8 out of 10 cats prefer Harry Love’s beats. Fact! Having blessed everyone from Blak Twang to Verb T with his brooding boom bap masterpieces, not to mention his infamous skills on the decks, he’s certainly cemented his legendary status among those in the know. We caught up with the man ahead of his headlining spot at The Doctors Orders Dilla Tribute Special (20th February @ Jam 9 -12 Middle St Brighton).
You’ve been a bit quiet in terms of official releases recently. What have you been working on and when can we expect some new material?
Harry Love: Yeah, last time I really was releasing stuff was around 2006. Once I finished the Verb T album it was kinda like a chapter closing, that album was about us as teens and the stuff that influenced us. I've been working on new production techniques, learning to play instruments and getting my head around using the computer to make beats (I've always been about my hardware). I've got tracks on Yungun's new album too.
Which do you think is your best beat to date and why?
Harry Love: Well considering I've made hundreds of beats since I last put out a record it's very hard to say, even when I think about all the ones that made it to record. I like 'Showbitchness' a lot, also all the Blak Twang tracks and of course Murda probably earned me the most notoriety but that’s also largely because of the song it became.
The thing is I always used to challenge myself to make sure each record didn't sound like the next which makes it hard to compare them. Another thing is that I often make a beat, then someone records their track to it then I often tailor the beat and finish the arrangement after… that way I feel like it's more than someone just spittin’ bars on a beat, it's a collaboration.
What equipment are you on these days?
Harry Love: Still on the SP1200, MPC3000, ASR10 plus I use synths, Pro Tools, Logic, live instruments and all kinds of other outboard gear. What I use often varies from track to track, sometimes I get an idea to flip a particular machine in a different way and that can determine what kinda beat I do.
Is there a piece of equipment you regard as the foundation of your sound that you couldn’t do without?
Harry Love: My ears and my soul, everything else is replaceable.
The signature Harry Love production sound is big hard drums. Any tips you’d give other producers as to how to get their drums sounding right?
Harry Love: Sample good sounds to start with, of course it's up to you what you think a good sound is but just remember the saying "you can't polish a turd", eg; if the sound has been distorted or compressed you won’t be able to UN-distort or UN-compress it. Some people think that it can be "sorted" by the engineer at the studio… trust me, engineers don't want to waste their time trying to make a shit sound sound good, they want to get on with mixing a finished song with GOOD SOUNDS!
Another couple of tips:
(1) Research and try not to cut corners when buying your equipment… that cheap sampler or mixing console is cheap for a reason, it's made cheap. The reason I will never sell my SP1200 or MPC3000 is because they are two of the best ever drum samplers and they retain their value for that reason.
(2) If you specifically wanna make that classic boom bap sound you have to go hunting for original drum breaks (preferably on vinyl) there are a billion-and-one records sitting out there in dusty old shops, and that’s where we learned to find them.
(3) Get good headphones / speakers or at least make sure you're familiar with the sound of the environment you make your beats in… you can tune your ears by playing a tune you've heard hundreds of times this way you'll recognize anything different.
Learn what volume your sampler likes to record samples at; some samplers react well to a bit of distortion on the way in… some other samplers can't handle the levels being too hot.
Is it true you engineer all your own records?
Harry Love: Most! Unless we go in a big studio with an engineer, I record all my own tracks. I also do the mixdown on a lot of them but ideally I like to go in a high spec studio and have Big Al Mawdsley as my engineer and we both work on the mix together. Al's the best engineer I've heard in Europe especially for my kind of music, so I can trust him to do it alone but when we engineer together we get a different result than if either of us did it alone.
Do you have a favourite drumbreak or production tool you always go back to?
Harry Love: Anything by James Brown is a pretty safe bet, I'll leave it at that because revealing the colonel's secret recipe is punishable by castration.
Roughly how many records do you own?
Harry Love: Roughly, a house full.
How often do you go digging these days? Any favourite spots?
Harry Love: Not that often compared to yesteryear, especially since I'm playing a lot more of my own sounds so I don’t have piles and piles of vinyl that might only have a shaker sound on five seconds of one and a nice clap on another… that really eats up living space. I have a lot of my stuff archived at mum and dad's house and I either go there and grab a few to take to the lab, or I digitize it there and sample from the WAV.
You’ve DJed for Clipse and worked with Shawn J Period, J-Zone and Pacewon in the past, have you linked with or have plans to link with any more yanks?
Harry Love: Yeah man definitely in the plans, I wanna work with Jay Electronica, Nas, MOP, Freeway, Beanie, Mobb, Wu, Mos, Snoop, Busta, Cormega… and that’s just a few of the US hip hop artists, I could list hundreds more. Let's see what happens.
What US Hip Hop is doing it for you right now?
Harry Love: All of the above! I like all kinds of hip hop and other music, I'm getting kinda tired of this generic sound that's taken over the underground – too many people trying to be Premo or Dilla without having a clue HOW or even WHY they do their thing – so it's quite wide ranging what I actually listen to. I gotta say I really like the Freeway and Jake-One album.
I know you use Serato at shows these days. Do you still buy new Hip Hop 12’s?
Harry Love: Rarely… if it's a track I really love or a definite landmark I try to make sure I have at least one copy on wax but to be honest 90 percent of the vinyl I buy ends up being older stuff.
Recently I saw some very old footage of you cutting it up in the old Deal Real with the Pervs and the Piklz filming. I’ve always been a fan of your DJing style, very natural, fluid and funky. Do you follow the battling scene?
Harry Love: Not really, I lost interest after Craze won his third title. I was convinced he pretty much put the icing on the cake. That battle scene became so nerdy and un-musical it almost completely put me off DJing! Now you got people in the DMC pressing their own vinyl which pretty much defeats the whole purpose of the competition as far as I'm concerned. I think this is the first time in history that the technology is ahead of the DJs. In the old days the DJs would get the latest mixer, then push it to the limit and the mixer companies would adapt the new model to accommodate the new techniques.
You’ve been doing Funhouse for a while now, how’s that working out for you?
Harry Love: Brilliant, it can be a little tiring being that me and MK set it up as four days per week but we've already got a bunch of residents and more to come! We often find out about all kinds of big names who secretly tune in. It's been a real pleasure making new friends, new fans and connecting with people all around the world. We're also associated with De La Soul's Dugout (much love to Maseo!!), Beatminerz Radio, BeatJunkies Radio, DJScratchVision and some others, Evil Dee came up with the name "1 Nation Radio".
Dubstep seems to be very ‘in’ right now. Are you a fan of that sound?
Harry Love: I'm a fan when other people are into it and do it well, and if I’m out partying and getting smashed I dare say it'll help me along my way but I don't think you'll be hearing a Harry Love dubstep remix any time soon.
Is music paying the bills?
Harry Love: Always.
You’ve been involved in DJ Spin Doctor’s Dilla Tribute events (including the upcoming Brighton event) Is Dilla a big influence on your music?
Harry Love: Yes he is, not in this kinda new school hype way. The reason Extended Players have had a close involvement is because all of us are huge fans of Tribe, De La, Gangstarr and that kinda thing so we've been up on Jay Dee since the times when you'd only know it was him because it said J. Yancey in the credits. I'm glad to have an opportunity to give back to someone who essentially gave his entire life to music.
Who are your top three Hip Hop producers of all time and why?
Harry Love: I can't seriously answer this question without forgetting so many people who deserve a mention so I'll try to say without thinking:
Premier / Dre / Dilla.
Big up Harry Love!
Harry Love: Thank YOU!
By: Max Weldon