Interview: DJ Harvey

Posted: October 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | 32 Comments »

You’ve been away for a quite a while now.

Yes, almost ten years since I left England. The reason was not by my design. I was enjoying America so much that I overstayed my visa. If I was to leave, I would have not been allowed back for another five or ten years and I was planning on making my life there. And only a year and a half ago I got married and applied for my green card. And I now have the green card, and my work visa and my right to travel and re-enter the States. So here I am, back in the world. I recently completed a big tour of Japan and I’m on a major tour of Europe right now.

You got married and still it took such a while to get your green card?

Well, actually the process is a lot quicker now than it used to be. From the time I put my application in it was actually only four months until the card came through. Since 9/11 the background check is a little more stringent, but the whole process is now centralized, instead of the department in Washington, and the department in Detroit and so on. There’s one computer, and if you fit the criteria then it’s all good.

So you spent all those years of your self-imposed exile just playing in the States?

Yes, but on a regular basis. America is a big place. And I have a regular circuit. Starting on the Northeast coast, Detroit, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami, then skipping over to the other side, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boulder and Seattle. And that’s not even including Hawaii. So that’s plenty of work, even if I do that once every couple of months.

But your main bases are Hawaii, Los Angeles and New York City?

Basically yes. My most regular gigs would be there.

Would you say that these are also the cities where your music fits best? Is there a better scene for what you play?

Everywhere I play people come to hear me play. I regularly play in Miami for the Winter Music Conference and Art Basel, that’s my two gigs a year mainly there. Towns like San Diego and San Francisco have a scene, too. Most of the places have a scene as such. It’s not the biggest scene, but with all the internet communication and stuff like that it’s small but healthy.

And since you are allowed to travel again, is it some kind of relief and you accept many gigs abroad?

Not really. It is nice to travel and just to have the freedom. I haven’t been around for ten years so it’s nice to pop out and go to Japan and Europe again. But I don’t plan to spend the next ten years on the road. There are a lot of opportunities, basically everywhere I ever played before plus twice as many places again.

How does it feel to get out again? Has the scene changed in the meantime?

I don’t think it has changed at all.

Is that disappointing?

No, that’s not disappointing at all. I always had a good time. There are certain focuses on particular kinds of music over the years, whether it’s Electroclash, or Minimal, or Drum ‘n’ Bass, but in general the dance music scene still goes bang bang bang between 110 and 130 bpm. And I don’t really see boundaries between the so-called genres. I play the music that I like, whether it’s a Techno record, or a Disco record, or whatever. I think more than the music has changed the people have changed. Kids that weren’t born when I was DJing in the mid 80’s are now in their mid 20’s, there’s a whole new generation of people who have come through as well as the survivors from the old school. The formula of a dance party is still very similar. I suppose communication via internet had an impact. Even though I have been away for ten years people know exactly what I have been doing. It’s not like I completely disappeared during that time. The networking has made sure that my influence via production or gossip has been maintained.

I think the internet helped to keep your status alive. All you did was thoroughly discussed on specialist websites and message boards. I guess this is quite different to how it was before.

Yeah. Scenes used to be localized, and now it’s globalized. Which is good and bad. If something fresh happens in a small area it doesn’t have time to develop, it is instantly global. Early Punk or Hip Hop had two to five years a hardcore scene as such. Whereas now, as soon as there’s a bright idea it’s everywhere in the world and everyone’s had a piece of it before it maybe manages to have a big foundation.

Nowadays it might also be easier to get influenced by another DJ, or even to imitate somebody. In pre-internet days you could maybe get your hands on some mixtape, but it was difficult. Maybe you read about DJs, but you never had the chance to hear them. And now you can download tons of sets from legendary DJs, and from legendary clubs, too.

Yeah. I think that’s good and bad, too. These days I don’t let people record my sets. I suffered from heavy bootlegging. And a lot of the time when I play it’s for that moment. Maybe you’re sitting in your car, listening to a set, but you have no idea of the atmosphere or the climate at the moment when the record was being played. The tape might sound bizarre or disjointed or strange and it might not particularly work in the car or the boutique or at home. But at the particular moment, that was the right thing to do. So I try and keep my sets for the people who were there and it’s for memory banks only.

