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. Read the rest of this entry »