'I still see myself as a bit of a punk...'
12/08/2020, Danil VOLOHOV
Mick Harris has been one of my musical heroes since the first hearing of Napalm Death's "Scum". That dangerous rawness and melodiousness on the verge of total chaos defined the direction extreme music was going to at that point. As for myself, it gave me the perfect image and the example of this kind of feel Napalm' members put inside their music that I was gravitating towards being a teenager.
Leaving Napalm in the early 90's Mick Harris took his own component and put in the basis of his next project - Scorn. Firstly with band format and then, after band's co-founder and collaborator Nick Bullen left the band, Mick kept on putting this furious energy in everything he did. No matter what tempo, beats - whether it's Scorn or Lull or Fret. But the feel is there. Speaking to me, he noticed that he still feels himself as a bit of a punk. Mick laughs. After some years of pause, he got back to music in 2019 releasing the combination of ambient landscapes and techno-dub-beats titled "Café Mor". And is right now working on a bunch of new material.
In the interview for Peek-a-Boo magazine, Mick Harris told us about his punk attitude and first Scorn releases, about current projects and his contribution to the newest The Blood of Heroes-record, about early musical climate in Birmingham and "Scum".
Right now, you’ve finished your work on the newest EP and LP. Before our interview, you've mentioned that these releases would come out as Lull and Scorn. How different is your approach with these two projects ?
Em…Well, Lull…I think it’s anyone who’s aware of my Lull projects, which I’ve been doing since 1990, when I got my first 4-track, reverb pedal, first sampler. So that was it. I finally heard the way of recording, making sounds. I was instantly…I guess, profound sounds! It appealed to me! Just collecting everyday sounds. Converting them to tonal drones and drifts. Which was the word, I used to use the way before the word “drone” became popular today. It was just me, expressing those sorts of imaginary spaces. And getting back to my listening of Brian Eno. His ambient-works. Which for sure were big eye opener and influence on me. Coming from something like Napalm Death, to non-beats and imaginary landscapes…It’s just something grabbed me! It’s something I found comfortable with. Scorn and let’s say…Fret, both are heavily beat, percussion-based. Scorn has a lot more space and bass from Fret. Completely different tempos. Both – big on the beat. Both, focused on bass. Scorn has a lot to do with atmosphere. Then certainly Fret – a lot more mechanical. A lot more percussive. There’s a lot more…let’s say – rhytms happening there. And I don’t like to use words “dance-music” but there’s a groove there. I’d say there’s a groove with Scorn. But with Scorn, I think, you may just get lost. And again, what I always tried and being trying to create with Scorn is rhythm of this big bass, this simple minimal beat. That you can just take and rose with the atmosphere. I don’t know if it’s a good description. Probably isn’t the best. But as we say – that’s for me, what defines Scorn, Fret among other projects. It’s all based on the beat and the bass and the percussion. The drive. Where Lull is purely something I can get lost in, as far as trying to create these imaginary spaces. And that’s what I always tried to do – to create. I’m a lover of sounds. I love collecting sounds. Playing with those sounds using various software until I created something new from that sound. Which for me end being what I call “ a droner” or “a drift” and then I’d use those drones and drifts to create a piece of music, if you wanna call it. Or a sound-scape. Which is probably more right word. That’s what I’m doing with Lull. Just trying to create soundscapes. And to this day, still, absolutely love doing that. I haven’t made Lull-records since 2007 so…With this pandemic, this bullshit going on, I have time on my hands. I’ve used that time. I think, to the best. Obviously, either one way or the other. [My] wife was warried: “What’s Mick gonna do ? Is he go down or…?” – it was a crossroads. And I promised Helen, I said: “Look, I’m not gonna think. “I’ve been there, I’ve done that…”from that thinking.” Going to the music-room is pretty much everyday thing to me. Which has been the best thing. Because, I’ve not been able to do this since the 90’s when I had various studios. Going to here and here. Used to record pretty much when I wanted and how I wanted. I got a job in 2010. A media-college. Which, probably wasn’t the best decision if my life. The decision I had to take. Since the lockdown I had all this time on my hands. I put it in good use, I think. And I created a lot of good music, which I’m actually happy with. That includes, completing a new Lull album, a new Fret album. I’m half-way for a new Scorn album. Mick Harris is doing an amount of recording. Let’s say 4-5 months. I haven’t been up with this freedom, this headspace for long-long-long time.
