Since they first burst out of the sleepy mining town of Witbank some 11 years ago, South African rock sensation Prime Circle has been unstoppable. They stormed out of the gates with their record-breaking debut album in 2003, and have followed it up with a string of massive studio albums that have secured their place as the most successful rock act in South African history.
Prime Circle’s career is an inspiration that has spawned hundreds of garage bands across South Africa, with starry-eyed young rockers hoping that one day, they might make it big the way Ross Learmonth, Dirk Bisschoff, Marco Gomes, Neil Breytenbach and Dale Schnettler did. In a country where rock ‘n’ roll is a precious but rare commodity, that’s nothing to be sniffed at.
Says lead singer Ross Learmonth of Prime Circle’s early days, “It was hard to find people who were serious about music – so I jumped at the chance to jam with guys who were ambitious musicians.” The band, all from Witbank and surrounding areas, emerged from literally nowhere to take the unsuspecting South African rock scene by storm.
Their 2003 debut, Hello Crazy World, rocketed to gold status in South Africa, with “Live This Life” (the 2005 follow-up following suit) – fairly groundbreaking stuff for the fresh-faced newbies to the local rock scene. Singles such as “Hello”, “Live This Life” and “My Inspiration” earned heavy rotation on South African radio, and it wasn’t long before crowds at Prime Circle shows were roaring their songs back to them word for word, building a fanbase that would stick with them for over a decade and more.
2008 saw Prime Circle’s signing to EMI, as well as the release of an album that would signal them as a seminal South African act. “All or Nothing” demonstrated the difference between a good band and a great one. Recorded at Bellville Studios in Cape Town, “All or Nothing” marked a turn in Prime Circle’s musical direction, moving further from their original post grunge, alternative sound to produce more anthemic, stadium rock records. The record raked in the first two Prime Circle South African Music Award nominations of their career, for Record of the Year and Best Rock Album (English).
To date, the first single from “All or Nothing”, “She Always Gets What She Wants”, has received over 789 000 YouTube hits. It is the most-viewed South African rock song of all time on the channel, and cements Prime Circle’s status as the most successful South African rock band in history. Award-winning follow-up singles from the album include “Out of This Place” and “Consider Me”.
“Jekyll & Hyde”, unleashed in 2010, had a lot to live up to – but Prime Circle have never been a band to shy away from a challenge.
The album was mixed in Los Angeles by Kevin Shirley, who has previously worked with the likes of Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Silverchair and Journey. New York-based Sterling Sound mastering engineer George Marino, who is famed for his work with Guns ‘n’ Roses and Ozzy Osbourne, laid the final touches on “Jekyll & Hyde”.
The first two singles from the album, power ballads “Breathing” and “Turning in My Sleep”, were each nominated for the SAMA for MTN Record of the Year in 2011. As of October 2012, both releases continue to enjoy heavy rotation on regional radio stations in South Africa, with “Breathing” having received over 197 000 YouTube views.
In March 2011, Prime Circle won the Best International Breakthrough Act at the MK Awards.
Over a decade after they first arrived on the scene, changing the landscape of South African rock forever, the band is delighted to announce the release of their fifth album. The title of the enigmatic 2012 release, after months of fan speculation and cryptic viral marketing, has been revealed as “Evidence”.
The first single off “Evidence”, “Time Kills Us All”, debuted on regional and national radio in South Africa in late September 2012 to widespread acclaim. A stadium-sized power ballad, the song indicates the heights the band have scaled since their inception, and the scope that they’re still capable of. Other songs sure to make top the charts are ‘Evidence’, ‘King for a Day’, ‘Change’, ‘Written in Riddles’ amongst others.
The 13-track album features the masterful recording wizardry of Theo Crous, the former Springbok Nude Girl who received a 2011 SAMA nomination for his production work on Prime Circle’s last album.
11 years down the line, Prime Circle have kept their brand of rasping, layered, melodic rock on mainstream airwaves, bringing the heavier stuff to listeners who might not have found it without their help. Ross Learmonth’s is now one of the most recognisable voices in South African music. But for the band, it’s not about rockstardom – it’s really still all about the fans and the songs. Says the lead singer, “Without the fans, we would be nothing. And I don’t ever want to do anything else. Creating music for a living is a privilege, and we never forget that.”