Here is a rundown on Yes' 2003 support band (for Melbourne and Sydney) - Sebastian Hardie, together with an exclusive interview with guitarist Mario Millo. At the end of the page you'll find links for accessing additional information - including sound-clips and (more) RealAudio files - and can check the availability of related albums/CDs.
Mario currently has two projects going - a new band in support of his "Oceans Of The Mind" CD and a reformed "Sebastian Hardie". Both bands put out blistering performances at a special show at The Metro, Sydney on 8 March, 2003. While the fans went wild over Sebastian Hardie's performance, I was particularly impressed by the strength of the "Oceans Of The Mind" material/band.
Some confusion set in as to whether Sebastian Hardie or the Mario Millo Band should support Yes. For a while it seemed that both would - though, in reotrospect, this would have been impossible. Both bands also toured Japan in July, 2003 - where (due to a variety of factors) the decision was made that Sebastian Hardie alone would support.
At present, Sebastian Hardie plan on doing at least one post-Yes-tour show - in Melbourne. Other dates/cities may follow, though this may depend on reaction to the group's concerts and forthcoming live CD/DVD (see below). But with a possible Australian "progressive rock festival" in the pipeline - and work on a new studio album already begun - it is simply a matter of time before we start to hear a lot more from this band.
A QUICK HISTORY
Most Australian music fans of the mid 1970s will recall "Sebastian Hardie" - the 'progressive rock' band fronted by guitarist Mario Millo and keyboardist Toivo Pilt. As well as releasing the albums "Four Moments" (1975) and "Windchase" (1976), the band toured Australia with many famous acts of the day, including Santana and Focus.
After Sebastian Hardie split up, Mario and Toivo formed "Windchase", who released the "Symphinity" album (1977). But, by that time, local radio airplay was moving away towards more commercial, formatted playlists - so continuing success for the band proved elusive.
Mario then embarked of the start of a long and successful career as a soundtrack composer. He has produced scores for such television projects as "Against The Wind", "Aussie Assault", "Brides of Christ", "Changi", "Heroes Mountain" and for the feature film "The Lighthorsemen". His most well-known solo release in this period was the "Epic III" album (1979) - though this has now been joined by a new CD, "Oceans Of The Mind" (2001).
Toivo Pilt became a much requested writer for TV commercials (Coca Cola, KB draft beer, and Franklin Mint among others) and currently sits on the judging panel for the Australian film industry awards. Peter Plavsic became A&R director for Polygram and then BMG. Alex Plavsic became professional manager for Chappel music and owned and operated there of Sydney's most successful CD stores.
The original quartet began playing together in the 90s for a reunion and accepted the invitation to headline the "Progfest 94" festival.* A live Sebastian Hardie album was recorded in America in 1997 and a further reunion concert took place on 10 March 2001, for the Ted Mulry benefit.
THE SYDNEY AND MELBOURNE CONCERTS
Having to play an allocated 30-minute support set certainly caused problems for the band. In Melbourne - and running a few minutes overtime (unintentionally) - the band literally had the (power) plug pulled from them by "Shooz" (Ron Matthews), Steve Howe's guitar technician. The Sydney support-slot was pushed forward, to present a recurrence - but song-decisions still had to be made on the fly, and there was considerable pressure on the band as a result.
A YESFANZ - MARIO MILLO INTERVIEW
NOTE: The following interview took place in January, 2003 - before the re-union gig and the postponement of the Yes tour. The fact that Sebastian Hardie (alone) will support Yes was not confirmed until August, 2003.
Q. Firstly, congratulations on gaining the Yes support-spot. We can't imagine a more suitable pair of local musicians for the job than you and Toivo Pilt.
A. Thank you very much for your thoughts. When I first spoke to Michael Chugg re. doing the support for Yes, I was thinking about how a big chunk of the audience will be hanging out to hear their early stuff like "Close To The Edge" etc. It made me think that similarly the audience would love to hear "Sebastian Hardie/Windchase" material. I felt having Toivo in the line-up would add to the authenticity should there be enough time to perform any of the past repertoire.
The band I'm putting together for this support will be world class and all the musicians are excited about doing it. I must agree with you, we are the right act for the job and it's an absolute honour to be doing it.