When did you really start working on these recordings and what pushes you in the process ?
Well, as you know, I’m a fisherman. It’s just a place I enjoy going. It gives me a lot of space. It gives me immense pleasure. Regardless of catching fish. I’m probably not the best fisherman over there. But fishing for me is about going to the river. I prefer going to the river as opposed going to lake. Horses for courses. I like moving water. I feel like it’s challenge there. The season change, the river changes with the season. And for me, that offers a lot greater challenge. Than fish stocked in “pool” and going round and round and round. Feeding times. Just like with humans. Going to the river like I did yesterday, it clears my mind, but it also allows me to think as well. A lot of people don’t imagine Mick Harris sitting there, being a fisherman. Just Mick Mongoose, judging about riding, raining, moaning about things. I do a lot of that…Speak to my wife ( laughs)! Going to the river just clears my mind. Gives me ideas. Gives me the space. Away from the house. Away from everything. By myself and nature. Just listening to sounds around me. That gives me big encouragement. Just some space. And let me think – what I can do with this space. If that makes sense. I have somewhere to go to think about things. And also, to clear my mind at the same time. Let’s say, I’m working on Scorn or Fret – it’s simply. It’s beat. I always think bigger and bigger. I can’t help that! That came from Napalm [Death]. That’s just me. In Napalm[Death]. It wasn’t: “I wanna be the fastest drummer in the world!” – I had to do nothing with it. Yeah, I was fast. I was manic. That was my personality. And really doesn’t change. With the beat and bass. I’m always trying to get it bigger. To get it nastier. And…Probably not the right word, but in a positive way. I always try to better myself. I’m always trying to do it heavier. No complacency. There’s no time for it. For me it’s keep doing it, keep pushing, keep going, keep challenging. That’s what I certainly get from Scorn. With Fret, I think, I’m making some of the heaviest music right now. That’s good for me to actually say that! Because, it's usually like: “Well, that’s what I do…” – and I use what I do. Cause there’s nothing special about it. But it’s my special! And for last two years, starting with my first Fret-album, which was my first recording in seven years. There’s an energy there. And I think, it’s all going on the right way. That energy for me just goes in music. Like I said: just keep pushing. Keep pushing and going. Where Lull…is something…I don’t stress. But it’s quite natural for me. I’m collecting sounds. I put those sounds into computer. I listen and edit those sounds, those words. And process those sounds. Like I said, that’s how the whole process for Lull works. Collecting sounds, processing sounds. Putting them to some sort of structure. It’s not easy. It got to sit right for me. It’s just easiest way to compose than any of my beats. There’s nothing to stress about. It just comes naturally. I love that space, I can create. Just one of those I’m more worried about sounds. If I can get sounds, I do and I can – half-of the battle is done. Getting quality sounds to begin with two animals really! One would be really wild – Mick Harris with the beat and the bass. The other would be…Sitting down. And a lot of people know, Mick Harris isn’t sitting down when he’s mixing. And I never sat down! I don’t know why. I think I saw that back at Bill Laswell’s studio. The original Greenpoint studio at Brooklyn. Which was a big eye-opener for me – working with Bill Laswell. Painkiller. And certainly, the Greenpoint studio. One [guy] was…Sanding around mixing board, instead of sitting comfortably and just taking your time about it. That standing approach for me is just you attacking it! Getting involved. I’m not sitting down all relaxed. And got my notes. I don’t do notes. The way I mix is pretty much dub-way and a live-way of mixing. There’s a lot more of that in my beat. It’s on the move! The beat is moving. And the echoes, all reverbs etc. Where Lull…I do it any time ( laughs ). It’s running. It’s drifting and droning. Working with the reverbs and EQ’s on the mixing board. And fading sounds in and out. As opposed to be used in an automation. It just runs itself! It’s just a different way of working. I’m a lot more relaxed. Two disciplines. And I’m very comfortable and happy working with each of them.
Once you said: “I cannot possibly create Scorn music if I’m going thru a Lull phase” – it was back in the 90’s. Was there a particular moment when these two sides of your artistic personality departed ?