So you think it gets watered down?

It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes there’s a little bit too much access. Some of the mystery is gone. If you think of DJs like Ron Hardy, I’ve only see one small grainy photograph of him, and you wonder who this guy is and what his character is. If you want to find about me, just hit Wikipedia, DJ Harvey images, and you know what I look like, my style. But there is a little mystery to who or what I am and I quite enjoy that. Luckily the personal appearance still counts for something. Because they have had absolutely everything besides me physically. And here I am, in the flesh, I actually exist. I’m not just this digital entity.

With all these developments in mind, has club music become more open minded or eclectic?

Potentially, but when it actually comes down to it, no. The dancefloor reacts to dance music. There are a lot of kids that may be listening to this strange, eclectic, very odd music that might sound very good in your bedroom but translated to the dancefloor it doesn’t always work. Dance music has some really strict boundaries. You have to be able to dance to it. Cosmic, Balearic, or Eclectic is a very nice idea but try to play that to 1500 queens on E that have no interest in that whatsoever. People really just want to get their heads down and dance to something that makes them dance, rather than have something that is too cerebral. I think it is down to the courage and conviction of the DJ. I still hear young DJs that play a set of old Minimal or whatever it is, and I think there is actually no need for that because it’s all very closely connected. To me Techno and Disco is just the same but using different instruments. It’s just a natural progression.

I know this perspective from a lot of American DJs who don’t talk in genres. They don’t say this is Disco, this is House. They just say this is dance music. An evolving thing.

Yeah. That is my take on it, too.

I think it is also difficult that a lot of records that are now being played with tags as Balearic or Cosmic were probably never played in the original context.

Yeah, a lot of that stuff is kind of warm up sets for big cheesy guys. It is the mystery or the legend and people like to believe that’s the way it is. A lot of those clubs were playing some dreadful European pop music in the late 70s to 80s, right through to today. Ibiza is a fine case in point. There is the legend of Balearic, but you go there and 70 % of the clubs are dreadful. In fact I resisted to go to Ibiza for ten years, I had no interest whatsoever going to a place full of English hooligan tourists dancing to Europop. And actually when I got there in 1990 or so I wished I had always gone because there is an enclave of sensibility there, and a spirit and a vibe which is very special to the place and you enter into that and enjoy the Balearic thing.

But does your recollection of the classic Balearic period, with DJ Alfredo in his heyday, still have a connection with what is now played as Balearic?

I think so. It’s not stretched. I think it’s been pushed into a very soft and drifty side of Balearic, where Balearic to me means anything goes that was played in Ibiza. Tracks by people like Nitzer Ebb, Industrial, slamming New Beat records, which is kind of a forgotten part of Balearic. People think of an Ibiza sunset, Café del Mar sunset sets, as being the ultimate Balearic. But if you would listen to Alfredo at that time he would be playing Chicago Acid tracks, the stuff that came out in 86/87, Garage music or whatever. It was a wide range that included some pretty heavy duty music as well as this sort of easy going stuff.

So people doing this today are limiting themselves to a certain vibe? More than they should?

I mean, a little bit. To be honest, I pay little or no attention to what’s going on out there. I don’t do any research on the internet, I have never sent an email, I have never bought a record on ebay. I have a computer which is really good for pornography and sometimes people will send me music and I download it on my CD. And that’s about it. As far as the Cosmic or Balearic issues are concerned, I have no idea what’s happening there, I don’t monitor it. A lot of people just have what we call opinions. Who have really no stake in what’s actually going on. It’s like the squeaky wheel gets the oil. You got a guy who’s in a shitty job, who uses his job to complain about DJs on the internet. This guy has an opinion but he doesn’t dance, he doesn’t DJ and he has nothing to do except whine about his expectations not being fulfilled. I pay very little mind to any of that. I think really genres as such just help journalists. To help them describe a particular record. Here is a record. Ok, what kind of record is it now? It has electronic rhythms so that puts it into something. It reminds me of a Kraftwerk record or whatever, which fits into Techno maybe. It just helps to describe it to people who may be interest in buying a record, and who want to have some kind of reference point. With no categories selections of records would be hundreds of thousands long. It just helps to pin stuff down, a little bit. As far as DJing is concerned, I think it’s from DJ to DJ, club to club, night to night. Places and spaces will determine the kind of music that’s played by me, or any well-rounded DJs that aren’t stuck in a category.

