Alexander Harris is the man behind an EP we’re really digging of late, the brilliant Mysterious Caves of Donbass; an effort that we’ve not been able to put away since we first encountered it. Harris, however, is far from a one-trick pony, and is actually a pivotal member of the Artreform label, an imprint based out of Ukriane and one that’s emerging as one to watch in 2014. Another similarly inclined label is Parallel, the label which the aforementioned release recently arrived on. With allk this and more forming a part of his recent agenda, we thought it a good time to catch up with Harris, as he gave us the lowdown on his recent EP…
Hey Alexander, thanks for taking the time out to talk to us. I wanted to begin by asking about your name, why did you choose Harris as your alias?
Hello! Harris is my nickname from childhood and it has a similarity with my surname, it has common roots, so it was an easy choice really.
So let’s start by chatting about Ukraine. When were you first bitten by the electronic music bug?
My father is a big fan of The Beatles. All my childhood was surrounded by the sounds of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Zodiac – space disco music bands that were extremely popular in the Soviet Union. All these genres of music help shaped my music taste. In 1995, when I was 12 years old, I started becoming interested in the world of music. By the age of 12 I learned the records that I played at home. Then I started to buy music and cassettes, and I borrowed records from friends and pals. That’s how I learnt about music.
Almost all the musical genres I learned for half a year, from ska to grunge to punk-rock to Doom and black-metal. It was really interesting but didn’t really inspire me. During my first journey to Germany in 1995 I finally found what I was looking. At age of 12 I learned about “Rave” music played at festivals. It expanded my consciousness. When I returned home I cleaned up all my old records and started to collect and learn about the electronic music. I was interested in Acid House, Techno, Trip-Hop & Jungle.
So when did you get your first set of decks? Do you remember the first 12” you bought?
Yeah, I was a DJ during school. I was playing the music with the aid of 2 cassette tape recorders. I remember my school friends didn’t like me playing Acid House or Techno. Most of them preferred to listen to Euro-Dance. But the senior high school students (guys) did like mу playing and respected my music taste and preferences. As long as high school students visited real clubs with real dance electronic music it was ok.
Generally, electronic music appeared in 1994 and 1995. In 1997 I was going to the club for the first time. And I played my first vinyl set in 1999. It was only 30 minutes long and I only played 7 records, but I remember there were tracks from Glasgow Underground, FFRR and Compost on there…
Were the record shops good when you were growing up? Does Ukraine still have record shops selling vinyl?
In the mid 90s there was a guy named Ilya who was selling records from Germany. He started to sell records from home and later opened a small shop. Then there were a few shops with vinyl, but they all eventually closed. Unfortunately the tax system in our country doesn’t allow people to sell music profitably. Basically, all the DJs bought records over the Internet. Now in Kiev it is popular to arrange practice vinyl rush art (picnic), and festivals by DJs and music lovers where they can also sell or exchange records.
Your run a label, Artreform, with D.Lamar and Joss. How did you meet those guys? Was it through music?
Joss is a talented DJ and producer. We’ve been friends for 10 years. During this time I have performed with him at a parties and festivals many times. In 2013 we decided to record a few tracks on his label, Artreform. The label developed very actively. Later оn, one more talented producer and sound engineer has joined us, his name is D.Lamar. This year we are planning to release new common projects. The Artreform label has to “shoot” this year strongly. Original tracks by Ukrainian artists, as well as remixes from Benno Blome, Deepchild, Gwen Maze, Frank Lorber, Metodi Hristov and others. Watch out for the release!
How important was meeting those guys to your musical career?
It is always good to meet like-minded people, when someone thinks the same way like you, they always have something to share and also learn new.
What makes producing alongside those guys great? Is there a natural chemistry between you all?
We create our tracks very quickly and are always full of new ideas. We complement each other in the process of production.
Production-wise, you haven’t released too much music, although everything you have done has been really great. What influences you when you’re making music?
There is one thing that really affects me. It’s the sun. If the sky is clear and the sun is shining – it means everything turn out well! Sometimes you work really hard till night, but most important to me is the start time!
Are you trained in music or did you teach yourself? What equipment do you tend to rely on when producing music?
I am self-educated, but I earned from the books. For one of them I even went to Moscow. It was a Logic 7 book. Now I use Logic pro 9. I have a hardware and analog synthesiser’s DSI Tetra and Yamaha An-200 and FM-synthesizer Yamaha DX-200. Also I love Soft by Native Instruments, U-He, Arturia and Waves.
And what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt since you started producing?
1) Do not listen to others always do what you like.
2) Create tracks that in 10 years you will be not ashamed to play. Music should be timeless.
3) Believe your ears, but keep a look out at the equalizer diagram too!
Are you planning to be involved in Kazantip this summer then? And what else have you got coming up?
I visited Kazantip during 10 years as a DJ. This year I will participate there as a producer. There are showcase of Arteform label on Kazantip and Europe gigs in my plans too.
What aspect of the Ukrainian scene are you most proud about?
Well, Kazantip took second place on the world festival awards on Resident Advisor. It’s a good sign that we’re moving in the right direction.
Your new EP recently dropped on Parallel – how did you come to the attention of those guys?
We met with Sergio and Ruben during their Moscow tour and became friends. One day I sent them a demo and the guys asked me to release it on Parallel.
The Mysterious Caves of Donbass is quite an unusual name. What was the idea there?
Donbas was always the secret region with a strange aura for me. When I was young my grandfather told me about his trips there, how he barely stayed alive and miraculously returned at home. Some sounds reminded me of a story of my childhood when I created this track. This region gets the ”glory” all over the world in view of recent political development in our country. Almost all Ukrain’s government is from Donbas.
The track is a fairly deep one too. Is it a fair representation of your sounds?
Yes, I like and have being playing deep music fo more than 10 years.
What else can we look forward to from Alexander Harris over the next while?
The vinyl-only release coming soon on Russian label Kolokol ltd. Also, this spring, we’ll release our new record with Joss & D.Lamar on the Artreform label. Follow the news on my pages on Facebook and Soundcloud…
Alexander Harris’ MysteriousCaves of Donbass is out soon on Parallel