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Omega

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Janos Kobor of Omega from 2017
MSJ:
You guys have quite the history. Can you catch the readers up with a highlights reel, so to speak?
Started in 1962, played American rock and roll at the beginning. Then we wrote Hungarian songs, toured in England in 1968-69 (from behind the iron curtain), new lineup since 1971, strong and successful years in 70s based on long term contract with a German record company (space rock years), European chart hits all around. Then slowed down in late 80s as rock music became calm. Great stadium concerts in 90s, played monumental symphonic rock, even in large churches: rhapsody and oratorio.  Recently best of program in sport halls and open air festivals. We are known as "Rubik’s Cube" in Europe and everyone recognizes that we are Hungarians.
MSJ:
What can you tell us about the new double disc compilation set?

First of all, this is not new at all, we had several anthology and collectors edition sets earlier. Actually, we sing in Hungarian, also abroad, almost exclusively. We published English records in 70s only. There is no English version of all of our songs, so this set is an interesting cross section of our oeuvre. 
MSJ: What similarities do you see in the music scene now and when you started?
You have to be impressive on stage, the influence of live concert is not replaceable. And, of course, you have to play good music with heart. 
MSJ: What about the differences? 
Almost everything else. The technical conditions are amazing today. Before the digital era, the performance was based on instrumental knowledge. Recording techniques are unparalleled then and now.
MSJ:
If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I am architect, but I hadn’t worked a day like architect. Sometimes it is missing, so I should be definitely an architect. 
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
It’s funny, because we had no name, just played. Once we were invited to a college, but there was a poster on the door: "today Omega plays." We asked ourselves, "who is Omega? We thought we are going to play." The gatekeeper said, he had to put a name on the poster. We were technical university students, and he supposed Omega will be okay. It happened on Sunday, 23rd September 1962, and Omega was born on that evening. 
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences? 
As of today I can’t mention anybody, but I am thinking of classical composers. In the past it depends by decades, but the Dark Side LP of Pink Floyd had a strong influence on all of us. 
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Omega is 55 this year. I don’t know whether we should celebrate it, or just  move on. We are going to publish a new record entitled "Once Upon a Time in the East" very soon, and I plan one more: Testament. Actually, we enjoy the recent concerts very much, just like our fans.  
MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
We had quite some periods with slightly different styles. Probably, the most remarkable is the space rock, or psychedelic rock. 
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Recently, we started to invite old foreign friends for a few songs to play together. These are special moments. We publish these songs in the Once Upon a Time in the East record I mentioned before. 
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? 
I think it forces everyone towards live concerts. The live experience is above all. I always liked the studio work, which is sometimes self-serving, but important. A real individuality can survive any change in media trends. 
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
Only professional recording can show something real from the show. A 30-40 years old bootleg might be interesting, recall memories. I know bands who are dead on youtube and at the same time are fantastic live, so a recording is often misleading. A strong personality can make the show. I believe bad quality recording is harmful. 
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Omega, of course (laughter).  I never answered similar question before, but now, I try. There is a period of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd, respectively, which has a bold influence on universal rock music. Lighthouses. I may add the Rolling Stones, but they always played more or less the same kind of music. And here comes the magic and illusion. I think it is hard to distinguish music itself from the illusion we create on stage. 
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Elvis Presley, all night long. He reminds me for my childhood. 
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
The last Rolling Stones opus. 
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Yes, Hungarian novels and life stories of classical composers.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Last fall in Germany Omega was a headliner in a rock legend festival where I enjoyed Creedence Clearwater Revival and Nazareth. Keep parallel classical music, I admired Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra played Beethoven in Budapest. 
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Not really, I stick to British rock forever. The classical music is a different world. 
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
A crash landing in Ukraine. Still in 1970, we were flying to Yamaha festival, Tokyo. Luckily, we won the festival with "The Girl with Pearl Hair," which is our evergreen encore song. 
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Ferenc Liszt, he was a brilliant, bohemian composer and pianist. If alive today, he would be a rock musician for sure. Albert Einstein, he is so funny. And Stephen Hawking. I like original thoughts with simple words. 
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Traditional Hungarian fish soup, cottage cheese pasta, chestnut dessert and definitely some rose wine.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Sometimes interview questions are so boring, but I liked your questions very much!

 

 
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