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Dhani Harrison - Interview 2016

  by Lisa Torem

published: 11 / 3 / 2019

Dhani Harrison - Interview 2016


Dhani Harrison, son of the late George Harrison and Olivia Harrison, has formed several bands and most recently released a solo album. In this 2016 archival interview he spoke to Lisa Torem before a show in Chicago.

British guitarist/vocalist/composer Dhani Harrison is the only son of George Harrison and Olivia Harrison. Among his many accomplishments, Harrison collaborated with Jeff Lynne after his father’s death in 2001, when they finished George Harrison’s ‘Brainwashed,’ for which they won a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance two years after the album’s release. In 2002, Eric Clapton put together Concert for George, Harrison played acoustic guitar. The notable event also included Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner and Ravi Shankar. Harrison sang and played lead guitar and synth in his own band, thenewno2. Their debut, ‘You Are Here’ was released in 2008. That band appeared at Coachella and Lollapalooza and toured nationally as well with Wolfmother and Jane’s Addiction. Harrison’s composing career includes co-writing the 'Beautiful Creatures' score with former thenewno2 band member Paul Hicks, as well as subsequent scoring of TV series. In the summer of 2010, he formed Fistful of Mercy with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur. Harrison and Hicks garnered a ‘Best Music Score’ nomination for the documentary 'Mattang/Maya/M.I.A'. (Sundance) in 2018. Harrison has graced the concert stage with such luminaries as Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam and Jeff Lynne. In 2004, to commemorate George Harrison’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the British multi-instrumentalist performed one of his late father’s greatest ballads, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ with Jeff Lynne, Prince, Steve Winwood and Tom Petty. Harrison produced the live album/concert DVD, 'George Fest' which was released in 2016. The following year, he played at the Panorama Fest in NY and released solo album,'Parallel'. The following interview took place in 2016, during the time in which thenewno2 played to a sold out crowd at Chicago’s Vic Theater in support of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The sextet was known for creating scores for thrillers due to their driving beats, soaring melodies and eclectic mindset. LT: Dhani. Thank you so much for speaking with me today. On one of the bonus tracks on the recently released Deluxe Version of 'thefearofmissingout', you sing a duet with Thorunn Antonia. Your voices sounded so beautiful as they melted together. DH: I was saying just a minute ago to someone else, I'm a big fan of the whole Bristol music sound: everything from Massive Attack to Tricky to Portishead and all of that sort of stuff. I've always loved that girl singer sound so I've always used my equivalent. I've known Thorrun for a long time. I met her through my wife. She's a really great friend from Iceland. I love working with lots of different singers and I've always loved artists that used lots of different singers, so I wanted to try and experiment. We started off with Amanda Butterworth (who appeared on thenewno2 debut EP, 'EP001'), the second album has Thorunn Antonia and the 'Beautiful Creatures' soundtrack that we did features Liela Moss of the Duke Spirit. Thorunn was in a band called Fields and Junior Senior, you may have heard of. And then we didn't have Liela because she's doing a new project that we're releasing on our label, Roman Remains, which you'll want to keep an eye out for. It's a fantastic new project from half of the Duke Spirit. When Liela couldn't make it, I asked Z Berg from The Like. She joined us for the live performance and for the performance of the soundtrack. I've always been open to working with loads of different singers. LT: ‘Make It Home’ has a little of everything. It is dreamy, frenetic and it has layered harmonies. How did thenewno2 think up the arrangement? DH: Interestingly enough, I don't really think about it when we do it, we just kind of do it and it's one of those things that happens depending on what instruments we're using and what starting point we start from. ‘Make It Home’ started from a drum riff that Jon had. We just kind of layer and build and build and build and build. Of course, if it's not right we strip everything away and start again. There's no real way of doing it. It kind of happens differently each time. LT: Dhani, you have a strong science background. Do the laws of physics or aerodynamics ever influence your themes or style of writing? DH: It affects the way you think about life, I guess. That's all that I really