass in other peoples’ bands, I never dreamed I’d have the courage to do. As for where I’d like to go… well, everywhere except Belgium! Russia, Mexico, Nepal and Tibet are high on my list of priorities right now. I’m hoping to go on a trip when we’ve finished the third album, which we’re currently in the midst of recording, time permitting.
As the driving force of the band in terms of being its main producer, how do you handle that responsibility and in some ways authority, yet still retain equality in the band?
Caroline: I don’t think any of us have ever really looked at it that way. Obviously I write the music and run the band in general, but everyone contributes what their time allows them to. The fact that the three of us have a very strong friendship (Eilish and I have known each other for over 10 years) means that everyone is very upfront about what they want; and as far as the music goes, we share a very similar vision anyway.
Do you prefer producing your own music or do you find relief in having others do so?
Caroline: Well, I have a clear vision about what I want sound wise which I’m 95% capable of achieving by myself, but others know all the technical minutiae of mastering that I’ve never had the time, inclination or equipment to go into! The perspective of another is really important, especially when you yourself have been working on a song you’ve literally heard hundreds of times, and the ideas of those we have so far worked with have really brought the songs into their own. For ‘The Ascent’ we really had time to work properly on production with John from Interlock (a band more unlike us you couldn’t imagine) and his ideas and contributions to the album were absolutely stunning.
Tell me more about how the music is formed. What is the process that goes on in the creation?
Caroline: It’s not really that complicated. When I have the house to myself I position myself in the sun (if there is any) and write something, usually every day if I can but not so recently as I’ve been working on our new album. The songs then get passed onto Kate and Eilish to do their parts over – as they have such demanding jobs this is currently the only way we can function, but I really want us to start writing altogether soon.
Again going back to the idea that you are one of the main producers of the Seventh Harmonic sound and of course, use computers to do so. What do you think of the computer influence in today’s music? Do you feel that it somehow interferes with imagination in music and leaves it somewhat soulless?
Caroline: I don’t think you can generalise on this issue at all. Yes, it gives people who are technically not ‘musicians’ the chance to make music, but if what comes out is good, be it by accident or design, surely that is the most important thing. The technology is an incredible tool for those with the vision to master it, and brings so many more opportunities and potentials for musicians. However, I seem to spend most of my time swearing furiously at Logic Audio, so it works both ways… We marry technology with traditional/acoustic instruments and I wouldn’t want to be wholly in either camp. Anyway, the machine I actually write on is pre-historic compared to the equipment everyone else seems to use…
Kate, why Egypt? What is the fascination with the country’s culture and language
Kate: Actually it wasn’t really a matter of choice; I was studying Arabic at uni and you had to go and live there for a year as part of the course. Although come to think of it I do seem to recall changing my course from Music to Arabic when I found out about the year abroad! I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Egypt but having lived there and studied the language and culture, my interest has extended to its more recent history and that of the Middle East in general. I think a lot of people in the ‘west’ don’t realise how much we owe to that whole region; culturally, scientifically and artistically. It’s a place that draws you in… though I would advise against anything that involves camels.
What influences affect your vocal style?
Kate: I’m not sure what my vocal style is; is ‘style’ the right word? I don’t consciously try to emulate anyone else; I think that would be a mistake, but obviously you can’t avoid the influences of those singers you’ve listened to a lot. Strangely enough the singers I admire the most are male, but they all have what I would call ‘distinctive’ voices rather than conventionally ‘good’ ones. I always thought Ian McCullough’s voice was great (Echo and the Bunnymen) but I hope I don’t sound at all like him! Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (late great Pakistani qawwali singer) did amazing things with his voice. I’ve listened to a lot of ‘world’ and ‘folk’ music, and people like Sheila Chandra, Natacha Atlas, Kate Rusby, Lisa Gerrard, Liz Fraser and Siouxsie probably also share the blame for some of the sounds I try to make. I’ve been having some lessons with an utterly brilliant gospel singer lately but don’t worry, I’m not about to break into a rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ or anything.
How on earth did you find the dulcimer? Why choose that over more common and well-known percussion instruments? And what other instruments do you play?
Kate: A friend of mine had one and I fell in love with the sound, so I had to get my own. It’s not quite as difficult to play as it may look, once you get your head round the tuning (it’s remained pretty much unchanged since mediaeval times). It’s great for building up these percussive, rhythmic figures, yet it’s so resonant you can build layer upon layer of harmonies at the same time. You don’t have to be amazingly good to get a lovely sound out of it; it plays itself, in fact it’s the perfect instrument!
