Rock and Roll from the get go – DJ Harvey does whatever the fuck he wants. From satanic surf groups to hedonistic spin Dr, straight from the underground, he’s a club circuit marathon runner coined the Keith Richards of the vinyl disk realm.
Unlike the comic Fred Basset, Harvey (Basset) is the loyal hound of the pleasure scene with good times at the forefront of his musical approach to the good times.
His punk rock past paved the way for his filtered tonic of hedonistic values, though his disco crossfade is what we’ve come to know and love from this Ministry of Sound native.
Harvey comes with a resume more complex than the Berghain dress code policy. He’s either spinning freaky beach disco, Balearic oddities and or anything with a morbid bongo breakdown transitioning to a sunset chopper ride, with the help of his satanic surf squad the ‘Wildest Dreams.’
Bali is his next destination playing alongside pop culture visionary and musical icon Grace Jones at the acclaimed Potato Head Beach Club resort. We were lucky enough to chat with the leading man before his all-nighter for a nostalgic sexual awakening of the DJ Harvey kind.
What do you have in store for your Bali show with Grace Jones?
To make the majority of people there happy, really. I’m a professional DJ, so that’s my job. I think, Grace obviously will put on a great show, and I will attempt to complement that show, really. I think that in general, the people decide the music that I play, and I will gauge the crowd accordingly. I’m sure something I suppose influenced by Grace in many ways. Sort of dance music spanning the last forty years, with some flamboyance and dance energy.
I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a pretty heavy lineup, you know, me and Grace, so between us, musically and visually of course with Grace, it will be an entertaining show. Obviously Potato Head does have a great location and a great layout and everything, so between the venue and the artists, it should be a great night out for the people.
Crowd control is something that you do naturally, like a snake charmer, you have a way of injecting the groove into your sets. Do you feed off the crowd’s energy or do in turn feed the crowd with your energy?
I think it’s a bit of both really. I think if you can manage to make a positive spiral so you feed the crowd some music and they react in a positive way or in a negative way and then you react to that and try to sort it out, but generally in a positive way, and then you get feedback, and it’s a positive spiral of energy that lifts me and the people up. I sometimes describe myself as the DJ equivalent of a sushi chef where you present one piece and the way your customer reacts to that piece helps you decide what the next piece will be. If they turn their nose up a bit you know not to be quite so challenging, but if a big smile appears on their face, then you can take them to the next level. That’s how I determine what I play. I don’t have any pre-set out way really. I have a large selection of music to choose from, and get the party going and let the energy of the people and the situation determine the route that the party’s going to take.
Your sets make a lot of people desperate for track listings. How far have you gone to find the perfect set track?
I’ve been collecting records for I don’t know, now on forty years, so I have a lot of knowledge and a lot of music to choose from. Especially these days with computer and all the rest of it, there’s music unlimited, and there’s pretty much access to all music, even what would have been considered very rare is now available. In the modern age, I am influenced by what I hear on the radio, my friends play, and what I hear other DJs play. Music just sort of comes to me, and I still do a little bit of record digging on the Internet and various record stores around the world.
I carefully consider the music I choose to take with me to basically fill in a particular emotion or vibe or whatever that I want to purvey at the time. I think what I do, I still do look for music. I’m always hungry for new music and new old music, but I also have a huge armory of experience and record collection on file and digital file and all the rest of it already from which to choose from.
Forty years of music, you would have everything and anything, like you said, that arsenal would be jam-packed full of every beat range and every melody that you could possibly imagine.
Everything from fifties rock-n-roll right through to the of-the-moment very technological based music. In many respects, it’s all very similar. I feel that the things that music taps into, sort of human emotions and vibrations, hasn’t changed at all. Humans haven’t actually evolved very much in the past fifty years, but technology has, so the rhythms are very similar in many respects. Frequencies don’t change. 50 Hz will always be 50 Hz and that affects certain areas of the mind and body, but it’s what the machine that you use to produce that frequency, whether it’s a stick on a drum or whether it’s a drum machine or whether it’s a string on a double bass or whether it’s a synthesizer bass note, you’re still dealing with the same frequencies, and that’s how I manage to mix music from forty years ago with music that was made forty hours ago, and still make an actual flow of music.
Let’s talk Wildest Dreams. What led to you creating that band?
