The Music Of JC Harris

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

JCHRants

Why No Band?

A question we get a lot: Why doesn’t JCHMusic have a full-time band? Band Fantasy Camps. Dream Theater. Composing for the material vs. the band. Switching instruments can be tough as one ages. Max Headroom.

Roger CortonSo the response for Progress seems to be really good! You’re already on your second CD run. And you’ve been a busy boy. Already planning a solo tour! This is good!

JCHIt is good. I have to say that this is the first record I’ve ever done where I felt pretty good about it out the gate.

By not having a ‘band’ I just focus on what I think the songs need. Sometimes people bitch about ‘not enough shredding’ or whatever, but I like having the songs be what they need to be.

RCSo you’re going the solo tour route. One question we get a lot is ‘why no permanent band’? Care to address this? Again?

JCHSure. It bears discussion ever couple of years. Although, ya know, there’s the odd few billion dollars in it for the guy who can come up with a simple way to make web sites repeat relevant content periodically. Sort of like how in the Catholic Church they make sure that every bit of the Gospel gets read through every four years. So stuff like this, that we have talked about before would somehow re-bubble to the top auto-magically.

RCLike repeat episodes on TV?

JCHI guess. But it would make sure that only the relevant junk got repeated; not the times when I just gassed on about…

RCOh, there are so many things. I take your point, but then, we’d have nothing to talk about. There’s nothing new under the sun. Son. Now, back to our show.

JCHWell said. So the obvious answer is ‘cost’. There just isn’t an audience where I live to support a ‘band’ that can do this sort of stuff. I mean, if it was like ‘the blues’ which doesn’t require rehearsing and reading, I could throw things together but of course, that’s not what this is. Fortunately, I’ve got Nick, Sasha, Peter and Timo who are great musicians but also have other lives and the flexibility to come together and learn the material as needed. It’s sort of like a vacation for us.

RCLike Band Fantasy Camp

JCHYa know that’s FANTASTIC. I never thought of it like that before, but you should bring them on here and ask them because that’s how it feels to me! One thing I never ‘got’ when I was young was that I’d see older people who would take these ‘educational holidays’. Like my neighbour was this older Japanese guy and he would plan these ‘guided tours’ which I thought would be so boring but for him it was great to not just go someplace but be challenged like being in a college class.

RCA college class that’s in the place they’re talking about.

JCHRIGHT! That’s part of it. I get to go someplace and play challenging stuff, but it isn’t like a Vegas ‘Rock Fantasy Camp’ because we’re equals. It’s not a setup.

RCYou’re coming together to actually play. I’ll call them and we’ll get their feedback. But there are other advantages to not having a permanent band, right? To do with the music itself.

JCHNice lead-in. It’s as if we’ve done this before (laughs). Well, one thing I think about when I listen to other prog bands is that that the arrangements are always very samey. They seem to feel like each guy in the band has to be playing something all the time. Or they have certain core sounds that they like to play, or they think their audience wants to hear.

RCI know what you mean. I was listening to the latest Dream Theater record and as much as I love what they do, I couldn’t help thinking of all your ranting about this very thing. They do have exactly the same cliches and patterns on every record.

JCHBut you just dig their cliches and patterns the most (laughs).

RCI do. I do. If you like something, you like it. You’re not always critiquing it for ‘originality’. Most people don’t go to a Rolling Stones show looking for ‘new and fresh’.

JCHPoint taken. But the thing I dug THE MOST about the classic English bands was the diversity of arrangements. Especially Gentle Giant. Even Yes on Fragile where you have each guy stepping out. That created some diversity and I think it’s that which really hooked me on progressive rock. But then at some point I think it stopped being like that.

RCWhy?

JCHWell one big factor? I think you’re in a fancy studio and you’ve got five guys, but there’s just a part for celesta and flute and the other three guys are just standing around for days. I think there’s a tremendous tendency to want everyone to have ‘something to play’ ALL the time.

RC(laughs) I know exactly what you mean. You just can’t help but pick up your instrument and want to ‘contribute’. After all, you’re there to have fun. To play. You’re not thinking like a ‘composer’.

JCHEXACTLY! By not having a ‘band’ I just focus on what I think the songs need. Sometimes people bitch about ‘not enough shredding’ or whatever, but I like having the songs be what they need to be.

RCAnd yet, there is a lot more guitar on Progress so the bitching does have an effect, right?

JCHOh I’m sure it affects me subliminally. And I do have to acknowledge the positive effect of the constant bitching for me to ‘shred’ more. Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch. (laughs). The material on Progress demanded more guitar, but I definitely had that desire to please fans in my mind. I needed that (cough) gentle reminder to get back to rockin’ and rolling.

RCIt’s that hard to bring in a mandolin or whatnot into some song over the course of an album?

JCHWell, in addition to the ‘composer’ aspects, there’s another tangential issue which has to do, I think with aging. One way I know I’m getting ‘old’ is that I’ve recently had a number of gigs I’ve had to turn down do to lack of competence.

RCLack of competence, you say?

JCHWell, I’ll get a call for, say, mandolin at a Broadway-style show. I get the call because I can read a score and they don’t have time for a typical folkie to learn the material by ear. Typical ‘studio’ situation.

RCSo what’s the problem?

JCHThe ‘problem’ is that I’ve just spent three months busting my fingers on five string bass and when I go to pick up the mandolin, my muscle memory is an absolute disaster. My ‘reading advantage’ goes totally out the window because I have to spend a ton of time re-educating my fingers how to play on that wee, tiny fingerboard with chords tuned in fifths. What they don’t tell ya about aging is that as one gets old, it takes longer to ‘context switch’ like that. It’s sorta like how when yer ten and you break a bone it heals in two weeks. And when yer fifty five, it takes two months.

RCIf you’re lucky. I get it. So it gets harder to return to an instrument because you can’t just pick up, say the banjo, and make like Earl Scruggs.

JCHWell, I can make like Earl Scruggs. I remember most of that. What I can’t do is actually be creative. Anything that isn’t strict muscle memory, ie. new ideas or material I’m reading off a page that doesn’t immediately sound like Cripple Creek? They seem to go from my head down my arm to my fingers and then somewhere at the wrist, I start getting these dropped frames. You know, like Max Headroom. The cable connection is dodgy.

RCThat can be a problem. OK, so to wrap it up, this is what I wrote from the last time we did this: A) It’s too expensive to have a full-time band. B) You like not having to worry about who will play what when you compose. C) You can bring the guys together for short tours which everyone enjoys like Band Camp. D) Doing Progress live will require five guys, so this Summer tour, the music will be even more ‘epic’ but the tickets will be even more expensive (laughs).

JCHThat last part? No joke.

RC Oh and E) Getting old makes switching between instruments a Max Headroom experience.

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