Interview with Steve Hillage of System 7

In addition to launching the careers of a new generation of young musicians, the explosion of house and techno re-invigorated the interest of many artists who had grown tired with traditional music. 777 are a good example. In the ’70s, members Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy were part of the France-based rock band Gong. But getting bored with the music they were doing, they stopped in 1979 and turned to producing and soundtrack work.

“When the boon in house music occurred in the late 80’s, I felt this irresistible desire to start making music as an artist again,” says Hillage. “I’d be going to the clubs, and listening to stuff from the DJs and just imagining some of our own sound on it. We met a lot of people involved in the scene who encouraged us to do our own stuff again.”

777 create highly rhythmic ambient music, and they differ from many other genre bands because they use guitars. Their latest album, “Fire + Water,” was released by Astralwerks in the US as a double CD but originally came out in England as two separate discs. Their reasoning behind this is that CDs are more affordable in the States, and the package would have been priced too high in the UK. Technically, “Fire” is the main album, and “Water” contains remixes with the beats removed and new parts added, so it works as both one big project and separate entities.

The other difference with the US release is that it is under the name 777, rather than System 7. Many people believe that this is due to legal problems with Apple Computer (the group’s press release even claims this ), but that is not the case.

“There’s another band called System 7, on some obscure Seattle label, though I think they’re actually from Portland Oregon,” explains Hillage. “When we first started System 7 in 1990, our first release was a track called “Sunburn,” which was a collaboration with Alex Patterson of The Orb and Youth. We wanted to release it in America and we got a legal letter from this other band. People tend to assume it’s because of Apple computers, and we don’t mind them assuming that. We actually think that Apple are corporate bastards for not giving us free Macs for all the free publicity we’re giving them. But if you think about it, they [Apple] would have made that problem in the UK as well because it’s very big in the UK.”

Hillage says that he heard the other System 7 for “about 2 minutes” and didn’t like them. The group likes the “777” moniker and would even consider making it their world name if they ever became massive in the States. They also enjoy having a band with different but interlocking names. The group’s second album was “777” by System 7 in the UK, and they wanted to release it in America as “System 7” by 777. Unfortunately, it never got a US release.

“I greatly regret that we were never able to employ that humorous take on the name situation with our second release,” explains Hillage. “If we had used the same artwork, it would have been brilliant.”

The duo uses Atari computers running Notator to compose their music, but they are unique because they work on separate computers linked together. While most bands take turns or have one member who does all the programming, 777 can truly work together on the same piece of music. The group feels that immediacy is important to composing, so they try to avoid spending too much time on individual tracks. On average, it usually take 3-4 months to complete an album. While Hillage and Giraudy are the core of 777, they enjoy collaborating with others. In the past, they have worked with such artists as DJ Lewis, Alex Paterson, and Youth.

Hillage and Giraudy are now also creating soundtracks for computer games. Most recently, they wrote the score to a “Lawnmower Man” game. Hillage says that they usually split up their time equally between all their projects, though sometimes they devote more time to 777/System 7 so they can tour.

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