interview with Jamiroquai guitarist Rob Harris

  ROB HARRIS - Rock the floor tonight!

Since 'A Funk Odyssey' (released in 2001), a new sound was brought to the band thanks to Rob Harris. He first heard about the vacant position after the 'Synkronized Tour' finished. Simon Katz, the previous guitarist, had left the band once the tour was complete. The audition went well and Rob was asked back a second time, in April 2000, to perform in front of Jay Kay and the other five members of the band. Rob's demo went great and he was invited to join the band.

Now not only was he part of Jamiroquai: he also co-wrote five of the songs included on 'A Funk Odyssey', his first album with the band. Both loved and hated by the fans, a harder sound was featured in the album, mainly in songs like 'Stop Don't Panic' and 'Twenty Zero One', and in live performances, this trend was most recognizable in tracks like 'Deeper Underground' and 'High Times', two highpoints in the band's performances. Rob continued to tour with the band to promote the album until 'The Midnight Sun Tour' in 2003.

After two years of writing and recording, Jamiroquai are back with 'Dynamite', where Rob receives seven co-writing credits along with front man Jay Kay and keyboardist Matt Johnson. The fans are enjoying and appreciating the guitar contributions from Rob Harris more and more and more, especially in 'Black Devil Car': one of the most celebrated songs on the whole album.

Now that it seems that Rob Harris found his place in the Jamiroquai world with his beautiful acoustic live performances with Jay on TV, his brand new 'Tour Diary' section on the Official Site for which the fans are so grateful, the explosive funk rock on stage and his amazing guitar performances on the band's sixth album, definitely one of their best works to date!

Coupled with this great album & the current single 'Seven Days In Sunny June' they seem unstoppable! Jamiroquai are back!!!

Following in the footsteps of keyboardist Matt Johnson and percussionist Sola Akingbola, Rob Harris gives us an exclusive interview for Jamirotalk.net, where he talks about everything you are ever likely to want to know!

Jamiroquai guitarist Rob Harris on stage
Rob, Clapham Common, B-Live!, 3 July 2005

ROB HARRIS - Born 27 August 1971

  • He first appeared on the Cambridge scene at the age of fourteen.
  • In his early 20s, he broke into the London music world, turning up at local jam sessions and earning a name for himself.
  • His first breakthrough came when he hooked up with Tubeway Army star & 1980’ies electronica legend Gary Numan eight years ago for a UK tour.
  • After a long spell with the former Take That singer Mark Owen, he heard Jamiroquai were on the lookout for a guitarist and put himself forward.
  • Rob has recorded 2 albums with Jamiroquai. (Hopefully there will be many more!)

 

JamiroTalk.net:   At what moments, if at all, do you listen to Jamiroquai?
Rob:   I listen quite often during our rehearsal periods to the earlier Jamiroquai tracks that I wasn't involved in. It's good to remind myself what went on before I was around and freshen up on things. I didn't listen to Dynamite for a while after we'd finished it, I needed to give it some space and perspective as if I weren't involved in the making of it. Its also really nice to hear the tunes played out in situations like in a bar or club. Then you can see the effect the songs have on other people.
JamiroTalk.net:   Although you haven't been involved with all the Jamiroquai albums, which do you like the most and why?
Rob:   I had all of the bands albums before I was involved with them. I used to teach guitar around the time of EOPE and I remember that i had to learn quite a few of the songs for some of my students so I knew that album back to front. The composition and playing on all of the albums have always been of a high standard so there are elements on each album that I enjoy. Songs like Half The Man, Virtual, Stillness are great tracks that I will always listen too.
JamiroTalk.net:   Which place have you liked most while touring? Why?
Rob:   I had a great time playing in Australia. The shows were amazing and we were received well by the audiences there. The Sydney Opera House gig,.....I still get goose bumps when ever I see The Opera House on TV.
JamiroTalk.net:   Do you do any rituals before the shows?
Rob:   I try to spend around 30-40 minutes warming up my fingers doing a series of picking exercises. Sometimes I don't get a chance to do them and I can really feel it during a gig when I've missed them. I usually try to tell the rest of the guys the same jokes they heard from me the day before too, just to get on their nerves.
JamiroTalk.net:   What is your life philosophy or motto?
Rob:   "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life"
JamiroTalk.net:   What inspires you to write songs?
Rob:   The best songs in my opinion seem to just happen. They kind of fall out of you. The easier they come, the better the song is. When we're in a writing session we can play around for hours and hours and nothing's happening, then all of a sudden you get 3 good ideas in the space of 20 minutes. Its a great feeling when you get to that point so I guess searching for that excitement is what inspires me to write a song.
JamiroTalk.net:   Can music fill your life as much as love does?
Rob:   I know which I'd rather have if I had to choose but I'm lucky to have both.
    
