I think everybody should know a musician like Mick Harris, if not for having played in bands like Napalm Death, Scorn and Painkiller, for the simple fact that he worked with the likes of John Zorn, Yamatsuka Eye, Bill Laswell, Justin Broadrick, Alma Megretta, KK Null, Eraldo Bernocchi, James Plotkin and who the hell knows whom else. His discography is just incredible and if large numbers mean anything, well, take a look at it (http://www.mickharris.net/discography). “The unstoppable Mick”: instinctive, outspoken, eclectic. Sometimes the work of some “artists” is so huge it looks beyond the boundaries of human “ratio”, but while reading the interview, you’ll find Mr. Harris is made of flesh and bones like everybody else. Some musicians play good music, some musicians put out good records, but it’s rare to see somebody turning something like dub into an obsession.
Chain D.L.K.: First off, an obvious question: when did you start playing an instrument and what was the spark that turned “young Mick” into a music over? Do you still remember when you began thinking it all could turn into something more important than a hobby?
Mick Harris: It was the drums at the age of 16 (about march ’84), it was for a good friend of mine that said he needed a drummer for his psychobilly band, I remembered him asking me in a park one night if I fancied playing with him, I told him I had never played drums before but I would give it a go, he knew I was into punk/hard core amongst other alternative music and with my hyperactive personality I would be perfect. He got me a pair of drum sticks and booked a rehearsal room to jam songs he had written, it was quite a mess but an energy was there and within several weeks he had me hitting the drums just how he wanted it, he was stuck for a name for the project and I offered a name which he liked–it was Martian Brain Squeeze, the name came from a Canadian punk band I was very much into called the Neos, they had this EP called “He hassiban gets the martian brain squeeze”. After about two months he decided he wanted to record a demo, so we went to a four track studio (the original Richbitch studios) and recorded 2 separate demos consisting of four tracks in two, three hours sessions. We did gigs with a bass player and that was about it, it soon ended and I had the buzz to continue playing drums. I then got asked to join a punk band called Anorexia, a four piece punk outfit in the vein of Disorder, Chaos U. K., etc…. It was a four piece outfit consisting of Dave Cochrane (Head of David, Ice, etc…) that lasted from 84/85. Both me and Dave became bored and Dave got the chance to join Head of David and I was becoming more and more interested in local outfit Napalm Death and called to ask about the vacancy of vocalist. I didn’t get the job but soon made friends with Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Final, God, Jesu, etc…) and by December ’85 I was asked to join Napalm on drums. I grew up listening to punk music in the late 70s, then hard core in early 80s, and lots of independent alternative music that I listened to on the famous John Peel radio show on the BBC Monday to Thursday nights 10 pm till midnight. John Peel opened me up to lots of good music, I never thought I would of ended up playing etc…etc…never.
Chain D.L.K.: There are people that would be satisfied had they realized one per cent of the things you did, but what about you? Have you ever thought you realized your goals, or is it the opposite feeling that kept you going on?
Mick Harris: I just keep going and continue to look for new ideas and new challenges, I’m happy and not so happy with some projects, there have been so many and the years have gone so fast.
Chain D.L.K.: Probably together with Justin Broadrick, Kevin Martin and James Plotkin you are one of the most representative personalities of the so called “industrial” and “post-industrial” scene. In which way do you think you influenced contemporary music (since I think you did)? You played with most of these guys I mentioned: are you still in contact with them or did you break every relationship with them?
Mick Harris: I can’t say if I have influenced anything really, maybe a few artists but at the end of the day we are all influenced by various arts and situations around us, etc… all of us. I don’t see or hear from any of the above, sorry….
Chain D.L.K.: Why did Nick leave Scorn, and was it a painful separation? How do you feel about it after some years have passed?
Mick Harris: He messed up long time ago, now he knows it. For sure it hurt and for sure it made me angry, I’m older now and sort of forgive him for his actions, life I guess throw all sorts of shit at us from time to time. It’s a shame as I don’t think we made our best records together, we were still experimenting with ideas etc… and the best was brewing and coming.
Chain D.L.K.: What kind of approach do you have when you start a project? Do you adopt different “strategies” according to the situation, or do you have a hard time trying to move forward from your personal style? Do you think there’s a common thread that links the greater parts of your production (I don’t necessarily mean a “musical thread”)?
Mick Harris: I turn on the machines and start to think about ideas and take it from there, it usually begins if it’s a beat, a track creating a beat/beats and then the bass-line/lines, then comes the sounds–drones, atmospherics etc, then the edits of various sounds I created and keep going till I feel I have enough sounds ideas to start working and building a track. I have many banks of sounds that we hear that can be manipulated in the machines.
Chain D.L.K.: What were your main influences as a musician and which musicians (I mean people with whom you played) influenced you more as a man? Would you like people to know more about some project/people with whom you’ve played?
Mick Harris: I love music/sounds that have a passion, a fire, an energy I can connect with. I love angry sounding beat tracks, dark sounds for sure but I also love delicate sounds, they both connect I think. Discharge back in 1980 was a big explosion in sound for me to hear the anger and the energy, still an influence on me. Miles Davis has been an influence, as much as John Coltrane, Brian Eno, John Hassel. So much around me has influenced me: my everyday life, everything around me, the family, etc…. It has an impact.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there any style of music among those you’ve never played that you’d like to try? I remember you used to listen to almost everything, is there anything you think you’d never play and why? (Would you imagine yourself into a pop band?)
Mick Harris: Nothing really, if it feels good then it’s good enough for me. If I can hear an energy, a fire, then it’s good.
Chain D.L.K.: Which were the worst disappointments you’ve received up to now? Is there anyone you feel you owe something to for the direction you’ve followed?
Mick Harris: I owe nothing–maybe it’s the other way round, but I won’t get into that now, will I?
Chain D.L.K.: Have you ever experienced something (or just met somebody) that made you reflect deeply on the effects or on the nature of your music?
Mick Harris: Not really–like I said, early childhood memories, etc..
Chain D.L.K.: I think a musical career like yours must have obviously imposed an amount of hardships and sacrifices. What would you change in retrospect? If I remember well you’re also a father, right? Is it hard to be a dad and Mick Harris at the same time?
Mick Harris: Too hard to say, I’d change a lot of things for sure about myself but I’m who I am, that’s life, we have a path and have to tread it with care sometimes. I made big mistakes and I opened my mouth too much, etc. I’m a passionate person with a hyperactive personality, some people have had a problem with this, I have spoken out many times and made others angry with the words I had chosen (I’m not the most rational at times and don’t always think before I say). The family has suffered for sure and I wish I had been a lot more careful about the future and the security for the children I have (2 boys and a girl) but sometimes you just got to take it on board and go with it and that is what I did. The mess is made now, I have to just get on with it.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you tell us more about the projects you’re currently involved in? Is there any living musician with whom you’d like to play/record something?
Mick Harris: Well, it’s time to start a new Scorn recording, it’s been nearly three years and I’m feeling a new challenge and Scorn is a very personal outfit for me, I have many new ideas and want to begin work soon. I have had some mental health issues that have blurred my visions but I’m feeling a lot stronger and feel like creating again. I haven’t created much at all over the last two years, my ambient project Lull has new ideas and my beat project Quoit has new ideas. Recently I have had some live shows and that has been a good boost, I love to blast a live PA, it feels great. Time will tell, but one thing is for sure: I’m not going away, whoever wants that can forget it.
Thanks again to all, you know who.
Peace,signed: Mick Harris.
Visit Mick Harris on the web at:
[interviewed by Andrea Ferraris] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]