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Sunday, November 14

Interview with Shannon Harris

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Shannon
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Self taught music producer/composer/artist and multi-instrumentalist, Shannon Harris just released his second album, “Audio Urbanology: The Art of Audio Truism”, much to the enthusiasm of his already sizeable army of fans. With the album anticipated to be prosperous and fame imminent, the inspiring, newfangled productions that he has established his own is assured to gain interest globally.


PART I
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Could you tell us how you got into producing and about your early career?
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I started producing basement tracks in the late 80’s/early 90’s to play during my sets to stand out from my brother and the rest of my friends.  I never felt the material was good enough to release or sign to labels so they remained on tape or were triggered live from a keyboard and beat machine. I revisited the production venture in 1997 and had a hard time signing the tunes I had made so I decided later on in 1999 to start my own label Urbanicity where I released my first record in 2001. Before then I had only released a tune on the WMC (Winter Music Conference) CD. My Career started off as a DJ in the early to mid 80’s who was inspired by DANCING, later on becoming a producer/composer who was also inspired by dancing, spirituality and live performance.  Fusing artistic expressions with acoustics, physics, cosmogony and sound was a new passion of mines that opened up another portal for me as a DJ/artist/person. So my career has taken me to several destinations, including radio, clubs, lofts, festivals, and touring internationally.
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What’s your music background? Which artists have influenced you the most?
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My musical back ground starts with my parent’s record collection and parties they held at our home and at friends’ houses. My uncles/cousins who were DJ’s as well use to play sets at family reunions and at block parties.  My first experience being behind a DJ rig was at my cousins block party where they were DJing. Before then we had always played vinyl, 8 tracks, and tapes in a listener format. After we (my brother and I) started to learn how to beat match music on tape decks we begged my parents for another turntable so we will have 2 of them. The turntable we played our music on at home was a standard component system with a radio, record player and 8 track. We figured out how to press the AUX button in with the Phono button to play 2 sources at the same time. The second turntable that we found at the thrift store was the only one with a pitch control so we had to use our hands to pitch bend on the first turntable. The same goes for the blending of tapes.  My dad had bought my brother one of those dual cassette boom boxes where you could dub tapes on. The nice thing was that you could play 2 tapes at the same time and hear them both through the speakers. My brother one day had taken the doors off of the cassette compartments and we used our fingers around the wheels that pulled the tape to pitch bend. We dubbed radio mixes and made two copies on cassettes and practiced blending them like that. 
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In 6th grade is when my brother and I were influenced and educated formally in the arts. Our teacher Mrs King showed us how to read/write music, sing, perform as a band with home made “fake” instruments (card board guitars and etc), and also drawing, painting and public speaking were all part of the curriculum.  From that point on we were aware of our potentials as artists and were ok with our expressions daily in our lives. Artist that were an influence in my earlier years ranged from Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Michael Jackson, Prince, EWF, Isaac Hayes, Chaka Khan, Run DMC, UTFO, Van Halen, Duran Duran, Boy George, Cindi Lauper, Bon Jovi, Quincy Jones, George Duke, Eric B and Rakim, Jungle Brothers, Farley Jackmaster Funk, Hot Mix 5, Chicago, Roy Ayers, The Real Roxanne, Slick Rick,  Diana Ross, Lil Louis, Depeche Mode, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Blonde, Shannon (Let the Music Play), Larry Heard, Chip E, NewCleus, Interboro Rhythm Team, Nitzer Ebb, Paul McCartney, Soul to Soul, Enigma, Aquarius Dream, Bill Withers, Carlos Santana, Skinny Boys, Tribe Called Quest and so on. Then I evolved into loving John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Digable Planets, Das EFX, Bob Marley, Bounty Killer, Joyce, Tania Maria, Dizzy, Duke, Pharoah, Head Hunters, Son and Daughters of Lite, Joaquin Claussell, Nitin Sawhney,  Brand New Heavies, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Oneness of Juju, Jimmy Smith, Johnny Hammond, Charles Earland, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba,  Sergio Menedes, Leon Thomas, Norman Connors, INXS, The Cure, Rolling Stones, Metallica, Jimi Hendrix, Last Poets, Watts Poets, Common, Ian Dury, and the list is infinite. 
