Calvin Harris Interview

Calvin Harris, the Scottish born producing, singing, lairy colour endorsing superman rose to fame earlier this year with this breakthrough debut single Acceptable In The 80s which smashed straight into the top 10. Since then he’s worked with Kylie, been on tour with Faithless, wowed crowds around the festivals and has just released his debut album I Created Disco on Columbia.

Abjekt recently caught up with Calvin to talk to him about all this and more, including why people shouldn’t be able to see when they catch his live show, Vera Lynn doing funk and much, much more.

So Calvin, you come from a place in Scotland called Dumfries, am I right?

That’s right yes.

Now, to someone who doesn’t come from Dumfries in Scotland, it might seem like quite a small, out of the way place. Is that a fair description?

Yeah, that’s fair. We have shops.

Really?

Yep! And we have roads.

Cars?

Yeah, some cars.

Good stuff! So, does much go on there?

Oh yes, people go shopping, they drive about and they work in their jobs.

Nice. And is there much of a nightlife?

There are so many pubs. An unusual amount of pubs in once place.

So you could do a pub crawl down one road!

Oh without a doubt. Well, there is only one road in Dumfries…

[laughs]

Not to insult where you’re from, but was living there a reason to lock yourself away and start making music in your bedroom?

Maybe partly. That and I was doing it when I should have been at school also. A combination of the two really. But no, I wouldn’t be so down on it as to say that, it’s quite a nice place. It’s good to grow up in, but then its good to leave as well.

Apparently you use an Amiga as part of your set up, is that true?

Yes, that is a fact.

A cold hard fact. And did you consciously decided to use an Amiga to make music, or was it a fluke? Or did you just like the noises that were coming out of the games?

Yeah, all of the above. My brother introduced me to the Amiga and said “use that to make rave tunes on it”. So I started making rave tunes and it progressed from there.

Glo-sticks included?

No, I wasn’t a true raver. This was around 1994, WELL after the death of rave.

I read that the last thing you bought was a £200 voice processor…

Yeah it was about £200, marked down from around £320.

How long ago was that?

Ooh, about 3 years ago I think.

So you prefer the kind of less expensive, more DIY type of deal do you?

Kind of, yeah. I wouldn’t say DIY as I don’t think I could have made it myself, which is why I bought it or it would have taken a long time to build one of those babies. But yeah I tend not to spend a huge amount on musical equipment as I don’t have very much money!

Something that you might be known for is your popularity on the ever important MySpace world. Were you surprised by your success on there, because its been a pretty big stepping stone.

Yes, totally because I was so unsuccessful in every other field of the music making thing that it was a huge shock.

So it wasn’t part of the master plan to blow up on MySpace and then take over the world?

Nooooo, there was no master plan, I joined because my mate’s band joined and I wanted to have a race with him to see who could get to 1,000 friends first, which is probably the most pathetic thing I’ve ever entered into. But he won…

He won?

Yep, he got to 1,000 first and I was sitting at around 960… but… I got a record deal.

[laughs]

It’s alright, I put him in my band as compensation, “you did well… you can play guitar”.

Sounds like a fair deal to me! So when Acceptable In The 80s came out, it did very well. Were you happy with your chart success?

Very happy, I would say almost ecstatic.

Almost, but not quiet yet?

On the brink of ecstaticness.

Has it all sunk in how quickly its all come about?

Not really. And I doubt it ever will to be honest with you, I’m just having a laugh. Just a bit of fun isn’t it? Charts and stuff, CDs coming out, all that.

Now you say in Acceptable In The 80s that you have “hugs and love” for people born in the 80s…

Yeah, kind of.

Just people born in the 80s?

Well… it’s just a song…

This is true.

It’s not really true to life, y’know.

So you don’t really want people jumping at you all over the place?

[laughs]

That sounds alright, I’d welcome it on certain days. Maybe not today, I’m a bit sleepy. But yeah, there’s a time and a place for jumping on people and I’m sure that time can be found.

Yeah, I’m sure it’ll come. You’ve got an album that’s just come out too. Was that recorded in the bedroom?

It was indeed, on the Amiga and it’s out and it’s very exciting.

And you’ve got high hopes for it I’d imagine?

Kind of, I don’t know. It’ll be nice to see it in the shops, that’s about as high a hope as I’ve got.

That’ll be when it hits you then, when you see your face all over the shops.

Maybe, yeah. All over them, saturated. On the carpet and everything, horrible.

Big projection screens showing your face all over HMV.

Urgh, that’ll be disgusting, but beautiful at the same time

The album is called I Created Disco. Do you think that 2007 is a good time to bring it back, have we been missing disco from our lives?

Not really, no. It’s not actually a very disco-y record, which is just the way it goes. It’s just the title for one of the tracks on the album which involves a man telling everyone how he created disco just before the first world war. Which is, of course, all nonsense. So I thought that would be a good album title.

The world would be a very different place if he had done.

Yeah it would, it would be horrible.

Maybe…

If we had no disco?

No, no, if he HAD invented disco before the first world war!

Oh! God, yeah. What would Bing Crosby have done?

He might have been a raver!

