Harts is a one-chair symphony of psychedelic sounds. Darren Harts started his career producing tunes for the internet, and playing every instrument for every song. These days, he still plays every instrument for every song, and jams with his mate Prince.
We caught up with him during the CMJ festival and got his words about the tricky balance of improvisational jamming, the burgeoning office music scene, and of course, his relationship with the man behind Purple Rain.
Hey Darren, whats up man?
Not much man how are you?
Very well. What are you doing in New York?
I’m here for the CMJ Music Marathon. It’s crazy. I’ve got a show on Friday and I’ve got the Aussie Barbecue show on Saturday. Looking forward to it.
How do you like Nolita, this part of town?
I was just saying to my brother walking through here, ‘this is very Melbourne. It’s cool.’
There seems to be a big Aussie presence at CMJ this year. How has that been?
Man, there’s so many bands and particularly Australian bands-I think this year is the biggest Australian line up they’ve had. The Aussie Barbecue is ridiculous. Like midday to four AM, two stages, and like fifty bands on all day.
Sounds like a decent time. Tell me about yourself-when did you start playing music?
When I was about fifteen or sixteen I started playing drums in a garage rock band. I started picking up other instruments and guitar, keyboard, and all that kind of stuff because I wanted to play something more melodic.
When did Harts come to be?
About six years ago. It was an outlet for me to work as a solo artist because I played all the instruments and did all the recording and production from my bedroom studio. I put my music on the internet and after a while, it really started to gain attention. I’ve just been building ever since.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard you before?
As I said, I play all the instruments myself so it’s kind of a solo project. I play the drums, bass, guitar, vocals, write all the songs. It’s a mix of funk and rock a lot of elements from blues, psychedelic rock. It’s really a melting pot, a blend of what I really like about music. A lot of old soul and hip hop elements as well. It’s a unique hybrid that I’ve created.
How does that work on stage?
I have a drummer with me that really helps get things up a little bit. I use a lot of technology like sequences and samplers to help recreate the songs live.
That sounds difficult. Does that increase the chances something could go wrong?
There’re a lot of situations where you could potentially make something go very wrong, but that’s what you practice for. That’s what you rehearse for, those moments of straight up improvisation on stage.
Can you go on about those improvisational moments a bit?
They’re a double edged sword, because they can go really bad or really well. There is structure to the songs, but there’s also elements that we can really show off. I never really play the same guitar solo twice kind of thing. Every show is a unique thing.
Did you grow up in a musical house?
My parents aren’t musicians, but they were very into music. I kind of had a really diverse musical upbringing, but no one really played music. I was the first one to really play it.
Did you have any favorite bands in particular?
My dad has a very eclectic record collection from growing up as kids, he was playing everything from classic rock to jazz to funk to R&B. I remember being really fond of Queen early on. We used to listen to Queen’s Greatest Hits all the around the house. That was a big thing, Listening to that. That was probably the first artist I actually attached too.
Do you think about music in relation to Australia?
Not really. I didn’t really know of any Australian bands that I was into, a part from the big names that you hear about that broke internationally – ACDC – massive bands like that. I didn’t really know what was Australian and what wasn’t. I didn’t differentiate, so I didn’t really have many Australian influences or idols. There is music coming around from Australia that I really dig now, like Tame Impala, Hiatus Kaiyote.
Do you think Australia’s isolation has affected your music or, more broadly, do you think Australia has a sound that’s different because we’re not in the States?
I don’t really know. Often when I work and I’m recording or writing, I’m in my own bubble, so I don’t really listen to what’s going on, so I can’t really comment on that.
Do you think that your isolated writing process affects the sound of your music?
I get a lot of positive feedback from people saying that I don’t sound like anything they’ve ever heard before. I think that really comes from the fact that I’m not really a part of what’s going on. To be honest, that’s what has been working for me.
You and Prince have a relationship. Can you tell us about that? It’s Prince, after all…
Well, Prince discovered some of my stuff on YouTube and got in contact with me last year. His management reached out to me directly and said I ‘represent blah blah,’ and I thought it was a scam. You don’t think that something like that would happen. As I kept emailing back and forth with this person, I started to realize, more and more, that it was legit. Then one day they Prince gave me a call out of the blue. He introduced himself, talked a lot about the music industry and what he’s doing, then we just got to know each other on the phone. A couple of weeks after that he flew me out to the states to Minneapolis and I got to jam and play with him that was a really life changing experience.
Let’s go back to that phone call. How’d he introduce himself to you?
As Prince. He said hey this is Prince. That was the first time I ever felt star struck, as in lost for words star struck, but I didn’t feel it when I met him because he was so down to earth and cool.
Does he have a label? Is there a way that you can work with him?
He does have a label, MPG Records, there’s ways that I can work with him, but I really kind of want to be independent I really wanted to do it for myself kind of thing and he really respected that. That I wanted to almost do that grind and be able to say that I made it on my own. He did help me out behind the scenes though.
What’s your favorite Prince track?
That’s a hard one it will change day by day. I kind of always go for the Sign of the Times because it’s just I really like that song. Strange Relationship that’s another good song. I don’t know. It changes all the time. I dig so much of his work in so many different ways.
Thanks, Darren. Take it easy.