Of course we will need to go through your favorites. Books…?
Eilish: Practically all of the books I read have been recommended by friends. My friends are a diverse bunch, as are their tastes in literature, so I end up with an equally broad range… a bit similar to my musical background!
Caroline: I tend to read a lot of philosophical books that give me headaches, but ‘In Search Of The Miraculous’ by PD Ouspensky, all about Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way system, just blew it straight off! I haven’t read any fiction for years now, but when I did I found the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake the most incredible work, in every way… exquisitely rich language and imagery, I can’t recommend it highly enough! I also loved ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho, a beautiful simple story about following your dreams.
Kate: ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert.
Eilish: I love ‘The Shining’ which unnerves me every time I see it! Also ‘Withnail and I’ as I have very fond memories of the people who introduced it to me many years ago. Ooooh, and I really like ‘Amadeus’. The last good film I saw in the cinema was ‘The Others’ wonderfully eerie atmosphere supported by the sheer lack of soundtrack at times.
Caroline: I love anything unconventionally romantic (‘Amelie’, ‘Wings Of Desire’); anything that grips me psychologically; or anything with an adorable talking pig (‘Babe’). If I’m not walking out of a film streaming with tears of some description I want my money back! ‘Clockwise’ never diminishes in hilarity for me, no matter how many times I see it.
Favourite album for that deserted island?
Eilish: Rachmaninoff predules including the op.3 C# minor one and all of op.23 and 32. Nick Drake ‘Way to Blue’ compilation. My Dying Bride (any one – I have yet to hear one I don’t like! – some top violin lines!) I guess The Police’s track ‘Message in a bottle’ might bring hope on darker days!!!
Caroline: No contest – the first three Dead Can Dance albums! I might well throw items of clothing out of the suitcase to fit in ‘Les Marronniers’ by Collection D’Arnell Andrea.
A diverse trio of ladies. A diverse sound. Yet one thing binds them together – amazing talent and dedication ot the music they create. They are also great to get a little tipsy with!
© Starvox | Reproduced courtesy of starvox.net
Interview with Caroline, January 2002
The name of your band goes beautifully with the music, How did you come up with the idea to call your band Seventh Harmonic? What does this mean to you?Interestingly, it was more of a putting together of two different concepts initially – the number seven is a potent and powerful number we see represented in the colours of the spectrum, the days of the week and their planets and archangels, the notes of the musical octave, whilst ‘harmonic’, as well as referring once more to music, refers to fractals of maths and physics, as well as being a very aesthetically beautiful word implying peace. I had no idea it actually meant something when I put the two concepts together, but I have since discovered that the term ‘seventh harmonic’ has vast significance in music and astronomy especially, far more than I can attempt to summarise here…
Tell us when you started this musical project?
Autumn 1999 was when our initial line-up crystallized with our first singer Fionna, myself and Eilish – we released ‘The Awakening’ 6 months later.
Do you enjoy the comparison to Dead Can Dance? Do you feel limited because of the label?
I feel incredibly flattered to be compared to such an unbelievable band, really! In some ways it would be impossible to feel limited to a comparison to a band who managed to incorporate such a vast amount of influences in their output, from mediaeval to ethnic – what especially inspires me about DCD is this embracing of so many influences, the will to go further and beyond whatever unimaginable realms they were creating at the time.
Tell us a little about your works ‘The Awakening’ and ‘The Ascent’? Any other releases readers should be aware of?
‘The Awakening’ was our first CD with 6 tracks, which I recorded at home on an 8 track. Fionna is a very ethereal vocalist, this CD reflects that wistful gentleness, and I’m still extremely happy at how well it captures the spirit in which the band was begun. ‘The Ascent’ was our first full length album with Amandine, who is a very different vocalist, extremely dynamic and passionate. I basically wanted to put as many different sounding tracks on there as I could, so it veers from dark ambient, neo-classical, darkwave electronica and searing symphonics, to Gregorian chants, acoustic balladry, drum’n’bass rhythms and Eastern samples… you get the picture! As if that wasn’t enough, I had an industrial-techno-metal co-producer working on it with me, John from Interlock. As for other CDs, we actually have done a CD with Interlock, where they remixed three tracks from ‘The Awakening’ in their unique style, with bonus tracks from both bands. There is also the first album I did before forming a band, ‘Adumbrations’, which is all instrumental.
What are you currently working on?
