Harvey McKay has created a distinctive style with a name that is synonymous with driving, soulful techno. He has worked his way into the Drumcode stable with three top ten EPs and has gained support across the globe as one of the hottest techno producers around. As a DJ, Harvey has an exceptional skill to read the crowd and has played at some of the biggest clubs and events around the world including Space Ibiza, Awakenings, Ultra Music Festival, Fabric, and many more.
With releases on labels like Drumcode, Cocoon, Bedrock, Intec, and Soma it is safe to say he is a staple part of the techno scene and has been for some time. Decoded Magazine caught up with Harvey in his hometown of Glasgow recently to talk about his latest release, his thoughts on The Arches, what he has planned for Christmas, and dog walking…
Hi Harvey, thank for taking time to speak to Decoded Magazine today. What have you been up to with your day so far?
My day as usual starts about 6 am in the morning. First, I’ll go to the gym for a couple of hours and then I’ll go out with my dog Bo for a two-hour walk in the woods, then the rest of the day I will be working on music.
You have been making music and Doing for over a decade now but what was it that first grabbed your attention about dance music?
I got into it a long long time ago, when the acid house scene kicked off and one of my mate’s had one turntable. On weekends we bought vinyl, so it has been a passion for a long time. It was not even viewed as anything cool back then believe it or not, funny how things change. Then in 2004, a friend gave me a laptop with Reason on it, and it all sort of built up from there to where I am today.
Let’s have a chat about your latest release, Black Dolphin EP’ on Drumcode. I believe it is named after a very infamous prison in Russia. Why did you decide on the name, and what did you want to achieve from each of the tracks on the EP?
I was watching a Documentary on prisons, and this one in Russia really struck a chord, it was a very dark and twisted looking place, where all the very very bad men go! I thought the tone and sound of the name suited the EP, so the name was born.
The EP is a lot darker than some of the music we have heard from you in recent years and on the Drumcode label. What has made you return to your darker roots?
I had always made dark heavier music in the past, but it never seems to connect with people quite right, it was more the housier techno vibes that really connected with people. But things have changed and I can explore that sound to its full potential. It took me a while to get my head around where I wanted to go with it, as I didn’t want to just make heavy music for the sake of it. It took me the best part of a year before I hit on a sound where I thought ‘now I am feeling this’, which also had legs to progress and go somewhere. You really need to believe in what you’re doing or no one else will if that makes sense?
You are based in Glasgow which recently experienced the loss of one of its most iconic music venues, The Arches. What were your thoughts when it was closed down, and how has the city moved on from its closure?
Absolute disgrace, that’s how I feel about it! There are so many rumours and politics involved in why it really closed, and who knows the truth, to be honest. But it’s very sketchy. I feel the whole clubbing scene/rave culture has been demonised since the Torrie government in the ‘80s, and it’s never really recovered from that, to be honest. I think once they want a venue gone, it’s only a matter of time.
The UK is one of the biggest consumers of cocaine in Europe, now that’s people in normal pubs and commercial nightclubs where people are taking huge amounts of drugs and drinking alcohol and this costs the taxpayer a fortune in related incidents, and they’re not being targeted. No one cares. Now you start playing techno and holding dance event’s there and you will soon be on the council’s radar. You can see where am going with this!
On a positive note, SWG3 who have been there for a long time, have stepped in and invested a lot of money in their venue and filled the gap. It’s an incredible venue, nothing could ever replace the arches, but SWG3 is a top class venue in its own right, so we are so lucky to have it, I love the place.
Over the years you have clearly developed a very strong relationship with Adam Beyer. How did you come to first work with Adam, and what have you learned from him over the years leading up to your latest release on Drumcode?
Adam had been playing my music for a long time, and we just keep chatting via email with me sending new stuff. I first signed a track called ‘Supercell’, that’s actually more on the heavier side I was on about earlier before the more vocally stuff took off. And then I signed ‘Lost’, and the working relationship really grew from there.
The main thing I learned is he is very very particular about his A&R, and he is always pushing you for better music. In the long run, he is just trying to get the absolute best out of you, which pays off in the end.
The dance music world and touring can often lead to a life of excess. However, you have decided to start a new healthier lifestyle involving a lot of gym sessions and walking. Can you tell us a little bit about the decision to change, and how it has helped your mindset when on the road and producing new music?
A big change had to come in the studio and things were getting a bit stale. I sort of changed my whole focus to get as fit and healthy as possible. But one thing I noticed is how much it affected my work. I started reading up on creative states in the brain and how to achieve them. So rather than just saying ‘am I on fire In the studio today?’, ask why? And it turns out when you exercise, your brain goes into a flow state that’s great for creativity, it’s not just clearing your head when you exercise, it’s actually changing the chemistry of your brain.
I used to notice it on long walks and swimming, that I would go into this, where I would plan what my next move would be and make list’s and targets. I didn’t make the connection at first, but once I did, I have tried to utilise it as much as I can. Some people ask, ‘how do I spend so much time out walking the dog, or training now and still make music?’
Thing is, even though it eats into my time, the results I get are just off the scale compared to if I don’t. My brain is super fired up. It’s been a revelation, to be honest. I also find when I just wake up or I am tired and am in this hazy state, it’s amazing too. The more you wake up or fall asleep it goes away though.
For example, if I have a track I am having a problem with, I will set my alarm for 5 am, get the headphones on and attack it half asleep, and the amount of times I have solved something that’s been problematic has been a lifesaver. It’s all just trying to induce these flow states, rather than just running into them every once in a while
So what can we expect from you in terms of releases and gigs over the coming months?
I am just super busy in the studio right now working on new music and shall be touring all over all the place as usual
As we approach the festive period, will you be at home for Christmas or will you be on the road?
I think I am home for Xmas day itself, but am away for a lot of it, I don’t mind though I do miss my dog!
Finally, is there anything else you would like to add before we head our separate ways?
Hope everyone enjoys the new music, and hope everyone has a belter of a Xmas!
Harvey McKay’s ‘Black Dolphin’ EP is out now on Drumcode. Buy here