BRIAN HARRISON INTERVIEW:
May 27, 2007
As the guitarist in Portland’s Dirty Rhythm, Brian Harrison was teetering on the edge of becoming a star in the early 90s. The band went up to Canada to record their debut, Hard As A Rock, with Loverboy’s Paul Dean only to watch the album sink due to poor label support. Fifteen years later the band dipped into their vaults to release Never Cleaned Up, and in this interview Brian talks about the good old days and his current project Dirty Little Fingers.
SR: Tell us about your new album Never Cleaned Up.
BH: Dirty Rhythm’s “Never Cleaned Up” was written and recorded at the tail end of our record deal with BFE records. Due to a “falling out” we never were able to bring it to fruition until now. Songs like “Whats Your Problem” reflected our frustration with the label and industry at that time…and times where a changin! “Funky Sister” was a fun song that was fueled by our frequent visits to the strip clubs that are abundant in Portland, Oregon. Needless to say, we were still full of creativity and the need to pursue our dream. This album was an outlet of musical freedom and expression that we did not have for our first release “Feel The Fire”. Don’t get me wrong…the first album was an incredible experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. This album was the last of Dirty Rhythm’s collaboration together as a band. There were a few songs that unfortunately didn’t make it to the studio. We have discussed a reunion sometime…we will just have to see what happens!
SR: How pleased are you with how the new album came out?
BH: Very much so…it was nice to bring it out of the vault and hear it again. It also was nice to go back in time and re-live those moments in the studio and such….mmmm good times… 😉
SR: Did the entire band get together to work on what the album would come out like?
BH: No. Jeff and I were the ones who approved the way it’s laid out. Troy had some input but trusted that we would be able to handle it. Anthony is currently on tour with Nickleback (stage manager)…funny, I just got an email that he is in town tomorrow night. I haven’t seen him in a few years…this should be exciting!
SR: How has it been working with Suncity Records (www.suncityrecords.com?
BH: I have nothing but great things to say. I would like to meet the man behind the label someday. I am happy to see someone keeping the genre somewhat alive from back then. There are people still starving for rock out there…this is one more great resource to get your fix!
SR: If a Dirty Rhythm reunion does happen do you think you would write some new tunes or just do some live gigs?
BH: I would like to see a reunion. We have talked about it. Anthony has been working with Nickleback for some time now and it has been hard to get him to break free or give us a time frame that we could count on…Oh well…we will see! As far as writing new tunes…Hell yeah!! I’m a song writer, why not! I will not say that this will happen…nor say it will not! I’m not getting younger…hopefully before I die we could see a reunion. There is a party coming up soon, we may jam together soon.
SR: Have you still been writing songs since the Dirty Rhythm days?
BH: Yes…I have been in many projects since…from all ends of the spectrum musically. You can purchase an acoustic solo album I have done, “Brian Harrison, 9 LIVES SONGS” on mahrecords.com. And I urge you to check out my new band “DirtyLittleFingers”. We are currently in the mixdown process with our first debut CD…you can go to our myspace (www.myspace.com/dirtylittlefingers1) and get in on the new stuff that’s coming!
SR: How did Dirty Little Fingers come together and how would you describe the sound?
BH: After a few years of not playing in a band the urges started coming back and a need to let out some stuff that was building up. I contacted old friends and started a project…it took about two years to weed through the songs, band members and image ideas. When I found Brad (my other guitarist) he was into the old school rock that I grew up with…Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Guns N’Roses, Led Zeppelin, Faster Pussycat, etc. This inspired the band to redirect to a more fun, straight forward sound that we all just wanted to have fun with. DLF is nothing but whisky drinkin, girl chasin, rock club music that keeps the toes tappin!
SR: Has the band played live, if so how have the shows gone?
BH: We have had fairly great success so far…we have played about 8 local shows in the last 5 months. We are getting poised to release a CD and go play on the Sunset Strip in May…probably the “Viper Room” or “The Roxy”. I believe that once we have product and merchandise the band could start building more momentum. Yeah…I still wanna be a rock star…oh yeah…I am.
SR: When did you first decide to try and make it as a rock star?
BH: When I was twelve I started a band called “Sweet Relish”. We played at our cafeteria during lunch time…we also recorded ourselves on a cheap ass tape player with a built in mic. This was the time of my awakening to the dream. I loved rock and wanted to write music from the time that I made a sound come from a piano…that was when I was 7 years old. Getting signed in 1989 was a dream come true…the experiences I had during this short lived record deal were about as close as I could get so far in my life. But of course, I am a legend in my own mind.
SR: What bands/artists were your biggest influences?
BH: Black Sabbath, Yes, Rush, Judas Priest, scorpions, Pantera, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Kiss, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Heart, Stevie Wonder, Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, Earth Wind and Fire, Van Halen, The Cars, Nuno Bettencourt, AC/DC, The Doors, The Beatles, Skid Row, John Sykes (Whitesnake, Blue Murder), Steve Vai, Dio, Jeff Buckley…uh, many others…too many others!!!