I would really say: after the departure of Nick Bullen. Sadly after “Evanescence” album – 1995. I think I had to start back a little bit. And think: “Ok! What I’m gonna do ? Would I replace Nick ? No, I don’t want to replace Nick. I’m gonna continue Scorn. I don’t want to move away from Scorn. Like I had to with Napalm Death. Which to this day, still plays havoc with me. But that’s one of these things in life – I’m just gonna move and do and maybe one day I will sort of come to terms with it. With Scorn, when there was this situation with Nick, I made a decision: “I’m not walking away. Why should I ?” I had to think a little bit: “It’s gonna change Scorn. Nick isn’t there. The real bass, the voice. The way me and Nick worked together. The way we worked together. The way we composed together. Constructed. I knew, there wasn’t the way for it to be there again. And I made that decision. That Scorn at that point is really gonna be about this solid beat. This solid bass. The emphasis has been on the bass. And the atmosphere. My writing and the way I wrote completely changed. In comparison with the way me and Nick composed together. Which was a lot more…let’s say – composed. A lot more verse-chorus. Whereas Scorn just hasn’t got that. As you know…It’s just starts and sort of ends. And I’m not saying it in a negative way. It has this process. And I have to think about – what I’m gonna do with Scorn. I can’t write verse-chorus. There isn’t gonna be a vocalist. There isn’t gonna be bass and guitar. I have to think about how this is going to go forward. At that point, I’ve already done several Lull records. I enjoyed working with sounds a lot more. Just discovering more and more what can be done with sound. It didn’t take over with me. It was a vital part of how I compose. I knew I was never gonna walk away of what I was doing with the beat and bass. That was close to my heart. I knew, I had to expand on that. And I think, “Gyral” was the starting point of it. It has all those elements: the bass, the beat. The single structure. [I’ve been working] more on mixing board. More hands on…sequences and automation to take control. Just doing it myself. And just getting the feel. Up to this day, it’s still there. Just something I wanted to do. Just to create this rhythm, this simple rhythm with the atmosphere. No space, if you wanna call it. Just imaginary space. Which I said earlier. From the early Eno sessions. These soundscapes just appeal to me. Hugely appeal to me.
On the course of our conversation you’ve mentioned space and landscapes for a number of times. Does it relate to only sounds or you also refer to visual images and their role in your work ? Is this kind of thing important for you, or you just keep on exploring what you have in your mind with all the trails and errors ?
Yeah, I think you’ve summed it up perfectly, Dan! But the artwork and the visual thing is important to me. It’s not something I got involved with myself. But sleeve, even design is certainly important. And I think I’ve been lucky for years – people have wanted to work with me. Whether it’s the photograph my wife’s taking…I remember we’ve been fishing one day. She took some pictures. We came home. We looked. Straight away something appealed to me there. I’ve already come up with the title “Stealth”. Very fishing-related related title. And just a period of time in my life. That image just worked absolutely perfectly. Slightly digitized. And it looked beautifully. It represented something. So yeah, it is important to me. I think, the artists I have worked with, they are similarly into some sort of sounds. Luckily, they like what Mick Harris is doing. I give them that freedom. And a very, very few times a piece of artwork came to me and I’ve said: “No, I don’t like that!” – I don’t like confrontation. I don’t want to say: “No, I don’t like that!” – that’s really hard for me to say. I had to do it a couple of times. They always understood! We just got and get it right. And I’ve been lucky with the artists I worked with. They’ve delivered the art that works. And I’m involved in the process. That process to me is just telling them: “Listen to the record! Get a feel to the record!” – they may ask me: “So, Mick, tell me a little bit about influences for this!” – I may give them a few points. They’re usually get the same answers: “Fishing…I like to be on myself…I like be on the river band and just being there…BY MYSELF!”(laughs). I don’t know! That’s where the artwork is. But I just give them that freedom…
But for the live[shows] – I really like getting visuals. I work with the guy – Derrick Stormfield from London. He also has his label Combat Recordings which I’ve done a few Scorn releases for. And Derrick is one who understands me musically, soundwise and visually. I love what he does! I totally respect what he does! I give him total freedom. It always works. I think, I need a visual artist for the lives because there’s nothing to watch. If you want to watch me on the mixing board, standing and like I said: just tweaking and tweaking and tweaking. That’s Scorn live-shows, that’s Fret live-shows. Full on volume, full on bass. The bigger the system – the better. Still haven’t got the system I would like. I like to work with Derrick. And Derrick likes to work as well. He has all those little gadgets that take a scan on me. And he rescans those and processes them live on the fly. Projects those live. Derrick is very easy guy! He understands what I’m coming from and vise verse. It is important live. And it gives something to the audience. Because, the sound is there and the visuals really give the full experience. You can just immerse itself in this full sound. And just get lost in the visual. Derrick does that. And I’m really happy to have him on board. He doesn’t do album sleeves. He has done some. But I’ve never asked Derrick and he’s never asked me about artworks ( laughs ). Getting back to working with label – some of them will have artists they will show me some work and its either “Yes” or “No”. I even can see if the artist got something. Or they haven’t. I’m not gonna knock them. Everyone has it right. And if it works….I’ve been lucky with friends and colleagues and people right into me. I’ve been really lucky and have huge respect to these people who’ve done that.