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Once a person really gets to know me musically as a DJ and as a producer/composer they will connect the dots to how broad I am in regards to my influences.  I actually play and create music based upon my influences which has lead to my works being categorized and placed into many different genres.
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Your brand new album, “Audio Urbanology: The Art of Audio Truism”, features the contribution of almost 30 artists from 4 continents. Do you think “World Music” is a good expression to define or describe your album?
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Yes, I feel it is the only genre that’s expansive enough to include the many facets of my dynamic expressions in music.  Usually, when a person categorizes their music in the “World” category it falls under a particular genre that’s unique to the territory they are from or featuring.  For example, Fela is categorized under “World” but is actually Afro-beat from Nigeria.  His whole entire album is that particular genre only. I felt with Audio Urbanology (“Urbanology” being the study of urban life/problems and “Audiopertaining to, or employed in the transmission, reception, or reproduction of sound) I would travel visually, spiritually and vibration-ally around the globe to specific areas and present positive truisms from/for those particular cultures. So my album is a representation of the “World” in music because it features genres from around the globe rather than one genre from one particular place/culture.
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After six years in the making, do you feel that this album totally reflects your music world? What is the concept behind it?
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As I mentioned earlier the album is an audio analysis of the urban problems and lives of several nations around the world and locally. I approach music as an Urbanologist hence why my label name is “Urbanicity”. Each recording studies areas of science, politics, culture, cosmogony, social economics, spirituality, language, identity, struggle, pain and so on. The reason why most of my projects are time consuming before they are released is because of these reasons. My approach to this project as well as my last album “The New World Reveal-A-Solution” took a lot of research and resources to manifest them. Meeting the right people globally, reading the right books, aligning recordings within the right seasons/solstice, recording on a particular moon cycle, experiencing the right adversities, travelling to be enlighten by the right situations, spiritual discipline, diet and gaining the right amount of resources all take apart in what I do musically/artistically. So I do feel this album reflects my musical experiences at this moment. Each album I produce will always show constant progression in many directions.  My next album is a completely different genre that I won’t disclose at this moment. But I will say it doesn’t fit into the “World” category either. lol
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You also work on cinema (movie scores), visual media and commercial productions. How difficult is to manage such diversity in music and in your life?
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Well what inspired me to go into the direction of film, visual media and etc were the cinematic foundations of how I visualized and conceptualised my productions.  Everyone who listened to them would mention a personal story or plot in which became the visual theme to what they were listening to. I write music based upon a vision similar to a day dream that I am providing sound effects for. My inspirations in cinema and music come from huge movie productions with great audio scores, costumes, plots, characters and quality acting. So when the opportunity arose for me to write some custom music for some visual art performances, silent films by George Melies and/or my own documentaries I enjoyed doing them just as much as my musical recordings. It’s very challenging to be pulled in several directions musically but as an “artist” this is what “true” art is about. One medium should always lead you into appreciating something else. I just took that appreciation and made it inclusive to my way of expression. Artistic diversity gives me a break away from my other commitments mentally allowing me to constantly be challenged and appreciate the dynamics of my God given abilities in life.
