Q&A: thenewno2 Talk Collaborations and Upcoming Album Part 1
By Clare R. Lopez and Krystle Uy on October 18, 2011
thenewno2 is not what you might expect. It is less of a traditional band and more of a shifting group of people brought together by the crew’s curator and frontman Dhani Harrison, son of the late George Harrison.The band's first full-length, You Are Here, made its debut in early 2009 and this September saw the release of EP002—a four song EP which includes collaborations with Regina Spektor (“Live a Lie”) as well as RZA, Crisis and Sir Eyes (“Mr. President”). But there is still more to come with thenewno2's follow-up, The Fear of Missing Out, currently in the works. “I’d say it's 80 to 90 percent done—and almost mixed. It’s looking to be done probably by the end of the month,” says Harrison of the band’s sophomore effort. It’s easy for a collective to ebb and flow, especially for thenewno2. While the musical players change every now and then, it’s the driving creativity brought to life by Harrison that keeps the sound fresh—an amalgam of alternative rock, blues, trip-hop and electronica. As the conductor of this creative ensemble, Harrison answered FILTER’s questions about working with Spektor and RZA, the inspiration behind thenewno2’s latest music and the group's revolving cast.
Photo by Steven Sebring
It’s been a couple of years since You Are Here came out. What made this the right time for a new release?
Dhani Harrison: We are currently working on our next album, The Fear of Missing Out. The first stuff we started with was the Wu-Tang collaboration and, frankly, I’m sick of seeing it all sitting on my hard drive. We just released EP002. Hopefully we will have grown and changed as a band.
With collaborators from such different genres on one EP, what made you want to work with Regina Spektor and RZA respectively?
Regina is obviously one of the most talented people in our musical generation. I’ve seen her play live and have listened to all of her records. It’s quite obvious that she’s a special person, so there’s no real sort of question there. She also became a good friend of ours about two years ago, so that was a real no-brainer.
We started working with, the West Coast Wu-Tang, The Black Knights four years ago. We’re actually doing more stuff, so we haven’t got the record finished yet. But we’re already starting our next Wu-Tang venture.
RZA and I became friends about five years ago. Essentially, I based my whole thenewno2 paradigm on Wu-Tang Clan, Massive Attack, Encore—the sort of gang mentality. That lent itself to many things we had in common. When we started chatting, we were kind of like teenagers and went on and on. I think he was interested in doing something on our record because it was more low profile than the 8 Diagrams stuff that received so much either positive or negative attention with the samples that they had used. So it’s a bit more honest in terms of us collaborating together rather than just sampling.
What about their personal approaches lent itself to what you wanted to do?
Actually, both Regina and RZA are very free with the way that they do things. They’re both extremely intelligent people, but in totally different genres. I’m more interested in seeing what people do when they are inspired. We all have a big respect for letting each other just go. RZA, Wu-Tang and The Black Knights, they turn up and they just do what they do instantly. Regina came in, heard the track, sang the chorus and we spent the rest of the night having fun and talking. It’s easy for them. It happens very easily. So, that’s what I like about working with people [where] you don’t have to tell them what to do. They just do it and you know it’s going to be good.
What common threads run through EP002 and into the upcoming album?
I think we’ve gone to the next level in terms of our own production. That’s not boasting, it’s just that we’ve grown as a collective and we’ve focused in on different things this time which I think suits the album better. Keys and tempos have unified the record and I’d like to think that the EP and the album will be a complete suite of music; which will be like a robot body and the head, and the arms will join on later, if you know what I mean…
From a creative standpoint what do you want to try out or expand upon with this upcoming record?
To be less afraid than I was the first time. I actually went back and listened to the old record for the first time in years and I was pleasantly surprised to think that I didn’t hold back. But to hold back even less this time; to make music that I want to listen to. Maybe that’s selfish, but I think that’s the best thing to do because otherwise you hate your own music afterwards. F
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Dhani Harrison tomorrow.