- Tue, 2009-09-01 16:52
Scottish musician, songwriter, singer and producer Calvin Harris first found commercial success with his gold-selling debut album I Created Disco, which included the singles Acceptable In The 80's and The Girls. His collaboration with Dizzee Rascal on the track Dance Wiv Me earned them both a number one single, and he also took on board writing and production duties for Kylie Minogue, with two tracks featured on her 2007 album X.
His second album Ready For The Weekend went straight into the album charts at number one, with the title track also reaching peak position in the UK singles chart. I Like Music caught up with Calvin to chat about his second album, making hit records, collecting synths, catching a banana on stage and more.
"I Like Music because… it saved me from spending a life putting loaves of bed on shelves.” Calvin Harris
ILM: How did you approach the task of making the 'second album' did you have a clear idea of how you wanted it to sound?
Calvin: This one was different to the first one, because I knew with this one that people were definitely going to hear it. I was a bit lazy with the first one. I didn't pay attention to the minor details and things that people might pick up on. With this one, I was very aware that it could well be my last chance to make something that comes out. So I viewed it as that; my last chance to show people what I'm capable of. Once I'd come up with the reson why another album by me should exist, then it became a lot of easier to go through.
ILM: And what was that reason?
Calvin: That reason was to provide commercial dance music that isn't shit. An alternative to all the stuff out there that is charting that isn't really influenced by my favourite house music. Which, for the record, is late 90's house music and the trance scene from '97-'99.
ILM: Your music is exceptionally dance floor friendly, remix friendly and very radio friendly. You seem to have quite a knack for 'singles' too. Is that a conscious thing?
Calvin: I tend to approach most things as if I am making a song for the radio. There's not much on the album that couldn't be heard on the radio. It's an album full of radio edits basically. I know that people have short attention spans. I've got a really short attention span myself, which I think helps in making music that is instantly catchy and memorable from a first listen. That's the type of music I like to listen to. On the whole, or at least as far as pop music is concerned, it has to be that way. Thankfully, I also enjoy making it! It's my favourite type of music to make. Obviously I really love dance music too. So it's really just a case of combining those two elements. There's no synical formula that I go through when making a song. If I like it, or if the person I am making it for likes it, then that's really the only thing that matters at that time.
ILM: Where do you work?
Calvin: Most of my work is done in Glasgow, in a room in my flat, my studio. That's where I did most of Dance Wiv Me. The other parts for that track were done in London in a studio space not in my house.
ILM: What's your studio set up like?
Calvin: Recently I moved over to using a mac. That happened pretty much after the first album, when I started making pop records, because the Omega was limiting. That was a big step. I tend to do outboard synths, rather than soft synths and plug ins and stuff. I tend to avoid that. I like owning a physical object. I tend to buy synths and keyboards.
ILM: Do you have a large collection?
Calvin: I probably have about eight. But they're big. They take up a lot of room! Although it's important to keep things as uncomfortable as possible! When you get too comfortable, that's when you start making bad music!
ILM: How did you approach your live show? That transition?
Calvin: Originally, the idea was to not do a boring DJ thing. To aspire to be like Faithless, Groove Armada or Basement Jaxx, who translate dance music into the live arena really well. It was really just a case of re-programming absolutley everything for the live set up. Imagining what it might sound like with a drummer and keys. 40% of it is programmed and about 60% of it is fully live. You need a bit of that with dance music because, for example, sub bass, you can't replicate that with a bass guitar. Some of it does need to be programmed. It takes a long time. We finally got to a set up that is workable and it is going better than it ever has done.
ILM: Out of all the sets and shows you've played, which have been the most memorable for you?
Calvin: One that will always stick out in my head is when I did Oxygen Festival in Ireland, which is part of the T In The Park family. I was onstage, we were getting a really good reaction to start with and then someone threw a banana at me! I caught the banana and then peeled it in time to the music, took a chunk out of it, bit into it, then lobbed it back into the audience. I could see a couple of people that saw it happen who were just like Wow, that's amazing! It was one of the best moments of my life....haha!
ILM: You must be a good catcher...
Calvin: I'm terrible at catching! Though I've caught loads of things on stage and nowhere else. I caught a guy's phone once. Somebody lobbed a phone at me. I caught it and it said 'I want to propose to my girlfriend tonight.' And I thought This will be amazing! So I got him up and he proposed to his girlfriend in the middle of the show and she said yes!
ILM: Thank Goodness!
Calvin: Yup! It was lucky that I caught his phone!
ILM: What would be your advice to anyone looking to get involved in the music industry?
Calvin: Follow your own path and what you think is important. If you're making music, stick to what you enjoy making. I spent many years trying to get signed making music thinking it was what would get me a record deal, and it never did. It was only when I started making music that I enjoyed making that anyone started showing an interest. Whatever you're passionate about really shines through.
ILM: What music have you been listening to recently?
Calvin: Skanky Skanky by Toddla T which came out on Columbia. He's from Sheffield and it's just really interesting music. He's done a couple of tracks with Herve on there, who is one of my favourite electronic producers. Also Miike Snow, started by Bloodshy & Avant, Britney Spears' producers. That's amazing to listen to. It's just really nice, chilled out electronic vibes.