Hard beats from an open mind

by Jeff Hammond

An unspoken hero of dance music will unpack his box of tricks in Tokyo this week.

As a young British producer in early 1980s Berlin, David Harrow produced some seminal industrial/new wave records with the poet Anne Clarke. After his return to London he hooked up with Psychic TV and also joined Jah Wobble’s Invaders of The Heart. Through Wobble, he became involved in that hotbed of dub experimentation, On-U Sound, working as programmer on many projects and playing keyboard with African Head Charge, Dub Syndicate and others. In the mid-’90s he released music on Andrew Weatherall’s Sabres label and the two were soon producing bent electro together as Bloodsugar.

Jazz, electro, drum ‘n’ bass, breakbeat . . . There are few styles in dance music he hasn’t tried, but for Harrow, “It’s all good! It’s just different tempos. . . . It’s all about leaving space in the music, keeping it all simple and just letting the music breath.” Turning his attention to jazzy drum ‘n’ bass in the mid-90s, he sought an alias in order to reinvent himself and chose James Hardway, “because an old friend said I went about things ‘the hard way’ and it stuck.”

While the rhythms on his new album, “Big Casino,” give a nod to the British club-jazz tradition and the recent broken-beat movement in particular, they also are armed with some Latin swing and even borrow a few influences from ’60s/’70s film soundtracks. The album further indulges his penchant for mainly using female vocals.

Although unable to bring over the whole crew, he’ll DJ and use his laptop. “It took a long time to find two vocalists that work together so well as J.B. Rose and Ghetto Priest and I hope to bring them out to Japan to perform later this year,” he says.

Even though music has taken him all round the world, he still has a soft spot for Japan. “I do have fond memories of trips to Japan, especially performing with Lee Perry. Mr Perry on the bullet train eating an ice cream with Mount Fuji in the distance. . . . I didn’t need a camera; I have these images etched in my brain.”