INTERVIEW: Dhani Harrison talks about his debut album - IN///PARALLEL

INTERVIEW: Dhani Harrison talks about his debut album - IN///PARALLEL 1

Grammy Award-winning musician Dhani Harrison’s first solo album ‘IN///PARALLEL’ will be released on October 6 through BMG. Echoing influences from his time as a composer over the past few years, the music of IN///PARALLEL paints a cinematic soundscape.

Dhani has been busy since the release of his last album with his collective thenewno2. In the past four years, Harrison has scored a handful of feature films, marking his big-screen debut as a composer on Warner Bros.’s Beautiful Creatures, which the LA Times praised for its “cool alt-rock sound thanks to the haunting music of Harrison”, as well as Sir Ben Kingsley’s critically acclaimed Learning to Drive. Harrison also found the time to score four TV series, including Tony Goldwyn and Richard LaGravenese’s The Divide, two seasons of the Paul Giamatti executive produced show Outsiders, and Amazon’s original series, Good Girls Revolt.

Mark Millar recently caught up With Dhani to talk about ‘IN///PARALLEL.’

Hi Dhani, how are you?

Hi, I'm doing great. I did a duet the other day with Annie Lennox at the Global Citizens Festival, and I've been doing rehearsals. Everything is going really well. I'm happy.

First of all, I'd like to congratulate you on a stunning album. I listened to it last night on headphones, and I was taken to another place.

Thank you so much. I'm happy you listened on headphones because a lot of the little subtleties in mixing and automation and the location and sounds tell a story, so if you have a good set of headphones and have some time to get trippy, that's the best way to listen to it.

You have recorded albums with your band Thenewno2 and movie soundtracks. Why did it take you so long to record your solo album?

I think the story was still being told. All of the chapters were still unfolding as I was living my life. I was also trying to build a giant body of work. If you grew up in my family, you don't get much of a chance to start developing as an artist before everyone starts pointing fingers at you. I tried a crazy plan to make myself into a faceless band to have time to develop my career. Now that I have done what I’ve accomplished, I feel really good about doing a solo album - I wasn't ready before. I feel like it has more impact on me, and it generally means more. I feel the graph is a long graph rather than straight up, straight down, so I feel like it was the right time, and I have been composing a lot recently under my name as opposed to the band name Thenewno2, so that got me over the fear of seeing my name on something. Halfway through the record Jonathan Bates from the band Big Black Delta said to me,

“I hope you give this record the launch it deserves, and I hope you release it under your name. You should do that; you owe it to yourself, and it's a great record ." I took him seriously, and it gave me confidence and realized – " I can do this."

Did you approach the songs differently when writing for this album than you would with Thenewno2 and your soundtrack work?

Yeah, definitely. I think it was a combination of what I used to do with Thenewno2. I started Thenewno2 with lyrical ideas, and I definitely approached soundtracks with whatever scene I was scoring, but this was a combination of the two. I started by making the music, and then as I listened to them, they transformed into these songs. There was a lot of time spent living the songs before I could write them. It's like they are in the cloud, and if you concentrate really hard, they become clear, and you can pull them out. It manifests itself.

Did the songs come easy?

When they were ready, yes, but it wasn't for want of trying. When something isn't ready to present itself, it doesn't. Maybe something will happen in your life like an event, or you wake up one morning feeling differently, and it’s a sunny day or a rainy day. Suddenly you have a different perspective, and then suddenly, I’m like, “oh yeah, there’s that song; it was there all along.” and suddenly it starts to take shape.

Did you go into the recording with any preconceived ideas about how it should sound? 

Yes, I started it before I did a soundtrack called Seattle Road, which I released on double vinyl, so if you ever find a copy of that, it's almost the older brother of this record, but it's a soundtrack. I got the sound from these sketches for these songs that I did, which I had to put on hold, and then I had to do the soundtrack. I didn't want to give up that sound; the director Ryan David was really great. He said, "whatever you want to do, go for it." So Seattle Road made me realize that I was going in a good direction. So I went back and did it the right way.

You said about the record - “It’s an introspective trip from where I was to where I am now,” “I had things happen during recording this that changed my perspective on everything.” Was it positive things that happened?