He’d have been like Sister Sledge I think.

Sly And The Family Stone would be nothing, it would already have happened.

They’d be collaborating with Vera Lynn.

That’s something that I think all of us want to hear… or maybe none of us want to hear.

I’d quite like to hear that – A Sly And The Family Stone re-working of White Cliffs Of Dover, might be interesting.

I think that’d sound good.

It’d be really vibe-y and probably last about 20 minutes!

The video for Acceptable In The 80s is quite a bright, maybe, dare I say garish.

Yeah its quite garish, there’s a lot of colours going on.

And, I notice at the moment, you’re wearing some pretty garish trainers. Red and green.

They are outstanding in every way.

Do you think more people should be wearing the likes of these red and green trainers?

No, I think they should be limited to me and me only. Everyone else should stick with their white or black trainers. But if you don’t mind, I’ll stick with my red and green trainers.

I’m happy with that, they’re very nice. They certainly stand out.

They are extraordinary. I’ve not made my mind up about them yet – I think I absolutely love them or I think they’re rubbish but I don’t know which one it is!

And what about your fly-eye shades? I don’t know the technical name for them.

Fly eye… well, sunglasses. That holds a bit more gravitas than “shades”.

Would you like to see people copying this trend of yours?

Yes, I think everybody should experience the sight of a fly at one time in their lives.

Can you see through them?

No… they’re made out of cardboard

[laughs]

So we’ll know about that at your concerts when everyone’s wearing them and walking into each other.

Yeah! That’s probably good for my concerts not to see what’s going on. It’ll help to absorb the sounds better.

Heightening the other senses.

Oh yes.

You recently teamed up, as many people will know, with Kylie for a song.

One song. I can’t stress that enough.

It was quite well publicised and I was just wondering how it all came about really.

Very boring A&R story number 1.

Hit me.

Jamie Nelson is his name, he does A&R for Kylie and he heard my stuff and he said “Oh, that’s good, would you like to remix All Saints?”, so I said “OK” and I did that. And then after that, he said “That was good, would you like to work with Kylie?” so I said “Well, yes!”. So we did that and before I knew it, I was in the studio with her writing a song.

And is she as nice as everyone says she is?

Very nice. Probably nicer. She made tea.

Can’t ask for more than that really.

And she let me stroke her hair!

And how is her hair? Soft?

Yes, very soft… and fluffy, like a little lamb.

You’ve now upheld everyone’s dream of how nice Kylie is. Do you have any plans to work with other musicians, on songs or remixes?

Not really.

Would you like to?

Well, I never had plans to start with, it was just kind of forced upon me and you can’t say no if someone asks if you want to work with Kylie. But I never really have the time to work with other people because I’m very controlling and precious about my music and I find it very hard collaborating. Which is good because I went down with backing tracks for that particular session so it was strictly lyrics and melody, which is fine, but just don’t mess with my bass line!

Don’t mess with your mojo!

No! Forget about it.

So you’re just going to concentrate on your own stuff for the time being then.

Yeah, I’m in quite a selfish mood nowadays so I think I’ll just stick to my own stuff.

Your own music, your own trainers…I see a bit of a trend here.

Yeah, basically just leave me alone.

Holed up in your bedroom with your Amiga.

That’s what it is!

And the opposite of leaving you alone would be going on tour with Faithless, I think that’s an opposite, playing some pretty big arenas. Was that daunting?

Some of the biggest arenas I’ve ever seen. Exciting and daunting but I don’t know, I’m not really feeling either of them at the moment. I’m on a strange sort of plateau of nonchalance.

And how about being on a tour bus? I’m sure that’s something you have an opinion on.

I don’t like the tour bus, I must admit. I don’t like it. It was not a pleasant experience for me, I didn’t get any sleep. I was laid on the floor bunk, literally rolled on the carpet into my bunk and then realised I had about a centimetre of space above my head when I was lying down. It was like a coffin! And it was also lined in red which lent itself to the coffin effect.

They’re trying to tell you something I think.

Perhaps! Regarding my career maybe! But yeah I’m pretty sure I slept under the gear box too because every time they changed gear, my head would bang on the ceiling. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.

Maybe you’ll get used to it. I hope you do for your sake!

Lots of painkillers!

And do you try and change the arenas into big disco ball dance-offs?

Yes, that was my brief when I agreed to support Faithless.

You’d only do it if a dance off ensued.

I hope there’s going to be break dancing over the seats.

There might be some injuries, but if you’re dancing, who cares?

There’s nothing wrong with a disco injury.

And how do you set up live? Do you DJ or do you have a band?

Ah, I can’t DJ! I’ve never DJ’d because of that. I do have a band, there’s five of us inclusive, and I am the front man. My job is to occasionally “sing”, that’s in inverted commas, and basically dance about to the other members of the band who are actually musicians.

Genuine musicians!

Yeah! But yeah it’s good, it works out really well.

Well that’s it, good luck with everything, the album is out now so everyone should get it and get to know you!

Yes, get to know me and my wonderful trainers.

Calvin’s debut album I Created Disco is out to buy now on Columbia Records and you can check out his website at www.calvinharris.tv