ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS
HISEMAN'S DEBUT (from Melody Maker, circa May, 1973)
JON HISEMAN'S new group Tempest makes its London debut this Sunday at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
The group features Jon Hiseman (drums), Mark Clarke (bass), Allan Holdsworth and Ollie Halsall (guitars), Paul Williams (vocals).
With Jon as a special guest is Vangelis Papathanassiou, creator of the "6 6 6" album by Aphrodite's Child.
Other dates for Jon Hiseman's Tempest are: South Pier, Lowestoft (June 2), Aston University, Birmingham (8), University of Kent (9), Greyhound, Croydon (10), Sheffield University (15) and Hull University (16).
FRONT ROW REVIEWS,
TEMPEST/MARQUEE (from NME, October 13, 1973)
IF YOU need any assistance when naming the most promising band of Ď73, look no further than Jon Hisemanís trio.
Behold a vanishing culture in music Ė that of the funky three piece. Perhaps there have been others in a similar mode, like Mountain, West, Bruce and Laing, and on a lesser scale Trapeze (and we still have Budgie); but if weíre honest, we were all spoilt a little by Cream, and those never made the same grade.
Hisemanís Tempest will. From a four piece, to a five piece, to a four piece, then a three man show, there has been a natural course of experimentation and evolution. Paul Williams and Alan Holdsworth have departed, so at the Marquee on Tuesday, we had going from left to right Ė Ollie Halsall (lead guitar and vocals), Hiseman (drums), and Mark Clarke (bass, keyboards and vocals).
For your edification, the band name aptly describes their music, and has always been the basis of their style. With Hiseman, the Thunderous God of Percussion, the musical elements ebb and flow like a storm, or a rock translation of Wagner. Thus, the overall feel is one of adventure, turbulence and down the line funk.
Naturally by trimming the group format they operate with more advantages, and conversely more limitations.
Halsall, the ex-Patto axe-man, has the scope to improvise licks continually, with Clarke using an equal amount of imagination. So the front two provide an enormous dose of entertaining playing.
And although Hiseman plays with true excellence throughout the set, at times he does have to restrict himself to strict rhythms and tempos.
But his solo, towards the end of the concert, was one of the highlights.
Visually too the band are impressive, with some good lighting effects, and Clarke bent over his instrument, his hair bursting from his skull, as if somebody had put a hatchet right down the middle. And of course Hiseman demonstrates the ancient art of stick juggling.
Unfortunately Halsall on vocals isnít strong enough Ė but that is incidental. The whole outfit give you a good feeling.
READING REPORT (excerpt from article in Sounds,
September 8, 1973)
Genesis / Tempest / Spencer Davies
PRIOR TO the much awaited appearance of Genesis on Sunday evening, Tempest and the Spencer Davis Group between them seemed to draw more response than anyone else during the day.
Tempest played a longish set full of heavily accented guitar numbers. Jon Hiseman played with his usual never ending drive, though these days heís playing a lot more straight rock than he did with Colloseum but then again Tempest is a hundred miles away from Colloseum and for my money, a whole more listenable.
Vocally, Tempest are practically non-existent. Paul Williams recently split from the band because he was finding less and less to do in this department, but really what Tempest lose on the roundabouts they gain on the swings, for they are travelling in a direction which will ultimately eliminate vocals altogether.
TEMPEST: "Living In Fear" (Bronze) (from
NME March 23, 1974)
OVERALL Living In Fear" is an example of just how wrong it is to assume three good players make for one fine band. Tempest may be musicians, but they definitely are not songwriters or singers.
Some parts of the album illustrate a certain potential ("Stargazer" and "Waiting For A Miracle"), though as a whole the set is dismal and disappointing. The band has not matured sufficiently as a unit Ė on record.
On a superficial level this, Tempestís second album, gives the impression of being guts and brawn, but deeper down its quite apparent Jon Hiseman (drums), Ollie Halsall (guitar, keyboards, vocals) and Mark Clarke (bass, vocals) differ in approach. The results are often cacophonous ("Dance To My Tune" and "Turn Around"), with a few red herrings of chord sequences played in total unison of instruments and vocals, as on the title track, to shield the fact.
If it were not for Halsall's exceptional guitar playing and Clarkeís soft, but tough, bass patterns, there would be very little subtlety in the music. Hiseman comes over as generally ineffective on drums, and on the first cut "Funeral Empire", a riffy boogie, he is inhibited by the tempo. Though by the final number, "Turn Around", he has decided to play for himself.