When I first heard some of the radio shows connected to the 39 Hotel you established in Hawaii I wondered if the environment determined your musical interests. Did it have an impact?

When I arrived in Hawaii it was a very clean slate. There was a commercial dance scene for the tourists. Very few DJs have been there with a little more serious, kind of more cerebral attitude to the music. When I went out there I kind of did my thing and it was quite fresh. I also had an opportunity to establish something, there was no precedence. So I thought, ok, this is going to be our kind of music and it’s going to be eclectic, soulful, maybe something that matches the surroundings and the vibe of the island. In Hawaii there is not much point in locking yourself in a dark room to forget how dreadful your life is, because it is pretty good out there! There is no need to wear fashion because you wear shorts all the time, you can surf off your hangovers, you can dress in flowers. The whole thing about getting creative on the computer just doesn’t really make so much sense. Whereas in New York, or Berlin, or London the food is bad, the weather is bad. It’s this urban environment, so to create and escape it’s done in studios. In Hawaii, if you have an issue you go surfing and meditate it off.

Was it a longtime dream of yours, to reach such a place?

Hawaii was really one step beyond. I often thought of California as somewhere I might like to hang out at some point, Hawaii was like Hawaii 5-O, Magnum, it just came in bizarre television programs and I hadn’t really considered it until I got the opportunity to play out there and then it all fell into place. You can’t just go to Hawaii and put your foot down, you have to be accepted. It’s an island and there’s this thing called Aloha, which means hello, goodbye and love and is a way of living. And if you’re not prepared to live Aloha, you will not last long in Hawaii. You will be rejected like a bullet being pushed out of a body by its own organs.

Did you have trouble being accepted yourself?

No, luckily I fitted it just great. Again by no design but just through my way of being.

Maybe people just realized that you really wanted to live there.

Yeah. I showed a little respect and got some respect back. You can’t go “I am here, and I am going to open a night club and you’re going to sure turn up and enjoy it”. In Hawaii people stop on green lights to let the people on the red lights go. It is called driving with Aloha. It is a very different way, but it’s not perfect. There’s major problems there with the exploitation of the locals, the major businesses are owned by Americans and Japanese so the money that’s made from the tourists is going back to Japan or mainland America. There are very few pure blood natives left, and they live in cars in the jungle. In poverty, with speed problems, and all overweight, it’s a shame. And sometimes when you’re sitting there on the beach enjoying your Mai Tai you must realize that maybe it’s at somebody else’s expense. Actually your hotel is built on a sacred burial ground and the poor guy serving your Mai Tai is addicted to speed and his whole family will die at 50 of heart attacks. Honolulu is dirty seedy little town. I kind of enjoy it for that, too! You want to buy some crack, or you want to buy a boy, it is very easily available. And it is very close, literally two straight streets back from the Waikiki strip is some very sad seedy business going on. It’s definitely a ying yang kind of situation. It’s paradise, but in some respects it’s paradise lost.

Let us talk about your career a bit. You were there or involved when crucial developments were taking place. As a teenager you started out as a drummer in a Punk band, you attended a lot of legendary clubs for instance. Did you feel you were there in the right place at the right time?