   About the 'Dynamite' album and tour:
JamiroTalk.net:   The production of this album was by Mike Spencer. How was it working with him? Are there any planned projects with him in the future?
Rob:   Mike is a very talented guy. I played on various tracks he'd produced for Beverly Knight, Kylie Minogue and others so I've known him for quite some time. He knows how to get the best out of you for a recording and I think he did a fantastic job on Dynamite. I hope to work with him again soon.
JamiroTalk.net:   Did you record the songs Cannabliss, Funk Odyssey and/or Shoot The Moon in the studio? If so, is there any special reason why they didn't make it onto the album?
Rob:   I think there's a recording of Cannabliss from the AFO sessions but it was never completed. We never recorded Funk Odyssey or Shoot The Moon. In fact we only ever performed Shoot The Moon twice. I haven't heard it since we played it in Montreux. It just never came up again so its funny to us when we hear people shouting it out during shows.
JamiroTalk.net:   Do you have any idea if there will be some b-side songs released on future singles from the album?
Rob:   I have no idea........
JamiroTalk.net:   If you could decide, which songs from the album would you like to see released as singles?
Rob:   I would have ....Starchild, Hot Tequila Brown, Don't Give Hate A Chance and maybe Black Devil Car - not in that particular order.
JamiroTalk.net:   Most fans agree that 'Talullah' has the feel of the early Jamiroquai albums. While writing the song, did you have in mind to keep 'old fans' happy?
Rob:  
Jamiroquai guitarist Rob Harris on stage
photo: David Rowe

I personally didn't think of that when we were recording it but I can see the similarities. Talullah actually began life as a latin style tune similar to Corner Of The Earth during the AFO period. It was worked on again during our stint in Los Angeles during the Dynamite sessions.

The strings where recorded purely to a rough sequenced drum pattern and me playing an acoustic guitar. It was then that Jay had the idea to put another drum machine groove on it and flesh it out with Matt (rhodes), Randy Hope Taylor (bass) and myself on electric guitar.

JamiroTalk.net:  
You've written most of the tracks with Matt. What are your opinions on him as a song writer and in what ways were things different to they were with Toby Smith?
Rob:   Matt's a fantastic musician, he really knows his stuff. Writing with him is good, no ego involved. If something's not working he'll say and i'll accept it and vice versa. I can't really compare it to working with Toby because I didn't write that many tunes with him on AFO. We kind of worked on tunes separately with Jay whereas now its a little team where the 3 of us would all sit in a room together working on songs.
JamiroTalk.net:   Jay has said that before writing 'Hot Tequila Brown' he was really into cocaine and that song is actually about that. What did you feel back then about the situation? Were you concerned about the album & that it may never have made it to being released?
Rob:   All I'll say on this matter is that I'm glad when anyone can put that particular thing behind them.
JamiroTalk.net:   The live sets for this new tour are recognizably longer, which is a great thing! There have been around 20 songs or more in some of the last concerts. How was this decision made and how do you prepare for such long performances?
Rob:   I think the reason we've been doing longer sets is because there are now so many tunes to choose from from the Jamiroquai song list. We have shortened it a bit recently though, when you're gonna be on the road for a long time you need to pace yourself. The shows can be quite tiring.
JamiroTalk.net:   How is work with brand new bassist Paul Turner going?
Rob:   Paul is doing a fine job. He plays great and he's a good chap to have around. Very funny too.
JamiroTalk.net:   Nathan Haines played during the B-Live concert. Was he just a 'special guest' or is he likely to feature in any future live shows?
Rob:   As far as I know there's nothing planned as yet. He just came along to play at the Clapham show.
JamiroTalk.net:   What is your favorite track on Dynamite to listen to & which to perform live? Why?
Rob:   I like to hear Don't Give hate A Chance. Its been a favorite of mine all along maybe due to the sentiment of the song. Live, I like playing Time Won't Wait which we've just added to the set.
    
