DJ Harvey Talks Turntablism, Disco Breaks, and Black Cock
|DJ Harvey: He aims to please|
Harvey is also an undisputed master of the disco edit, and as half of the Black Cock production duo with Gerry Rooney he kept the garage tradition alive well through the '80s and '90s. But although he specializes in a deep Balearic-style cosmic disco sound, he's just as likely to draw inspiration from minimal techno, like he did for 2010's acclaimed Gunship EP as Locussolus. These days Harvey calls California home, but can be found spinning everywhere from Miami to Tokyo, while remaining as fresh and relevant as ever in today's cosmopolitan international dance music scene.
DJ Harvey will be alighting at the Electric Pickle on Saturday night to play Aquabooty's long-standing Fuck Art Let's Dance Art Basel party along with a mind-blowingly stellar lineup that includes Damian Lazarus, Wolf + Lamb, Soul Clap and Deniz Kurtel. We caught up with the celebrated DJ-producer on the cusp of his show to talk about a career spanning punk through techno, the latest Black Cock reissues, and rebuilding his reputation from scratch in the American dance music scene.
New Times: Were you already into disco back in the '70s despite being a punk?
DJ Harvey: Even though my hair was pink so I looked like a punk rocker, I was school-age -- we would go to school discos. I liked to dance, and dance to everything. There wasn't enough punk rock records so the DJ would play his music in little sections: 3 punk rock, 3 disco, 3 chart toppers, etc. I would dance to them all, and have favorites across all genres.
When and how did you transition from playing drums to turntables?
I still play both drums and turntables, though drumming came before mixing records for me. It didn't come before putting the needle on records, so to speak, but the hip-hop scene in New York with its cutting up of breaks inspired me to take DJing to further limits.
What are your fondest impressions of that early hip-hop scene in NYC and how did it influence you?
I love anything rebellious and new -- New York was generally rebellious at that time. Hip-hop was a truly underground rebellious scene back then too. Early hip-hop DJs were cutting up disco breaks live in front of me to create new rhythms and that was super inspiring to me. I saw it as a continuation or extension of drumming and so of course wanted in.
What can you tell us about meeting the legendary Larry Levan?
We met in London when he played the Ministry of Sound. He later stayed with us and played at our club Moist, quoting it as one of his favorite (and non-high) gigs. He was a great guy, interesting and interested. He was actually all about the present too and not super keen on looking backwards. We had a lot of fun.
What is the status of Black Cock these days?
We recently re-issued all the Black Cock tracks to address to bootleggers and supply demand you can tell our real ones they are on far superior quality vinyl. It was a really fun project done more years ago than I can remember and I'm happy they are still considered relevant. I personally love playing them these days
What prompted you to immigrate to the US given how far behind we are with dance music? Isn't Europe more receptive to the kind of music you play?
It was nice to have to go out and prove myself all over again. I had a great following in Europe and Japan -- I didn't have a massive reputation preceding me in the States, I had only played in California a handful of times. In a way it really showed me that I could do it. I am lucky that I am offered great parties to play and people seem to be receptive wherever I go. I have been told "I came here wanting to dislike you and I am blown away". So I'm just going to carry on playing music I love and want to share and hope people dig it the world over.
You took an unusual departure towards minimal techno with 2010's Locussolus' Gunship EP. What inspired that work?
I love minimal techno. People forget I was resident on Fridays and Saturdays at the Ministry, Friday being the hard techno night "Open" with DJs like Stacy Pullen, Carl Craig, Derrick May, etc., and Saturday being the more house and garage night "Rulin'" with Tony Humphries, CJ Mack and Larry Levan.
I hope people appreciate I want to release things from the heart of what I'm feeling at that particular moment or weeks I spend in the studio. I was inspired to go in that direction for that track, but then I'll wake up the next day see the sunshine, feel all mellow and want to make sexy downtempo music.
What are some of the essential classic records that have never left your crate and which new artists are currently knocking your socks off?
I have been playing the Black Cock records again, there is always one in my box, and I have a hard time playing my own music but it's been long enough for me to feel like I can play these, so at least one is always in my box. I have a bunch of sound effect records that are always in there too. New music-wise, I love Marcellus Pitman, Time And Space Machine, Soul Clap, Eric Duncan's stuff always. I am really good at remembering "oh, that red cover with the blue round label with pink writing", but terrible with names.
You're known to shun online communications. How do you think the dance music "underground" has changed with the rise of the internet and today's fast exchange of information? Is such a thing as the "underground" even possible now with people sharing everything online, including recordings of last night's DJ sets?
Phew, what a question. The world and therefore scenes have become a much smaller place. I like the exchange of information, but I prefer to keep some things personal. I don't like to host sets online for example, that way you have to come and get the full experience of a night. Sets out of context of the party can be a bad thing. You have to feel the vibe and energy of the party, not just listen to the music in your car or laptop or whatever, to really get it.
What does the future have in store for DJ Harvey?
I don't know whats in store and that's what I love about it. The future is a mystery and I love that.
What can Miami expect during your set at the Electric Pickle?
I aim to please.
DJ Harvey with Damian Lazarus, Wolf + Lamb, Soul Clap, Deniz Kurtel and residents. Saturday, December 4. Electric Pickle, 41 NW 20th St., Miami. Doors open at 9 p.m. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.