I just happened to maybe pick up on stuff that was going around me that I found exciting. New movements, new fashions, new styles. Punk, Hip Hop, House and everything else in between. As a kid I always thought I’d missed the best times, because I looked to the 50s and 60s. And I wished I’d been 18 in 1965, I wished I’d been 17 in 1958. And I felt that really that was where it was at, that we have nothing now that they didn’t have in the 50s in America. They had computers, they had remote control televisions, incredible cars with fins, ice-making machines, incredible fashions, dance music, Rock ‘n’ Roll, hi-fi reached its height. The 50s was this amazing time, we just won the war, whatever that means, but for the Western world, especially America, England, into the 60s, it was a great time. The teenager was invented. I say my culture started with the dropping of the atomic bomb. That was the big bang of youth culture. The universe started like 13 million years ago, but youth culture started in 1945. You had teenagers with expendable income to spend on music and fashion, and actually express themselves instead of just trying to survive. And I wished I’d been at Woodstock. I look back that time and I think “Oh man, that was the time and that was the place”. But then by the time Punk came around we were like “Well, those hippies had their chance and look what they did with the place. They’re running the show and it’s still bullshit.” I don’t know if that was the case, but that’s what it felt like. I was actually very young for Punk, I was rather a follower than an instigator. I was 12 to 14, and it was actually fashionable to have a young drummer in the band. There was band called Eater that had a 12 year old drummer, so it was kind of cool to have a baby drummer. So I was 12 and the other members of the band were like 18 or 19, which is a huge age difference at that age. I was brought into the band and always looked after by the other band members’ girlfriends, which is really good fun. Hanging out with the big girls and playing music. I was under age to drink so they would get me an orange juice and then slip a vodka in there so I’d have a little Dutch courage to play the drums. I don’t know about being in the right place at the right time, maybe for the dance music thing. Through 87, 88, I was in London when the new music from New York and Chicago was coming through and there was an attitude change. I’d been very much into Hip Hop music, because I was playing drums and then started hearing DJs manipulating beats. And that was an extension of drumming, but I didn’t have to have a whole band and have a relationship with four guys. I could just DJ and control the whole situation myself, which is very appealing. And then I learnt that it wasn’t just cutting up breaks, you actually were an entertainer and you created a party and that was exciting. But as Hip Hop moved into what I call Rap Music, it just really wasn’t a positive vibration. You would go to a Hip Hop party and groups of young men would come up and take your money and your marihuana and you would be mugged, in a party! And it was frightening, there was a chance of being beaten up, there was a chance of having your hat or your jacket or your shoes taken, and the music was becoming political, it was becoming gangster. I mean Hip Hop has always been gangsterized, but more so. And then all of a sudden a new movement arrived, I don’t know what it was even called like. Acid, House or raving. And you go to that party and the person gives you their shoes, and their t-shirt and the marihuana and a big hug. And the music was still heavy and exciting and I was like “This is for me”. I can still DJ and play heavy emotional music but the philosophy and the attitude was you step on someone’s foot and the person’s foot that you stepped on says sorry. I’m sorry my foot got in the way of your foot. And I thought, this is so refreshing, and I want to be part of it. There were Acid tracks out in 86, 87, mixed with up-tempo Hip Hop, but it wasn’t until the philosophy moved into the scene that I started playing predominantly up-tempo dance music, which became known as Acid House or Rave Music or whatever.

That was the time when Tonka was founded?

Yeah, round late 88, early 89, were the first Tonka parties. We had a loose DJ collective, and I really wanted to the whole crew to have an identity, like a reggae sound system, instead of just the DJ, the man, who’s getting all the love. There’s guys who lifted in the sound system’s boxes, there’s guys who helped with the promotion, we were a group. It takes more than one guy to play a record. Because it takes four guys to play a record in Jamaica. You have the selector who selects the record, the operator who actually plays the record, the DJ who talks over the record, and the engineer who works the sound system. And you got another 5 guys that actually carried the speakers, and they all have a group identity. Whether it was Java Hi-Fi, Young Lion, or Saxon or whatever it may be. That was our kind of model for Tonka, but the music we played was happy times dance music.

And where does this Disco influence for what you do come from? Did you have experiences in the Disco era?

Not so much for DJing, but having grown up in the 70s Disco was everywhere. Even as a punk we would dance to Disco, we would go to school dances where they played Disco. And I always enjoyed to dance, whether I had green hair or a leather jacket. I always considered myself a rocker. Always a rocker. And these days I rock parties. I enjoyed Rock music, Punk music, but I always enjoyed to dance. At a school dance in 1976 the DJ would play little chunks. Three Northern Soul records, three Rock records, three Punk records, three Pop records, in a row. And the different little factions would take the floor. The smoothies and the soulboys would come out and dance, and I danced to it all. I actually danced for 24 hours in 1978, at a youth club sponsored dance. And that was the first time I ever encountered 12” singles. The older brother of one of my friends at school was DJing for 24 hours and we collected to raise money for our youth club. It was in the local paper, “They could have danced all night. And they did.” And actually only three of us managed to dance for the whole 24 hours, on nothing but cigarettes and Fanta. I think it was probably the first I ever stayed up for 24 hours.

