If J.R.R. Tolkien had a muse it would be DJ Harvey.
To say that DJ Harvey, or Harvey Bassett, is one of a kind would be a gross understatement. He’s more like one of many different kinds. He’s a little mythical, a little whimsical, anything but traditional, and definitely unreal.
Harvey’s fans and followers refer to themselves as his cult, or study masters. Two things prevail, Harvey Bassett the man and DJ Harvey the entertainer. If you don’t know anything about DJ Harvey, then to say the least he is respected and in demand all over the world. He has played for fashion companies like Y3 & Prada and has re-mixed and produced artists such as LCD Sound System & The Police. Most recently he’s been invited to be a part of Kraftwerk’s lauded concert series at MoMA NY. Although his greatest accomplishments may mean nothing to many, a residency at the Ministry of Sound in the 90’s, opening thirtyninehotel nightclub in Hawaii, and simply hanging out with Larry Levan are profound.
Harvey Bassett is a mythical creature. He’s an avid surfer, a Venice local, and a London native. His tone of voice is a fathomless silent roar. His sense of humor comes off as unmistakably English yet seems undeniably archetypal. But at day’s end, he’s a mortal creature striding through the streets of Venice, just like you and me.
It’s 8am, it’s raining, I’m in Paris. I’m wide-awake for my Skype interview with Harvey. The first time I met Harvey we were at Gainor’s house. It was the middle of summer, and the Lakers were in the playoffs. I reminded Harvey of that moment, because like any of us who lives in Venice knows, everything always comes full circle.
Try your best to imagine this from the perspective of a perma-lucid and euphoric state, and in a British accent…
I’ve been in Venice 10 years now and I really love it so much here. The first place I lived was actually on the same street we met on Dudley and its like we knew everybody around our street right away. And we could walk to the beach, and the weather. We knew the kids, the animals, and the parents of the kids. And people didn’t lock their doors. And even though there would be people that would steal your bikes, they wouldn’t necessarily rob your house. It’s a certain amount of, sort of, etiquette.
I lived in places in London where I had no idea who was living next door to me or anywhere else. People would come in and hide and not communicate. I suppose it might be something to do with the weather. In Venice, its nice outside, so people go outside and hangout. You encounter people walking to and from the beach. I can’t walk 100 yards down the street without saying hi to someone I know in Venice, or recognize a character.
This summer I visited, I think, 13 countries in two months, on my sort of…summer jaunt. And it was so good to get home. To have the good weather, and the good food, and the good community, and the good surf, and all the wonderful things that go to make up Venice. Its great! There must be other places in the world like this, but probably not somewhere that’s sort of as hip and happening, and has a community at the same time.
And its not just the good stuff that I like. I didn’t realize that it was a community when I moved here. I was into it being the edge of the Western World. The end of route 66. You can’t go any further west, because then your going east, ya know. Your east if you go any further west. I was into the Hollywood Babylon, the Manson’s, The Beach Boys, the gangsterism, the plastic people, the porn industry, and all the fun things. Do you know what I mean, this yin and yang thing that really makes a special mixture
...Garrett here again, at this point Harvey and I are fully on the same page. I love Venice the same way he does, and our conversation is just in perfect harmony. The second I simply utter, “isn’t it crazy how after you land back at LAX after what seems like forever traveling and...” Harvey finishes my sentence…
10 minutes back home! Which is just amazing, ya know, to be 10 minutes from LAX. Most people have to get a commuter train for like an hour and a half. I mean, when you live in London, it can be a 2-hour taxi drive, and in Tokyo it totally is. And it drives you nuts. If you live in Venice Beach, you’re home and the kettle is on! Within 10 minutes of picking up your bag, it’s amazing. And also when you leave, you don’t have to rush.
...our conversation has somehow moved from our love for Venice and how it relates to inspiration. Here is what Harvey says…
My realm of inspiration really comes from sort of believing that Hollywood movies are actually documentaries. Believing these fantasies. They’re sort of real to me, palpable, these Wild West heroes and anti heroes.
The realm of art in general is what inspires me and Venice just happens to be a really good place for that. To me these fantasies are real; I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like maybe I watch something or I hear something, and I want to be it, or I want to create something like it that exists. I’m trying to make dreams reality. And being in Los Angeles, I’m in the home of fantasy. Whether its Walt Disney or Hollywood, it’s the ultimate fantasy world. I suppose the nearest way to describe it to someone who doesn’t understand, is that its almost spiritual. But there isn’t a spiritual bone in my body.
First off, I always thought my vision was perfect, and I was always proud that I could sort of see like an eagle. Like a fuckin’ owl. And over time, I think it actually dawned on me on an aircraft, when I couldn’t read the menu one time. I thought I was just out of my mind, I had been heavily abusing drugs for many years, and I just thought that made your eyes out of focus. Whether you were drunk, stoned, or whatever it may be. And then I’m like, ‘No man, I’m fucking losing my eyesight. I’m not high, I actually can’t focus on seeing whether I’m getting the Chex Mix or the fuckin’ cashews and raisins.
