Bon Harris is a founder member of the legendary Nitzer Ebb (NE). His new mikro:funk EP is his first solo work in nearly 20 years. In this short interview, he discusses the new recordings and his other creative ambitions.
The mikro:funk EP is your first solo material since your recordings under your Maven alias in the early 2000s. What was your motivation to release the EP at this time?
Bon Harris (BH): I have been working on mikro:funk for quite some time. I write music every day and noticed that I was coming up with several sketches that reminded me of 60s and 70s funk and soul – albeit in a kind of slightly mutated electronic way. The combination of modular synths and a classic funk/soul sound really appealed to me, so I took several outlines and developed them into fully realised songs. The project would have been finished much sooner had it not been for the COVID pandemic. As soon as I was able after the lockdowns, I got back into the project and finished it ready for release.
How would you describe the songs on the EP to a listener who may have been expecting music reminiscent of the classic NE sound?
BH: I describe the music as twenty-first-century electronic punk funk. I think you can recognise the roots of the NE sound there. In some ways, mikro:funk is kind of a bridge between the final sound of NE and our original influences from the funk and soul music we were listening to in our early teens. In other ways, mikro:funk is also a new departure, a project that gives me the freedom to explore musical styles that are close to my heart and a project that allows me to express an ever-increasing range of vocal styles.
mikro:funk’s songs discussed in detail
There is some incredibly funky drumming on the EP’s first single ‘TroubleManTime’. Did you place yourself back behind the drum kit for these recordings?
BH: No – I’m not that good behind a kit! I took a couple of approaches to drums on mikro:funk. One was a classic sample and chop method, the other was playing beats on an MPC in a time-honoured fashion. If I had the time and budget, I would have worked with Adrian Avila Cortes in Mexico City. He mixed the mikro:funk singles and is an incredible musician and producer. I aim to work closely with Adrian playing live drums on subsequent mikro:funk EPs.
My dream is to have the modular as the only electronic element in mikro:funk – the rest I would love to have live musicians and tour that as a band – live drums, full brass section, female backing vocals – the works!
‘The Southern System’ from the EP seems to refer to the shameful voter suppression legislation enacted in the US state of Georgia in March 2021. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this.
BH: ‘The Southern System’ does allude in part to the disgraceful practices in Georgia, but also to the stranglehold that religion has in general in the United States – and indeed the wider world. The US is much closer to a religious dictatorship than most of its citizens are comfortable admitting. The overturning of Roe v Wade is the latest in a series of utterly shameful backwards decisions directly manipulated by religious influence in government policy. If the Church wants to have that kind of say in US affairs – it should pay taxes like the rest of us.
Stellar supporting musicians and producers
Were you aware of the insanely gifted musicians who played and sang on the EP before the sessions or were they recommended to you?
BH: I was well aware of Katie Cole before I started the project. I had worked on some of her songs and we both have worked with Billy Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins – Katie still does tour with the Pumpkins. She is just incredible and a superb singer-songwriter in her own right.
The amazing brass section was recommended by Lester Trujillo. He is a production partner with Adrian Avila Cortes and has a studio down in Tapachula in Mexico. Lester knew those amazing players and recorded those sessions in his studio. It was a dream team of musicians, producers, and studios that helped me get mikro:funk off the ground. I am incredibly grateful to them all.
Please tell us a bit more about the animation aspect of the Bon Harris Arts project.
BH: Animation has always been a passion of mine. I took a break from music for a while suffering from music industry burnout. However, I wanted to continue being creative. Animation was a natural outlet that gave me a break from music production and the bullshit that goes with it. I immersed myself in that world and taught myself the basics. Eventually, I made my way back into music, but I still love to animate and, of course, it’s a very complementary medium to music. I have plans for some larger-scale projects that combine animation and music in some form of narrative theatrical performance setting. These things take time. I have plenty to do with NE, songs:from the lemon tree, mikro:funk, and various occasional collaborations. Watch this space because it’s still very much on the ‘to do’ list!
Thanks so much for your time Bon.
BH: My pleasure, sir!
On 20 October, Bon Harris plays at the Hot Box in his hometown of Chelmsford. The gig forms part of his rapturously received ‘songs:from the lemon tree’ shows. Support comes from his Nitzer Ebb bandmate David Gooday who is collaborating with David Arscott for this event. Delighted to say that yours truly will be spinning tunes on the night. Book your ticket here to avoid disappointment.
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