Calvin Harris interview: “I don’t work on anyone else’s songs any more. I’ve had enough of all that”

Calvin Harris interview: “I don’t work on anyone else’s songs any more. I’ve had enough of all that”

Calvin Harris has a single out. He therefore has to speak to idiot journ­al­ists in order to promote it.

Here is what happened when he spoke to Popjustice.

Hello Calvin. Where are you?
I’m in my studio on [London cultural hotspot] Hornsey Road. Is this interview going to get turned into a glossy pamphlet that you’re going to sell?

No. What’s happening today. Are you making some hits?
(Laughs) Today I am getting some guide vocals recorded for a song I wrote that’s for a girl, and I don’t want to sing the guide vocals because it’s a par­tic­u­larly girlie song and I’m too embar­rassed to send my version with me singing to the artist in question.

You do sound girlie fairly fre­quently, though.
Yes abso­lutely, I’ve got a falsetto tone that I like to use. I sang the demo of ‘Bounce’ and it was PHENOMENAL. I’m thinking of releasing that mix as some sort of iTunes bonus mix.

Well I don’t know about amazing — it’s certainly ‘special’. It’s a special mix.

Maybe save it for the 25th anniversary anthology.
Or maybe as an album bonus track. ‘Extra content’.

What’s the worst ‘extra content’ you’ve ever produced?
Me? I’m strug­gling to think of much that we’ve done. I suspect there will be some YouTube videos that I was roped into very early on. Around my first album. We did a series of YouTube videos of me just acting like a complete dickhead. But I’d been told to act like a dickhead! Showing people around my crib-in-inverted-commas when it was the Holiday Inn I was staying in. Things that were not very funny, thought of by online marketing people. Something like that. THAT’S content, but you can’t buy it. (Pause) Well you certainly couldn’t sell it.

What sort of ‘content’ will be on your new album? How much is there to hear at this stage?
Well there’s not much to hear to be honest. I could give you a blast of the second single but there’s not much point in that over the phone. The album’s not coming out until next…  Next… Let’s say next year.

That’s quite a long time. It felt like it would be this single then another then the album.
No. Well that would be the old favourite, wouldn’t it? The two-singles-then-the-album routine. But there are going to be at least four singles, maybe five. Or possibly there will never even be an album. We might get to five singles and think, ‘nah, fuck it’.

Surely after the fifth it’ll be greatest hits o’clock, job done, thank you ladies and gentlemen: GOODNIGHT.
(Laughs) OR, like in America, they do that eight-for-eight thing. Eight tracks for eight dollars. I could do something like that. But with the exchange rate it would be, er… Eight… Four… Er, I don’t know. Six? 5.6? Pounds? Er… Does that sound good?

It depends Calvin on whether the songs are any good. It would be a lot easier if the price of a download was in some way connected to how good it was.
Ah, but that’s just a matter of opinion thought isn’t it?


I always think this as well actually. I think there are some good songs and some bad songs and that’s just the way it is. Some things are good for different reasons, and some things are bad for different reasons.

Maybe. I don’t think this is something you can apply to every song. Maybe with two thirds of songs you can’t say whether it’s object­ively good or object­ively bad, but the remaining third of music, well, yes you can. You cannot use the magic on everything, but that doesn’t mean it works on nothing.
Hm. But I guess — and I’m not including you in this — most music journ­al­ists would say that their opinion holds the most gravitas when in fact a lot of them don’t know much at all.

That was an incred­ible back­han­ded com­pli­ment, to say ‘and I’m not including you in this’. Superficially flat­ter­ing, but at the heart of it you are simply saying “I do not consider you a music journ­al­ist”. Amazing.
(Guffaws) Let’s just move on shall we.

Are you impressed that you mentioned several minutes ago that you had written a song for a female artist, but weren’t imme­di­ately bombarded with questions about her identity?
Yes. Well, you probably knew that I’m def­in­itely not going to tell you because she hasn’t agreed to it yet.

Be that as it may, who is it?
I can’t tell you.

Is it someone for your album or is it someone you’re sub­mit­ting a song to?
Oh it’s for my album, I don’t work on anyone else’s songs any more. I’ve had enough of all that.

What changed your mind on that?
I was always singing on my music to start with, but now I don’t need to song on it because, well, I’ve decided not to. So now every track I make can be a track by me featuring whoever. So there’s no need to give songs to anyone else. Before I needed an outlet for the more girlie songs that only girls could sing on, and now I don’t need to do that.

Most dance songs do sound good with a lady on.
Girls sound good soaring over a big riff. The female voice travels better in a club.

So who’s that female artist?
She’s not even heard the track yet!

How about three guesses?

(Laughs) No.

Oh. Er… Who else is there?
Hahaha, ‘if it’s not Cher who else could it possibly be’! (Laughs)

No. More current.

Sadly none of those are correct so now I don’t have to tell you. By the way is your office in Islington?

Yes, near it. Why?
You know you tweeted that picture of stuff you’d stuck on the wall using No More Nails?

I recog­nised the window that was outside your window! I recog­nised it.

That’s someone’s flat. Sometimes he stands in the window with just his pants on.
(Laughs) I knew that’s where it was. I used to live round the corner. Yes. Not any more though.

So you’re currently Number 3 in the iTunes chart…
Am I? I thought I was Number 2. But obviously that’s the iTunes chart not the actual chart.

But it’s the chart that counts. Sort of.
Yes to an extent. If you listen to com­mer­cial radio…

Which we often do. Do you?
I do too. I listen to ALL RADIO.

Do you listen to Radio 4?
I have done.