So in a little bit of a state of denial, I just went down to the local drug store and bought a frame and was like, ‘this is what I need, this 1.5 or whatever it is. And I put them on and looked in the mirror and I was like, Yeah, their kind of Savage Man!’ I saw Heisenberg looking back at me. And he wasn’t even invented yet. There wasn’t Breaking Bad; there wasn’t this 50-year-old super nobody. I’m sure he was out there; there’s a bunch of sweaty movies with guys like that in it. But that sort of anti everything can be super cool.
Then I remembered that my dad wore frames like that. He really had these sort of non-descript dad glasses. They started to have this…sort of…Dad, Heisenberg, Dennis Rader the BTK Killer.
...Ok, lets pause for a second here, Harvey just referenced Dennis Rader the BTK Killer. Honestly when he said this, I said to myself, ‘I have no fucking idea who that is, but somehow I know exactly what he looks like.’ This article isn’t about the BTK Killer though, do your own research. Lets get back to Harvey…
He wore those kind of glasses. They’re kind of badass. So it dawned on me that maybe I needed a real prescription. That’s when I came in and saw you guys. And I thought to myself, there must be an original to this frame. Something that this cheap ass $10 CVS pair of glasses is modeled on. And I was right, and they’re called…
...Harvey can’t find his glasses, and he’s shuffling around for them and mumblng...
It’s funny. The model is actually called Malibu, which is kind of ironic. Anyway, it’s that same kind of bad ass. Completely the guy that you wouldn’t expect. Where are those damn glasses? It would be fun to quote the actual designer…what have I done with them?
…The model frame that Harvey wears is a vintage square metal semi-rimless Art-Craft Malibu designed and produced sometime around 1970. He is wearing the frame pictured in this article…
HARVEY ON EYEWEAR
"No man, I’m fucking losing my eye sight. I’m not high. I actually can’t focus on seeing whether I’m getting the Chex Mix or the fucking cashews and raisins."
RETURN TO LONDON
The London thing is amazing. I’m super stoked, I’m super anxious. I want to do the right thing. I’ve been away for 10 years. I overstayed my Visa because I liked -it here so much. I got my green card now, I’m going back. Everything has fallen into place with the venue, sound system, sponsorship, timing. I’m gonna do this one-man show in a big warehouse with a big sound system. There’s gonna be roughly 1000 people there which is going to consist of old friends and family that have been alongside me for over 20 years as far as nightclubbing is concerned. And hopefully a bunch of interested, not necessarily new school, but new to see me in person and are interested to hear what I have to offer. I want to have this sort of... spectacularly fantasy night of it. Where I can call on my knowledge and my powers to entertain the people to the best of my ability.
Its gonna be a collection of modern and classic dance music. Stuff that most people there will be familiar with and some stuff that most people there will be unfamiliar with. Ya know, some cutting edge brand new music and also tried and tested classics. There are loads and loads of music to choose from. I’ll probably take at the most a couple of 100 vinyl records, and then a book with maybe a couple hundred titles in CD’s of stuff that’s generally not available on vinyl. Maybe it’s new re-edits, or remixes, or new productions that are just not on vinyl. I haven’t really gone into the sort of USB stick, the fully computer file realm, I like to actually have my hands on disc shaped things as a medium from which to play the music from.
Longevity. Managing to still be around. To be alive. Paying the rent from something that I enjoy doing. That’s the thing that I’m proudest of really. There’s been hundreds of magic moments, with like being lifted through the roof with tears of joy. There’s been many many magic moments. But I’m also not one of those, ‘It’s not like it used to be type.’ For me its like 50 is the new 19. I don’t know if this is the first time in rock n roll history where being 50 is actually relevant to children in their early 20’s. I’m having more fun now than I’ve ever had in my life. I think right now is back in the day. I plan to live for another 30 or 40 years. Hopefully when I’m 90 I can look back and say (old British grandpa voice) “Oh when I was 50 years old, when I was a young man, those were the days.” I remember my grandmother going (cute old British grandma voice, ‘Oh my forties were fantastic.’ Maybe the last 35 years of my musical training has been exactly that. And I’m in a better position now than I’ve ever been. Mentally, physically, and as far as my art and skill is. And I’m ready to really step up. As Winston Churchill said, “It’s not the end, it’s not the beginning of the end, but it’s definitely the end of the beginning.”
...just to speak on this briefly, Harvey is not only having world tours set up for him, but he is currently gathering material and anecdotes from his life for a coffee table reader book, as well as doing a plethora of other things that we can share more specifically later. I’ve known the man only three years, but I believe him when he says he’s really ready to step it up. I can relate to it, and I feel it. You are going to see some really exciting things coming out of his camp in years to come.
I’ve made it this far and I want to launch myself into living the dreams that I’ve had. I don’t really want to jump out of a plane or climb Everest. It would be nice to have…I don’t know…have a gold-plated yacht...No—(insert deep hard maniacal Harvey laugh)—No, I don’t need a Ferrari or whatever. I’ve got the Pacific Ocean I can walk to. I want to continue to live in the manner to which I’ve been accustomed. Perpetuate it, spread the love, be an entertainer, and make it nice for people and myself. Then that’s it, mission accomplished!
...I want to end this simply by expressing gratitude. I have the utmost respect for Harvey. Thank you Harvey, and thanks to those that helped make this conversation possible. You know who you are. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this, but if you don’t, I don’t really care.
"It’s not the end, its not the beginning of the end, but its definitely the end of the beginning.”