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Sebastian Hardie & Windchase

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    Posted: June 02 2011 at 10:44


Mario Daniel Millo is an Australian musician and composer from Sydney. He was a member of symphonic rock group Sebastian Hardie from 1973 to their disbandment in 1977. He then joined Windchase before embarking on a solo career as a composer of film and television soundtracks scores.

I got in touch with him for the Sebastian Hardie and Windchase story. 

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Where were you born, what was your musical upbringing and which bands/artists inspired you to take up music ?

I was born in Sydney, Australia - May, 1955 soon after my Italian parents migrated here to start their new life.

My father had a great passion for music and was a multi instrumentalist, however, like me, his main instrument was guitar. He taught me to play the mandolin at age five and then on my eighth birthday presented me with my first 3/4 scale acoustic guitar.  He taught me the basics and after some months I began listening and teaching myself instrumentals by The Shadows…Hank Marvin was my hero!

Your first band was the then blues band, turned into prog rock band Sebastian Hardie. How and when did you join them ?

I wasn’t actually part of the original Sebastian Hardie, I joined late 1973.

The first band I was in was called The Wanted.  It wasn't long before I branched off with another guitar player/singer (Peter Stanley) and we started a new band called The Menu in 1967.  The Menu played pop covers of the time which included songs by The Shadows, Beatles, Stones, Bee Gees, Animals and many others. The first song I ever wrote was called "Love and Affection" which was recorded and entered in a band talent quest, but we did not win. 

In 1969, The Menu, by then, had gone through a complete line-up change and once again entered in a "battle of the bands" quest sponsored by the leading rock radio station in Sydney at the time, 2SM.  The quest was called "The 2SM Pepsi Pop Poll".  This time we were the winners and with that came a recording contract with the Australian record company "Festival Records" and the band was also put on the books with one of the biggest music booking agents in Sydney. The agency was called "Cordon Bleu" and they represented many Australian artists, one of which was the original "Sebastian Hardie".  

In those days it was common place for two bands to share the same gig, rotating sets between bands throughout the night. This is how I first met the guys in Sebastian Hardie.

The Menu had a name change and became The Clik.  We recorded two singles with Festival Records which received mild success and the band was very active in the local live scene.  By 1973, The Clik had gone through a complete line-up change several times and was coming to the end of it's time.  By then I had written several original songs and was invited to join Sebastian Hardie as guitarist/vocalist which I accepted.

It was around November of 1973 when I officially joined SH, however, I jammed with the band many times earlier that year and it was the jamming that brought us together…there was a special chemistry when we played together.



Please tell us more about the legendary Four Moments album from 1975

Around the time I joined Sebastian Hardie, I was influenced by bands such as Chicago, Yes, Santana, Mahavishnu and many others. It was "Close to the Edge" by Yes that interested me in the concept of writing an extended piece of music, re-occurring themes etc.  Although now as I'm thinking about influences, my previous band The Clik performed the entire side of Abbey Road (Beatles).

For many years I had various small recording setups and recorded many original ideas, some of which were the building blocks to "Four Moments". 
I also remember going to see Dutch band "Focus" in concert, here in Sydney, 1973 with SH drummer Alex Plavsic.  We were both blown away that night by their performance and given that we were already influenced by the bands mentioned earlier, the direction for Sebastian Hardie became clear.  

The writing of Four Moments, which I still have on two track tape, was just an amazing door opening for me - I realised I needed to hear defined structure in the melody, harmony and bass parts and the importance of their interactions.  When the band got together to rehearse, I lead them through these structures and things started to gel straight away. It wasn't long before we were performing "Four Moments" in front of audiences and the reaction was fantastic!  
I will add, that prior to performing Four Moments the band had already become recognised as somewhat of a musical event, in that we performed our own extended version of Michael Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" which was a huge success at the time.  When we played at regular rock gigs (Australian Pubs), where mainly dancing would take place, the night would turn into a concert vibe…great times!

