Harts is one Australia’s most talented artists that has achieved so much in his young career, he’s been extremely busy the last twelve months releasing singles as well as recently getting married. The funkmaster made headlines earlier this year announcing the possible retirement of Harts, however still has the release of his upcoming two albums and national tour in November. Christian Kafritsas got to have a long chat with Harts discussing his upcoming two albums, what we can expect on his national tour, his preferred Sacha Baron Cohen personality, a developing Hip Hop collaboration and the future of Harts.
RR: Hey Darren, it’s Christian here from Rabbit Radio. How are you doing?
H: Good, how are you?
RR: Good thankyou man, thanks for asking. Thanks for taking the time to have chat with me today. Firstly, congratulations on getting married! Did you enjoy the well-deserved time off?
H: Yeah, it’s been a big year man. A lot of that was happening in the background, wedding planning’s took up a lot of time this year, we’re really happy about it and everything went great. It was an exciting day.
RR: So, I guess it’s back to work for you now then?
H: That’s right pretty much, straight back into it.
RR: Well you’ve got busy times ahead with your national tour starting next week and you’ve been releasing singles all year. I believe there is word of a new album out by the end of the year?
H: That’s right. A lot of those singles I released during the year are coming together on two separate albums, one album is going to be dropping real shortly and then there’s another album in the next couple months. One is more your traditional Harts like a Funk, Pop kind of album and then one is a Bluesy Rock album, so a lot of that music that I’ve been releasing this year is definitely going to be featured on these new albums.
RR: Throughout the single releases this year there’s definitely been the mix in genres, so I guess we’re getting two of both?
H: Yeah so that’s the thing, this is the first time I’ve done that before. Usually I put everything just on one album, I like to be diverse and have variety in my music and things like that. I think at this point there’s a little too much of each separated genre in a way. It was easy to see as I started writing it was like “You know what this doesn’t really work with this song on an album”. I early on knew that I’d have to separate these at some point and make two albums.
RR: So you said we’ve got one coming for us shortly, can get we get a title and release date if that’s possible?
H: You can get a title, the title is ‘Queens, Kings and All Big Things’ and it’s I guess a contextual kind of continuation from the last record ‘Smoke, Fire, Hope, Desire’. It kind of picks up where that last record left off, it is a different style in music and different kind of production style but contextually and lyrically it’s very much a continuation or sequel to that one.
RR: Your sound is really starting to grow into this funk styled, big band rather than a rock band from what we’ve seen from you previously. Obviously, that’s what you were going for on these upcoming releases?
H: Yeah pretty much. I think I’ve just been getting stronger as a songwriter in a way and knowing how to utilise different instrumentation in my songs better and things like that. So, it’s just a natural growth for me as a songwriter to incorporate orchestral type instruments, as well as brass and all that kind of stuff. When you hear the album, you’ll realise that it’s so whacky in comparison to my other music and stuff like that out there that’s its really experimental. There’s a lot of real cool interludes and sections of music that I did from scratch that is really orchestral and really kind of like a film score in a way, so I’ve really been like going down that path and really trying to better myself as a producer predominately and as a composer as well. I’ve definitely been throwing a lot of those flavours together with the traditional Pop Rock kind of stuff.
RR: I believe in your previous releases you’ve recorded the instruments yourself, is that correct?
H: Yeah and it’s the same here, I recorded everything myself. I just used a lot of software stuff that I hadn’t used before to get orchestral stuff and a lot of samplers and things like that from the early 2000’s and 90’s that are not really used anymore but have this real cool quirky kind of sound. A lot of that production style was very influential on my music career and even more so on this album because that early 2000’s period of like The Neptunes and Timbaland, that kind of dominated pop radio at that point. That was a big inspiration on the sound of this record, so I guess for that kind of vibe as well as adding a lot of orchestras and those types of sounds.
RR: In saying you added a lot more orchestral bits, have you surprised yourself with how much further you’ve gone with these albums then?
