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Q&A: Prime Circle

South African alt rockers on their India experience and their new album

Rolling Stone IN May 10, 2010

Having toured India twice already – playing at popular festivals like Rock ”˜N India and Umang – South African alt rockers Prime Circle look to becoming frequent guests on the Indian rock scene. Riding on the success of its last major release All or Nothing, the band is already writing new material for its next album which explores a much greater scope of sound. We caught up with lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Ross Learmonth, lead guitarist Dirk Bisschoff and bassist Marco Gomes when they were in the country last.

So how has your experience playing in India been so far?

Ross Learmonth: We enjoy any opportunity to play anywhere different; it’s been great experience for us. But when we came down for the first time we didn’t know what to expect. We come from a country where a sense of stigma surrounds rock music. So it was cool for us to come to another country which in some ways faces a similar problem with rock music, as we can relate with the situation on some level. The interesting thing is people don’t know if there is an active rock scene in India, and when you come and see it for yourself it is just amazing.

Your most recent release and third studio album All or Nothing has been quite a success. How have you evolved over these years, did you work any major changes on your last album?

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Dirk Bisschoff: I think we became better musicians and better songwriters. All or Nothing is also reflective of various changes and additions to the band – changing labels, changing producers, growing up as individuals. We got a new drummer (Dale Schnettler) and added Neil (Breytenbach) on keyboards and effects. There was a lot more acquired by the band; it was almost like having a new band. Like we always say, we are like street kid musicians. We taught ourselves to play and then to have the addition of a couple of these musicians who are trained in classical music, was a very interesting coming together of both these worlds.

Your sound brings to mind the likes of Nickelback, Three Doors Down and Daughtry. Is this in anyway intentional? Do these artists influence your sound?

RL: I think on the first two albums it wasn’t exactly what was intended but more what the labels wanted from us, but on the third album we’ve tried to push away from that. I think the third album is still in the same genre somewhere but it definitely is a move away from that typical sound. But all in all, it’s great that all of us agree to this one style.

Marco Gomes: If you listen to all our influences they are very varied. Our drummer likes Muse and Depeche Mode, Ross likes hard rock, Dirk likes Silverchair and Sepultura, I like old school rock & roll like Aerosmith. Inspite of such diverse influences, we manage to find common ground which is amazing.

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So what’s on the cards? Are you guys writing new material?

RL: I think right now we’re working on what could be our best work yet. We’ve always pulled off stuff we wanted to do, but now we’re working on stuff which is almost better than what we are or expect of ourselves. We are working with more experimental sounds, though not taking away from our essential style.

Experimental in what sense?

RL: When I say experimental, I mean in terms of using more loops, using more equipment for setting moods. Stepping up to writing music that wouldn’t be say, heard in a small arena, trying to write stadium songs, working a on a bigger sound.

So should we expect another album soon?

We’re looking forward to coming out with a new album for which we would be touring India as well. This album would release in August or September. We’re halfway there. When we get back home we head back into the studio.

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