"The biggest compliment ever is when someone says: 'I've just seen a stadium show in a club'": Meet the Karma Effect, classic rock revivalists with big ambition

The Karma Effect band portrait
(Image credit: Earache Records)

Henry Gottelier’s “type-A personality” is easy to spot. It’s there in his vocals (like a young, slightly hyperactive Steven Tyler). It’s embedded in his band’s second record, Promised Land, a swaggeringly confident set packed with meaty grooves, suntanned melodies and Black Crowes-esque southern fringes. And it’s written into their performances, which have blossomed since their first gig, a sit-down affair at Leo’s Red Lion in Gravesend, mid-pandemic. 

“People are paying a lot of money, up and down the country, to come see us play now,” the frontman enthuses. “And you can get up there and wear whatever you want, as long as you own it. I mean, Tommy Lee wore a leopard print thong for four years. You build your identity around that.” 

The Karma Effect haven’t embraced such sartorial choices, at least not yet, but they’ve always appreciated rock’n’roll characters of yore. Now mostly in their twenties, they absorbed the heavy likes of Avenged Sevenfold as teens, but it was classic rock that they bonded over. Aged 13, Gottelier was singing Guns N’ Roses hits in school concerts, commanding the attention of drummer Ash Powell and bassist Liam Quinn in the process. 

“I have vivid memories of you guys doing covers of Burn by Deep Purple,” Powell says, grinning. “And Strutter by Kiss. You used to have a bag with all those sewn-on patches. I’d look at the band names and go: ‘I’m gonna listen to them.’ There was an AC/DC one, a Megadeth one…”

The Karma Effect - Wild Honey (Official Video) - YouTube The Karma Effect - Wild Honey (Official Video) - YouTube
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After high school in Surrey, Gottelier and Powell moved to Brighton to study at BIMM. Strapped for cash upon graduating, they set up Classic Rock Revival, a tribute act covering the likes of Steely Dan and Bad Company in theatres across the country. A mix of these gigs, session work and music teaching sharpened their chops, and kept them financially afloat. But they still dreamed of playing their own music again. As the pandemic raged on, Gottelier made plans for a solo project, but realised that he wanted a band – a really good one. The Karma Effect were born. 

“With The Karma Effect, we’re a club band at the moment, and the biggest compliment ever is when someone says: ‘I’ve just seen a stadium show in a club.’” Completed by guitarist Robbie Blake and keyboard player Seb Emmins, they welcome the recent surge of competition, singing the praises of fellow retroists like Greta Van Fleet, These Wicked Rivers and Dirty Honey

“I think rock music is really healthy at the moment,” Gottelier says. “And not just rock. The actual aesthetic of a group of musicians getting together and playing instruments is really healthy. Band music is coming back, thick and fast.” 

Promised Land is out now via Earache.

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.