And I guess there were many occasions ever since?

Oh yes! It is kind of closing down a bit. These days I need to sleep for 24 hours after I’ve been out for two days. It’s taken its toll, the old organs are suffering a little bit. Going back to right places at the right time, things just happen. In fact it is impossible to determine where the right place and the right time is going to be. I don’t really keep an eye on stuff, but vibrations come through to me, and I’m leaning in this way or leaning in that way. And if I feel it is progressive and positive I’ll go with the flow.

So you basically checked out certain things out of sheer interest?

Yeah, it is almost impossible these days, but there used to be scenes going on, little subcultures. I’d be worried I’m missing out on something and so I go and check it out. You see a long line down the street, kids wearing strange clothes. What’s happening there? What’s the music? What’s the style? You check it out and if it rings true you become part of it, and contribute to it.

It seems like a lot of those little subcultures were decreasing over the years.

Yeah, it’s because it’s globalized. Nothing has time to develop. As soon as there’s a bright idea everybody’s on it and it’s kind of watered down instantly before it can actually create a very solid foundation. People get a chance to check things out but stuff doesn’t have the time to mature as it were.

It is kind of sad, because with each dying subculture it’s not only the style that is fading away, but also the music, the clubs, there are a lot of things attached.

For the people who really know, if something is genuinely valid, it will last. Even if it falls out of fashion. At the same time they were blowing up Disco records in baseball stadiums in America, the death of disco, the Paradise Garage opened. It’s over, it’s finished, Disco sucks! And that was the entry in one of its most beautiful phases. It’s ebb and flow. It’s funny. People complain about commercialisation. It’s like “We can’t make a living from our music because nobody likes it”. And then all of a sudden it’s no good because everybody likes it. What are you going to do? Stick to your guns and just enjoy it. And if you’re true to it and it’s real it will last through commercialism, in and out, whether it’s underground or whatever. Good stuff survives.

And it has always been this way, hasn’t it?

Yeah! I never had the “it’s not like it used to be”. Right now is back in the day. Don’t sit around worrying about how good it was twenty years ago, because it was shit then, too. I never went to Paradise Garage, I never had a bad night at Paradise Garage. So it’s perfect in my mind. Which is great. I don’t believe in this “the best time in my life was at this particular moment in Ibiza in 1988”, or wherever. Yeah, it was fantastic, but it is fantastic right now. I’m about to play at Panoramabar, I’ve been doing this shit for 25 years, and right now is back in the day. In 25 years time we’ll be able to say “Remember Panoramabar? Man, that was sick! Right now, look what we’ve got…” And it’ll be just as good then. I say the past is history, the future is a mystery.

And with the attitude that it used to be better in the past you probably would not have evolved the way you did.

Like I said before, I used to think I missed out on the 50s and 60s, and those were the best times. But my father said that the 60s were only cool for 2000 kids in Chelsea. Everyone else was working really hard and it was shit. But the cameras were in Chelsea, filming the hipsters driving around in their Mini Mokes with Union Jack suits, with lovely little blonde girls flipping around. And everybody else was having a hard time making a living and driving buses. Now is back in the day, so enjoy it.

Speaking of the Paradise Garage, you once invited Larry Levan when he had his residency at the Ministry of Sound?

I basically bumped into that guy Victor Rosado in Japan, who was Larry’s boyfriend at the time. I became friendly with Victor and when Larry came to play at the Ministry Victor came and stayed with me and then Larry came and lived with us for a few weeks while he was working at the Ministry. And at that time we had him to play at my club Moist, which was our promotion. And it was great. Larry is a complete maniac. He never talked about music but he would go and find sex in bathrooms in King’s Cross, weird and wonderful things. A wonderful character and an amazing DJ. He really taught me a few simple tricks that are very effective, like how to use the volume control. You can drive a crowd insane with the volume control. You just turn it down and watch them get real upset. And then you turn it up again, and watch them get happy! And you have control without any EQ, without anything at all, just by turning it quiet or loud, and I was like, wow!

You still use that?

