Welcome the first part of our interview series Thenewno2! For those of you who do not know of Thenewno2, they a favorite on BeatCrave. The band is comprised of childhood friends Oli Hecks and Dhani Harrison. Their sound is a mixture of rock and electro mix with, as Dhani describes it, “sweet” vocals. We have actually done a couple of interviews with them already, but what can we say, other then they like to talk a lot! This time around, we thought we might switch it up a bit starting off with our in-depth written interview to be followed by a series of video interviews.
They were kind enough to talk, at length, about their start as a band, what it was like recording their album, You Are Here, playing at Coachella, and all sorts of other fun stuff. Obviously, I am not going to tell you everything that is in the interview, because that will just ruin the surprise!
Check out what they had to say…
How did you and Oli meet and eventually form the band?
DH: We played a lot of music together and rode our motorbikes in the countryside. Then we started playing music together when were about 15 and we never found anyone else to play with, because we lived in the middle of nowhere. We joked that we kind of sounded like the White Stripes. That was not really a band. That was just fun.
OH: We met through a mutual best friend. And we have known each other through a group of friends since we were like 14 or 15. Yeah, a long time. We started jamming and stuff like that and I think forming the friendship through that, as well as being friends before, helped it probably for now. It helped the whole process of doing an album together. We do have arguments, but because we are good friends, it is like arguing with a brother or sister. So I think it does help that we have been friends for that amount of time.
Did you have a certain direction or idea you wanted to take the album?
DH: I started off with a few demos and Oli had a few demos. When I was working on them there was a clear laptop sound that we were doing. Once I saw that happening, I took all of Oli’s songs and put them into the same format. I went back to England to engineer it. After I sort of got all our ducks in a row, it became clear what we had. Oli came out and we recorded some stuff, and I stayed with Paul Hicks and kind of produced the whole thing from an album point of view. We worked on the consistency of the sound. I could see a lot of the stuff in similar tempos and similar keys, and I kind of saw it as a sort of sweet music. When I heard them all together, whilst Oli was away, I was sitting in England and listening to all the tracks, and I was like “Thank God! They sound the same.”
OH: I think we thought that the direction would be. We were interested in making a blend of the music that we liked. Then we kind of honed that down to it having an organic sound of pianos, drums, guitar, bass, organs and then combining it with the electronic stuff that we were into as well. It is all of those kinds of sounds combined with rock and roll like Led Zeppelin. Before this album we had an album, there were a whole bunch of songs like 15 songs, and we sort of called it an album, but it was a lot of different styles. I think after that we found a better way to combine all of the sounds. I think we always wanted to get the sound that we have now, but I think it will evolve soon.
Do you find the locations of England versus Los Angeles affects your music?
DH: Yeah, for me it is easier to get what we want done quickly in LA. If I am going to have to commit to something that is like my record, I am going to have to go away into the countryside for a long time to kind of freak out by myself, lose my mind, get it back and then make the record. I have made a lot of records in LA, but I have never made one of my own records here. A lot of the stuff Oli and I made was made here, but I think we were still in the England mindset. Whereas now, if I made a record here, I don’t know what would happen. I am hoping to make a record out of this building within the next couple of months and see what happens.
OH: I don’t know if that really affects me. I don’t know if a certain place is the key factor. I think you just have to be somewhere and feel comfortable. I think it is more about what I am feeling at the time, but I guess the place does affect that. I think if you do spend a lot of time in England, certain music does come out of there because of the way it looks. I think it has a lot to do with the weather and the climate, because of the fact that it is constantly grey and rainy. That is why you get stuff like punk and trip hop coming out. I can’t imagine that coming out of LA. I think of that stuff while I’m writing even if I am in LA. It is all kind of jumbled up. LA is definitely happier, so maybe I will write happy music.
Did you face any unanticipated challenges while promoting your band?
DH: The hardest thing I have always faced is the constant comparison to my dad. I have dealt with that my whole life, so that is kind of old news. Doing everything ourselves has been hard, but it has been more rewarding because you retain control over everything. I think the hardest problem is getting the bigger fish in the music world to take me seriously because I am not into selling out on my dad’s name. That immediately provides a problem for them because they can’t see how to sell me. The record is quite a stony, headphone record. They would either instantly think, “Okay, I am going to listen to this late at night by myself” or they think, “Well, I’m not really sure what you are trying to do with this”.