As both aforementioned vocalists left to join boyfriends in foreign lands, we now have the vocal talents of our dulcimer player Kate, whose versatile voice complements perfectly the more Eastern influenced direction we are heading towards (it also helps that she studied Arabic!) We are working on two tracks for the forthcoming compilation by UK industrial label Wasp Factory, entitled ‘Working With Children and Animals Vol II’ which should be released in April, and will demonstrate our latest progression!
Have you done any live shows?
Quite a few, mostly where we’re based in London, UK; but we’re on the eve of playing Eurorock Indoors festival in Belgium, which we are greatly looking forward to as we have received so much interest from overseas.
What bands would you look forward to playing live with?
Hmmm. Well, I guess Lisa Gerrard or Brendan Perry would be the ultimate achievement, but at the moment the band I’d be most honoured to support are Faith and the Muse.
What are your musical influences and what influences your lyrics?
Influences are varied – Dead Can Dance are the obvious ones, and Lycia particularly influenced me when creating ‘The Awakening’, but now I try to listen to a broad range of styles as sometimes even a word, a beat, a chord progression, or an effect in a song from a genre I’d never usually listen to can provide the germ of an idea. To be honest, most of my inspiration comes from beautiful places, and from memories. Kate’s musical influences are pretty similar to mine, though she has more knowledge of genres including Eastern music. Eilish likes all sorts of music, from classical to metal, though I think most people have picked up on a predominantly Celtic style to her violin playing. As for lyrics, we’ve now had them written by five people! – all three singers plus myself, and one track, ‘Transformation’, by guest vocalist Paul (ex Cries of Tammuz), who we’ll hopefully work with again. In that respect, it’s hard to summarise, though they are on the whole emotional and evocative. They’re all up on the website…
Endemoniada focuses on women in the underground music scene. Do you see a rise of women in the scene?
Yes, I do see more women in bands, and I think it’s fantastic! What would be even better would be to see more female drummers, or bands where women are writing the entire song, for example. The fact that we are an all-girl band is rarely referred to, which I also take as a very good sign that it’s not such a novelty anymore; though we do still get the assumption that someone else (ie: a male) writes the music/backing track we use when we play live, which makes my blood boil…
What are your goals for Seventh Harmonic?
To be able to play as many gigs overseas as possible, and to send as many people into beautiful worlds when they hear us as we can…
Tell us a little about the members and your musical training?
Actually, although I am the songwriter and play drums, bass, guitar and keyboards, I have no musical training at all. I taught myself everything, complete with bad habits. Kate and Eilish, however, are both classically trained on several instruments, and possess an incredible musical knowledge.
Interview with Caroline, Summer 2000
I am very impressed with the music diversity and atmospheric, Celtic and Eastern elements of your album, ‘The Awakening’. Can you tell me a little bit about the songwriting and recording process for this album?
Thank you for your appreciation! The songs were written by myself, originally intended for film soundtracks, but then I decided to develop the project into a band in the Autumn of 1999, so the others added their parts and we recorded the songs at my home at the start of the millennium – I wanted to capture that initial rush of ideas and inspiration… Lyric writing was shared between Fionna and myself.
Introduce yourself and the members of the band and their musical backgrounds?
I have been in many bands of many differing genres, including the English gothic bands Cries Of Tammuz and This Burning Effigy. I played drums and bass in most of these bands, but then wanted to explore my own sound without having to rely on others to get me somewhere. Eilish was in the band Obsession Of Lilith with me, and I gave her a tape of my tracks initially as a friend, where upon she volunteered her virtuoso musical talents. Her musical background is extremely varied – she is classically trained, and has played in orchestras and musicals amongst many other things… I found Fionna, the vocalist on ‘The Awakening’, through an advert in a record shop, and she was completely new to any musical project.
Since you are a multi-instrumentalist, please tell me which instruments you play and what significance does each hold?
I play drums, which I love for the pure physicality of it, to involve your whole body in playing an instrument is a great experience. Unfortunately I have to program the drums for Seventh Harmonic, as I just don’t have the finances to take on the cost of recording using ‘live’ drums, though I try and get as close as I can by sampling real kits and ‘playing’ the keyboard as I would a kit… I write most of the tracks on keyboards, which I love as it is so easy for melodies to ‘flow’ from this instrument. A bit of guitar too – a beautiful thing to play, but if you pushed me to choose my favourite instrument I think I would have to choose bass (which is what I play live) as it combines rhythm and melody.
How far back does your musical training go?
I have never actually received any formal training as such, save a couple of piano lessons at school. I gradually taught myself everything from the age of 14 or so, and have devoted much of my life since leaving university to this pursuit.
How has the response been in the UK and elsewhere so far?
I am amazed, to be honest with you – it has been fantastic, and not what I was expecting at all! The UK scene is dominated by dance at present, or the more traditional rock style – we have no precedent in this country for the sound we are making, so I am very surprised at the collection of rave reviews we have had, and the attendance at the gigs, of which we have played only a handful so far. The CD sold 200 copies in its first month of release – quite a few of them abroad, and the Italian distributor Audioglobe made it ‘Release Of The Month’. We have had a very positive response from the US too, are on quite a few of the club playlists out there, and have been asked to contribute to three compilations to date.
Which spiritual beliefs do you hold and do you bring them into the band?
Well, they are only brought into the band in the respect that obviously they inspire the lyrics, and to a more abstract extent, the music, in that I believe that the music is ‘channeled’ to some extent. I think it is a very personal thing, and don’t believe in any one ‘way’ or belief as such. The works of Gurdjieff are probably the closest thing I can identify with at present. I have made many explorations in this field, and now I believe in finding your own spiritual strength through constantly experiencing and evolving, not being fixed to any part of yourself (or others), being in the now and moving on… yet not becoming absorbed in yourself or your discoveries to the exclusion of all else. Having said that, I understand that a certain measure of isolation, and even disruption, may be necessary at some point to properly focus on and face yourself, though I do not mean to sound flippant with regard to those who have experienced genuine suffering. I went on a Buddhist retreat once where you weren’t allowed to speak to or even look at anyone for 10 days, and found it extremely beneficial – nowadays I don’t believe in any ‘religion’ per se, as I find at some level there is generally some dogma attached, or hints of conversion, superiority or another hidden agenda. Of course I cannot dismiss it all, especially as there is no denying the powerful energies that can sometimes be accessed by following these well trodden paths (in this instance I am referring more to paganism or magickal traditions rather than the doctrines of the more rigid religions). This touches on the meaning of a few of my lyrics – to move away from the allure of language and paraphenalia of faith and to feel what is real without labelling it with words and their accompanying associations. Sometimes people need these external ‘props’, especially at the beginning, but the real truth in my opinion lies in moving away from accepting anything you are told until you have experienced the reality of it for yourself.
I noticed the song ‘Tireansamraidh’ is in another language which I believe is Gaelic. Please correct me if I am wrong and tell me what this song is about?
Fionna: ‘Tireansamraidh’ is written in Scots Gaelic. It is a poem I wrote for my grandmother whilst she spent some time on the Isle of Lewis where she was born. Standing on Tolsta beach, or walking along the heather covered moor I could feel her spirit there, in the air I breathed. I felt it was right to portray the song in her native tongue – the last words she ever spoke were in Gaelic.
Are you fluent in other languages?
No, I think that is why I chose music, the universal tongue!
From your past in the other bands you have been in, what do you feel you have brought with to this band?
Hopefully, a knowledge of what mistakes not to repeat, and a realistic sense of how to go about things in the managerial sense. Obviously an experience of playing in different styles and working with other people, some of which have inspired me both musically and personally; but most of all, I hope, how to treat people within a band. The right alchemy of personalities and abilities is very hard to find, and sometimes people have to be nurtured, like flowers, before they have the courage to release their full potential and bare themselves in front of everyone.
The lyrics and vocal style and instrumentation create an aura that is dreamy and sensous. Do you feel this is a good portrayal? How would you describe your band musically, spiritually and lyrically?
I don’t want to describe it, though I do like the way you have, and agree with your portrayal. I want to avoid critiques, and focus on entering atmospheres – I think it is for the listener to find their own visions of it…
If I am correct you reside in London. Is the music scene strong, and are there other bands in your home city that you enjoy listening to?
Well, it isn’t the best place as far as the media perception of ‘goth’ or anything really alternative is concerned. This isn’t a bad thing in that it keeps things underground and there is still a lot of enthusiasm here, but I think it may have shaped the scene to the extent that bands seek a more commercial sound by way of attempting to have some success in a country where it is *extremely* hard to – in London I guess there must be at least 200 bands of varying genres playing every night! There are still plenty of goth clubs and things going on, but the club playlists aren’t half as varied as they seem to be in other countries. I think we do go beyond the goth tag though… I’m not interested in pigeon holes.
What bands outside of the UK are you a fan of?
I think my favourite band stateside has to be Lycia, but I am also impressed with This Ascension (especially the early material) and we all like Faith and the Muse. Arcana are another big favourite…
Are there any bands or musicians that have influenced you in a big way in your music career?