Oh yeah! Very much so. And very few people use that. It’s like full blast the whole goddamn time. Larry was an incredible entity, and I was very lucky to get to know him.

A few years later you were at the forefront of House taking up Disco influences more dominantly, with your Black Cock edits and your remixes. It was kind of the first round of what is around right now.

Again, it was just as it happened. It’s not like “Ok, I’m going to reinvent Disco!” Many early House records are versions of Disco basslines, and a lot of Disco was known as flashback, because they were using versions of show tunes. All the string arrangements from the 60s, and flashbacks to the 50s with the rhythms. There is a simple lineage of music. I’m really into frequencies. I’m a vibrationalist. 120 bpm is a magical bpm. I don’t know why, but it is. It affects people, and it will always work. Your eyeballs have a frequency, your liver has a frequency. There’s the brown note. It’s 7 Hz. You play 7 Hz to someone they shit themselves. There was some research done during the war into sound weapons. Infrasound and ultrasound. There was a guy who put a police whistle inside a concrete block and had an industrial fan blowing into it, and when he turned it on he went blind. Don’t try that at home! There’s a publisher called Amok, who do research books into extreme experiences, and they’ve done some work on infrasound and ultrasound. Hypnosis by the way a priest talks, it’s always all the Disco, man. Rhythm and trance. I like to deal in that. That’s why the repetitive beat doesn’t seem repetitive, it does lock into the frequencies in your mind and body and produces an euphoria.

How does this interest affects your work as a producer? Is this something you want to incorporate?

I don’t think about it too much. I’m not like “Ok, we need to use 120 Hz at this point so we can make people’s eyes bleed”, halfway through the track. But you know as well as I do, when the sub bass moves, it moves you physically, it hits you in the guts, the body and the feet. And when you hear that treble it hits you too. You physically vibrate at different frequencies so you can turn into that. But with dance music it is mapped out already, you don’t have to think about too deeply. Ok, we need a hi-hat here and kick drum here and a little bit of sub bass there.

If you play and produce there are always some things that are locked together?

Yeah. That’s the one thing with dance music, like I said before. You have to able to dance to it. Ok, you can dance to anything, you can dance to a police siren. But you have to dance to that, it’s not going to make you dance. That’s the difference. Whereas a concise rhythm at the right frequency will make you want to dance. You won’t even realize you’re tapping your foot.

You said you see yourself as a rocker, and you seem to connect that to your work, with Map of Africa for example. Which has obvious rock leanings.

Yeah, this in many respects was just an experiment into what would happen if I actually write songs, that weren’t necessarily just for the disco. That’s when me and Thomas sat down and wrote music, and that’s what happened. Without being necessarily constrained within the borders of what is considered dance music as such. So instead of using sequences we actually play the instruments, write some poetry, and arrange the poetry in verses and chorus and put them to our melodies, and write songs like that. The Map of Africa album is not perfect by any means but there’s 14 original pieces and in amongst there is something for anybody. My mum likes it, and your mum might like some of it! There’s some blatant sex-orientated Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle sort of tracks, but it’s a quite well rounded album. And I’m pleased with it because it was my first real venture into true songwriting. And since then it has given me confidence that it’s within me.

So you will carry on with it?

Yeah, most definitely. There’s nothing better than a great song. There’s many tracks that might evoke an emotion at a certain moment, but no-one remembers the tracks. It’s about songs.

Maybe it is even better when you have a great song that people can dance to.

Oh yeah! I would love to make just a great popular song that they play on FM Classic in 25 years time.

Do you think you have that in you?

Yes! Most definitely, it’s just tracking it down. The only way I can do it is to completely release all constraints or inhibitions and sing completely honestly and from the heart. I wouldn’t say I didn’t do that in the Map but I was a little bit shy. It was the first way in there, it’s like “Dare I say I love you with all my heart, I really really love you” and fucking mean it. It’s in the delivery. You can say, “I love you”, or you can be “I looooooooove you”. And you don’t have to able to sing to do that. If you take someone like Shaun Ryder who can’t sing to save his fucking life, he purveys the emotion. And I’ve been given confidence through that. I’m not perfect, I don’t even like overachieving kind of stuff. I want some guts in my stuff. And I think I probably am capable of it. Whether I really manage to do it, who knows? But somehow I believe it’s possible, that I can make a great popular record that people can relate to and enjoy and say to me “I feel the same way too, man!” Like people would say to John Lennon, “How do you know what I’m thinking about?”, and he’s like, “I don’t know what you’re thinking about, I’m just thinking myself”. And people are very similar. If you purvey an emotion that you feel truly, a lot of people will feel the same emotion and then you get that connection. And that would be an ultimate goal for me really.