Yes, in life, when you look at something, sometimes it can be a bad thing and then the next day, you learn something from it, and you're like, "actually, that was good." It's just perspective, I think. During the making of this record, I got to a point in my life where I stopped thinking about things as good or bad, and I started to get healthier. I felt that I wasn't going anywhere in my life, and I went back to programming and started doing a lot of meditation and started really taking care of myself and being kinder to myself. Sometimes being kind to yourself involves making tough hard choices, but that’s the strength that you need to treat yourself well, so once you start raising that conciseness in your mind and you're getting a different vibration, you start being on a different frequency then all these other things start falling into place.

And the world has gone crazy. The years 2015, 2016 and 2017 haven't exactly been easy years for the planet, so everyone’s perspective changes and you grow older, and you see different things for being events rather than “that was a bad thing, that was a good thing.” And that changes you, and that got me to where I started seeing the record from.

You deal with many heavy topics but was it still an enjoyable experience recording the new album?

Yes, very, sometimes talking about stuff helps and being aware of everything going on around you. I think a lot of people let everything go by and don’t notice it. I started noticing everything more, and it wasn’t necessarily like I was trying to make a depressing record, but the times we have been living in have been pretty intense. It’s not a sad record. It’s an intense record.

Did you produce the record yourself?

Yes, I did. I was sketching it out and working on it at the same time I was doing all the soundtrack stuff, so usually, I would be going back and forth writing or mixing with Paul Hicks, who is the guy I compose with, but we were very busy, so I had the album as my little side project.

What would you like people to take away from listening to the record?

It is about your own experience in life; so much of the world is telling you to be afraid and be scared of this, that, and the other or to obey, so you’ve got to look at the facts and do your own research. You’ve got to have your own opinion about stuff and your own perspective. Only then can you really discern what is really hot air in the world and what is actually real.

You start your first headline tour in November. What can we expect from the shows?

It won't be the whole album from start to finish, but there will be many new records on it. I have got an incredible new band, part Big Black Delta, part Summer Moon, and Mereki, so it's a combination of all those bands and Thenewno2. I think it's a very powerful band; the rhythm section is to be reckoned with. I really look forward to revisiting some of the old stuff that people may have heard but in a new light. It’s so far been really powerful.

Coming from your background, did you always aspire to be a musician?

I grew in a studio, so it was more like being part of the furniture, really. They say, "man becomes that what he gazes upon." You are what you look upon, If you spend all of your days with athletes, you will probably end up in a team, and if you spend all of your days with musicians, then someday you will probably want to get involved in that. The gift that I got given was to be around all these great people, and they were very encouraging of me to get involved.

What have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?

I was really into that Ritual Spirit (EP) from Massive Attack; they had a vocalist called Azekil, and he had a record called Raw Vol.1, which was great. I love Run The Jewels, and I'm a big fan of Orbital. I actually went back and started listening to their album In Sides again. There's a great song from Portishead called Chase The Tear, and I've been listening to Aphex Twin's – Ambient Works. I listen to a weird mix of stuff.

Is there a record that you always return to?

I really, really found myself listening every day at some point to the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis. It’s incredible; there are some great synth sounds on it; it's such a seminal soundtrack. It ties a lot of my favourite music together.

(One last question)

What advice did your father George Harrison give you about the music business?

Other than the stuff that I have ignored like, "don't!" (Laughs). Yeah, maybe without even saying anything, he taught me the value of collaboration and how he had fun with his friends, and it really showed in the music like The Travelling Wilburys and stuff. He had fun on tour with Eric Clapton’s band; I saw that really made him happy. If you are at work every day and have great people around you who are collaborating with you and inspiring you, then it's not really hard work. It's just a really enjoyable life, and that’s kind of where we are all trying to get to, to have a life that makes us happy creatively. There wasn’t so much that he said, just the way that he lived his life.


Never Know
Úlfur Resurrection
Downtown Tigers
London Water
Summertime Police
Poseidon (Keep Me Safe)
The Light Under The Door
All About Waiting
Admiral of Upside Down

Xsnoize Author
Mark Millar is the founder of XS Noize and looks after the daily running of the website as well as conducting interviews for the XS Noize Podcast. Mark's favourite album is Achtung Baby by U2.

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