Dead Can Dance have made the biggest impression on me. The way they embraced so many styles of music from different countries and different times, and made them all sound so incredibly pure and emotive. Even now I listen to their sound, 10 years after discovering their magic, and it has lost none of its capacity to inspire pure awe…
What is the significance of the band name and what does it symbolize for you?
I think the properties of the number seven are extremely magical – there are seven notes in the Western musical scale, seven colours in the spectrum, seven energy centres (chakras) in the body, seven main planets surrounding us, which the seven days of the week are named after… all are inter-related and imply a unity in all these things. Harmony is in my eyes the purest ideal to strive after, both musically and personally, and ‘harmonic’ is a word relating to music, and also a word used heavily in conjunction with the ideas of Gurdjieff and the Mayan calendar/civilization (both of which are very influential to me), relating to physics and planetary aspects; so I brought both concepts together with the idea of it representing the ultimate, enlightenment. It was only afterwards that I discovered that it *did* actually mean something! – in astrological terms, the seventh harmonic in a chart is associated with creative inspiration and mastery; fate; unknown or unseen worlds; mysticism; and karma.
It’s nice to see other female members in your band. How did you meet them, and do you feel comfortable and compatible with all your energies, or do tensions tend to rise?
Well, actually, my experience is not like that. I have been in several all-girl bands at various stages, and we all worked really well together. All members of Seventh Harmonic are female, and that’s the way I like it – women seem to be less afraid of hard work, and seem to be better at interacting with each other on a more intuitive level, without ego getting in the way. Apart from which, there are hardly any all-girl bands around – if there was a man in this band I know everyone would presume that that was who had written all the music…
What other things outside of the band interest you?
Travelling is my other passion – discovering new places, new people, new ways of thinking… but mostly, everything I love – beauty, art, pleasure – is tied up in music and its creation.
What is currently in the works for Seventh Harmonic?
Having a break for the summer after working very hard on the CD, live set, promotion, etc. I have many songs written which we will then start working on in the autumn for the new album, which will be out sometime in Spring 2001, all being well. We have had three songs remixed by the band Interlock, which are in a more dancefloor style, and are currently gaining both bands wider recognition; we also have covered the Swans track ‘I Remember Who You Are’ for a tribute which I believe will receive a US release soon…
What is the next level for the band?
To broaden our audience in as many ways as we can! We have had some interest from film production companies, so perhaps some soundtrack work might be on the horizon. We have also had some interest from record companies – a deal would be nice, but it is not something I am consciously chasing. I am very proud of what we have achieved single handedly. I would love to start playing abroad though…
Are there any other projects you have outside of this one you would care to share?
I am working with Paul Nemeth, who I was in Cries of Tammuz with – our project (as yet un-named) is a cross between The Doors and Dead Can Dance, and we will be releasing a CD before the end of the year. He will be contributing some vocals to a couple of Seventh Harmonic tracks in the future as well.
Have you ever visited or performed in the US? Are there any forthcoming plans to do so? Please tell me about any European touring experiences.
I would love to! I visited California last year and completely fell in love with it. In fact, I would really like to move out there – we will have to see what the future holds. As for plans, we have no contacts out there at present, but it is something I am striving towards. As for Europe, I have played in Germany, Spain, and Austria in other bands, and *loved* it – the hospitality and crowd response from the people we played to was wonderful…
If you could change something about your life right now what would it be?
I believe in counting my blessings, and that everything in life happens for a reason and that it is up to us to find the lesson in it – in that way, I wouldn’t want to live an incredibly comfortable life as it wouldn’t feel ‘real’ to me on an emotional level. Having said that, a recent big loss has occured and has left me feeling extremely sad, both in myself and at the waste of what was and could have been given to people. I just have to believe that it has cleared the way for something else that will come along and take things to a new, higher level, and perhaps touch more souls…
You have such rich culture in England and your surrounding Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Do you travel much to these parts? are there any places that have strong meaning for you? If so, why?
I don’t travel there as much as I would like. Unfortunately these places seem to be the victim of the universal scourge of catering to tourism that is slowly eating away at any place in the world that has any beauty or meaning. I do not wish to sound negative or cynical, but to see sacred places plundered for their prospective commercial appeal fills me with great sadness. I was brought up in Wiltshire, and am presently very enamoured with the mystic lands of Cornwall – Eilish and myself are both holidaying in Celtic lands…
Is there a favorite book or film that means a lot to you?
The Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake is the most incredibly magical and evocative piece of literature I have ever read.
Is there anything you would like to end this interview with?
Don’t let anything stand in the way of fulfilling your talents and your dreams…
Reproduced courtesy of deliriummag.com