Did you think of recording the album under a different name to avoid comparisons to your father?
DH: Yeah, well that’s why we did it with the name Thenewno2. It gives us one level of protection, but that got busted pretty quickly.
Are there any bands you would like to work with?
DH: I would give anything to work with Tricky. I love Tricky; he is just raw. There is another guy I want to work with named Amon Tobin. He is an amazing producer, writer, director, and editor. He doesn’t have a band or anything, he is just a solo artist. He does electronic, ambient, dance sort of thing. He did the soundtrack for Splinter Cell, the video game. He is one of the first people to score a soundtrack all the way through for a video game. I would love to work with Queens of the Stone Age. Josh Homme plays notes that no one else plays. He has such a sweet voice. I think he is one of the most amazing producers.
OH: We would love to do a tour with someone like Radiohead, but I don’t know whether they would have us. Their music is great. I would be really interested to see how they get a lot of the sounds in the studio and how it works. I think someone like Beck would be interesting to see how he works. Then probably a couple producers or people to get remixes done by and see how that works. We saw The Prodigy last night. Yeah, just people like that; it would be really fun. I don’t know if they would have it, but we can only hope.
You played Coachella this year, what was that experience like?
DH: Brilliant, lots of fun. It is a rough place to have a festival. It can be the middle of August at the Reading Festival, but you don’t feel like you are going to die from dehydration.
OH: That was great, really fun. We used to go to Reading Festival, in England, all the time. I have always wanted to play an outdoor sort of thing. I always thought it would be cool to play to a shitload of people and just rocking out, while the sun is going down. Well, that isn’t exactly what happened at Coachella, but the whole vibe of the festival is everyone is there to enjoy music. It ended up being quite a few people, which was cool. I remember peeking through the curtain, just as we arrived backstage to get our stuff ready, and it had thinned out a lot, and I thought there weren’t going to be that many people. I didn’t look out until we walked on, and I was like “Whoa!” There were a lot of people. It was really fun; we had a decent show, too.
Do you get nervous before gigs? If so, what do you do?
DH: Yeah, I get really nervous. I just completely ignore any form of nervousness, whatsoever. I just block it out and drink beer.
You released your album on SanDiscs?
DH: We released the iTunes first then we released the SanDisc music campaign with a few extra tracks. The SanDisc music campaign failed, but we love the technology.
OH: At the time, we just put it out digitally. We found out they were doing this new way of putting out music on these tiny chips. I think we saw it as something that, even if it didn’t work, it would be a good experiment and to be involved with. If it did work, then it would be great to be part of the next launch. We really had nothing to lose, because in order to release the album, it was another way to put it out.
How are you utilizing technology into promoting your music and band? Do you have any new innovative plans?
DH: As soon as you have an idea with technology, you have to do it immediately otherwise it is done. I am really looking forward to see how the world receives this Beatles Rock Band game. That is a good indication of how the market is going to go in terms of music delivery systems. Before we released our music on iTunes, we actually two tracks on Rock Band. So we kind started with the video games, then we went to iTunes, then we went to SanDisc. I would really like to work more with Thenewno2 and video games.
OH: Since we have done the record. The stuff we have done ourselves through Myspace, word of mouth through Myspace, and Facebook and whatever it is on the Internet has been a big tool. I think anyone that denies that now is an idiot. It is the major forthcoming promotion tool. I think without that it would have been pretty hard to let people know we exist, really. Unless you have a deal and are paying for promotion, like a marketing package, it is really hard to get people to know you are there, unless you just tour around the country constantly. I think Myspace is great because you can create a little buzz.
There is all this technology to distribute music, what medium do you like the best?
DH: Video Games. I have heard a lot of new bands because I played them on Rock Band. You can get a free track through Rock Band.
OH: Myspace if is good if someone goes, “Have you heard of this band?” and then you can instantly see them on Myspace. I don’t know if I actually go scope stuff, because there is so much stuff, but it is great for finding music.
Both of you have different backgrounds, and you both have other artistic endeavors. Can you tell us about them?
DH: Well, Oli does film and I do design. I do more like industrial and product design. We are both photographers.
OH: We both do graphics design. I do editing, camerawork, a bit of web design, and photography. All that stuff.
