Our interview with Harrison

Ava Muir interviews Harrison at Toronto's Time Festival, debut album 'Checkpoint Titanium' out 9/9 on Last Gang Records
Photo courtesy of Last Gang

Toronto born, bred, and based producer, Harrison, is poised to drop his first full-length album Checkpoint Titanium on September 9 through Last Gang Records, one of the city’s finest independent labels. Upon meeting with the 21-year-old following his afternoon performance at Time Festival, his personal disappointment about the set didn’t cloud the genuine warmth and earnestness that he so naturally exuded. While Kirk Knight and Nyck Caution pounded away on the OverTime stage, Northern Transmissions sat cross-legged with Harrison on a grassy patch of the Fort York grounds to talk about the amazing team of people behind him, his hilariously real Twitter account, and why he will never stop collaborating. Come celebrate the release of Checkpoint Titanium with Harrison and many special guests on Friday September 30 at Toronto’s Velvet Underground.

Northern Transmissions: How did you like playing a festival setting in Toronto?

Harrison: Oh, I love it. I feel super confident with DJing now so it’s fun. I actually like playing for people now. When I’m not prepared, which I feel like I used to not be – my computer is so wonky, it would cut out mid song. That’s my worst nightmare, and it happened several times. So now, I’m confident. I love playing festivals and stuff. I love watching people enjoy themselves, and I especially love – I don’t like bros, but I like how people are so energetic at festivals. Toronto has an issue with energy, but not at festivals. People looked like they were enjoying themselves. I said “hi” and people said “hi.” That’s enough for me.

NT: What do you mean about the energy in Toronto? Not as great as you’d like it to be?

H: Just compared to Montreal, who has an energy. I say it all the time but I mean, I’m a part of the problem too. I don’t give off energy, you know? It’s just nice at festivals because people really love these.

NT: I don’t really like the whole coming to festivals, just to get fucked up.

H: No, that’s not my thing.

NT: Not my thing either. So, your album Checkpoint Titanium. This will be your first full-length, correct?

H: Yeah, I mean, first official release. First official album with a label. There’s a lot behind it. I think it’s good.

NT: Are you excited?

H: I’m very excited. I just hope people like it.

NT: Of course. You’ve already collaborated with amazing artists, you’re known for that. I think you’ve established a pretty good name for yourself already, and as a good person too. I’ve only ever heard that you’re a cool guy who’s super funny and really nice.

H: I hope! I hope it’s not “Oh, Harrison? He’s an awful person.”

NT: No way! You’ve signed to Last Gang for this album.

H: Yeah, Last Gang.

NT: How has it been with them?

H: They’re the best. I love Last Gang so much. James over there, he’s the best A&R guy and the biggest fan which makes him just the best person. He cares so much about artists, it’s insane. I’ve never seen someone so selfless. I’ve heard so many horror stories about labels and stuff, but I haven’t experienced any of that.

NT: You have a pretty cool manager, too.

H: Oh yeah, Justin. Justin’s the guy.

NT: That’s pretty cool. I guess he got into that after or during Broken Social Scene stuff?

H: Yeah, it was so random. I never thought he’d be my manager. When we first met, he would actually party and stuff. He’s not really much of a partier anymore but we can go out, have fun, drink a bit. I do maybe 5% of the work and he’s the other 95. He make it so that I can just make music, which is so cool. Like what?!

NT: That’s so awesome. Everything else, he takes care of?

H: Yeah! I’m so happy with that. I’m so blessed.

NT: I know it’s obviously pretty different styles of music, but does Justin influence you in any way?

H: Totally. He’s really honest, so I can show him music honestly. He’ll give me an honest opinion. He’ll be like “This is shit,” if it’s bad.

NT: I loved when you retweeted the Pitchfork live stream of Broken Social Scene and were like “That’s my dad on the drums!”

H: Oh yeah! *laughs* Well, that’s our relationship. We’re very older brother or even dad. He actually just wants me to be happy and stuff.

NT: Such a genuine relationship. What are your plans with the new album coming out in September? Are you going to be touring a lot? What do you want to do?

H: I don’t know, actually. I want to go play a bunch of shows and all that stuff, but I guess we’re going to have to wait and see what happens. It depends if it’s received well and all that. But I guess I have to promote it with shows and stuff.

NT: Yes!

H: That stuff is just an anxiety attack in a can, the whole thing.

NT: Really? Like performing itself makes you anxious?

H: Performing, not so much. But thinking about how to perform my own music – so much anxiety behind that. I didn’t play enough of my own music when I just played (his set at Time Festival.) I’m pissed about that set. I’m very pissed. But I’ll be fine, I’ll survive. People liked it.

NT: No one else notices what you notice. Through all of your collaborations with artists like Ryan Hemsworth, Young Guv, Clairmont The Second – what’s your favourite part about collaborating? What keeps you coming back to find more people to do it with?

H: I think I really know the people I want to collaborate with, like Young Guv. I like collaborating with people who don’t do the same thing as me. Clairmont and I do two different things, and Young Guv and I do two different things. It’s just fun having that contrast and seeing what comes out of it.

NT: Absolutely. I know you and Skylar Spence are friends, have you ever collaborated with him?

H: Yes we did, once. It’s very low key.

NT: He’s a sweetheart.

H: He’s a God, I love him.

NT: Your Twitter is hilarious. There’s one tweet about your dad with the screenshot of him replying with proper punctuation that is literally my dad, to a tee.

H: Isn’t it fucked?

NT: I don’t like it. It makes me nervous.

H: My mom just learned to text too and I’m like, what’s going on?

NT: Your most recent video was shot with the assistance of MuchFACT. Do you think it’s important to use those kinds of resources?

H: Oh fuck yeah. Holy shit, yes. People just don’t know enough about them. There’s people who will give you money to do your shit. *laughs*

NT: Absolutely. I’m sure you’re involved with organizations like FACTOR and SOCAN, as well.

H: Yeah, all that stuff. You can do it! You just have to research and really, really be good at writing. That’s all. They help a lot.

NT: They’re essential, yet so many Canadians don’t know about it. It’s so unfortunate because you could literally be getting free money just to help you do what you want to do.

H: Exactly. That’s what it is.

NT: What is your favourite venue in Toronto?

H: I really like Bambi’s. It’s not even a venue. They have two CDJ’s and it’s just really chill down there. Actually no, I take that back. Not Bambi’s. I used to like Double Double Land a lot. That was a dancing spot. That place was cool.

NT: You’re from Toronto, but you mentioned earlier about your love for the energy in Montreal. What’s your relationship with the city?

H: I just like Montreal because they love dancing. They go out to dance, that’s what they do. I could be playing fart noises and they’d still dance. That makes me want to enjoy myself more. Today I was nervous, for some reason. I don’t know. It fucked up my whole shit, but I’m never nervous in Montreal. I’m actually very excited every time I go to Montreal. It’s just the best energy.

NT: Wasn’t there where you played with Skylar (Spence) recently?

H: Yeah, Montreal. That was awesome.

NT: Who else are you looking forward to seeing today? Are you sticking around?

H: I want to see K.I.D. and then Joey Bada$$. But I missed K.I.D. Fuck. So I guess I’ll see Jacques Greene. I just want to make sure everyone’s happy. My brother is here and a few friends, so I’ll see them.

By Ava Muir