Jon English, massively successful male vocalist here in Australia in the 70's, also the original singer in Sebastian Hardie prior to me joining was already an established recording artist with Polygram.  It was with Jon English and Sebastian Hardie co-producing "Four Moments" that Polygram signed the band and gave us clear reign to record our stuff, even though they knew it wasn't the normal commercial outcome. 
Fortunately, as soon as Four Moments was ready for release, we were booked to tour with Focus on their second Australian Tour, around May 1975.  It was the perfect audience and SH were the perfect support act.  The tour was a huge success for us and Four Moments achieved "Gold Record" sales, and the single "Rosanna" was in the top twenty in the national radio charts.




Please tell us more about the follow up album Windchase from 1976.

The Windchase album was recorded about a year after Four Moments.  Unlike FM, where we had performed it several times before recording, Windchase had not ever been "road tested" prior to the recording which was frustrating.  I remember that Polygram was pushing for us to produce a follow up album in order to keep the momentum happening, understandably. 

By that stage the band was in demand to perform concerts and as much as we would have liked to have spent more time producing Windchase, Polygram pushed for a release to coincide with a forthcoming Santana tour (1976 tour of Australia) , for which we were the support act.



There is also a live album called Live in LA, released in 1997. When and in which venue was this album recorded ?

Live in LA was recorded in Los Angeles at The Variety Arts Centre, November, 1994.  It was a one off performance, headlining Progfest ‘94 (LA’s annual Progressive Rock festival at the time).  
The festival was a blast, there were around ten bands, maybe more, from all over the world and an audience that also travelled in from all over the globe.
It was the first public performance for Sebastian Hardie since we split in 1976.  As it was such an occasion, we thought it was deserving of a cd release.  There is also a compilation video of Progfest '94, released through Musea, which features excerpts from all the bands.

Then Sebastian Hardie broke up and Windchase was formed. Please tell us more about why and what happened.

I guess the main reason we split was financial difficulties and to some degree musical differences.  To keep a band together, performing/touring is essential. The geography of Australia is immense with only a small population compared to USA, Europe etc.  Unlike the USA where a band could tour east to west coast playing at hundreds of cities, here in Oz, from Sydney to Perth you'd be lucky to do half a dozen shows.  We did not have as much support from radio and media as the more commercial style bands had, so it was difficult for a band such as ours to make a living. Toivo (keyboard player) and I were also feeling we needed to embark on a different musical direction at that time.



Windchase's only album is the Simphinity album from 1977. Please tell us more about this album.

After the split of SH, Toivo and I, with a new rhythm section, continued performing as Sebastian Hardie.  The name "Sebastian Hardie" became a contentious issue between us and the original SH rhythm section so we decided down the track to rename our new band Windchase, feeling that it had a connection back to the last Seb Hardie album, and therefore just a new branch of the old band.

The first album recorded by Windchase, Symphinity, was quite different to SH.  We teamed up with friend Gerry Stevens (recording engineer) and signed a recording contract with Festival Records.  Again, we had license to produce what we wanted and both us and Festival Records were excited with the album that was produced.  

By then, 1977-78, the music business here in Oz was becoming more and more selective in a rigid commercial sense.  It was even more difficult for a band like ours to stay in business.  Again it was financial pressures that were the main reason for the end of Windchase and to some extent differences in musical directions with myself and Toivo.

When did Windchase broke up and you started out on a successful solo career.

It was towards the end of 1977 early '78 when Windchase ended, and I embarked on my solo career soon after.



What is your best and worst memories from Sebastian Hardie and Windchase ?

There were definitely more good memories than bad.

Recording our very first album Four Moments was one of the highlights for Sebastian Hardie.  Just hearing my writing come together in a great recording studio was brilliant, and I remember as well that the band had so much fun doing it all.  So many practical jokes and so many laughs.
 
Touring with Focus and Santana was such a buzz for the band.  It was an amazing thing for me personally as I had admired both Jan Akkerman (Focus) and Carlos Santana for many years.  A personal highlight of the Carlos Santana tour was being invited on stage to play alongside Carlos on the last concert in Sydney and it’s a moment I won’t ever forget.
 
We had such an amazing time just about everywhere we performed and the band always managed to reach a high and audiences felt the vibe.  Sebastian Hardie’s final performance in 1976, before the split, was at The Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne, Australia and I recall we performed an outstanding show.  We had to wait for another eighteen years to get the opportunity to feel that magic again, at Progfest in LA in November 1994 … on stage it felt as if no time had passed.
 