think about. I've done so many different things in my life that I think you just write from life experience. Whether it's physics Or metaphysics, either way, it just kind of gives you a perspective and the rest is up to you. LT: ‘Time Zone’ has sparse lyrics but the hook is very hypnotic, like a mantra. Were you balancing out the other tracks or did that just happen spontaneously? DH: It was on a later track on ‘Time Zone’ that it happened. I'd written that when I was in Iceland. It kind of fit the scenery. I don't know if you've ever been. LT: I have. It's like a gorgeous lunar landscape. DH: If you can imagine ‘Time Zone’ in an Icelandic context - there are so many great musicians and artists up there and that was influenced by a lot of my friends. LT: You enjoy skateboarding and car racing. Do these sports inspire your writing? DH: I plan to do some odd projects with some fantastic skateboarders that I know. I have some friends that are incredible pro skateboarders and they are really amazing thinkers. Some of the deepest and most scientific people I have ever met are all skateboarders. They give me a lot of inspiration so I hope to be working with them on some visuals. We did a project with Steven Sebring, the fashion photographer, and the next project we're going to do is about skateboarding. We're going to do an art piece and I plan to probably score that with Ben Harper, so there is a crossover. LT: Scoring ‘Beautiful Creatures’ sounds like a huge undertaking. Were you nervous? DH: There's always a bit of intrepidation going into a project but I've got Jon Sadoff and Paul Hicks and those guys - they're machines! I write a lot of the scenes but they write at this rate each month and they're both serious professionals. If it were me, by myself, I'd probably be a lot more worried (Laughs). We work as a triangle. Jeremy just finished scoring a film, too, so I hope to get Aaron and Nick involved with the rest of the band too. With the team that we've got, I'm not really worried. I think there's probably anything we can do because we've got five or six producers in the band. Everyone's got a little skill set. As a team, we're quite strong, plus the work gets divided up between the three or four or however many we are. We can also work faster. LT: Do the acoustics at Abbey Road live up to the legends? DH: Oh, yeah. That room is one of the best sounding rooms on earth. On our website, there are these films, 'The Making of Beautiful Creatures'. There is one point on the film where I just turned around and I didn't realize I was saying, "Man, it sounds so amazing in here.” I was actually talking to Ridley Scott about that. He asked where we were doing the soundtrack for the film. I told him we were recording it at Studio 2, Abbey Road, and he just said, "Wow." He went on a rant about how he would never change anything. It's a commonly, widely accepted perspective that that room is one of the best rooms on earth. LT: How has the pace of the spring tour been? DH: We started in Montreal. Chicago was our eighth show. We did Madison two nights ago. We often come here for festivals but this is just a lucky random pass. LT: I heard you were excited about a street called Harrison. DH: Yes. Harrison and Swami Vivekananda Way. I've always wanted to do that. He has a street named after him in the centre of Chicago in Grant Park. He was a great Indian yogi. He actually was one of the first people who lectured about meditation in the west and he retreated at the Harrison Hotel. That's another interesting tidbit. We love Chicago and we've had such a really great time over the years, playing Lolla, playing the Vic Theater last time we were here and radio. Of course, Jon's from here so it's kind of a spiritual hometown for thenewno2. So we feel like we're home. And today is apparently an extremely astrologically lucky day. I read that somewhere. We look forward to playing hard tonight. I can't wait. The set's been changing a bit as we've been going along so let's see what happens tonight. LT: You're constantly involved in so many exciting and challenging projects. Is that why you named your second album 'thefearofmissingout'? DH: The only thing I fear is not being able to get enough done so I try to keep myself as busy as possible but I also travel a lot and I see people and the more people I see, the more work there is to do. I find if I sit around and do nothing that there's nothing happening, but the more I keep busy, the more busy I keep getting. I love to be working and I'm very happy to have work at a time like this and it's one of those things where I never would complain about having too much work. I love work. LT: Thank you. This interview was originally published in Chicago online blog 'The Examiner'.

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