“Café Mor” became the first album you released after nearly 9 years of silence. The record seemed to be much more ambient than your previous works. Previous “Refuse; Start Fires” and “Zander”, for instance. Why did you decide to change your focus with “Café Mor” ?
It's a record I’m happy with! I’m also not happy! It’s one of these 5050’s. I don’t look back and say: “Oh, I wish I could…” - It’s what I did at that time. And how I was feeling. As you say, the first recording of Scorn in 9 years. And the last was “Yozza” EP, 2011 on Ohm Resistance. Getting the job as I did…It wasn’t the right place. But it happened! I failed. I came up stronger. At that moment, my head was swimming with ideas. It’s the most positive feel at that time. Some of my friends could feel it at the moment. I can’t see any of them in person. They all are internet-friends. And I think, they can feel the positivity in the moment. And it’s certainly how I feel with the music. But, going back to “Café Mor” – I had the idea of what I wanted. I wouldn’t say it was turned down. But I just wanted to make a complete Scorn tracks. All the ideas of what I can do with Scorn. But bringing some new [ideas]! It’s there! It’s not perfect. It’s…I’m talking about that sometimes. All I can say for “Café Mor” process is that – I felt good, It was time to create a few Scorn [album]. There were ideas. There was a project. It’s not ended. It’s still in me! It can’t just get ended. It’s like you’re getting a job because your mom says. You’re getting to the real world. “Normal person”, getting a job. “Did not like me! He’s not normal! And he’s not normal!” – but that’s another subject. Taking that break and deciding to make a new record was a good thing. I think, it helped making that record – “Café Mor”. And even the artwork - the sleeve…It was a holiday and I think, I just said to my wife: “I wanna to have a simple sleeve. It’s that I’m feeling at the moment – relaxed.” – and that image. There’s not really must done to it. It was a simple photograph she took. My wife is always taking photographs. She has a nice camera she’s taking with her. But she also uses a telephone! And it was a telephone photo. She could see. When I was walking – it was the last day of the holiday. She could see, knowing me. My wife can read me and could see, something was on my mind. And said: “What’s on your mind ?” – that image sums everything perfectly. There’s a lot of my mind on that image. And I’ve never had a sleeve of picture of myself or something I’ve considered to be honest. I think the last time that happened – probably in Napalm Death. Which was the classic sleeve. With the picture of the band! Normal. Standard. So…I’m not saying I’ve moved from that. Cause, there’s nothing wrong. I just had this idea of: maybe I can have an image of myself. And we had to look through the images. And just straight away I said: “That’s the image!” and she said: “Do you like that ?” and I said: “Yeah! There’s something about that!” and she said: “Well, I could see you. You were walking. There was something on your mind…Yeah, having something on your mind played simple.” – it was the end of my weeks holiday. The place I love. The place I can escape to for seven days once a year. And getting out of this city, this city, I think a lot of people know that I ABSOLUTELY HATE. Hate with a passion. And there’s the image. That was going to my mind. And sadly, tomorrow, I’m going home to a place I don’t like! It’s the place I live. And it’s a place where you are. Coming back home while I’m still on this up, just being creative. It just continues, Dan! There’s a positivity there. And I don’t seem to be turned around, to be honest. I’m working with good people at that moment. I’m working with good people. I’m talking with good people. I don’t have a circle or network of friends here in Birmingham. I don’t hang out with anybody. I don’t go out. There’s nothing in Birmingham that interests me. Nothing happens in Birmingham. Also, I don’t get invited to anything in Birmingham. It’s a place I hate, Dan! And a lot of people know about that. But like I said – my family’s here. I’m not far from certain rivers and motorways to get out of this city. Luckily, I may drive. And I’m lucky having the music room – this escape. So yeah…
The basis for most of your works is repetitive-drum structures. You combine them with lots of tension and dynamics of the background sounds. What helps you to find the sounds that would resonate with a certain compositional structure getting a certain contiguity ?
