Umbrello Entertainment Launch

24 May 05, London
Buy Syndestructible
Buy Original Syn

Harmony in Diversity

Klinker Club, London
3 Jun 05
On 24 May, Umbrello Entertainment Group PLC held a press conference to announce themselves to the world and to promote their new ventures, including the More Drama Tour with Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Alan White.

The line-up for the press conference was Colin Usher (the man behind THAT-TV), Michael Goodall (Umbrello Entertainment director), Steve Nardelli (Syn vocalist and Umbrello Entertainment director), Chris Squire (Umbrello Entertainment director), Alan White and Jon Webster (consultant to Umbrello and working with the Syn). If I'm remembering correctly, all bar Goodall gave a short introduction. Nardelli talked about the Umbrello Records label being aimed at the over-35 demographic and being an antithesis to boy bands. Usher talked about the music channel, THAT-TV. Preceding, there had been a short video clip showing the new logos and seemingly put together by Usher. Later in the day, the promo video of the band playing "Cathedral of Love" was shown. "Cathedral of Love" was played as background music, followed later by Drama!

Questions followed, although they were fairly insubstantial. Squire talked about how it would have been difficult for a bunch of oldies like the Syn to get a record deal, so it seemed sensible to just set up their own label! Squire and White made vague reference to doing a "Yes thing" next year. I chickened out of asking any difficult questions, like is Rick Wakeman currently in the band or not?

Most of the rest of the Syn were also around: Martyn Adelman (photos) was there throughout, while Gerard Johnson (keys, co-producer) and Paul Stacey (guitar, co-producer) turned up later, as did Geoff Downes (White, More Drama Tour).

I'd estimate there were 80+ people present. This included the target audience of journalists from the UK press (newspapers and specialist magazines) and potential financial backers. However, there were also some fan groups represented, including two from the Netherlands' YesFocus and Pam Bay of the Steve Howe Appreciation Society. Industry people included Rob Ayling, director of Voiceprint, and Daniel Earnshaw, who is behind the new Explore Multimedia (debut release Jeronimo Road's Live at the Orange with Adam Wakeman) and has worked with Rick Wakeman. Peter Stringfellow turned up, although who knows why? Guests included original Syn guitarist John Painter, Roger Dean, Trevor Horn (very briefly) and assorted family and friends, including Chris Squire's girlfriend, brother and two of his daughters (Carmen and Chandrika).

The album (later entitled Syndestructible) was progressing well and the band were pleased with the music. Johnson described the album as being very much in the vein of 1974-6 prog rock, more so than even the first song to be released, "Cathedral of Love". He and Paul Stacey both have long musical resumés, but were happy to have, finally, found an environment in which they could explore this style as both grew up learning to play along side Yes albums. Press packs included a promo with early masters of the album version and radio edit of "Cathedral of Love". At the time of speaking, there were still logistical issues to be worked out, but once those have been solved, the band were looking forward to getting out and touring. (The More Drama Tour was subsequently cancelled because of these and further logistical issues.) Johnson talked about the challenge of doing material from Fish Out of Water live, a testament to the complexity of Andrew Jackman's arrangement work. Meanwhile, "Time and a Word" from 2004 sessions has also been completed for release on Original Syn 1964-2004, Johnson assembling a complete song despite that the 2004 recording sessions hadn't quite been finished.

Guitar for those 2004 Syn sessions were by Peter Banks, but there has since been a split with the band. Banks remains very unhappy about how the Syn has developed, but he is moving on with his own project. Not many days later (3 June), that new band, Harmony in Diversity, played their debut gig at the Klinker Club. The other band members are Nick Cottam (bass guitar) and Andrew Booker (drums, vocals), who had previously been working together as Pulse Engine. In a way, this is only their debut gig under their new name as Banks joined half of a set by Pulse Engine last October. Things have been moving slowly since then and the band had not rehearsed, choosing instead to play an entirely improvised gig. The Klinker Club is a very suitable venue for such experimentation, an avant-garde music club that has been running for some years. The crowd isn't huge—less than the Umbrello press launch—but they gave a warm reception as Harmony in Diversity opened the evening.

Harmony in Diversity only played for about half an hour, which perhaps did not give them enough time to really get going. The first piece was something of a mess, but subsequent pieces began to come together, with the last, I felt, the most successful and sadly cut short. Booker plays an electronic drum kit and also controls the mixing board and some live loop effects. (He is also a very good singer, but this set was just instrumental.) Banks was on guitar, but squeezed in a few drum beats too at the end of the set.

The band were in good spirits... well, except when Banks talked about the Syn! Banks explained how Harmony in Diversity hoped to use the live setting almost as a rehearsal room, developing their music through such gigs, possibly releasing live shows themselves. (That night's show was recorded by Booker.)

Henry Potts, Jun 05; revised 19 Nov 05

Originally posted to

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