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PART II
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If we looked in your cd/mp3 player right now, what kind of music we would see?
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Vinyl Artist: The Voodoo-Gang, Joe Claussell, Salif Keita, La Flute De Hariprasad Chaurasia, Return to Forever, Ondekoza, Hector Lavoe, Afro-Cuban Allstars, Bueno Vista Social Club, 4 Hero, Layo & Bushwacka, Nigerian Special and so on.
CD Artist: Omar Sosa, Alpha “YaYa” Diablo, Yuval Ron Ensemble, Gregory Porter, Robert Irving III, Ra Un Nefer Amen, Kelly Howell, Enya, Dhafer Yousef, my Audio Urbanology CD, Kahil El Zabar featuring Nona Hendryx’s “It’s Time”, Benda Bilili, Victor Wooten, The Soul Jazz Orchestra, Wummi, Ella Andall, just to name a few.
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What is your own favourite track, the one you are most proud of? 
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I can narrow it down to 5. Hahahaha (Hard to narrow it down to one).
1. Desperado/El Montuno – It was my first creation and touched many souls.
2. Mizimu – This was a very spiritual and complex tune to record with the different movements involving several musicians. It still amazes me that I created something of this nature.
3. AfroCosmo – This recording involved a lot of special energy, phenomena, cosmogony and numerology which still are un-explained. WOW
4. A Woman Feeds the World – This is the second most complex and most expensive tune to compose. The long version is called a Opus by many.
5. Viva A Vida Como Se Nao Houvesse Amanha – This tune was not only complex but a very unique experience fusing the languages and cultural instruments into one song. This tune surprises me every time I hear it.
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.If you had the opportunity, with whom would you like to work with?
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Wow, there are so many I can name here:  Omar Sosa, Alpha “YaYa” Diablo, Yuval Ron, Gregory Porter, Robert Irving III, Ra Un Nefer Amen, Kelly Howell, Enya, Dhafer Yousef, Esperanza Splauding, Tania Maria, The Roots, Soul Live, Mos Def, Madlib, Robert Glasper, Stevie Wonder, A.R. Rahman, Nitin Sawhney, Daft Punk, Angela Bofill, John Williams (Star Wars), Sting, Herbie Hancock and Rolling Stones.  Just to name a few.
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What records are you currently spinning every time you play?
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Hector Lavoe – Mi Gente, Ella Andall – Dance, Ju/Ru Music – Joe Claussell, Viva A Vida Como Se Nao Houvesse Amanha (Festival Batucada Mix) – Shannon Harris, Foot Prints in the Sand (Urbanicity Re-Interpretation) -  Chanan Haspal, It’s A Good Day – Ethnics featuring Nona Hendryx, ODOO – Fela Kuti, Fire Dance – Seun Kuti,  Tito Paris - Rosto Di Morena, and Leroy B-Boy – Shannon Harris featuring Avery R. Young.  It depends upon what type of an event I am hired to play for. 
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What can we expect to hear from you in the near future?
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You can expect a new album project that I am producing/co-producing for Kahil El Zabar featuring the legendary Nona Hendryx entitled “It’s Time” on Katalyst Recordings.  More vinyl releases/remixes from the Audio Urbanology album. A remix project of Chanan Haspal’s “Foot Prints in the Sand” on Here and Now recordings due out November 15th 2010. I am currently in the Studio with Charles Stepney grand daughter working on some recordings the first is entitled “Come into the Light”. I am also talking to Donna Mcghee who has worked with the legendary Patrick Adams. Nona Hendryx and I are working on my next album venture as well. I also produced a tune for Koku Gonza on her upcoming album entitled “We are one”. Last but not least, I am working on an album with my favourite musician of this time, Junius Paul, that I am extremely excited about. Outside of that, I am involved in several visual art projects and mix media ventures at the Zhou B Arts Center.

7 Comments:

  • At 11:24 a.m., Anonymous Joe S. said…

    A real artist, nice reading!

     
  • At 12:39 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    RESPECT

     
  • At 7:36 p.m., Anonymous Zee said…

    30 artists from 4 continents? Wow! Fantastic :)
    Much respect and congrats!

     
  • At 5:18 p.m., Anonymous Jack said…

    Lovin your stuff, keep on!

     
  • At 9:53 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Leaving us thirsty for your NEXT ALBUM!!! This is GREAT stuff Bro!!

     
  • At 9:28 a.m., Anonymous Shift Mawelele said…

    Nice work guy ...

     
  • At 12:02 p.m., Anonymous Semat said…

    This is inspiring Shannon
    Good work buddy

     

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