Em…That going again, I think you said it perfect. I’m not a programmer. Never been a programmer. I like to play my beats. Sounds into the computer. Keep it simple. That’s who I was as a drummer. I might be manic behind the drum-kit. Certainly, a lot of energy. But my drumming was very simple. As John Zorn said: I was a technical drummer. But I had fire and passion. And I totally agree with that. Self-taught. The same with my engineering and studio-work. Self-taught. Em…We spoke early about Bill Laswell. And standing behind the mixing board. Bill’s studio was the big eye-opener. But the other thing also was red. I remember Painkiller session. Standing at the mixing board, looking at the meters. It was all in red…And it was blasting. Bill is quite person, reserved. And what I wanted to say to Bill ? ( laughs ) It was first time meeting him. You’re in his studio. You’re doing his Painkiller sessions – your first-time improv session. I knew Bill. I knew him from John. First time meeting Bill, seeing him at the mixing board. And I said to Bill: “It’s all in red!”- he just shacked his shoulders and said: “It sounds good!” – I said: “It sounds killer! It’s the best drum-sound I’ve ever had!” – “There’s no problem.” said Bill. That for me, Dan, was: “Here you go, Mick! It can go in the red!”. I love that. Pushing. Pushing. Pushing. Because my beat and bass – all the percussion, it’s simple. It’s my simple. The process of layering kick-drum and sneers to make it big. Big solid, I’m always looking for. Just trying to make it bigger and bigger. Why ? I don’t know. That’s good! That’s positive for me. Constantly wanting to push. Constantly pushing. Never been complacent. Constantly pushing. Questioning. Questioning. The whole atmosphere. As I said, going back to Scorn in 94 – “Evanescence”. There’s structure in that. I’m not knocking that. Because, I think we made a great record there. We never got to make a follow up for “Evanescence”. But for me, continuing Scorn was about that repetition. That mantra. Getting locked in. And I think, that was vital. And really crucial. Still, to this day. There isn’t a lot going on. But there is – if you want to sit down and listen to some of these sounds. Constantly evolving. Moving and shifting. The whole dub-way of mixing wasn’t like an eye-opener for me. Because, we all grew with dub-music since 79 from John Peel first ever playing dub-music that I ever got to hear. It was just an eyeopener. With dub-music, breaking down to the instrumental – which was the b-side cut…Just stripping it to the beat and bass. And hands on the echo and reverb. Usage of the mixing board as instrument. Which for me is an instrument. It is an instrument. It’s crucial. The mixing board is full on hands on. It’s a major shape of sound. And again – horses for courses. Some people like to shape inside of the machine. Some people like to shape outside of the machine. And the atmosphere for me, which is the sounds and soundscapes, drones and drifts – they’re vital. Whether they’re created with a little melody in there. With Scorn, I always say there’s a melody in there. The beat, the bass and the melody. There is a melody in there. It’s simple. There’s something about melodies where you can say “Where it comes from ?” and you can say: “Cocteau Twins!” – I don’t know why I always go back to that. But yeah. Robin Guthrie – genius created some of the most beautiful melodies. They were created on the Robin’s guitar. And yes, layers and layers and layers. Beautiful. Stocked from delays and reverb. Huge-huge part of Cocteau [Twins] sound. And big influence for me. Absolutely huge-huge influence. For me, it’s not Cocteau Twins I’m doing. But that beat, that repetition, that bass that mantra…And then the atmosphere which for Cocteau was Elisabeth’s beautiful voice. Her wording. And then, Robin’s beautiful, drifting guitars. I’m not saying “Scorn got beautiful drifting…”(laughs). And it’s there! It’s vital! The process isn’t changed. Even more so now. I’m not perfecting it. But I just feel more and more comfortable certainly going back to doing Scorn. I just feel there’s no pressure with: “Oh, it got to be this way!” – I’m here not to please people. I’m here to please myself. What I do – a certain sound. There’s nothing special. But it’s my special…And it sums up my work over the years. For a trial and error. For influence. We all are influenced. Everyone is influences. I won’t shy away from that. I just took that influence from years of listening and still listening, trying to do my thing with it. My way, I feel comfortable with. It’s not right, it’s not perfect. But it is what it is. That’s what keeps bringing me back to the music room. And that is to create. Whether it’s beat-piece or not-beat piece. And yeah…it’s a certain aggression within Scorn. And certainly, within Fret. But it’s a control. It’s just my way of rhino charging. That’s what it is. Just my way of getting this: “A-a-a-a-h-h-h!”. What’s happening in the moment. Maybe I have more moments…I can’t help that. It’s an extension of me. Without a doubt. Lull has this space-ss. Drifting. Just going to darkness. Into a space. Where is that space. Scorn and Fret….is bombastic. I like that! Just full on sound. Crushing your chest and crushing you sonically. I like that! It’s my aggression. But it’s a good aggression. It’s my way of getting it out.
