Prime Circle’s Ross Learmonth and Dale Schnettler photographed at a house reduced to a shell in Auckland Park, Joburg. Despite a string of successes, the group is still reaching for the stars.

If there’s one thing you can say about South African rockers Prime Circle, it’s that they don’t lack ambition.
Fifteen years after they first burst out of the sleepy mining town of eMalahleni (Witbank), notching up countless awards and a string of massive studio albums, the group are still not satisfied with their achievements.

“I thought we’d be a lot further than we are today,” says lead singer Ross Learmonth. “You always look to reach for the stars, and I think that’s why we still have so much of hunger in this game.”

His dream is to collaborate with one of the biggest rock bands in the world, the Foo Fighters. “I definitely think it’s a real possibility; you've got to just believe. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the future.

“When we started out, we didn’t really have a preconceived idea of how big or small this band would be. I think we just wanted the world and I think that still is what we are feeling today.”

The band members, Learmonth (vocals and guitar), Marco Gomes (bass), Dale Schnettler (drums), Neil Breytenbach (keyboard) and Dirk Bisschoff (guitar) recently returned home from their tour of Germany and Netherlands.

They are readying themselves for their Head in the Clouds shows at The Teatro at Montecasino this month to promote their new 10-track album, If You Don’t You Never Will.

The band appears energised for its shows in Joburg despite their just completing a gruelling European tour. They played 14 shows in 16 days.

Learmonth’s vocals also seem to be strong despite little rest.“I used to drink quite heavily before when we were on tour. I’ve eased up quite a bit these days,” he says with a chuckle.

“Nowadays we just pick our battles. If we have four or five shows in a row, I make sure that I do my warm-ups and try and not party too hard.”

The band spent 16 nights touring Germany and the Netherlands on a Nightliner sleeper bus - which wasn't as glamorous as it sounds, says Schnettler.

“It’s basically a long bus with 12 beds, a kitchen and lounge. Those top bunks can get really uncomfortable,” he says.

“Everyone thinks it is all glamour. But it isn’t. To hit that many dates in such a short amount of time, you need to stay on a bus. You have to shower at the venues.

"And a lot of the times, these venues only have one shower, so you have 14 people queuing up for a shower.”

Prime Circle is looking forward to performing for their home fans.

“We always love performing for our home (fans). We're excited about our two shows at Montecasino we’ll be playing a lot of our new stuff.”

Their new album was completed in three months, the fastest time the band has made an album. “Our new album is a lot more emotional. Sometimes you want to play heavy content and the lyrics are heavy.

“This album is more emotional. It a slicker version of what we're all about,” says Learmonth.

Their fan base in South Africa and the rest of the world also keeps growing, which the band is “super thrilled” about. “We’ve been so fortunate. South Africa has been so good to us. Our fans were with us since day one and are still with us, and their kids are also now enjoying our music, which is great.”

The band is not exempt from criticism. Says Learmonth: “If we don’t get bad criticism, we're not doing enough.”

Asked how long the band can keep going for, Schnettler says: “We definitely have it in our bones to carry on for another 20 years. I think even if people aren’t listening to us, we’ll still be playing.

“Our end goal is to be a very good live band, touring as many places as we can. We want to break new boundaries, barriers and borders and at the same time tour the hell out of the world.”

* The Saturday Star is giving away five double tickets to Prime Circle’s Head in the Clouds album launch concert at The Teatro, Montecasino, on March 23 and 24.

To stand a chance to win, SMS SS (SPACE) #PrimeCircle followed by your name, surname and email address to 41895. Terms and conditions apply. SMSes cost R1.50.

The Saturday Star