H: Yeah it is definitely a surprise because I didn’t plan for it at the time. As I was writing the songs and stuff, I usually know which are going to be singles and that when I’m writing the body of work. So I don’t put too much thought into it at that point because I’m focusing on the main tracks if you will, I guess the standout ones and perfecting those as I know they have to be ready earlier to go out because they’re singles. As I was going back through the actual body of work and putting together the album, I was really surprised and was like “Wow, this actually not what I expected” (laughs). In a good way, in a really good, positive moving forward way. As I said it’s really hard to explain, but when you hear it through it’s like listening to almost like a movie soundtrack in a way, like it’s really thick. There’s a lot of different things happening a lot of the time and a lot of different combining scenes in a way in one song. For example the title track ‘Queens, Kings and All Big Things’ is about 6 or 7 minutes long and it goes through about three different changes of completely different songs within the one song. It’s pretty out there and it’s pretty whacky but at the same time I didn’t want to make just a straight up album, I didn’t want to make a bunch of songs and just put them together. I could’ve done that but felt as though I really need to flesh out both albums in a way that makes them a unique kind of thing. It’s really hard to explain without giving spoilers away so it’s really hard to articulate but when you hear it, you’ll understand what I’m saying. I really did not hold anything back on these albums.
RR: Other than experimenting ideas in recording, has anything else changed in the recording process from previous releases?
H: Not really, the recording process is pretty much exactly the same as I’ve always done. The only thing that has changed is just my mindset on the style and type of music that I’m writing. Previously I was self-conscious in a way of the style and the genres of music I was putting together and writing. They were still coming together naturally and I never really like planned a perfect kind of formula for the Harts sound, I was more conscious of it back then but on these new albums I was definitely more open minded to going down a whole other train of music. For example Hip Hop, experimenting with Rap and experimenting with other things and I was a lot less self-conscious about that. I think the last albums and even the singles up until this point have got such a positive response from my fan base that, it gives me encouragement that I can continue and start to experiment with different things. I still like efficiency in a way of doing everything myself so the process of actually making the records is the same. I feel as though it’s just easier and quicker for me to work out of my bedroom studio, I’ve got everything that I need there, and it comes together quickly rather than learn a whole other process for the album.
RR: So it works for you.
H: Yeah I think it does, there are limitations but I guess those limitations make me more creative and allow me to really start to focus on what’s actually important which is the writing of the songs rather than having the best featured drum kits (laughs) or most expensive things like that. I’m really budget in that way, like I got the bare essentials to make records and I’ve been doing that from the start. It’s the same gear I made the first EP with in 2011, still using the same stuff. Haven’t really upgraded anything, apart from software and things like that as the years have changed but it’s the same stuff and it’s me getting more creative with it.
RR: Wow, that’s absolutely incredible. We’ll move on from the upcoming releases, let’s talk about the tour. We haven’t seen you too much on stage this year, only towards the start of the year but you kick off your tour next week. Are you excited to hit the road?
H: Yeah, super excited. I really wanted to do it earlier in the year, I wanted to get the albums out earlier, but it just got delayed and I just wanted to finish all the new music. Then again November is a good time to tour, it’s better than touring during Winter I can tell you that so I’m excited about it. I’m excited about all the dates and I’m really excited about the new band as well, I put together a new band for this tour which is new musicians I’ve played with before. I’m just really excited to actually be getting back on stages because sometimes you miss that being in the studio every day. I do miss it at this point, so I’m looking forward to it.
RR: We can tell that you don’t mind your time in the studio whether it be creating your own music or funky covers we’ve all seen. Is it refreshing for you to tour after spending so much time in the studio?
H: Yeah it is. I think they work hand in hand really well like sometimes I get sick of touring, like I toured so much in 2015, 2016 and 2017 as well. Those three years was so much touring, so I was like really ready to stop and do just music in the studio, take a break and things like that. So now I did get break I got all the music done, then you know you miss it. You miss that audience interaction, you miss that feeling of just big powerful music (laughs). You miss vibration on the stage because you don’t get that in the studio, you don’t get to feel the music rattling your bones like you do on stage. You don’t get to see how it affects the audience, you don’t see the reaction, facial expressions and things like that, so I miss that. I’m ready to get back into it now and I’ve been itching for it for a long time.