Do you find it occa­sion­ally quite good except when it’s a) The Archers, b) a satirical news show,  or c) ‘a play’?
It’s usually a play though isn’t it. Um… My mum used to listen to it while she was doing the ironing.  To be honest I’ve not really listened to Radio 4 for a while.

It’s useful to know about other stuff, though.
Some people think that’s important.

It is important!

Because, right, well for example there’s this book called ‘A Technique For Producing Ideas’ by some bloke who used to work in advert­ising and it’s quite inter­est­ing if you’re inter­ested in that sort of thing, and it’s a very short nook based on a talk he used to go round and give to people at colleges or wherever. And it’s about how to come up with ideas and how to make your brain work and all that sort of stuff, and part of it is cross ref­er­en­cing the matter at hand with something unrelated, and then you find the right com­bin­a­tion of the thing you know about and the thing that’s nothing to do with it, and that’s where the spark of an idea happens. So listening to someone bang on about farming on Radio 4 is actually more useful than you might think it is.
Ah, right. Oh I see.

You know the mental wobbly bit in ‘Bounce’?

Is there more of that on the album?
Maybe, but we’re talking about the album like it exists. Which it doesn’t yet. In the next two songs there’s none of that. I mean I love that bit. It was necessary to put it in so it wasn’t just a linear track. But at the same time, certain ‘people’ thought it was a little bit much for a certain time of day on some radio stations.

But the whole point of its amaz­ing­ness is that it is, quite literally, ‘a bit much’!
It is! (Laughs) Imagine anyone just sitting there listening to the radio at home, or in the super­mar­ket, or working in a garage… (Laughs) Some old dear’s buying eggs then all of a sudden it’s “DRNNN!! DRNNRNNN! BRNNN!!!!” It made me laugh so I kept it in, but there is an edit with it not in, for people who are sus­cept­ible to heart attacks.

Does that edit upset you?
I did it! I did it entirely through choice.

That’s like ripping the heart out of the song!
No you’re com­pletely wrong.

Now then Calvin we know this song better that you do, listen to what we have to say.
(Laughs) No, it’s a funny thing to have in there and in a club it goes off, but it doesn’t work in every situation.

It’s very accom­mod­at­ing of you to do a non-mental edit.
I try to be accom­mod­at­ing. To start off with, five years ago or whatever, I was very precious over my songs, but it’s more important to open yourself up to the challenge of doing something that more people can get on board with.

That’s a beautiful thing.
Well I’m making songs for the radio. I’m not making songs for people who look at Drowned In Sound or whatever. I’m a com­mer­cial act! That’s what we’re trying to present me as, so, you know, you’ve got to respect that.

How well do you think you’re doing at present­ing yourself as a com­mer­cial act?
Not that well. (Laughs) I love being accom­mod­at­ing in the musical sense, but I’m not very good at going out or trying to get my picture taken or getting off with celebrit­ies or that kind of thing. I’m terrible at that so I’ve given up on it, and I don’t think I’m going to be a celebrity any time soon. But as far as music goes, I’d like to think of it as being an access­ible thing I do.

You’ve been very polite on Twitter recently.
I have, haven’t I?

Was that your idea, or someone else’s?
As I’ve spoken to more and more people about it, people who use Twitter and mostly DJs — mostly quite a bit older than myself — it’s been inter­est­ing to see their take on it, and life generally. We’re talking worldwide DJs. People who know how the world works. It might sound strange taking advice from Tiesto but he knows what he’s on about. And he was just, like, ‘look. Don’t do that’. (Roars with laughter) And, er, I went, ‘wow. Really?’. And then I thought about it, and I was like, ‘actually who does do that? All my least favourite people, that’s who. All my least favourite people go off on Twitter and cause problems with people and chat about what annoys them’. I just thought, there’s enough of all that going on in our lives as it is, we don’t need to read it going on in someone else’s. So now I just try to do positive things.

It was quite good when you were waiting for something to arrive from, if memory serves, Ikea. That was Twitter gold.
Yes, that’s all alright but when it spills over into a rant it’s not a good look, is it? And it’s not really who I am, either — it was supposed to be quite jokey but there’s no typeface for sarcasm.

If there was a typeface for sarcasm what would the font be?
I don’t know. Maybe that’s why there isn’t one. Upside down?

That would be ridicu­lous.
Well you can’t have italic can you. Bold?

Let’s not have bold.
Capital letters are inter­est­ing. People who write all emails in capital letters, I always wonder what’s going on there. Do you remember when Alan McGee was on Twitter? That’s where I took my lead from and, er, it lost me a lot of friends. (Laughs)

What else would you like to discuss today?
Oh I don’t know! You tell me! Come on. Is this meant to be just a chat? I thought it was supposed to be an interview!

Which female artist are you writing that song for?
Oh I can’t tell you that. If they agree to it, then… Well, they haven’t even heard it yet.

Who else is on this selection of tracks that may or may not form your third album?
So far it’s Kelis, me… Er… Hm…

You need to get on with that.
No seriously it’s fine, most of the tracks are done, it’s just a question of lining up the people and dropping off the sacks full of cash.

How much is Kelis? Oh actually you were working with her anyway weren’t you…
I’ll tell you what, I’m getting some great remixes in because I keep promising people things. I’ve got quite a list of things I need to get back to people on as a result. It’ll be fine. It’s JUST A BIT OF FUN.

Perhaps everyone should just CALM DOWN and HAVE A LAUGH.
Well that’s what it is. Everyone just needs to fucking calm down, breathe, enjoy life.

Right, get back to work.
You too!


That ‘Bounce’ song is out now and here it is on iTunes.

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