You’ve always been saying that Birmingham always had an impact on you. Even though it’s quite negative. Like you just mentioned. But when you started your career as a member of Napalm Death, what can you say about the city, the musical tendencies you’ve been exploring and local musical climate – clubs like “Mermaid” ?
Birmingham was a different place when I joined Napalm Death. I came from playing in a little punk-band before that. The first time I played drums was in psychobilly band. Then I got to a punk-band called Anorexia. In 1985. And I wanted to play fast, the rest of the band wanted to play slow. Self-taught drummer. I meet Justin Broadrick. I discovered Napalm Death in 85. I used to go drink in a local club where Justin and Nick would drink. I remember going there. And someone told me about them: “Mick, you’re into punk-and hardcore! Have you seen this place at Stratford road – “Mermaid” ?” I said: “No!” – they said: “There’s a new promoter there putting hardcore and punk-stuff at Friday and Saturday.” I went there on Saturday and Napalm Death would play. Original three-piece: Justin-guitar, Nick Bullen and Rat [Miles Ratledge] – the original drummer on drums. Instantly, I remember going there by myself. There are about 50 people in this hall. And Napalm Death just started…Just something hit me there! And then, it was the sound…I don’t know! That moment, I just can see it now. I was 17 years old then and just: “Wow! I like this! This sounds a bit like Disorder or maybe Chaos UK, Killing Joke…” – there was a mixture there. And there was an energy. And within a few weeks Napalm [Death] was a resident band. They always played at “Mermaid”. I was going to every gig. And in a couple of months we were talking…And, the rest is history. I ended up getting ass to join… “Mermaid” was such a great meeting place! Everyone was there for music! Everyone! It was such a meeting place for people doing their fanzines, selling their cassettes. It was a great place to meet flyers of another gigs, another venues…I think, everyone was helping everyone back then. The new sort of trash-music was coming. So you got the punks that were just like Napalm [Death] – started listening to some trash that was coming from America and Europe. Destruction, Kreator, Bathory, Sodom. And then America – Slayer, Possessed. The crossover started. Metal kids were getting into punk and hardcore. It was fantastic, Dan! And it was good! We had alternative clubs then – you can go for to punk and alternative music. It was just a good time! It continued. And by 1987 – “Scum” came out. It just exploded! We were constantly gigging, gigging, gigging. And we were no longer playing at “Mermaid”. Yes, It was different lineup. But there was no time for playing at “Mermaid” – we were in Europe all the time. So it was a different place. Don’t forget, we had John Peel who as I said was my music teacher next to my cousin. That was my cousin who’d told me about John Peel. He said after university: “You maybe want to start listening to this guy!” – on Monday to Thursday night. 10 to 12 John Peel played a lot of music. And that was it! That was it! End of story! John Peel opened up my music world. I was always Micky Mermaids’ – I didn’t have school friends. And it was coming from school. Listening to the tapes from John Peel. I always had a pen and paper ready to write down stuff ready to go out with my pocket money on Saturday to Rockers Records, Inferno Records in Birmingham. 3 pounds. Then you could buy a 7-inch or an album. You can get Maximumrocknoroll fanzine. Which was just fantastic. Because It got all the scene-reports from around the world, classic mails looking from faster stuff. [I’ve] always looked for faster stuff ( laughs ). John Peel, Maximumrocknroll -they were vehicles…They were a way to the next people. At the end of 85 I was tape-trading. Started getting a big list. And tape-trading was great! It was my way of communicating and getting hold of good new music. Whether these are rehearsal-demos, live-recordings…It was a great way of trading. A lot of the underground death-metal which was big, big eye opener for me. It was the only way of finding this stuff. Meeting Shane Embury in…I think, march of 86. That was it! We’ve became a really good buddies. Shane got A MASSIVE tape-list. I got a tape-list. And I invited him to my house. We just became eye-to-eye musically. Both had a tape-lists. And Shane turned me on to A LOT OF underground death-metal music. The same to me, Shane turned me on a lot of hardcore and alternative music. It’s funny actually! Shane wrote to me yesterday. He wants to hook up. I said “Nonsense, Shane!” and he said: “Mick, I want to say: “Thanks!” for turning me to some good alternative music back in the days.” He said: “If it’s not you – I have never discovered many of these music” – and I said: “Shout up, Shane. We were both music lovers. It doesn’t matter when you got into music. Whether it’s young or old music – it always be a good music!” – it was nice, nice to hear that from Shane. And I’m looking forward to meeting Shane. When the time seems fit. When the wife will say it’s ok for him to come around which should be soon.