RR: As you were mentioning, obviously on this tour we can expect some new music but also a larger live band?
H: Yeah, that’s right. So I’ve got a five piece band doing all the shows and for the Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney shows where there’s bigger stages, I’ve got a seven piece. I’ve got a saxophone and trumpet player for those shows. The music is just kind of evolving that way, getting more complex, bigger arrangements and more instrumentation so with that I do have to step up the live game. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time and now is a good time to do it, it’s a good tie in to this new album as well. We’ll be playing all the main songs off the record, as well as pretty much all the old favourites because I haven’t really done an Australian tour in like a year and a half or something. People have been waiting for a long time so we’re still going to have all the hits in there.
RR: Is there a certain song whether it be new or old that you really like to play live?
H: It changes every tour, this tour it would be the newer songs probably ‘Shake Ya Pants’, ‘Ain’t Nothin On Me’ just because they’re like super fresh to me, almost to the point of me being nervous about them. When they’re super fresh I was always forget lyrics for example and always forget like what key each song’s in and things like that. I’m nervous about it at the same time if I pull it off well, I’m excited about those songs than the older ones. Having said that you can’t deny it gives you a certain sense of being proud in a way when the audience sings along to something they know, so I love to put in songs people would know. Songs like ‘Peculiar’, ‘Red & Blue’, ‘Lovers In Bloom’ and ‘Breakthrough’, like all those ones that got attention a few years ago. Those ones are always fun to play regardless just because of that audience interaction, the newer ones will take some time to seed in and it always does. It always takes a year and bit to settle into the public consciousness but I’m looking forward to playing the new songs a little bit more, it’s always fun to do those crowd favourites.
RR: I’ve seen you a few times over the years when it was just yourself and drums on stage, back then you were pressing buttons for bass and backing tracks. Has the removal of those allowed you to focus on your performance?
H: Yeah it has, we still have loops and samples being triggered in our live show because it’s part of the Harts sound in away. I’ve always found that hybrid between traditional rock music on traditional instrumentation and electronic music, I’ve always sat in the middle. When you take that away that completely, it takes away a big chunk of the Harts sound. It’s not completely gone but at the same time, it’s way less stressful than what it used to be. If I didn’t hit some of those triggers perfect when I was doing those shows, like the sample would be off or something like that and I didn’t have anything to quantize it to make it straight, so you run this risk of ruining the whole song if you messed up (laughs). Looking back on that period it was such a risky move for me to do some of that stuff but at the same time it worked, and I got it right. We did have fail safe things like backing tracks that were always the same, for example some things I couldn’t loop because they were just changing progressions like all the horns and brass instruments. It was a really good time to do that for those shows but now definitely have to step it up, add to that experience and make a better show.
RR: You are someone that shows so much confidence on stage and absolutely own it each time, do you get pre-show nerves?
H: Yeah all the time (laughs), you kind of just step up to the thing. When you’re put on the spot like that, there’s no if’s or but’s about it, you just got to get the job done. If you talked to any of my band members what I’m like behind stage, I’m super nervous. I’m even nervous now thinking about what I said before with the new songs and stuff, thinking about “What happens if this goes wrong, do I have a way to recover from that”. There’s always that doubt that I’m putting on myself, which is not healthy to be honest, but it shows that I really care about what I’m doing. I’m really passionate about my live show and music and I’m serious at the end of the day. I’m wanting to be a serious musician and wanting to be taken as a serious musician, so I want to put more energy and professionalism into my live shows. I’m not like a super serious guy offstage, I’m just a normal dude but when it comes to music and performance, I’m really serious about my craft and I don’t take for granted that people pay money to be there to expect a certain level of professionalism. So my nervousness and that at the end of the day, I kind of just got to get over it and get the job done. I’m there to do what I love and hopefully inspire the audience and go from there. At the end of the day I’m super grateful for all that come out to the shows and everyone that is involved in the Harts project. Some of that is the best way to take away those nerves just remembering that there’s support, love and encouragement every time I go out on the stage. That’s probably the best way I deal with it, apart from that I can’t say I don’t get nervous because I definitely do. It’s the truth.