But this connection is actually the same with DJing, isn’t it?

Yeah! I listen to a record and I’m like, “I really like this, I think other people will really like it, too”.

You said that you don’t look back too much on what you did so far and what you went through. Where would you say you will be in a few years time?

In a pearl farm in the South Pacific. With the local girls doing the pearl diving for me and I will take the pearls to Paris once every five years, live it up on the Riviera for a few months, and then back to Polynesia and my lagoon, and my little beach bar, play on my super hi-fi and have my young girlfriends at my every wish.

So you got kind of used to warmer climates at this point.

I mean, I think it might be fun to sort of retire to the Norfolk Broads or something, some little homely place in England, but I enjoy the warm weather and the blue skies and the warm water and fresh fish, stuff like that which is pretty hard to find in England. And although I haven’t been back to England in ten years, nobody has anything good to say about it. The housing? It’s like, “Ah, fuck it. Just got this problem and this problem and that”. And I’m like, “Do I really want to live out my final years in a place where people don’t even like themselves, let alone their own country?” At least in America, people love America. In England people don’t like England. That’s the difference. I do love England. I’m an Englishman and I will always be an Englishman. I’m not British, I’m not Scottish, I’m not Irish, I’m a Southern Englishman. And my eccentricity and my love of art is founded in the great English eccentricity and love of art. But as far as living my last days there, who knows. As I get some arthritis I’d rather have some sun on my bones.

But nowadays there are so man DJ legends still travelling around and playing. People like Tony Humphries, well over 50, and still enjoying what they do.

I enjoy DJing still to this day, travelling can be quite gruelling. And then partying hard can be quite gruelling. Hanging out and socialising can take its toll. And it doesn’t really take too much energy to go like that. Maybe I’ll be in my wheelchair with a blanket and have some nurses helping me, and they can play the records. “Take this one track, speed it up a bit”.

If digital DJing carries on like this, you may just push some buttons and it all unfolds.

Yeah, you just plug something into your head, you have some file with every record ever made, and you plug in somehow and your thoughts just project your vision and interpretation of every record ever produced. I think that’s a problem with this kind of Serato thing. I own 30000 titles, at least. Now if I had 30000 titles on my Serato I would never be able to choose the next record. I’d be like, “Hmmm, well maybe…hmmm, don’t know”, and then that one runs out. And it’s like “Shit!” So I carry a hundred records and maybe some CDs with stuff that isn’t on vinyl. Limitation is the mother of creativity. To have less selection actually forces you to select better. So now in my record bag every record is amazing. And I could pretty much randomly pick one out, and that would be a great record. Because I can’t carry 500 average records or ones that maybe I’ll get the chance to play this one. I have to actually carry that stuff around, so all records in my bag are good records and I just have to get them in the right order.

Groove 10/10

32 Comments on “Interview: DJ Harvey”

  1. 1 Ryklys said at 10:44 am on October 28th, 2010:

    Long one, great one. Thanks.

  2. 2 Alex Dallas said at 10:48 am on October 28th, 2010:

    Hey Finn

    Tolles Interview, er war ja eine Woche bei uns in Zürich und ist ein toller Typ.

    Danke dir.

    LG: A

  3. 3 Finn said at 10:53 am on October 28th, 2010:

    Gern geschehen!

  4. 4 Finn said at 10:53 am on October 28th, 2010:

    And thanks!

  5. 5 Hunee said at 12:19 pm on October 28th, 2010:

    oh wow, was für ein interview, super finn & harvey! ich würd sogar so weit gehen zu sagen, das ist das definitive harvey interview!