Tempest come over has having very little purpose in existing, because the music neither provides listener enjoyment or seemingly any fun for them. This could be due to the production which varies in quality and never captures any fire of a rock trio.
Above all, the main failing of the band is their inadequacies as songwriters and singers. With the exceptions Iíve already mentioned, and the Beatles' "Paperback Writer", most of the compositions are bitty and rambling. Perhaps one decent vocalist would provide an element of continuity, but at the moment they havenít got one.
TEMPEST ON THE SPAGHETTI CIRCUIT (from
NME, March 23, 1974)
THE AMERICAN lady support-singer had left the stage in tears. She blamed the poor sound for her not going down well. Tempest Ė Jon Hiseman, Ollie Halsall and Mark Clarke Ė were lucky to leave the stage intact. In Italy they donít believe in doing things by halves.
The audience had been quietly attentive until the drum solo, and then they went bananas. Hiseman is one of the few drummers around whose playing justifies a solo, and these Italian kids down at the Teatro (thatís Iti for theatre), Alcione are intent on kicking their Italian rocks off on a Thursday night one way or other.
The predominantly male audience Ė rock Ďní roll might corrupt the girls, mightnít it? Ė are no longer content to sit in their seats. They want to get on that stage and touch a real live British rock band and as Tempest rock into their closing number they surge en mass towards the stage.
A few of the bravest, or craziest, go the whole hog, embracing Messrs. Clarke and Halsall.
However, these eager beavers are prised off the musiciansí bodies and the group trot off stage, pursued by one particularly fun-loving punter who nearly knocks over Hiseman in his keenness to shake his hand.
Whateverís Italian for Ďmoreí, well, theyíre shouting it. And the band return to kick out their helter-skelter version of "Paperback Writer," wow, this is just too much, amigo.
Mid-way through the first verse two thirds of the group make a dash backstage as the Latin blood reaches boiling point. Halsall throws his guitar to a safe spot, doubtless adding more erosions to its already battered body, and Theyíre Safe.
Order is restored and at Mark Clarkeís insistance Ė he remained on stage throughout Ė Hiseman and Halsall return and Tempest complete the Beatlesí song.
Tempest in their present in carnation are just six months old. Itís Hisemanís fourth major band since he first started practicing drums with Dave Greenslade in a church hall somewhere in South London way back.
ĎWay backí means before Graham Bond, John Mayallís last Bluesbreakers, Colosseum and numerous session gigs including work with Keith Emerson and Jack Bruce, not to mention numerous flirtations with the New Jazz Orchestra.
Yes, Jon Hisemanís pedigree is good, but it seems that every time he looks like getting famous he splits and starts something new. His association with Clarke began half-way through Colosseum Ė when Clarke took over from Tony Reeves. Halsall, formerly with Patto, joined Tempest six months ago after the original guitarist, Alan Holdsworth, left.
On stage itís Hiseman who grabs your attention. His drumming is full of meaty fills, and although heís very accomplished technically his playing never lacks warmth.
The solo he took at Genoa was quite startling to begin with, drifted into boredom when he banged rather aimlessly at numerous gongs, then became very listenable again as he re turned to the kit proper.
As a band Tempest do have their shortcomings. Halsall, although a very fast, fluid and impressive guitarist, is no singer. Yet he shares the vocal load with Clarke...whose vocal abilities only just clip Halsallís. At best Halsall sounds like a rather hoarse Rory Gallagher. On stage he also plays a little synthesiser.
Their music is tough, hard rock, dominating the songs and not allowing the group much room to breathe. So itís all a little crowded.
Hiseman himself says Tempest arenít as tightly controlled as Colosseum were, but explains: "The more people you have, the more interesting the music is tonally, but the more it has to be arranged. This means it has less chance to change and develop Ė and thatís why I wanted this band to be a three piece.
"The first Tempest was a four-piece (Hiseman, Clarke, Holdsworth and vocalist Paul Williams), but it was meant to be a three-piece in that Iíd always planned to combine the lead vocals with a lead instrument. The trouble was I couldnít find a lead instrumentalist who could sing as well.
"So the band now is really a fulfillment of that original idea."
In actual fact to start with the very first Tempest was a three-piece, although the public didnít get to hear much of it because Williams soon joined Hiseman, Clarke and Holdsworth. Anyway, the current line-up has been achieved by Halsall replacing Holdsworth and Williams as guitarist/vocalist.