RR: This reason I ask is earlier this year you did play in front of 80,000 people with Peking Duck at the MCG. Being from Melbourne, how did that feel for you?
H: I was nervous man because those shows a real high production, so a lot of the MCG people will make sure nothing goes wrong. So, you have that failsafe of literally crews of hundreds of people making sure nothing is going to wrong because it’s live television. At the same time in the back of my mind I know nothing is going to go wrong because there’s so many people to help with things, but I’m still nervous for some reason and I don’t know why. It’s not that something will go wrong technically, or I’d play a bad note, I just don’t know why I’m nervous. It just gets built into you after a time and your body is just to know “I’m about to perform, get nervous” (laughs). I can’t really explain what I was nervous about like I can’t say it was because of 80,000 people or anything else, I was just nervous. As I said before I think it’s just that I really care about what I’m doing, and I really am I putting everything I have into the performances. I’m more nervous to watch it back to be honest, when you watch back something you’ve done and you just kind of cringe that’s what I’m more nervous about. To watch back the tour and performances like that because sometimes it doesn’t always go the way you thought it did in your head at the time, you feel that was amazing and listen back and it was actually pretty shit (laughs).
RR: Awesome Darren, I’ve got a few more for you. Who is funkier in terms of music and image. George Clinton or Bootsy Collins?
H: That’s a hard one man, you can’t really compare. In terms of what did you say? Image and?
RR: Music and image, overall who’s the funkiest?
H: You know what I’d probably say George Clinton because of the music and image, overall vibe. I can’t really give the answer to why, he just kind of has it. Whether in the voice or look, it’s just in him. That’s not to say it’s not in Bootsy because obviously they’re both pioneers and legendary funk icons, but if you were to choose, I’d go with George Clinton.
RR: I couldn’t answer it either, so I’m glad you answered it for us (laughs). Next question, imagine your latest album has been nominated for a Grammy, however to attend you must sit next to either Borat or Ali G. Who do you choose?
H: Oh man, probably Ali G. Just because I used to watch that show as kid and was like Sacha Baron Cohen was the funniest man. Borat would be annoying, Ali G would be hilarious, but I don’t know that’s a good question. Probably Ali G.
RR: We’ll lock in Ali G. Who pulled the better blues face, BB King or Jimi Hendrix?
H: Jimi Hendrix, I’d have to go with Jimi Hendrix.
RR: Just remember when BB King would hit that note, he’d have the scrunched-up face.
H: I know BB King’s style, I’m just going to go with Hendrix. Well that’s the thing, BB King had a better Blues face just because BB King was Blues like it was in him. Hendrix was like bluesy but was bordering on psychedelic rock and was pushing that genre forward. Now that I think about it, Hendrix doesn’t have Blues face. So you’d probably have to go with BB King.
RR: Hendrix sort of had an open mouth so you could see what he was chewing, that’s about it.
H: He’s got like a whaling face, like a rock face. I don’t know.
RR: We’ll lock in BB King for that. Now Darren I hope you don’t mind me asking this question because I don’t want to steer the focus away from your upcoming album and tour. However earlier this year you mentioned there’s a possibility Harts may be retiring; will this be the final album or last chance to see Harts live?
