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“We’ve not gone for good
just left the building for a while!”. La nostra intervista con Harry Harold, cantante degli Elcka

di 22 Gennaio, 2018
“We’ve not gone for good – just left the building for a while!”. La nostra intervista con Harry Harold, cantante degli Elcka

Dec. 16, 2:25 p.m.. A message pops up on my Messenger, it's Marcus-Sanford Casey, guitarist of Elcka, announcing that he has put the band's second (unreleased and never released) album on the band's website. It's a good thing my good friend Claudio was there with me to back me up, otherwise I would get the jitters and stay on the train between Stansted and London.

16 dicembre, ore 14,25. Yes, Elcka, after many years, are alive again here with a burst of incurable nostalgia - some material which many thought would never surface has now entered the public domain @ some unreleased & unfinished songs from the fabled 2nd album, dreamed of, hoped for & long requested by many fans of the group. In inviting every reader to take a tour on the band's website to listen to these pearls that did not deserve oblivion, we also ask to dedicate some time to chat with Harry Harrold, leader of the band, who with great sincerity and frankness speaks to us of the past and, why not, also of the future of the Elcka.

> > - Ciao Harry! How are you? Where are you at the moment?

I am in excellent spirits, thank-you. Today, I am in a small writer’s office just beside Marble Arch in London.

> > - It's amazing to find you after all this time. But after the split of Elcka, have you always remained in the music world? No.

When Elcka split up it was a very sad time for all of us. There were a lot of politics involved - Island records fucked us over basically when they sold up to Universal. Many bands that were on the cusp of good things were ‘cut loose’ by Universal’s accountants. It was a huge shame because I felt we were on the very edge of breaking through to much bigger audiences. Sadly, even back then, the days of allowing a band to fully develop across 3,or 4 albums was gone. If you didn’t land the big hit with your first album survival became very precarious. Our first single from the second album - Pleasure - was doing great with radio and press. But Island refused to honour the contract that, we believed, obliged them to release and promote the second album and its singles. So…. overnight, everything ground to a halt.

We were approached by new management and labels but… after that, I felt completely sickened by the music business and felt unable to stay inside it. So, I moved from one furnace into another fire - I became a television producer! I’ve worked in TV now for 12-13 years…. mainly as a development producer, devising new shows and selling them to channels that have no idea what they want until you tell them!

But I’ve done OK - won some awards, sold some formats around the world, devised one of the first ever online dramas. I’m not really complaining.


> > - Being in a band, believing (or at least hoping) in success, then, unfortunately, things do not go as hoped. Is it difficult to put all dreams in a drawer?

Unbelievably difficult. The stories of drug hells, breakdowns, psychosis - I understand how this happens!! To get to the point of signing a record deal, touring, building a fanbase takes an incredible amount of dedication, focus and energy. Then you cross a line where you are no longer in control of your direction - you’ve made a pact with the ‘business of music’ and, as a result, you are subject to the fickle whims of that bloated and dysfunctional industry. Elcka ending has been one of the most traumatic and difficult events in my life. I think the rest of the band would agree. Elcka was all I thought about or did for over 15 years. For over decade after we split I couldn’t even bring myself to sing out loud - I was that bruised by it all. But, all things do eventually pass - and I can now look back at our work with more equilibrium. And I’m very, very proud of our small but rather exceptional body of work - both as a recording and live act. I still get messages about specific gigs and how much they influenced or affected a person. And I take great comfort in the fact that all five of us have remained very close - like family. We didn’t let events destroy our brotherhood.

> - The second album is on the Elcka website, but why, at the time, it was never published?

Island/Universal refusing to honour a contract that promised to release two albums. They wriggled out of it.

> > - I saw that there are even the original demos. In some songs they are quite different from the finished song, but I confess that they are very interesting. I imagine that even for you, if you put them on the website, they still matter. I had not heard the demos from those sessions for years - more than 10. They are very important because they were the early stepping stones that eventually became the final songs. In them I hear a band growing, exploring new directions and intensities. Also a band that was so comfortable with each other that they had zero fear to express ideas as they came to mind. This is, in my opinion, a key to creating good, soulful music - a fearlessness to express ideas during the writing process, as they bubble up from the subconscious. No embarrassment or trying too hard to be cool with each other - just connecting and seeing what flows out… Sometimes the tunes or the words sound bizarre or awful - but they are vital steps towards finding the right soul of a piece.

Yes - they matter!

I remain a compulsive music junkie, and listen to a huge variety of music with a very critical ear - studying the production, each individual musical part - in a way I imagine only a musician or someone who has spend much time in a recording studio would. I’ve come to understand just how difficult good music production is. Taking a song from it’s early, newborn - demo stage, to the finished album article is incredibly difficult to do well. There are so many points along the way that the song can implode. In all demos you find the DNA of the song, the soul - and preserving this whilst polishing or elevating it is a fine art (I believe Dave Allen, who produced our first album - and much of 'The Cures' finest work, had the gift). We never reached the final, final production stages with ‘Softly, Softly’ (2nd album) - so it’s good to have these demos as they show the first maps, pointing towards where we did and also might have eventually taken the finished article.

> - Am I wrong, or this second album seems to me more "brave" than the first? There is a great desire to experiment and a great variety of sounds. Melodies are often not right away immediate, but with the second and third listening, we fall in love with these songs. What do you say?

When we came to write the second album we had grown quite a bit as a band and were listening to a much more diverse range of influences than previously. I remember us all becoming very obsessed with so much diverse music - Elgar, Muddy Waters, Nina Simone, Dr John... Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’; The Velvet Underground & Nico; Prince’s ‘Prince’… also elements of Funkadelic, Fela Kuti, Radiohead’s OK Computer was a big inspiration - so was Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’…. but at the same time, I was obsessed with programming layers of rhythm and vocals to create a kind of choral quality to the work… I had this idea that this album should be perfect for listening to whilst on a yacht (shoot me!)