   About Jamiroquai & its music:
JamiroTalk.net:   How is your relationship with the other band members/ex-bandmembers?
Rob:   They hate my guts.....Not really. We get on great. To hang around with the same people 24/7 on the bus, backstage, onstage, in hotels, at airports for weeks and months and years you have to get on, otherwise it just won't work. We all have a laugh and a chat but we also know when to get our own space when we need it.

JamiroTalk.net:   What are your thoughts on how Jamiroquai have evolved musically if we compare the more recent albums with the first ones?
Rob:  
Jamiroquai guitarist Rob Harris on stage
photo: David Rowe

The sound of a band has to grow. Even if Stuart, Toby, Wallis, Simon, Darren were still around the sound would've still changed in my opinion. I don't know how it would've changed, maybe it would be the same as what it is now. Records are made very differently from how they were made back then.

There's different technology, new sounds to be had etc. Also, people grow musically over the years, getting new influences from other places. As i listen through all of the Jamiroquai albums people have come and gone but its still a definite Jamiroquai sound. Jay strives to move forward with this music, always looking for new things to do. If he ever feels he's repeating himself too much he seems to know how to give it a little twist so we end up with something new.

JamiroTalk.net:  
News reports say that Sony want to release a Greatest Hits album for the next one. Are there any songs/plans/ideas for that event having in mind that Jamiroquai have been in the main stay for over 12 years now? Maybe a DVD containing all the videos?
Rob:   Just like I tell my son before Christmas "you'll have to wait and see"
JamiroTalk.net:   The name Jamiroquai is recognizable around the world through Jay, largely due to the fact that he is the only one who appears in most of the videos & gives most of the interviews. As an actively contributing member of the band, does this bother you?
Rob:   Not at all. I have a face for radio as they say. I'm happy enough to be able to play guitar for a living, I can't complain.
JamiroTalk.net:   Nick left during 2003, Toby, the co-founder of Jamiroquai left previously in 2002...How have the band adapted to so many major line up changes over the past few years?
Rob:   We just had to get on with it. Obviously, you miss people when they're no longer around but it boils down to ...does the music sound good with someone new playing it or not, and can you get along with someone new. Luckily everything has just fallen into place.
 
   About the fan base:
JamiroTalk.net:   You're known in the 'fans world' as the official poster of the band, providing info and saying hello on different fan sites. We are very thankful for that and please keep doing it!
How important is it for you what the fans are thinking and feeling about the band and the music?
Rob:   I do look on some of the forums from time to time to see what's going on. Of course we care what the fans think about the music and we hope they like it when they get to hear it. By the way, I did notice that quite a few people were file sharing the album pre release ....NOT COOL!

JamiroTalk.net:   Are you concerned about having a regular up to date feedback on fan’s opinions and desires?
Rob:   It's nice to read good things and sometimes not so nice to read the bad things but in my opinion it's not a good idea to be lead by anothers idea of what we should be doing. Then we wouldn't be expressing ourselves truly.
JamiroTalk.net:   During the tours & especially at concerts in the same countries, do you recognize any fans in the crowd from those which attend several shows on a tour?
Rob:   I do see familiar faces from time to time. It's nice.
JamiroTalk.net:   Have you had any funny or weird experiences or memories with fans during the tours that you can share with us?!
Rob:   I quite often like to take a walk around a venue before a gig, people watching. During the English leg of the AFO tour I was walking around this particular place watching people making their way into the gig when I bumped into one of my old school friends. I hadn't seen him in years and we were talking for a while until he asked me who I'd come to the concert with. I didn't know what to tell him!!!
JamiroTalk.net:   Thank you, Rob!
   

 

What's currently playing on Rob's ipod:
(Rob: "can't live without my ipod"
)

I got the new Nikka Costa album Can'tneverdidnothin.
Also Smile by Brian Wilson, not particularly funky but an amazing piece of work. Smokin at the Half Note by Wes Montgomery and The Understanding by Royksopp.

 

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Jamiroquai guitarist Rob Harris on stage
"You don't need your name in bright lights..."             photo: David Rowe