  6. 6 Andy C (de Liverpool y Eivissa) said at 12:52 pm on October 28th, 2010:

    Werd mi hermano en ritmo 🙂

  7. 7 What I learnt on the internet this week | REDUX RECORDS said at 1:46 pm on October 28th, 2010:

    […] just been tossing it off on the internet all week? Time will tell. This week I have learnt that DJ Harvey seems the nice guy I thought he would be.  This dude Debukas does a fine cover version/tribute to the late Aaron Carl.  Andrew […]

  8. 8 Johnny Chingas said at 4:10 pm on October 28th, 2010:

    good questions, nice read. well done!

  9. 9 Finn Johannsen Interview: DJ Harvey said at 5:05 pm on October 28th, 2010:

    […] tikras interviu. Skaityti. ~ F. var button = document.getElementById('facebook_share_link_2229') || […]

  10. 10 Graeme Park said at 5:11 pm on October 28th, 2010:

    Hear hear!

  11. 11 Sensi said at 7:36 pm on October 28th, 2010:

    very inspiring indeed, that goes for the questions and answers..

  12. 12 madis nestor said at 12:17 am on October 29th, 2010:

    epic! thanks!

  13. 13 Union | Interview: DJ Harvey said at 4:43 am on October 29th, 2010:

    […] [] […]

  14. 14 Thomas said at 11:43 am on October 29th, 2010:

    this interview is cracking, insightful and damn funny, respect to Harvey, hope to see him in Japan again sometime soon

  15. 15 guy mccreery said at 3:50 pm on October 29th, 2010:

    really good interview. had me nodding in agreement many times.

  16. 16 JUICEBOXXX said at 10:30 am on October 31st, 2010:


  17. 17 John Mahon (Bodytonic) said at 12:38 pm on October 31st, 2010:

    Really, really good interview! Super interesting guy and a big hero of mine.

  18. 18 Rayzar said at 2:26 pm on October 31st, 2010:

    this is very good, very inspiring

  19. 19 GROOVE MAGAZIN / DJ HARVEY said at 2:48 pm on October 31st, 2010:

    […] und ausführliche Interview mit DJ Harvey das Prunkstück der Ausgabe. Jenes kann auch auf der Website des Autors Finn Johannsen in Originalsprache nachgelesen […]

  20. 20 severino said at 8:30 pm on October 31st, 2010:

    Very nice indeed…Well done

  21. 21 Seb El Nigno (Dialect rec, Paris) said at 12:53 pm on November 3rd, 2010:

    Great interview, and not surprisingly great answers. Thanks and well done!

  22. 22 Costis said at 2:36 pm on November 3rd, 2010:


  23. 23 DJ Harvey – Interview with Finn Johannsen « We Love… Life said at 5:11 pm on November 8th, 2010:

    […] home HawaiiThere’s an insightful glimpse into the mind of the semi-mythical DJ Harvey over at Finn Johannsen’s blog. Tax exile? Innovator? Migrant? Expatriate? Balearic? You probably won’t get […]

  24. 24 Daniel Donnachie said at 6:04 pm on November 9th, 2010:

    It’s been a joy to read this!!!

  25. 25 Finn said at 6:13 pm on November 9th, 2010:

    Thanks all, much appreciated!

  26. 26 Hans said at 10:06 pm on November 13th, 2010:

    You did a great job ! Very exciting interview ! A ‘hi’ from the past 😉

  27. 27 Finn said at 11:18 pm on November 13th, 2010:

    Hi Hansje!

  28. 28 bikini freak said at 7:27 pm on November 25th, 2010:

    TOP, thanks for this!

  29. 29 Luke said at 8:58 pm on November 28th, 2010:

    Wonderful interview – here’s a person whom knows what he’s talking about 🙂

  30. 30 Hannes said at 4:11 pm on December 22nd, 2010:

    super duper finn –
    das beste harvey interview ever!!!

  31. 31 Stew Streetlife said at 3:14 am on December 24th, 2010:

    Fantastic interview with a true legend and absolute (english) gent – please come and do a night in london soon Harv.

  32. 32 Jason Webster said at 6:42 pm on December 30th, 2010:

    I have always liked you views & ideas on music Harvey, you speak & play from the heart, Dj’ed with you a couple of times in the early 90’s & you have remained true to your belief’s from Tonka to Black Cock and everything else you do, a top man indeed and a great interview.

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