Artist Interviews

 

Josh HarrisJosh Harris is a multi-talented artist equally at home as producer, remixer and DJ. With remix credits ranging from The Killers and Korn to Cher and Lil' Kim, Josh's numerous number one club and crossover radio hits have kept him in demand over the past few years. E-MU spoke with Josh shortly after the release of his new CD, "Distortion on the Dance Floor," which blends some of his previously released remixes with several exclusive remixes and original productions, all continuously mixed into a 75-minute DJ set.

You had a very well-rounded musical education growing up - how did you first get into electronic music, and how did your early influences grow into what you are doing now?

Yes, my musical background is very traditional: I started taking classical piano lessons at age 7 and wound up going to a conservatory for college and getting a B.A. Degree in Music. When I was around 14, I got turned on to ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) along with Yes and Asia. I really took to what Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman and Geoff Downes were doing with synthesizers. These guys were pushing the envelope in so many ways, and they were all fantastic players in their own right. I think that some of that Prog Rock influence comes out now and again in some of my remix work, when it comes to choosing synth lead sounds. As I got older, I started getting into Bruce Hornsby and then eventually the synth pop sound of Depeche Mode and New Order. I embraced those groups a little later than most, but they definitely influence my dance and remix work. Depeche Mode has always done a great job at capturing 'mood' and 'vibe' in an electronic setting.

From the jingle side of the industry and band endeavors to remixing and DJing, how have these different facets of the music industry influenced your approach to the music that you make now?

When I graduated college, I really thought that I wanted to get into the jingle side of the business. I had moved to Chicago and was knocking on doors and meeting guys who were doing some pretty big TV spots. After watching a few sessions, I realized that it wasn't for me. There are some very talented jingle producers out there, but I've always been a song and album guy. That's the kind of music I always wanted to make. I think that we can all take away something from any style of music if it's well done. Even if I don't like a certain style of music, if it's 'legit' for its genre and well written, performed, or composed, it usually speaks to me on some level. I also think it's important to listen outside of the genre that you specialize in producing. I am always listening to different styles and trying to take something away from what the 'forward thinking' artists and bands are doing. Even in a remix, I approach it like I am producing an album track. I might listen to a pop song on the radio and reference the amount of compression on a vocal. Or, listen to an overseas dance record to reference the low end.

What were your first experiences with E-MU's products?

My first experience with E-MU was with the Drumulator, when I was in high school. We had a very small setup in the jazz band room, and I got to play around with that piece. Then when I bought my first wave of gear back in 1995, I bought an ESI-32. The biggest selling point for me with E-MU has always been the filters. I remember reading articles about Trent Reznor making 'Pretty Hate Machine,' and he used an Emax II. I think that's what influenced me to buy E-MU over some of the other manufacturers. My ESI-32 was very easy to use and it sounded great. I still have it today, but the screen is hard to read now.

What are you currently using in your studio?

Josh HarrisIn my current studio setup, I use the 1616M, Emulator X, Xboard 49, most of the E-MU sample library, and the PM5 monitors. I plan to buy the subwoofer very soon. What sold me on the 1616M was the whole concept of having the Emulator digital filters in a laptop setup. I do a lot of sampling and filtering in my remix work and I have become very accustomed to the sound of the E-MU filters. Plus, the Emulator X (at the time) was the only software sampler that you could sample into. So, it's basically like having my ESI-32 or E5000 in a laptop. And, with all the effects that come with the 1616M, the whole setup is pretty deep. My remix for Korn's 'Twisted Transistor' was done by sampling about 4 or 5 guitar parts from the original guitar stems into the Emulator X. I then routed the filter frequency cutoff to the modwheel and that is where all the filtering comes from. I like the feel of sampling as opposed to cutting up a waveform in Pro Tools or Logic. It's a different feel - more of a performance.

I want to thank E-MU for continuing to support the professional producer. Some of the companies out there have gone completely 'pro-sumer' and the quality of the products have suffered. I find that E-MU has stayed true to its roots and supplies great products to such a diverse group of producers and musicians. From hip-hop to electronic/dance, and to film scoring, you usually find a piece of E-MU gear somewhere in the mix, literally!

What projects have you been up to the past couple years?

Josh HarrisI recently finished my first artist album, called 'Distortion on the Dance Floor' (Toucan Cove/Universal). It's a cross between a DJ compilation album and an artist album. It's 75 minutes of continuously mixed music, and most of the tracks are my remixes. The flavor of the album is rock-dance. That is the main sound that I am pushing as an artist and a remixer. The remix I did a couple of years ago for The Killers' 'Somebody Told Me' is a good example of the sound. That track is also on my album along with some exclusive remixes and an original track. I am going to get my DJ'ing off the ground and get out to do some shows this year. My plan is to take a two laptop setup out: DJ on one and play off the other. I want to bring a musician's approach to DJ'ing and see where that takes me.

What excites you in the music industry these days?

Good outboard gear excites me. There is something about tracking and mixing through some amount of high quality outboard gear that gives tracks a different color and dimension. I am always trying to fine tune that with my mixing. As for artists, I like a lot of what comes out of Europe, especially in electronic music. I really like what some of the French dance producers are doing. The tracks have such a great feel.

Josh will be DJing in support of 'Distortion on the Dance Floor' for the remainder of this year and into next year. For more info, check out Josh's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/seirenproductions.