Says Hiseman: "Weíve got five sounds basically. Weíve got any sounds Ollie (Halsall) can make instrumentally and any sound he can make vocally. Weíve got any sound Mark can make instrumentally and any sound vocally, and weíve got my sound. Thatís basically five.
"Now consider that Mark is a good keyboard player as well as a bass player, and he can get by on acoustic guitars and things. And also that Ollie is an excellent keyboard player Ė heís really got into the synthesiser in a big way. Heís a very good guitarist and a very good drummer too so the possibilities are endless."
Harking back to Colosseum, Hiseman says the band grew out of hand, and although forces outside the group wanted to keep it going, Hiseman said no.
"People advised me get rid of certain people to go on, still calling it Colosseum. But what I explained to them was that the chief person who wasnít interested was me."
He expresses discontent with all Colosseumís albums except the live one Ė and even that he maintains, was spoilt by bad packaging.
"I enjoy this band much more. Iím bound to otherwise I wouldnít have made the move. The reactions Tempest get are better than any of the reactions that Colosseum got...everywhere we play. Mind you, we havenít worked very much yet. Throughout last summer we only did about 15 gigs."
What about record sales? Tempest havenít sold as many records as Colosseum?
Hiseman agrees, adding: "But then Colosseum didnít sell any records until itíd been in existence nearly two years. Weíve been together six months. And the Colosseum record sales was a myth anyway. We sold more records after the band broke up than while we were together Ė so thatís something not to be taken too seriously either.
"There are a lot of misconceptions about Colosseum. If I was showbiz Iíd keep my mouth shut and let people think what they like. But I get fed up with all that. Colosseum never made any money. They were always in debt. The new band is in double...well, a fortune. But I donít know of any band thatís made it in a big way that hasnít been at least in debt as we are."
Economics are one reason why Tempest havenít worked much yet.
Hiseman explains that itís cheaper not to work until a band can command an economic price. What work they have done has mainly been confined to the Continent since Hiseman maintains there are few gigs worth playing in Britain.
"The gigs in Britain are too small. And there arenít any facilities. Our halls, without exception, are awful Ė including the new ones. I often think they should open up the cinemas for gigs, because I think theyíre probably the nicest venues Ė but they donít do that."
In the past people have said Hisemanís drumming has moved from jazz to rock. How does he feel about that."
"Iíve always played the way I feel. Other people put labels on it. Obviously Iím a product of my time. Iím a product of South London. I donít pretend to be a spade or a soul merchant or anything. Iím a grammar school boy from fucking South London and I play the way I hear things.
"My playing has gone through a lot of changes and Iím still capable of playing a million different ways. I can play circuses. I can play classical orchestras. I can play rock Ďní roll. I can play dance music. I can play big band jazz. I can play small group jazz. I can play dance music. I can play the whole lot in one number. I can do anything.
"What I choose to do in this moment in time is what Iím doing now. Iíve got an album made at the moment with a 25-piece orchestra. And Iíve just finished making an album with my wife (Barbara Thompson, noted reed player)."
Note: picture at top of this page accompanied this article.
LIVE SOUNDS: TEMPEST (from Sounds, May 4, 1974)
AT THE moment Tempest are creating more of a commotion in Europe than in England, to quote Jon Hiseman they are somewhat forgotten here. In an attempt to correct this these patriotic lads are currently undertaking a few dates in their Mother land before hot footing it back to the Continent. On Saturday they played at the Belfry near Sutton Coldfield deep in the heart of the green and pleasant land of Warwickshire and showed that they deserved to be thought of more often, more highly by more people.
The start of their set concerned my original opinion of Tempest that although their individual and collective musical ability was not in doubt they seemed to be falling between two stalls. They were neither an out and out instrumental group nor was their music following the more simplistic pattern of vocally orientated numbers.
However this doubt was soon removed as later numbers varied in pace and the vocals served as a focus rather than a limitation for some intricate instrumentalisation. Particularly successful was "Living In Fear", a blues gone wild that showed the dual talents of Ollie Halsall on guitar and moog, and contained some very effective bass runs by Mark Clarke; "Dream Train" with some slow harmonics; and "Stranger" which emphasised what a superb technician Jon Hiseman is.
The crowd warmed to the group and the night was rounded off with a rousing version of "Paperback Writer". Ė PHIL HOLT
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