> > - Writing to you, naturally, ignites the hope that Elcka have returned. But that's not it, is it? What are your projects now?
I’m writing scrips and aiming to deliver the first Brit-pop Netflix drama! But… Elcka are talking about the possibility of reuniting for a one-off, 3 or 4 date tour at some point in 2018. Stay tuned.

> - At the time of the first record I loved to define you as "a theatrical band", a little for the arrangements (always very rich), a little for your way of singing, so emphatic. If I had to compare you to an actor I would have said Vincent Price, so histrionic. What do you think of this comparison? What were your biggest references?

Both Darren (drummer) and I went to theatre school as kids so we were well versed in that kind of theatricality. But it wasn’t that contrived - for me as a front man, I found that losing myself to the music was more comfortable than standing, staring at the audience trying to look cool. Liam Gallagher does that wonderfully - I couldn’t. So I took on this kind of demented conductor role! Also, I think when you have keyboards as part of your sound the music invariably has more layers and depth - Matt’s a very talented arranger and would suddenly come up with these string or horn parts that just added a kind of orchestral vibe. When we first ever started playing together - aged 16,17 we all smoked piles of weed and dropped plenty of acid - we fully indulged in the post-Hippie phase. During that time we found bands like Ozric Tentacles, Nodens Ictus, early Floyd and Zeppelin - that sense of drama, intensity - of multiple musical layers and song structures that built and built to epic climaxes. I think some of that always stayed with us.

> > - In recent years there has been a real appreciation of the 1990s. NME also often makes articles on britpop bands (when it does not speak about Liam, of course). In the end, is the music really a wheel that turns and everything, sooner or later, comes back?

Perhaps it’s less a question of stuff coming back as culture and, particularly music, being like one huge stream that continues to absorb the sounds and styles from each era - endlessly mutating and recycling. Nostalgia is different from cultural maturity. The former is a desire to specifically recreate an era; the latter is what we enjoy today: choice, diversity; diverse influences. I know 20 year olds and 50 year olds who have very similar musical tastes, and they are massively diverse. It’s OK to like Fekky at the same time as loving The Small Faces or Kanye or The Orb, or, or…..

> > - However, I have never understood how Elcka then not became famous as Pulp or Suede. You had everything: melodies, pop taste, fabulous choruses. I still judge your first album as a britpop masterpiece! At that time, how did you judge your interest in you?

Thank-you. I couldn’t agree more! At the time it felty like we were about to explode. Then we did. Just not how we imagined.

> > - It just feels like yesterday when Rubbernecking came out...20 years have passed instead! Time flies. Do you have any sort of anecdote or special feeling to tell us that you still gladly remember about the recording of that album? How do you judge, now, that record?

I was very much a record of the time. But I like to think it has very much stood up to the test of time. It hasn’t particularly dated. It was us, being us at the incredible time. Anecdotes - so many… that’s a whole other interview!

> > - Do you know what was your song that I loved? "Try". It did not deserve to go out only as a b-side! It deserved the record!! Darren does a fabulous work on the drums. Do You remember that song?

I remember it well. The lyrics were about a good friend of mine - still a good friend. She was a press officer at the time, out every night of the week partying and schmoozing - a Queen of the Britpop scene. But when we’d talk she’d cry about being so lonely. She said she wanted to find what she really needed rather than thought she wanted, she said she had to ’Try’. And then she did - now she’s very happy, very successful and still very cool.

>> - Can I ask you something? But who edited the "Rubbernecking" cover? It never seemed like the right cover for you…

It was done by Island record’s art boss. He’s a talented dude - he did Tricky’s Maxinquay (a great cover), but… I dunno - I always hated the cover - It was a weak effort to ape the cool chic of the Roxy Music covers…. Looking back I wished we had just put a picture of the band on the front - such handsome devils, the lot of us!

> > - But is true the story that you could go on tour in America with Morrissey but unfortunately you had to give up?

No, we did the tour... We supported Morrissey on his ‘Maladjusted’ tour - across all of North America, Europe and Scandinavia. It was epic! We played venues like New York’s Central Park, LA’s The Greek, London Battersea Power Station…. 25, 30,000 people. It felt like putting on an old and well-fitting coat to us. We had spent 4 months on the road, promoting the 2nd album songs, they were polished and ready to perform. We had built quite a fanbase - especially across America. Yet still, Island let us go. Fuckers.

>> - What were the bands of the '90s that you preferred? What are your memories of the 90s music?

I loved the scene. There were so many bands, so many clubs so much fun to be had. It really felt like being part of a special cultural moment. We were lucky to be right in the middle of it all… Britpop. We were quite elitist, to be honest - pretty dismissive of most of our contemporaries. But I couldn’t deny at the time loving bands like The Long Pigs; Mansun; Radiohead; Suede; Supergrass - I also loved Oasis from the moment I heard Supersonic. I heard that and thought… fuck, there goes the No1 spot and I’m not sure how comfortable I am being No2!

> > - Thank you again for your kindness. Is there a song from Elcka records you particularly like and that you would pick up as the final soundtrack for this interview?

A song I always loved (though, not everyone agrees) and a song that most defined the direction I saw us moving in was ‘New Technology’ - the recording or mix were never perfect, but there’s something about the fat layers, the driving intensity, the romance and the euphoria it builds towards that made me think - yes, this is the door to our tomorrow. Thanks for your interest and keeping the Elcka faith. We’ve not gone for good - just left the building for a while!

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