Our tour of Japan in 2003 was another major highlight, especially for me, in that I had a new solo album out, “Oceans Of The Mind” and a tour featuring both the Mario Millo Band and Sebastian Hardie was organised.  To kick off the tour, the two bands performed a one off concert in Sydney at The Metro Theatre. It was a blast and the entire show was recorded on video and multi-track audio.  The recording and video is yet to be released, but our intention is to release them both in the future.  We had fantastic audiences in Japan at the concerts and I am definitely planning to tour Japan again one way or the other.
 
Later in 2003, Sebastian Hardie performed as Special Guests in Sydney and Melbourne on the YES 35th Anniversary Tour.  The two nights were fantastic and it was such an honour to perform at these concerts.
 
Windchase also had many fantastic times, though the music industry had become harder and everything became more serious by then.  Recording the Symphinity album was a real buzz and doing gigs was always good. Unfortunately we never had the opportunities that SH had re touring with international acts.  

You are a very famous composer in your own right. Far more than Windchase and Sebastian Hardie ever was. But then again; we in ProgArchives are true nerds. But please tell us more about your albums, your movies and your career as a composer. How would you describe your music ?

My music has mostly tended to be thematic.  Four Moments, for example, was one of the main reasons Sebastian Hardie became known as Symphonic Rock.  I've always veered toward strong melodic and harmonic ideas.  My first solo album Epic lll (circa 1978-79), continued around these lines and it was around this time that I began to broaden my horizons re my career.

Composing for film was a natural progression as I was always interested in orchestral music.  In 1978, I had the opportunity to co-write the music for an Australian television mini-series called “Against The Wind”.  Both the series and soundtrack album were a hit here in Oz, as well as Scandinavia and several other countries.

“Against The Wind” kick started my career as a film composer.  From around 1983, composing for film became my focus and for the twenty years that followed I was deeply entrenched writing and producing film scores. It's been a fantastic journey, giving me opportunities to compose for orchestra where I've developed my skills in arrangement, orchestration and to some degree in conducting.  I'm very grateful to have been acknowledged by my peers and to have received many awards for my scores. 

I do intend, at some point in the future, to compose more music for orchestra, not necessarily for film, but more of my own music projects.



It is my understanding that you will tour again this year with both your own material and Windchase/Sebastian Hardie material. Please tell us more about these plans

At present it's on my bucket list.  Once my producing commitments free up, then I can focus on the possibility to tour again, more likely to be 2012. I will love it if it does happen as I miss playing and touring a lot.

Recently I've been producing two young artists that I'm very excited about and their debut albums will soon be released.
My daughter Jess Millo (singer songwriter) and her band The Scarletts - album titled "Outside looking In", and Nick Latta (singer songwriter) with his album "Filling The Void", which I also played guitar on. Producing these two albums has been such a joy for me.  I've been able to impart my 40+ years of experience and knowledge in music and we're all ecstatic with the final results of both albums. 
I mention them because my plan is to tour in an entourage which will include Nick’s band, Jess and The Scarletts and selected musicians that I’d love to bring along. I also have a bunch of guys (“Men From Mars”) that I wrote and recorded an album with a few years ago. Doing some gigs with those guys would also be on the wish list. We’ll have to wait and see what develops next year.

Re Windchase / Sebastian Hardie, at this stage, there are no plans to tour either band, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

As the prog rock nerds we are; is there any of the current generation prog rock bands you like or have you lost touch with the scene?

I must confess that I have lost touch with what's happening in prog world. However, judging by the enthusiasm I witnessed at Progfest '94, even back then, Prog Rock was certainly alive and well and I imagine it is even more so now days which is fantastic! 

To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview?

I thank you for the opportunity and interest re this interview and I hope at some point we meet while I'm on tour.

All the best



Thank you to Mario for this interview 

His homepage is here 
Sebastian Hardie's PA profile is here
 Windchase's PA profile is here

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Finnforest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 04 2011 at 07:42
Thanks Torodd, I enjoyed that one!
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