Q. Many of us enjoyed the music of 'Sebastian Hardie' and 'Windchase' in its heyday and look forward to the possibility of hearing at least some of it again in a live setting. We also know that you're keen to promote your new album, "Oceans Of The Mind". So what can we expect to hear, given your time restrictions, for these concerts?
A. We will be showcasing material from "Oceans". re Sebastian Hardie/Windchase I'm hoping to perform "Rosanna" and maybe "Horseman To Symphinity". It would be great if we had at least an hour on stage, 40 minutes has always been the standard thing so it's going to be tough deciding on what gets played. 40 minutes on stage for a musician - you're just starting to warm up.
Q. You've had a few opportunities to play with Toivo since the days of Sebastian Hardie & Windchase - for the "progfest" festival, the live CD recorded in America and, most recently, the Ted Mulry Memorial concerts. It seems like a good working relationship, but how easy is it to get the material into a state where it can be performed?
A. Life has taken the other members of Sebastian Hardie into different fields of work, outside music, therefore it takes a while to get things going again. Doing Progfest in Nov '94 was a magical experience and definitely worth going to the effort to make it happen. It was a great feeling getting together with the guys and playing the music we were so passionate about.
After we performed at Progfest we did talk about doing some shows here in Australia and also recording a new album but the reality of making things happen is a different story. If we were a current touring band then that would lead to new material and new product, which I believe is essential if you're going to tour. In any case we are life long friends and frequently in touch with one another so there's always a chance to play together on occasion.
On a personal
level I miss performing as the last twenty years has shifted my
career into the film industry where I've enjoyed much success
composing for film. In 1999 I felt very inspired to do a solo
album and the result is "Oceans Of The Mind" which I'm
very proud of. It's fantastic to be able to showcase some of it
at the forth coming "Yes" concerts and I can't think of
a better audience to expose it to.
Q. On the other side of things, your soundtrack work - particularly for television drama - must place you in good standing in the worldwide music industry. Does Hollywood come knocking on your door - and would you take up a lucrative offer to re-establish overseas if you had the chance?
A. After composing the score for "Brides Of Christ" in 1991, I had the opportunity to meet up with Hollywood agents for composers. Simon Wincer (director - "The Lighthorsemen") organised these meetings for me as he was and is well respected over there. I remember it was two weeks after the Rodney King riots and LA was not such a good feeling place at the time. It's a long story but I opted to remain in Oz for many reasons. I couldn't see my wife and I raising our kids in Los Angeles. I love Sydney and I love my home. I think it would be great to work on a major Hollywood film but I'm not prepared to slog it out over there to chance a break.
Q. Travelling distances and lack of radio air-play have been stated as reasons for your move into soundtrack work. Do you think the internet is helping to overcome these sorts of problems, or is it just creating a whole set of new ones for musicians - such as copyright and licensing issues?
A. I think the internet is fantastic for any act outside the main stream. An artist no longer has to grovel to record company executives for them to rule whether or not they think you're worthy of recording and releasing product. As I was producing "Oceans Of The Mind", I knew from the outset that I wouldn't waste any time approaching any of the majors and we would do it all ourselves (my independent label "Red Moon Music") and hopefully the fan base worldwide would support us so that at least we break even, cost wise. I guess if you're an act with the main motivation to make money, then signing with a major is still the way to go - they have that massive marketing clout.
CD piracy is a problem - however, luckily for acts such as myself in the "prog rock" circles, I don't think too much of that goes on. The fans want the genuine article which is fantastic. I think prog rock fans realise their support in buying your albums is absolutely essential for things to keep happening.
Q. Music and recording technology has progressed in leaps and bounds since the seventies. People can record entire albums without playing an instrument - or load an entire backing band from disc. As a 'real-life' composer, do you think that music-making is becoming too technical, or can feelings and emotion still get through?
A. In my opinion I believe that musicians breathe life and soul into music. I've experienced many times through lack of budget having to create a film score out of black boxes, technically possibly more perfect but something essentially human is missing. For me it's a wonderful experience having my music performed by musicians. It's absolutely fantastic when a large orchestra performs your stuff for the first time - it's a near spiritual experience.