It’s quite natural thing, I think, the fact that after GBH or Discharge or Damned’ show, the local musical climate kind of formed itself. Within this punk-rock type of attitude. How important was it at the beginning of Napalm Death – through the era of “Scum” and “From Enslavement To Obliteration”? When you started Scorn, you’ve been recording your early works pretty much with the same people you record “Scum” – how important was it to keep it punk working at that point ?
(laughs) I still see myself as a bit of a punk, Dan. Whatever it really means. Just a little bit. Doing it my way. And not doing it in the way they say. Also, getting back to your recent question – my negativity to Birmingham is…Very frustrated. It’s just a place I’ve never seem to fit in outside Napalm Death. With whatever I’ve done. Nobody really gave me a chance. No promoters…And these are things I don’t care for. I don’t care. I do what I do. And if people can get off with it – then, great. But I’ve never fit in to anything in Birmingham. And over the years, I got frustrated. It’s not a great place! There hasn’t been anything here since “Mermaid” days, when there was this solid promoter. Like Daz Russell. Honest to the music. And that’s what Russell did for the “Mermaid”. And since then –…yeah, there are lots of promoters in Birmingham. We have plenty of clubs. Some successful. Some of them not. But I don’t know if Mick Harris is antisocial, doesn’t ever go out. That’s who I am. I’m always been that way. With Napalm [Death] – I just jumped into it. All the things happened. People were around me. I was around people. And just went around with it! Leaving Napalm [Death] – I knew what’s gonna happen. That doesn’t bother me. It’s a city. There’s something about this place…And many people you may speak about with. Justin Broadrick left Birmingham. And me and him were in contact constantly contacting. He was saying: “Oh, God! Do you still live here ? Mick, move to Whales…” – I said: “If I could afford household – believe, I’d be there with you now!”. There’s never gonna out with me. Put that aside.. I’m not a negative person. But I can get down all negative. This city is just the place I hate. That’s why I love river! That’s why I get out! As soon as I could – I’m out of Birmingham. It’s like – this stress is drops and I’m: “OOOH! LOVELY! LOVELY, LOVELY,LOVELY!”.
