“We’re going disco” – Q&A with Harvey Sutherland

Harvey Sutherland has already carved out a distinct career for himself only a few releases in, but you might not know of him yet. Hailing form Melbourne, the talented musician has made his way in to some very influential DJ bags, DJ’s who hoard his music like a secret weapon. They use tracks like Bermuda to make a lasting impression on the dance floor without letting up their coveted piece of information. You would’ve no doubt heard Sutherland’s sound bouncing out through Jæger’s system by now, without you even knowing it. Harvey’s adventures in disco is a uniquely modernised version of the genre where syncopated 808’s and improvised synthesiser loops break the monotony of the house beat and brings an intuitive dimension back in to the world of electronic dance music. Having featured on the likes of labels like Voyage and MCDE, five releases already behind him, and a European tour in full swing, the name Harvey Sutherland is sure to be on everybody’s lips soon. Last year’s Oscillate defined his career for many in sultry tones and sparkling claps as it made its way into many DJ sets. His improvised style is as engaging as it is entertaining and he prefers to showcase it in the live context through a few bits of analogue gear with the Roland Juno at the heart of the rig. That rig will be making its way to Jæger’s bakgården on Wednesday (22/05) as part of Øyvind Morken and Gaute Haaversen’s weekly Untzdag event. Harvey took some time out of his busy touring schedule to answer some questions via email for us ahead of his appearance for Jæger and we get some exclusive insight into artist’s music and influences, including a little preview perhaps of a possible DJ set…



Do you still live in Melbourne?
Yes, there’s a bit more space to move around now that everyone’s gone to Berlin.

Is Berlin something that might appeal to you in the future especially since you are touring Europe at the moment?
Not really. It’s a beautiful city, but it seems very easy to fall into a trap of not being very productive or creative. I like having a sense of normalcy and a day job too – music is just an outlet for me.  

Your music has some similarities to the space disco sound that Oslo has been known to delve in. How did you fall into disco and how did you come across it in Australia?
It was a combination of seeing great DJs playing at home (andee frost, andras, two bright lakes) and the Internet (beat electric, soulsides, PPU). It was a lot more “edit-ey” a couple of years ago, so its good its come back around to good songs and arrangements. I’m also just really into handclaps. 

How was the alias Harvey Sutherland born amongst all that?
You’ll have to ask me in person.

Ok I’ll hang on to that one, but can you tell us a bit more about the early part of your music career and how it morphed into the sound we have come to know as Harvey Sutherland?
I was playing keyboards in a few bands at home, before tinkering with my own production. I made lots of different stuff, instrumental hip-hop, sample-based ideas. Got a bit tired of that, and started playing live improvised dance music with a good friend as part of a music collective and label in Melbourne called ‘This Thing’. We threw some great parties and put out records, including my own ‘Low Altitude’ 7” and the first Harvey release on cassette. Some good friends in Melbourne supported both of those releases, and it eventually made it to the right ears. Now I’m here, I have no idea what I’m doing really.

Other people seem to think you do though. Someone described that sound as “Arthur Russell wearing John Oates’s moustache while making love to Cat Stevens circa Izitso”. How would you put it into words?
Nowhere near as amazing as any of those people.

You are five releases in now in a mere two year recording career and it looks to be constantly gathering momentum. How have working with the various labels like Voyage and MCDE affected you work?
I try not to make stuff with a specific label in mind; otherwise you end up falling into formulas and expectations. MCDE was a bit like that – I initially tried to make very club-oriented music because of the history of those Raw Cuts releases but then watched Danilo’s Dekmantel set from last year and thought “fuck it we’re going disco”.

Is it easier for you to fall in to disco than, say house for instance? 
I want to make records that sound and feel like my favourite records. Those records happen to be disco most of the time, so yes it’s quite natural to move in that direction.

You rely on a lot of analogue equipment in your setup. What are your favourite bits of kit at the moment and can you tell us how it influences your music?
Couldn’t live without the Rhodes. Most of my tunes start there, and you can get away with not being a very good piano player on it. It’s very forgiving; all the notes get all smudged together in a really nice way.

Are there any bits of kit that you’d like to use in the future that you’ve heard in another artist’s music recently?
Live drums, dry room, ribbon mics, space echo saturation. Jack J style. That guy is seriously inspirational. 

What bits of kit will be making their way over with you and what can our audience expect?
I’m borrowing various Junos on my travels, so I generally just choose a bunch of interesting patches and go from there. It’s quite improvised in the sense that I don’t really have set tracks, it just kinda flows in and out of different rhythms and melodies. Lots of live looping and probably a bit too much funky noodling.

Yes, I believe you do like to improvise in the live situation. I’ve seen a video of you performing and it adds a very human dimension to the electronic means you use. Is this idea behind preferring a live show rather than a DJ set?
I like making things really difficult for myself, so the live show is perfect for that. It’s more fun than DJing, because something could go catastrophically wrong at any moment and that’s a lot more interesting to watch as an audience member. If I’m lucky, there’ll be some happy accident and the set will take a different turn. It works better in intimate spaces, like “we’re all in this together”, and I think people really respond to that.

If you were to DJ however, what live recordings would be some personal picks for you?
I was hoping to DJ a little bit at Jaeger! I’ve heard its an amazing system and rotary, and I’ve been buying a few records on my travels. Maybe these ones: