While New York and Los Angeles are looked to for the latest trends in electronic dance music, there is formidable action bubbling in the vicinity of Boulder, Colorado. This is where longstanding DJ and producer DJ Harry resides and from where he has been steadily and reliably creating enticing sounds. Drawing as much from futuristic elements of house music as from traditional music sources, DJ Harry’s approach has the accessible sensibility to appeal to a wide range of listeners at the same time keeping its dance floor roots.
Although currently residing in the Rockies, DJ Harry has traipsed across North America, culling sounds from various cities. An integral part of the rave circuit during its heyday, Harry has DJed alongside the likes of Doc Martin, DJ Dan, Mark Farina, and Kimball Collins. Not limited to that scene, he has also been the support DJ for James Brown and the New Deal.
Experiencing the explosive dance music scene in San Francisco at the height of its popularity in the early ‘90s, Harry made his way to the Midwest, and back to Colorado before he criss-crossed the country again, this time heading to Southern California. Bringing what he gleaned from those locations to Colorado, DJ Harry emerged with a singular sound that has an understanding of the underground but goes far beyond that limited realm.
Perfecting his DJ skills and selector abilities with a series of residencies in mountain towns over a five-year period, DJ Harry brought house music to those areas, schooling previously unaware audiences on the intricacies of the beats and learning his craft in a way unavailable to most DJs of his caliber.
Not content with simply playing records, DJ Harry focused on sharpening his production chops. The culmination of his understanding of different styles of music and the bringing together of those sounds was his 2001 full-length, The String Cheese Remix Project released on Instinct Records. An innovative foray into the melding of dance music with the loose structures of jam bands, the project broke new ground in that area. The album spawned two twelve-inches: “Wake Up” with Gavin Hardkiss on Shadow Records, followed by the popular bootleg for “Turn The Bed” featuring a remix by John Acquaviva. Touring extensively in support of the Remix Project, DJ Harry was able to connect with a wide cross-section of audiences who had an appreciation for his fresh approach.
Continuing the relationship developed at that time, DJ Harry’s full-length of all original material, Collision, is being released on The String Cheese Incident’s label, SCI Fidelity Records. A much bigger outlet than your average house imprint, SCI Fidelity goes beyond the twelve-inch market—while still catering to it—yet also incorporates a broader demographic, something DJ Harry took into consideration when putting the project together.
“I played [the] Bonnaroo [Festival] a couple of years ago,” recounts DJ Harry. “There were no other house music DJs on the bill, only hip hop DJs. When a hip hop beat kicked in, people immediately started dancing or nodding their heads. Even though house music is originally an American form of music, it’s never been pursued in a mainstream way. In watching people’s reactions at Bonnaroo, I thought that on my next album I would focus something more people would understand, while still appealing to house music fans.”
That is exactly what DJ Harry has accomplished with Collision. A daring combination of different sounds and styles, he manages to make it all work with a coherence that is unique to him. “I tried to make music that represents me, but also hit a lot of different points,” he explains. “It is all one vibe, one kind of energy.”
Whittling down 100 songs to the 10 on Collision, DJ Harry worked with 15 musicians to create the organic and tangible sounds heard on the album. Writing everything himself, he then brought in musician friends to input live instruments onto the tracks, sometimes up to three different bass players on one tune, giving each number body and flavor.
A standout on Collision is DJ Harry’s collaboration with newcomer vocalist Lissie on “All My Life.” A discovery of DJ Harry’s, Lissie’s voice and style drew him in during an acoustic performance and a working relationship was soon cemented. Based on DJ Harry’s backing tracks and random lines from Lissie’s journal, “All My Life” is a spine-tingling, sparkler of a track that is on par with the likes of Zero 7 and Morcheeba.
Continuing their work together, among DJ Harry’s many upcoming activities are more tracks with Lissie and another remix album, to be released early 2005. There are a series of twelve-inches in the works, some taken from Collision, and some from the 90+ tracks that didn’t make it onto that album. In the meantime, he is put the finishing touches to a progressive show that brings together his DJing with musicians. Called DJ Harry’s Alphabet, it will feature all original material from him, with certain elements left out which the musicians will be playing live—the definitive combination of DJ and musician.