And with that punk – Justin still got it in, Nick still got it in. And it won’t go from three of us. That’s what we grew on. That do-it-yourself. Just keep pushing. Believing it. That punk-attitude is still there. Because, three of us is still doing. Nick has a job. But he also, still plays music. And he’s dealing with a lot of music. And he likes that. That aggressiveness. As Nick does – he does lots of stuff. It got a garage vibe. There’s his frustration of his that comes out. Jagged guitar sound and it’s voice. I think you can say that in a way with Scorn. There’s sort of aggression. Like I told you, punk-nastiness. It’s probably not the right word. But there’s something about that “RWWWWWWR!” ( laughs ). That’s what sort of got me into punk-rock. Just something there. Outside. And letting it out. And I love that. That’s what I get from it. I don’t know, it just happened. With Scorn it just happened to be – me, Nick and Justin. I had to walk on Napalm. And Justin knew on this. Because, we were on the same tour together. He knew I was leaving Napalm about this 9 and a half week-tour. We got back to England. And I think, in a couple of days – landing and going back to Justin’s where I regularly used to…We used often get to Justin’s. I miss going to Justin’s – we had some great listening sessions at Justin’s. I remember saying to him [that] – I got this idea. I’ve already came with the name Scorn. And I said to him: “Do you wanna help out ?”. Within a couple of days, he got back to me and said – Nicky Napalm at that point wasn’t doing any music. Nick just finished university. And…wasn’t doing anything. He did heard that I left Napalm and “would be quite happy to hook up with and create a music”. So I said to Justin “Yeah! Definitely!”. With Nick we got together in rehearsal room. Two days after that. And…It just clicked. Nick knew what he wanna talk about. So it was about: “What should we do MUSICALLY ?” and we both had similar ideas. Then we were like: “Who do we get with as a guitarist ?” – and again, I went back to Justin and asked: “I know, I’ve already asked to. But do you wanna play, Justin ? Because, we didn’t have any guitarist!” – and I think, me and Nick had written the songs REALLY quickly. Justin had come down with a quick listen and just said: “Yeah, you do what you gonna do in studio. And I’d come along!” – that’s what he did. Me and Nick laid the foundation for Vae Solis. Justin came for one day and laid down the guitar…And…It worked! It was a good session. There never was a plan that A-side of “Scum” would end up recording the years later within the same lineup and different music. So yeah. It’s one of many things that happened. For three of us growing up, this punk-mentality, I guess…It’s a vital part! It’s crucial! And it isn’t gonna go!
Before our interview our mutual friend Kurt [Gluck aka Submerged] mentioned that you joined The Blood Of Heroes alongside with Justin [Broadrick], Dr.Israel, Enduser and Kurt himself. Could you please tell me a little bit about this particular project and your current activities ?
Well, me and Kurt have a good working relationship [note.-Kurt Gluck runs label – Ohm Resistance] and Kurt gives me total freedom. And I like that. He doesn’t ask for anything and knows what I’m going to do. That helps my mind-sense. It’s just nice, working with someone who gives me that freedom. And Kurt just happens to enjoy what I do. Straight away, it’s a good start. I guess, before the lockdown there was a lot music. In March, I think, there was a group email and he never asked me to get involved. And I think, I was the first to get back and said: “Yeah! Definetely! What do you want from me, Kurt ?” – he got back and said: “Mick, just do what you do!” – and I said: “Would you have a tempo ?” and I said: “No, you decide on that!” – “Just give me some good beats and bass!” so I said: “Definitely! Let me get on with that!” – it wasn’t a stressfull project. But enjoyable one, Dan. Because, for me it was making beats and the bass and some of the sounds. But I didn’t have to put the beat together! Let me tell you, Dan, it was beautiful – B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L! I just concentrated on these beats and basses and these extra-sounds without putting them together into a song-formula. I always tell people – I hate putting it together. The arrangement, if you wanna call it. I enjoy making the sounds and the loops and the various patterns. Eventually you got to put those into arrangement – that’s not my favorite thing. It was beautiful doing with Kurt that thing. Because, he said: “Let me get with it!” - I just found I have more space. Because, I wasn’t feeling out with sounds and drones and percussion and making song a song. It was just me, working with beats and bass. It was real pleasure. And he’s really happy with it which is always nice to hear. He said: “It’s better then Scorn!” – so I said: “I want it back, then!” (laughs). And Kurt said: “Oh, you’re not having that!”(laughs). No-no, he’s really happy with it. It adds this Scorn thing about it. And the nice thing – he can double upon the tempo and asked me about that – it started working. And I said: “Do what you want, Kurt! You asked me about bits and bass and you can fit them in another tempo! You do what you need to do! It’s your project and I’m really happy that you invited me!”.
There would be also a collaboration between me and [Justin] Broadrick coming up. We’re talking about it. Me and Justin. We’d definitely see eye-to-eye. So yeah, I think it would be good to do some more music with Justin. Blood of Heroes’ is Kurt’s project. It’s his baby. It’s nice to do these beats. I don’t get asked often. So when I do – I try to give them my all. And this time around, Kurt was definitely happy. And I’m definitely happy. He’s called me in a good time. I’m gonna get back to work next Monday. But…Whatever. It’s another thing!
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