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by Don Crispy

James Hardway

“James Hardway wears good suits, and I’d never do that.”

“I’m really keen to see the country without a chemical haze in front of me,” says David Harrow (a.k.a. James Hardway) ruefully about his upcoming Japan tour, his first in a decade. “When I worked with On-U Sound, with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Gary Clail [and] Dub Syndicate...we used to come to Japan all the time.”

Now clean and wiser for the experience, Harrow brings his new album, Big Casino, to Yellow next Friday as part of a label night for key London imprint Hydrogen Dukebox.

With On-U Sound label head Adrian Sherwood, Harrow was involved in the heady early days of English techno in the late ’80s and early ’90s, working at the confluence of acid house, dub and electro. But Harrow’s roots go back even further, to his years in the Berlin underground of the mid-’80s.

Experimenting with the new synthesizers and sequencers, Harrow helped to fuel the burgeoning interest in electronic music. “It wasn’t even called techno or electro,” he remembers. “It was quite hard to get accepted. I can remember sitting in record company offices and having people tell me that this stuff wasn’t music. We were saying, ‘Well, we’re selling a hundred thousand copies, so someone must like it.’”

With the current resurgence in early electronica as seen in the electroclash movement, Harrow says he feels a certain satisfaction. “What’s odd is that a track I wrote that was re-released this year and reached No. 20 in the German charts was recorded in 1982. It’s weird to feel like the music that I was first involved with has come back into fashion.”

Now based in Los Angeles, Harrow seems happy to be away from his native England. “It’s got the point nowadays where it doesn’t really matter where I am, so I might as well be someplace I like. London was thought of as the center of the universe when it came to music, and 15 to 20 years on that’s definitely not the case. “

He’s also happy to distance himself from the frenetic life of a touring DJ, and plays only occasional sets. “Having been a touring musician for 20 years, I don’t need to do it anymore. The longest I was away was for about three and a half years. That cured me of it.”

The upcoming tour provides a chance to look at Harrow’s new album, Big Casino, which explores his recent interest in jazz-meets-techno. “I’d made three or four [albums] of what I call breakneak jazz, which is a cross between drum‘n’bass and jazz and wanted to explore it further,” he says. “I wanted to experiment with different beats, and slower tempos—funkier tempos rather than really fast tempos. But not going toward disco, keeping it slow, but funky—almost a house feel.”

At Yellow, where Harrow will be joined by fellow Hydrogen Dukebox stablemate Metamatics, the artist says he’ll be spicing up his set with some new material. “I’ll be doing a combination set with some vinyl, some CDs, and some exclusive music from my laptop—a sort of collage.”

Hydrogen Dukebox Night@Yellow, 7/18, 9pm, ¥3,000 (adv), ¥3,500 (door). Tel: 3479-0690.

credit: Beatink