Do you view this band as a phase in your life and you will eventually move onto other endeavors, or is it here to stay?
DH: I think we will always do all of it. I would like to play as much music with my band for as long as possible, do as much as I can, and play with many different people. I hope to do whatever I want for as long as I can.
OH: I would always do all of it. Yeah, I would do both. I think once the project starts getting a little bit bigger we will start incorporating the visuals side a lot more. I think we will definitely keep pursing music. I have been doing a lot of editing for works, as well as the band. I have always been interested in that since I was a kid, like 13. Actually the friend I met Danny through, he and I would make little videos. I have always been interested in doing that and I would like to do that as well as the music. I think I will always do that. Even if the music got really big, I think I would probably end up doing that more because of the opportunities you can get through the music. I think the two would go hand in hand.
Would you ever want to direct a film?
OH: Yeah, I think so. Eventually. You gotta work your way up to that. That is actually what I thought I was going to be growing up. It is still something I would like to do, but I do enjoy the camera side. I think if I had to choose out of all that stuff, I like the idea of being a cinematographer. I have been really interested in the visual side. I would be happy with either one.
The band has such a loyal fan base, how do you manage fan mail and contact with the fans?
OH: I think most of it comes through Myspace, but that has increased and now it is getting difficult to answer it. When we directly contacting fans through Stickam where we can chat; they can see us and we can see them. That is a good, direct way to do it. I think whenever we can, we write back through Myspace. Obviously there is a lot, but that is what I like about it is because you can have that contact. If you have that interaction with fans, then they become really loyal.
DH: I find it really hard because once you send them an e-mail, they send you another one. Then if you answer it, you have to send another one. Then you are constantly sending e-mails.
Do you have any interesting stories about the fans?
DH: I flew on stage with a broom one time, like a witch, and the next day there was a Myspace page for the broom. It looked like Wilson from Cast Away. He was getting bigger than us; way too famous.
OH: I dared him to fly on stage like a witch. We broadcasted the show live on Stickam. You can chat with the fans, in the chat room before and after the show, and so we showed the broom on in the chat room. The fans were like, “Who is that?” Then someone said Wilson. We have kind of killed of Wilson the broom now.
Which would you rather see: Terminator, Wolverine, or Star Trek?
DH: I would rather see Transformers and have it be amazing, but unfortunately it is directed by Michael Bay. I don’t know, if I had to side with one, I guess Transformers because Megan Fox is in it. If we can imagine every film in the world sucks, stick in Megan Fox sweating next to a robot.
OH: Terminator! No. I want to see all those because I like all those big movies. When I go to the Dome, I want to see a big, huge movie; so, I will probably see all those. I saw Star Trek, which was fun. I’m not really a huge Trekkie, but I like the way Spock was in it. I thought it was pretty cool; they did a really good job.
What is your favorite T.V. show?
DH: South Park is my favorite show. It is the best thing in the entire world. It is pretty much the most intellectual show. I remember when it first came out I didn’t even like it. I don’t know how I didn’t like it when it first came out.
OH: I’m a huge fan of South Park. There are plenty more, but I can’t remember any of them now.
One album to erase from memory to listen to the first time again, what album would it be?
DH: I could give you three from different genres because I don’t think I can narrow it down. First, would be Mozart’s Requiem. That would be one of the things in the classical world that I would love to hear again for the first time. On a massive stereo, that would be incredible. For rock and roll, as much as I would like to say Sgt. Pepper, I have to say Magical Mystery Tour because that has “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I am the Walrus” on it. In terms of a modern contemporary band, the only album I would want to hear again would be Hail to the Thief. If I never heard it now, and I had never heard it before, it would still be my favorite album. I think Hail to the Theif would be my number one choice.
OH: I really got into Thom Yorke’s, Eraser. I haven’t listened to it for a while. I remember listening to it for the first time on headphones. I wanted to hear it because I knew it was going to be cool sounding, and I just sat there and listened to the whole thing. I think they had released two great albums and I wondered how he was going to match it, and he totally did. If not that one, then maybe a Led Zeppelin album; even a Bob Dylan album, maybe Blonde on Blonde. If you could erase that and listen to it again, that would be pretty cool.
Be sure to check back for our video interviews coming up soon with Dhani and Oli! Here is a little sneak peek…