Interview with jazz guitarist Remi Harris. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off?
Remi Harris: – I grew up in a little town called Bromyard in Herefordshire, UK. For as long as I can remember I have been surrounded by the sights and sounds of guitar. My Dad plays and when I was a kid I used to watch him play and listen to his music. I had a toy guitar when I was a toddler and I got my first real guitar when I was 7 years old.
JBN: – When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?
RH: – For as long as I can remember playing guitar and making music is all I’ve ever really wanted to do. I don’t remember ever consciously making that choice, it’s just always been that way.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time?
RH: – As a kid and through my teens I mainly played blues and rock music. I grew up listening to artists like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Peter Green, Eric Clapton etc. In my late teens I started to get interested in jazz and at the age of 20 I decided that I was going to try and become a jazz guitarist. Eventually I started to miss playing blues and rock so these days I like to do a bit of everything.
JBN: – What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
RH: – I like to study and learn new music. I often transcribe music I like. I also like to compose and come up with my own ideas. I try to take all of my influences as well as my own ideas and put them in a big melting pot in the hope they will all amalgamate into my own playing style.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
RH: – I don’t have any strict routines or anything, but I do play every day if I can. I spend most of my time improvising on tunes/chord sequences/grooves as well as coming up with my own ideas, composing and transcribing/learning new stuff.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any changes or overall evolution? And if so why?
RH: – I’m always learning and working on new things which means my playing is constantly evolving and shifting depending on what I’m into at the time.
JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
RH: – Just lots of preparation and practice really. The more prepared you are beforehand the smoother things will go on the day and that will give you more headspace to focus on the playing, which will result in better music.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: On Track, how it was formed and what you are working on today?
RH: – The thing I’m most fond of on this album is our approach to the rhythm guitars. It’s much fuller and interactive than my previous albums. I played all of the guitars on this album and electric bass on three of the tracks, and double bass was played by Tom Moore and Simon Smith. The recording process for this album was to first record the lead guitar take to a click track, then build the rhythm section around that guitar take. I wanted the rhythm section to be responding and reacting to the lead so by recording this way around I could record the rhythm guitars along to my lead take and react to it as I played. There are multiple rhythm guitars on most of the tracks too which has contributed to a fuller sound. The bass was added last.
JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?
RH: – Tom Moore and Simon Smith are friends who I often play with.
JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
RH: – I think there’s enough room for everyone to be themselves in music. I don’t think there’s a “perfect” balance between any elements of art, everyone is different and I believe that you should just be yourself.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
RH: – I think audiences react to performers who are having a good time on stage so if I’m having fun then the audience are much more likely to enjoy it too.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
RH: – I don’t personally believe the jazz standards are the main reason young people don’t get interested in jazz. Those old standards have stood the test of time because they are so well written and provide such a great framework to improvise on, and they are great to study and learn from even if you don’t plan to record or perform them. I think they are an important part of the fabric and history of jazz.
JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?
RH: – Some of my fondest memories of playing music are from very informal settings. I love the process of working on new material and being creative. For me I enjoy the whole process from the practice room to the stage/studio.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
RH: – I’m not sure that I believe in a specific meaning of life but I do believe that people should do what makes them happy, as long as it’s not at the expense of others. For me that means making music but for others it might mean writing poetry or playing tennis.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
RH: – I’d bring in a professional musician’s minimum wage. It’s so hard to make a living from music and it’s so common for musicians to perform for less than they should because of a number of factors. I don’t know how you’d enforce something like this though. It’s probably not practical.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
RH: – I listen to a wide variety of music everyday from rock and blues, to jazz, classical, heavy metal, drum’n’bass, hip hop. Anything goes really. It all depends on what mood I’m in.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
RH: – I don’t really have a specific message with my music but I enjoy playing my guitar and if some people enjoy listening to it then I’m happy.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
RH: – I’d go back to see my Mum again.
JBN: – SS: – Me too!
Note: You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals in Europe and Boston, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/us-eu-jba/
Interview by Simon Sargsyan