I Just sort of needed to play the drums again. It’s something I did back when I was a kid before I even got into DJing, I’d always play the drums in local bands and stuff. It’s something I really enjoyed and I would up until the modern day play a little bit of session percussion for various bands and on dance remixes and stuff like that. I really wanted to get back to playing music instead of programming music.
Wildest Dreams is actually a band that plays music. We play sort of traditional satanic psychedelic rock-n-roll. We are not trying to necessarily break any boundaries. It’s pure joy.
It sounds like the type of music that you’d like to listen to if you were driving around in the sun looking for surf spots, with the wind in your hair…
The little promo videos I put together, actually features surfing footage, the promo release that the album came with was a DVD with a twenty-minute mix of the album over surfing footage featuring Joel Tudor. Although it wasn’t necessarily designed for that, it just seemed to naturally go that way and fit in very well.
Let’s talk Ibiza for a bit. How has that placed changed since your first visit back in the eighties and is it still the birthplace of hedonism?
In some respects, it could be a birthplace of hedonism. I think the Romans were orgying there a couple of thousand years ago. There’s definitely been a party going on there for a long, long time. Ibiza is definitely somewhere that suffers from the “not like it used to be” syndrome. There were people that when I got there in the late eighties told me I should have been there in the late seventies, and there were people that left in the early sixties because it was commercially blown out and all this kind of stuff. I actually think it probably hasn’t changed very much at all. There’s always been a great yin and yang of hedonism there. You have, like in Bali in many respects, you have got the commercialism of Kuta and stuff like that, and you have the commercialism of San Antonio in Ibiza, but then you also have some very grownup activities going on in some sort of mall like quiet regions of the island, some sort of adult parties with some pretty sensible stuff happening.
There’s the sublime and the ridiculous happening there, and that’s, I think, what makes it special. If it’s all sublime, then it loses it’s edge. I think some ridiculous is definitely required to make the sublime appear sublime in the first place.
What do you think of the current state of the international club scene?
I think we could always do with more nightclubs and more partying, although I travel round and round the world, having an absolutely great time. Yeah. Everywhere I go and play records, people have a smile on their faces and jumping up and down and having a good time. It seems to be quite healthy.
I think that it’d be nice if licensing laws could be a little more relaxed and people, where it was actually lawful to dance constantly and get high if you so desire. I don’t think those are the most threatening activities in the world at the moment. It seems very strange to me, especially like in Los Angeles for instance, you can drive around with an assault rifle in the car, but you can’t dance after 2:00am in the morning. There’s some really pretty twisted strange stuff going on.
I think, in my mind, and it’s good for everyone. Partying is actually a very healthy activity for everyone. Even the taxman. People pay to get in. People pay their taxes on whatever it is. People are employed, it generates revenue for whatever town or country it’s in. I think that clubbing and partying and the leisure industry should just be left wide open to flourish.
We’ve got a similar thing happening here in Australia at the moment with some pretty ridiculous lockout laws…
Even the cold blooded sort of city type council mentality, they could at least see that it makes money. Imagine if all the tourists left Sydney. The place would collapse.
There’s been similar things recently with Fabric in London being shut down. Poor old London town doesn’t have any industry. We don’t have coal mining or steel or the tech industry or anything. All we have is a little bit of tourism and international money laundering. If you take away the nightlife and whatever, there’s not really much of an appeal. I think it’s a strange focus on something that’s not that threatening to the fabric of society. I’m sure you could take just one step back into the boardrooms of the people that make those decisions and find the kind of deeply suspect activity that should be actually made illegal, and probably is already illegal, but they get away with on a daily basis.
On to a lighter note – You finished up your residency spot at XOYO last month in London. How was that?
It was great. Really, really good. I just did four Saturday nights in a row and they were all very well attended, and it was a great atmosphere. Nice kind of cross-over crowd of young and old and black and white and yellow and green and gay and straight, so it was a really nice mixed crowd. A lot of energy and really good response. London can be a tough crowd if you don’t do it right. I’m very happy that people were happy. I’m a great believer in you are only as good as your last gig, and my last gig there was great. At the moment I’m great in London.
How important do you feel residency spots are for up and coming DJs?
