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Mick Harvey

Mick Harvey

Mick Harvey (b. Michael John Harvey 29 Aug. 1958) is an Australian multi-instrumentalist, best known for his 36 year collaboration with Nick Cave, with whom he formed The Boys Next Door (1976), The Birthday Party (1980) and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1983).

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After releasing three solo albums, Mick Harvey undertook his first solo tours of Europe and Australia in 2006, accompanied by fellow Bad Seeds: Thomas Wydler and James Johnston, along with Melbourne-based double-bassist Rosie Westbrook

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Mick Harvey is also respected for his collaborations with PJ Harvey, receiveing the 2011 Mercury Prize Best Album Award for co-producing PJ Harvey's Let England Shake.

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ClickZoomBytes got the chance to interview the artist, who is currently promoting the Four (Acts of Love) album, getting ready for his first Romanian gigs on April 17th (Bucharest, Silver Church Club) and April 18th (Cluj-Napoca, Flying Circus Pub).

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RiCo (@CZB.ro): How Bad were the Seeds?

Mick Harvey (multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, composer): At times, very bad, but mostly just in being injurious to their own health or personal stability. 

Really they are mostly lovely, caring people.

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RiCo (@CZB.ro): When was the last time you've been back to your hometown and where do you consider your hometown to be?

Mick Harvey: Well, I live again in Melbourne and have done so for many years. I spend probably 9 months of the year there and the other 3 months or so mostly in Europe - sometimes a week or so in some other exotic location. I was last in Melbourne in late February.

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CZB: Your father was a Church of England vicar; how did he get along with the idea of you dedicating your life to Rock'n'Roll? 

Mick Harvey: Neither of my parents were particularly pleased with my choice of career nor some of the people with whom I was connected - especially Nick (Cave). After 10 years or so they seemed to accept that I was surviving from it and that there was something worthwhile going on and that I was not thinking about going to university. Since then it has been fine.

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CZB: How did you get introduced to Bruce Clarke and (apart from guitar lessons) what was the most important thing you learned from him?

Mick Harvey: I learnt very little from him - how to hold a pick and that my fingers were not forming some of the chords properly. Beyond that I went back to being self taught after 6 or 7 lessons and returned to forming the chords the way I thought they should be fingered - with due respect to his advice, of course.

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CZB: How difficult was it, moving to London in 1980 and what kind of culture shock did you experience?

Mick Harvey: I enjoyed the move to London. It was mostly Nick (Cave), Rowland (Howard) and to some extent Tracy (Pew) who found it difficult to adjust. Ironically, Nick is the one living there now and has been for over a decade. Apart from the way many things were organized illogically and much of the city was dysfunctional I had a good time and found plenty of constructive things to do there. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect was the lack of ease of integrating with any kind of artistic community and the lack of cross-over between people in different artistic disciplines. That was something which was vey strong in Australia yet absent in England and we found that again in Berlin.

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CZB: Playing with New Wave bands in the early 80's, were you aware then that you were onto something new, which later would be considered Gothic Rock?

Mick Harvey: I think it was already being called Gothic Rock - there were already goths and I must say we’ve never been heavily embraced by the broader goth world, very much on the edges. We were on to something new with The Birthday Party, though, that’s for sure. That was a thoroughly unique band and we were never interested in being part of any definable movement or genre of music.

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CZB: What attracted you to West Berlin 30 years ago and why do you consider that some artists (such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop) would want to seek exile here during the Cold War era?

Mick Harvey: Well, I already explained one of the reasons that attracted us as artists. It was also a city which operated as a kind of stateless city which was fantastic for anyone who is not particularly interested in nationality or nationalist sentiments. Added to which it was a bizarre geographical setting and open all night which definitely suited my life style at the time.

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As for David Bowie and Iggy Pop, I should first say that I cannot speak for their motivations in being attracted to Berlin. Bowie’s may also have had something to do with a fascination for things Germanic but I don’t know. I know Iggy but I’ve never asked him about his Berlin years.

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CZB: Why do you consider that, generally, British music artists are obsessed about recording at least one French language song during their careers?

Mick Harvey: No idea, are they obsessed with that? I am not British and I’ve never noticed that.

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CZB: When did you first get the idea of translating Serge Gainsbourg songs into English (Intoxicated Man/Pink Elephants)? Did you get to meet and discuss this with Serge Gainsbourg before his death?

Mick Harvey: I first had the idea to try and translate his lyrics into English in 1994, so I never met him and we never discussed it. He died in 1991.

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CZB: When did you first realize that you would like to release albums on your own and why did you wait until your third solo album (One Man's Treasure, 2005) to promote the first fully original songs?

Mick Harvey: It was simply a matter of not being ready. I always had so many other projects to work on and I didn’t have a strong idea of what I wanted to present of my own. I was waiting  for the right idea to come along. The Gainsbourg albums were, I guess, in hindsight a kind of bridge out of not doing solo albums. For me One Man’s Treasure is my first solo album - the first of four. The Gainsbourg albums don’t feel like solo albums - they were more like a one-off project from which I have held a kind of aloof distance.

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CZB: We are living in a fast-paced society. Why did you feel the need to start a retro rock band such as Wallbangers …instead of maybe trying to experiment with overlaying synthetic beats?

Mick Harvey: I didn’t “start a retro rock band”, it was just a short recording project for fun, and I have no interest in “overlaying synthetic beats” on anything I might record as if THAT is something modern. I must say, I find this question more than a little silly.

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CZB: Are you looking forward to your first Romanian gigs and what other countries have you promoted your music in for the first time, promoting Four (Acts of Love)? 

Mick Harvey: Yes, I’m really looking forward to visiting Romania for the first time. I have played in a few countries for the first time solo since releasing FOUR (Acts of Love) - Portugal, New Zealand (yes!) but in loads of countries for the first time since Sketches from the Book of the Dead came out just 3 years ago including Norway, Sweden, Croatia, Serbia….. it keeps things quite fresh for me, actually.

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www.facebook.com/mickharvey4ever

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www.mickharvey.com

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www.thebirthdayparty.com.au

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Hank Williams Said It Best


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Solo albums

  • Intoxicated Man (1995) 
  • Pink Elephants (1997) 
  • One Man's Treasure (2005) 
  • Two of Diamonds (2007) 
  • Three Sisters - Live at Bush Hall (2008) 
  • Sketches From the Book of the Dead (2011) 
  • Four (Acts of Love) (2013) 

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Intoxicated Man (1995) and Pink Elephants (1997) are Mick Harvey's interpretations of the songs of the legendary French singer, songwriter and poet Serge Gainsbourg and are the first major works translating Gainsbourg's infuential work from French to English. The double CD collection will include two unreleased tracks, Dr Jeckyll and Run From Happiness.

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Mick Harvey - Intoxicated Man (A Short Film By Don Letts)



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Mick Harvey's reissued double CD collection of his two Serge Gainsbourg albums, Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants, are now OUT on Mute (release on May 6 in the US). 


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