Harem Scarem lead vocalist Harry Hess was quite content working away in his recording studio, producing other artists as well as laying down tracks on various on-going projects. By his own admission, he didn’t miss the classic rock band he pulled the plug on following the release of the band’s `final’ record release `Hope’ in 2008.
But those pesky promoters wouldn’t let the band go. He was constantly getting inquires on Harem Scarem’s status, especially from Japanese and European interests who had supported the Warner Music Recording act through their early career which commenced with the launch of their debut self-titled release in 1991.
And then the band’s European label, the Italian-based Frontiers Records got into the act, offering Hess a recording project with the band’s former drummer, Darren Smith. Titled ‘First Signal’ and released in 2010, the record was a total departure from Harem Scarem’s classic rock sound, but as Hess explains, “That project got me back in the game.”
Next thing Hess knew, Frontiers were releasing his band’s extensive catalogue, asked him and co-writer Pete Lesperance to contribute three new songs to a re-release of their 1983 Mood Swings album, and before he knew it, Hess, Lesperance and drummer Creighton Dunne were back in the studio recording a 2014 release titled “Thirteen”
`First Signal’ may have been initially viewed as a one-off project with former band member Smith, but as Harem Scarem’s catalogue was released, the Mood Swings re-release hit the stores and a on-off concert appearance at the Nottingham Firefest in October 2014 was booked, Harem Scarem found themselves back in the game.
“I mean it’s not like I was working at Home Depot, I’ve never not been working as a musician so I fell back into it quickly,” Hess announced. “Same with the other guys, they are all studio musicians so it all came together quite smoothly.”
That one appearance in Nottingham convinced the band to return to the studio, and with Pledge Music support from their long-suffering fans, Harem Scarem released their first new recording in seven years. Titled Thirteen, with it being their 13th studio album, that release revived the band’s foreign support and their follow up `United’ has re-ignited booking interest. “It’s great to be able to go over to Italy in the middle of winter and we’ve already done a couple of Japanese dates so the interest is still there” Hess enthused.
Although Harem Scarem were only marginally successful in Canada and never dented the U.S charts, it was their European and Asian support which kept Warner Music Canada’s interest in the band, even as mega-selling major groups were being dropped as the Grunge invasion took hold in the early 90’s.
“We were on tour with Foreigner when they got dropped by Atlantic and we were thinking, so what does that mean for us? But our music was dark enough that we kinda flew under the radar,” noted Hess. “If we had been selling millions of records we would have been one of those bands that would have gotten dropped because there was a negative stigma about any band which had been commercially successful.”
As it is, Harem Scarem, has now released 14 studio albums, seven live releases and eight compilations, not bad for band that’s almost an unknown entity in their own country.
“It’s true that we’ve never sold loads of records in Canada but being almost unknown is a big help to us,” Hess allowed. “Our fan base knows who we are, we are still big in Europe and Asia and there’s a lot of new people discovering our music who think we are a new band.”
Listen to the 11 tracks which make up `United’ and it’s clear these guys know what they are doing. Nothing pretentious just a solid mix of high energy rock songs and solid ballads that would not be out of sync with anything Iron Maiden or Judas Priest has released recently.
“We take the recording portion very seriously,” Hess explained. “We are all studio guys, we understand how to make records and we realize that our fan support is based on traditional hard rock and it’s our job to give them what they want.”