I don’t know really. There are only a few spaces. If I was an up and coming DJ, I would completely do my own thing and sidestep the clubs and the festivals and all that stuff, which seems to be very difficult to penetrate as someone that maybe doesn’t have … I would basically party for my friends and disappear off into the desert or wherever, or to sort of strange uninhabited areas of Detroit, and have real underground parties which don’t rely on having to put bums on seats or play a particular style of music or whatever.
Let’s say I’m trying to break into the scene and become the world’s best DJ – do I have a chance?
Hahaha! There’s so, so many DJs these days. It appears that a lot think it’s an easy option. Oh, I’m not going to be a supermodel anymore, I’m going to be a DJ. I’m not going to be a pop star or an actor anymore, I’m going to be a DJ. It’s like the different between rolling along on a skateboard and saying you’re now a great skater. Like, I’m a pro skater because I can get on a skateboard, but doing a handplant on the ramp is maybe a little difficult. I don’t know. Maybe you could have natural ability. To be honest, that sort of thing doesn’t really bother me that much. I’m happy to be chugging along and if someone wants to play records, well good on them.
Does that frustrate you a little bit that people may think that there’s some element of ease that comes to what you do?
I Just feel like maybe they’re a little misguided or misinformed. They’re just ignorance is bliss, basically. I think probably most people that engage in DJing enjoy music and enjoy to play and entertain, but I think what i do is on a very different level, so that’s that.
Let’s delve into the archives – What’s your fondest and wildest memory of the Ministry of Sound days?
Oh god. I don’t usually answer these rock-n-roll questions, but I do remember once DJing and my eyes starting to sting and this stench biting at the back of my throat, and this sort of overwhelming piss smell started wafting through the club and the DJ booth and I was left mid set wondering what the hell it was… Turned out that one of the strippers had pissed in the smoke machine bottle, and the entire club was bathed in this hazy piss fog. Definitely stung the nostrils – That’s just one of many, but we’ll leave it there.
Speaking of Piss, Have you ever played Lab.Oratory in Berlin?
No I haven’t. I’ve been down there a couple of times, but it’s not really a place to go unless you’re prepared to be involved. It’s not a spectator sport, what goes on down there. It’s somewhere to go and contribute, is probably the best word. One of the wild stories that I’ve heard is somebody goes with an ice-box full of frozen turds that he uses as dildos.
I personally don’t get turned on by playing with shit, but that doesn’t bother me that other people do and I think it’s all good. That’s not the only thing that goes on in there. It’s whatever floats your boat, whatever floats your turd as they say.
Tell us about the Mercury Rising concept.
Basically just that I go and DJ at the legendary Pikes Hotel, which I don’t know if you know much about, but it was built by hand by Tony Pike in the late seventies, early eighties. Freddy Mercury was an early guest where he held I think his fortieth birthday, forty-first birthday or something, which is a very famous event. I think it really came to public attention when ‘Wham’ recorded the Club Tropicana video there. All these years later it’s still a center for a good time. I DJ’d for eight weeks out there in Freddy’s suite, which is now known as Freddy’s. It’s now a little venue. It’s just a really good time. It’s a nice crowd, good music, grownup behavior, and it’s as simple as that.
What’s your definition of grownup behavior?
Basically, polite and well behaved. Civilized, you know. Civilized in the Greek sense of the word.
I wouldn’t want to elaborate too much. It’s a really great party for anyone that appreciate such things. It’s not for, I mean, it is for everyone, but like I say, good behavior is very important. That covers a lot of stuff. You’re not going to get any rock-n-roll stories about that. You have to attend and see it for yourself.
Lastly, what do you have on for the rest of the year for 2016?
Not too much really. I’ll be in San Diego this weekend, and I’ll be in Bali for next weekend, then I’ll be in New York for the week after that, then I’ll be in Amsterdam the week after that, then I’ll be in Leeds, England the week after that, then back in Los Angeles for I think Wonder Party, then probably in Miami for Basel, and by that, there’s a couple of other bits and pieces in between that, and then we’re into Christmas and New Year’s, and who knows what that will bring. Hopefully I’ll get to get some time off in between and get to surf a little and not do much in between times.
You gonna catch some waves in Bali?
Yeah, for sure. I’m just debating whether to bring a surfboard or buy one over there. The surf can be quite critical in Bali so all I need now is a decent board.