H: That’s kind of undecided, so I want to get into areas of producing where I’m not necessarily the featured artist. I’m considering it because if I put out a song, I wrote all the music and I did everything but I’m not the featured artist and someone is on the vocals. Is it still a Harts song? I don’t really know if it is in a way and that’s the only thing that’s in question. A lot of that got blown out of proportion because people kind of panicked. All I was saying is I want to get more into production and start producing for other artists. Is it still a Harts song if I don’t have my vocal on it or guitar, or any sort of recognisable Harts stuff or do you think it is and should I continue it under the Harts umbrella. That’s what I’m considering. It’s not that I’m stopping what I’m doing, it’s just that I don’t know if I should keep the brand of Harts to a specific genre of music and not have it confused. In these days with Spotify and algorithms if you start to add really different diverse music, the related playlists you get pigeonholed in is not really accurate as to who you are. A lot of my stuff because of the Rock stuff gets pigeonholed and put forward for Rock playlists, but you can’t say ‘Shake Ya Pants’ or ’21&19’ is a Rock song. I don’t think the system is built for it, so it’s easier to not have it under the Harts umbrella and play to that. When I said that, a lot of people were like “No, you should still keep it under the Harts umbrella”. Kind of like Pharrell (Williams), everything is attached to his name, but he has separate entities like The Neptunes and N.E.R.D, something along those lines. So that’s all I’m considering. I don’t know after the release of this album and the next one as well, I definitely don’t want to do another Harts album. I want to do something more collaborative, I’ve been working with a lot people in the Hip Hop community lately, nothing I can really talk about. I just don’t know whether those will be Harts projects or not, I just don’t know where that future is going to be. I do want to become more of a producer and more open towards collaborating with other artists in the studio. If it isn’t and I changed the name to something else, I would probably keep the Harts stuff for the Rock based tracks I’d want to put out every now and again. I just think my future is in producing more than it is being just the one artist.
RR: Obviously you know we’ll all support you with whatever decision you make, the most important thing is to make sure you don’t stop making music.
H: I appreciate that man, the support from the community that came back when I said that was pretty overwhelming. When you say something like that, I can completely see how people would not take that the right way as it was intended, so because of that there was so much confusion. Out of that comes all the clarity, people I haven’t heard from years and people I’ve never heard of, I don’t want to name drop but big artists like international celebrities were like ‘What are you talking about, you’re such an influence on the music scene”. Even though I’m not a household name, my music still sort of has impact, so I took all that for granted at some point. After that I realised how much people actually listen to me and important my career is to people, so that changed my whole perspective on it. I was like “Maybe I got to put in more work and do both” like do the Harts stuff as well as all the other producing stuff and find a way to still tour, but also all the passion projects I want to do. It’s finding a balance between the two, whether I want to continue making the Harts albums or just do the collaborative stuff for a break and come back. A lot of it is dependent on the way these new albums are taken, I know for a fact after this first one comes out people will be like “I love this record, but I wanted more guitar, heavy bass record”. Then the second one’s going to come out and people are going to be like “I love this record, but I think you should make a Prince type of record”. It’s like a never-ending thing that happens and I’m cool to entertain all that because at the end of the day, they want something from you, they want music from you and want to see you succeed. They love what you do and what you put to the table in terms of the music industry, I take all that as encouragement and positivity so whatever the fans really decide what they want, I’m going to do it. If they want more Harts and its overwhelming that they do, I’m not going to stop out of nowhere. There is so many different sides of that coin, a lot of people want to see me do more collaborative stuff. I’m open to all the opportunities at the moment, we’ll see how this tour and album goes, see what the demand is like and we’ll take it from there.
RR: We’d all like to see a Joey Bada$$ collaboration, just want to drop that in there as well.
H: Its funny you should say that because that’s developing, not really saying to much.
RR:That’s all I wanted to hear (laughs).
H: Definitely getting into that scene a lot more, on the underground a lot of the rappers are really starting to go back to that Funk sound and in way to challenge the typical Rap, Trap sound that people are kind of sick of now. A lot of producers like me are under the radar helping with things, so it’s coming about.
RR: As I said we’ll support whatever decision you make, were hoping that you continue obviously make sure you’re looking after your career as well. We can’t wait for the release of the upcoming albums and all so excited to see you back on stage. All the best for the releases, the tour and all the big months to come.
H: No worries man, I appreciate your support.
Four Tone Artists, The A&R Department & Music Feeds presents
Fri Nov 2 - The Fat Controller - Adelaide, SA - Ticket Link
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Fri Nov 30 - Torquay Hotel - Torquay, VIC - Ticket Link
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