ROBERT HARVEY INTERVIEW
In the not-so-distant past, Robert Harvey fronted Leeds-based band The Music. Since their split, he’s been working on some new tunes with Mike Skinner, A.K.A. The Streets. Here, in an exclusive interview with Steve Rudd, he chats candidly about The Music’s wild success, his fall from grace, and his subsequent redemption…
So how are things spinning in Rob-world?
Things are wonderful, thank you. Lost in music.
Reflecting on 2013, what have been the highlights for you?
It has been amazing releasing music again and playing some shows and travelling to new countries. Mike Skinner and I had the pleasure of taking The D.O.T to Russia which blew my mind. We had a friend out there show us around the ghetto and other scary places, and we shot a video which is due to be online soon. I’ve also been learning lots and writing music with special talents that allow me to grow.
So, you’ve been hard at work making music and videos with Mike Skinner! When and where did you guys first hook up, and how would you describe the kind of music you’ve been composing together?
I’ve known Mike for years. We had the same manager from the beginning of our careers. We vibed one day in the studio, and it felt good. Since then we have just been having fun and walking roads that are new to us both. I think that’s what brings us together. It’s like outsider art; we can’t help but create, and we have both had our time in an asylum.
A lot has happened since The Music split. Do you think the band will ever get back together again?
Splitting anything up is always hard. I was the one who wanted a change and craved a new life. I felt like we had come to a natural conclusion as a band. I wholeheartedly respect and love the lads, and I’d have no problem at all with going back on stage sometime in the future. They were both the best and hardest years of my life, though.
Looking back to when The Music were touted as one of the UK’s finest bands, how did you cope with the sudden attention you received circa 1999?
We were young and high. We thought we knew what life was all about, and you sing and play like you believe that. I guess I felt like there was more to life for people than what I could see around me. As you grow older, you realise that it’s up to people to make their own things happen. There is still a huge part of me that wants to inspire and ask people to question what they are forced to live in. I guess I’m now more aware of how to talk about it. Also, just because I feel it, it doesn’t make it real to anyone else. I could talk about this for hours! I was my most unhappy at the most financially fruitful part of my life. I can understand how HUGE stars go crazy. There was no authority. You can have what you want.
Were you into music from a young age, and what do you enjoy most about singing and making music?
I was into music. I remember singing The Drifters’ Saturday Night at the Movies over and over. In those days, it was a case of putting the needle back in the right place to start again. I used to dance for hours with Michael Jackson on. I’ll never forget the first time I danced in front of people. The feeling was amazing. Complete expression. I learnt that energy and motion create emotion. Complete addiction. I was shy and scared from a young age, but knowing that I could dance to impress people was a life-saver to me. I picked a guitar up at thirteen and slowly got into singing. It came easy, and I’d write my own tunes early on. Then I started sharing with others and got a management deal at sixteen. Some say ‘lucky’, but I believe that you can do what you love for a living.
Aside from the music you’ve been working on with Mike, have you been writing anything of a ‘purely solo’ ilk?
I write or dig out inspiration every day. I can’t help it. Even if I try and have a break from it, boom! I’m found in the toilet recording ideas into my voice notes on my iPhone! I love to write with others and go into sessions with people who will challenge me. It forces me to grow. Now, though, I’m working on more D.O.T stuff with Mike, and my own album, which I’m getting excited about.
So are you still kicking back in Leeds?
I’ve been in London for two years. It’s been a nice change. I miss Leeds and my family. I think the move to London has allowed me to become more independent. I needed that. I’m happy in my own company and don’t go out much, to be honest. I’m in a learning phase of my life, and I’m constantly reading or watching something that moves me forward as a person. Sounds mad, I know. I’m eight years sober, so going to gigs isn’t as exciting as it once was. Plus, I’ve been to so many gigs where my feet stick to the floor that I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I don’t listen to a great deal in honesty. I just love to make it. I miss getting smashed – but it’s really not good for me.
Looking ahead, what kind of musical projects do you have lined-up for 2014?
As I said, more D.O.T stuff. Then there’s a chance of my own album which I’ve been working on with two guys. The producer is Nico Bentley and a guitarist called Peredur ap Gwynedd. I’ve written songs with them both, and it’s really exciting for me. I can’t wait for you to hear it.
Finally, what’s the best way for folk to find out more about you and your music?
I have two Soundclouds. One, I put random covers on every Monday. The other is for my stuff.
I also have a blog at http://robharveyandthat.tumblr.com/ where I talk absolute madness.
(Questions by Steve Rudd; Answers by Robert Harvey)
This interview was conducted on 25th November, 2013