As I was producing "Oceans Of The Mind" all the tracks were sequenced as part of the way I went about doing it. Once Jeff Camilleri (bass) and Robbie Siracusa (drums) did their thing it came to life. The best analogy I can think of is, a two dimensional picture of something versus the actual item in front of you, the real thing. I believe when there are hands on instruments, energy takes place. Could you imagine going to a "Yes" concert as a DJ spits out from "black boxes" his favourite audio grabs from previously recorded classics
Q. It seems like a good time for progressive music to reappear on the scene. We've had so-called 'revivals' of everything from disco to punk, but very little to actually take music 'forwards' into the new millennium. Do you think can "prog-rock" - as it's called these days - can help to do this?
A. I've always believed that the mid sixties to mid seventies was one of the most innovative times in rock music history. I also believe the "rock musician" reached a zenith around the same period. The music fusion that took place was incredible and bands and artists had unmistakable character. I think it had much to do with "real playing" no "black boxes". "Prog rock" I guess is the way forward by sheer virtue of the name itself. Mind you I don't really know what more can be done, perhaps new acoustic instruments will be invented creating new horizons for musicians.
Q What is your opinion of 'Yes' - being, as you are, somewhat of a contemporary to them? Have you had a chance to keep up with their work over the years?
A. I haven't kept up with "Yes" or any "prog rock" act. It may seem odd but I've been so involved in composing for film that my time and head space has been totally taken up. I loved "Your Move" when I first heard it on radio and became a fan of the band from that point on. The last album I got into was "Relayer" and since then occasionally heard the odd new track, "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" being the latest I've heard. I imagine they have continued in leaps and bounds which is great, no doubt I'll hear some of it live soon.
"Yes" represents a special time in my youth - they were like "the kings" of innovative music. They were one of the bands that made me think "outside the square". My favourite work of theirs was "Close To The Edge" - it would be great to hear it live, perhaps they'll play it on this tour.
Q. Finally, do you have any advice for musicians who may want to follow your example - and take up serious musical composition and/or soundtrack work?
A. It can be tough call if you choose something left field as I did. I've always been driven by the art as opposed to the dollars. It was always a struggle financially in the Sebastian Hardie/Windchase days but we had an amazing time ("a soulful experience" - track 4 "Oceans Of The Mind" album). Be prepared to be elevated to great heights one moment and cut down the next. Some people will love what you do, others will hate it.
Throughout my career as a composer/musician, I've always strived to do my very best, always pushed things to the max. The most important ingredient I believe is "passion" - you must be passionate about what you do in anything. There have been occasions in my film scoring career when I've let things slip and "just done the job" - it's not a good thing to let happen but sometimes unavoidable.
Do your best and
be true within yourself.
Q. Thank you very much for your time. We look forward to these concerts with great anticipation.
A. I also am looking forward to the concerts and am hoping it will spark some interest with local promoters to do some shows of our own, possibly incorporating "Sebastian Hardie" for a retro set. thankyou very much for your interest in my music.
All the best
P.S. Strangely enough, these same questions - now asked by "rock brain of the universe" Glenn A Baker - became the basis of the "Question and Answer" session, for the Syndey pre-concert party. Check The Sydney Concert page for details and photos.
- www.mariomillo.com -
Mario's official site, with information, downloadable soundclips and record/CD information;
- www.progressor.net/interview/mario_millo.html - An interview with Mario, from the web-based ProgessoR magazine;
- http://stage.vitaminic.co.uk/main/sebastian_hardie/all_tracks/ - HEAPS of full-length RealAudio clips to enjoy;
- http://www.whammo.com.au/encyclopedia.asp?articleid=358 - material from an online encyclopaedia of Oz music;
- http://www.amazon.com - a pre-configured search-result for buying Sebastian Hardie albums on www.amazon.com;
- http://gnosis2000.net/reviews/sebastianhardie.htm - *more background material;
- http://www.borderlinebooks.com/australia/s2.html - and more;
- http://www.mm-m.ne.jp/chipmunk/SebastianHardie.html - and more;
- http://www.acay.com.au/~mars/SEBHARDI.HTM - and that's enough.
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