11.14.10 Dhani Harrison Interview
Dhani Harrison on Good Bacon, Good Skating, and Good Label Deals
By Chris Kornelis, Thu., Oct. 28 2010
Yesterday I caught up with Dhani Harrison, the renaissance man who studied at Brown, has worked for Formula One, and manages the musical affairs of his late father, the Beatle George Harrison. He's coming to Showbox at the Market with his new band, Fistful of Mercy (featuring Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur) for a sold-out show on Nov. 9. I've got more of our chat coming up next week, but for now, here's some of what Harrison and I talked about over Breakfast (at 1 p.m.).
Hey, Dhani, what's going on?
I'm just sitting in a diner in Los Angeles because my house is full of crazy people and my office is full of crazy people. It's actually most pleasant, my favorite place, called The Snug Harbor. It's this lovely little '50s diner that I go to.
Do you dip your sausages in syrup?
No, actually, I'm a big fan of a good English breakfast, the whole fryer kind of thing.
Can you find a good English breakfast in Los Angels?
They have good bacon here, I have to say. It's usually a test of the place. Good bacon, good eggs. Yeah, it's the nearest I'm going to get to a whole fryer.
Did you get into the whole bacon craze in the last couple years?
I have friends who are like members of bacon of the month club. I don't even know what that is, but it sounds good. I was a vegetarian for years and then suddenly one day I just realized that bacon was the most awesome thing in the word. It's always the one to convert people from vegetarianism or veganism.
What else have you got going on today?
We are doing more rehearsals, and probably doing so more press, and I might be doing some skateboarding, I think.
Do you spend more time skateboarding these days or writing music?
It's about balanced at the moment. What with all the work that we've been doing, it's good to get out to skate a lot. Everyone has something that they do that whilst they're doing it you can't possibly think of anything else, either you're gonna hurt yourself or it just requires that much concentration. I think that after a period of that is usually a good period to write. If you go skateboarding it kind of blows the cobwebs out and it's a lot easier to just sit down and write, provided that you haven't, like, hurt yourself.
As a person whose been in the music industry on so many different levels, do you have the same kind of pessimistic or negative opinion of major labels that seems to be driving the narrative right now?
There's a place for major labels. I just think the industry got a bit detached from the art side of things. I am pretty down on major labels and that's why I do everything myself.
But in order to do something yourself then you have to become a label. But once you do become a label then you see it from their perspective a little bit more, on a smaller scale. And it allows you to realize where they were being major labels and where they weren't being very cool, you know?
Dhani Harrison on Easy Street, the Family Business, and Fistful of Mercy
By Chris Kornelis, Wed., Nov. 3 2010
When Dhani Harrison, Ben Harper, and Joseph Arthur appeared together on stage for their public debut in August as Fistful of Mercy, they didn't pick a spot conveniently located close to their home base in Southern California. Rather, they dropped in on West Seattle's Easy Street Records to unveil their brightly colored collegiate rock.
"It's a cool place," says Harrison, "and we love Seattle."
On the phone while working through the closest thing to an English breakfast he can find in Santa Monica (see the first part of our Q&A), the son of George Harrison discussed a few of his other career moves, why he went into business with Ben Harper, and his hopes for the future of his father's tunes.
Why were you drawn to working with Harper and Arthur on this project?
I kind of stopped listening to music a lot when I started making it, so I hadn't listened to Ben for a few years. But it was one of those things where when the option came to play with Ben, it was a no-brainer. It seems to be more organic and more natural like it could actually stick together as a group rather than just being a collaboration. I could be in a group with these guys forever.
Did you guys hunker down in a room together or make the album via email?
We got into the room on a Monday and we worked out asses off, and by the end of the week we had the bare bones of the record.
You share writing credits, but your voice is very strong on "Father's Son." Is it safe to say you wrote that one?
The words "Father's Son" just came out more as a reference to sort of God and forgiveness. I would give [Harper and Arthur] kind of writing assignments sometimes. Like, "Things Go Around" and "Father's Son" were both, like, I came up with a subject and then everyone would go out and write their own verses.
In your relatively short life, you've done everything from front a band, conduct business with Rock Band and Apple on behalf of your late father, skateboarded, and studied physics at Brown. Are you searching for your thing, or just balancing different interests?
When I was a kid I wanted to work in design. I still work in design. Once my father died I inherited all the business side of things. It made sense to me to keep going in all the fields that I've studied.
The music industry changed so much that all of this background in design and business really helped me, because once I took over the business I kind of changed the way we were doing things a little bit in the family and tried to make it a little bit more progressive and work interactively and use all of these different new technologies that we've got to combine together, to have music in video games and design, and digital deals. Now I have people running stuff for me and with me, and I can actually relax a bit more and just be more of an artist. I'm still wearing like 20 different hats.
Do you have the same kind of pessimistic or negative labels that seems to be driving the public narrative right now?
There's a place for major labels. I just think the industry got a bit detached from the art side of things. I am pretty down on major labels and that's why I do everything myself. But in order to do something yourself, then you have to become a label. But once you do become a label, then you see it from their perspective a little bit more.
As you continue to bring your father's catalogue to more progressive levels, as you brought the Beatles to "Rock Band," do you see working to bring the Beatles to iTunes or even the Beatles and Harrison catalogues to Rhapsody?
I can't speak on behalf of Apple; I can only speak on behalf of the George Harrison side of things. But I hope to continue pushing these things forward in the future on whatever platform is the most accessible for the people to hear the content.