SR: What were some of your early bands?
BH: Sweet Relish, Roxx, The Wrath, Roulette, Buzzmeg, Burn Again Mission, 2 Sides Of 1, Brian Harrison solo projects…
SR: Did any of those bands record albums or demos?
BH: Yes, but nothing real special. 2 Sides Of 1 has some pretty good material recorded…you may be able to hear some on myspace (www.myspace.com/evilplanb).
SR: How did Dirty Rhythm come together?
BH: I moved back to Portland, Oregon after a year in recording school in Los Angeles. I responded to an ad for a band called Roulette…with this bringing me back into the Portland scene. Band members changed that suddenly put the band in a higher level of execution…Roulette disappeared and Dirty Rhythm came out of it.
When there was label interest there were a few more changes. The line up on the album out now is the pinnacle of what Dirty Rhythm became.
SR: Being in school in L.A. did you manage to catch lots of live shows there?
BH: Not as many as you would think. I was poor…and tied down. Although when it was time to party…that was the place to be!
I remember seeing Guns N’Roses in the local BAM magazine and thinking they were just another big hair band like all of L.A. Shortly after my return to Portland, there they were on MTV. Wow…that was cool.
SR: Was there much of a hard rock scene in Portland those days?
BH: Yep…it was large for the size of Portland. There was a great close knit community of musicians that really supported each other…unlike today. The scene seems to be so diverse now, it’s kinda hard to find the love. Oh well…I’m older now and it’s gonna feel different no matter what.
SR: How did you get hooked up with Loverboy’s Paul Dean?
BH: Through our record label.
SR: What was he like to work with and what did you learn from him?
BH: He was awesome. He yelled at me one day, “go back to your hotel room and write your god damn solos!!!!” I would have to say that he turned into a good buddy.
SR: What sort of touring did you do to support Hard As A Rock?
BH: Salt Lake City, Utah; Ogden, Utah; Boise, Idaho; Seattle, Washington; Vancouver, B.C., Canada; Eugene, Oregon; Roseburg, Oregon; Salem, Oregon. We had bigger opportunities but our label was not supportive…at all. We could of gone to the east coast…
SR: Do you feel the label killed the album by not properly supporting it?
BH: That would be an understatement. I have never seen a bigger bunch of buffoons jumping through hoops for a no talent record executive that had one thing in mind…himself. Thanks to the first Gulf War, where suddenly the support and money stopped so someone could write a shitty peace song…and of course Seattle. I liked the Seattle sound that emerged though. No…not bitter…nope… 🙁
SR: How did the band eventually disband?
BH: Disheartened by the change in the industry and the ineptness of our label…we just seemed to go off in our own directions. We have all remained great friends.
SR: When it comes to life on the road, what are some of your favorite stories?
BH: Random target practice off the highway somewhere in Idaho…3 day binging in Anchorage, Alaska…coming back to my room to find everything upside down…smearing peanut butter on Jeff while he was sleeping w/unknown groupie…under aged no no’s with daughter of radio station disc jockey in Aberdeen, Washington after a strange party w/some sort of nose candy…lots of puking and shrinky dink from all the drugs…nothing ended up happening…cuz, well, nuthin worked! Geez, we had fun everytime we were away from home…and home wasn’t that bad either!
SR: Was the band pretty heavy into to drugs?
BH: Not daily no…but everyone had a drug of choice that reared its ugly head once and a while…mainly at big parties. We never played live high…it was something we used as a celebration for a good show.
SR: What did you do once the band was no more?
BH: I hopped on a lot of bandwagons as far as music went. I released an acoustic solo album and am now currently in DirtyLittleFingers (www.myspace.com/dirtylittlefingers1). I also work as a store manager at Guitar Center (Clackamas location).
SR: Do you think an artist loses his credibility in the eyes of the fans when he jumps on bandwagons?
BH: That is a great question. For the purpose of keeping yourself exposed to the public many artists will change with the times. If you are an accomplished musician, I believe you will always keep respect with your fans. In my case, I enjoy many styles of music as long as I respect the abilities of the artist. Today I find myself playing a style of music that was popular in the days of Dirty Rhythm. It all comes full circle and I am proud to say I’ve tried it all. On the other hand…bands like Rush, U2, Neil Young, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Weezer, Primus, Helmut, Jane’s Addiction, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden and R.E.M. have stayed pretty true… There are many top notch bands that have established themselves on such a level that they stay in the basic genre from where they started but still have a natural progression of change. Today, and not so long ago…fans have become a lot more picky. Labels are not doing lengthy contracts…media is dictating and brainwashing what is cool and “now”…a lot of fans buy into this crap. I will not watch VH1 or MTV anymore…it is pure crap. Remember the days when you couldn’t wait for the new Scorpions album? Or the new AC/DC black album? The excitement and anticipation does not exist on the level it used to.
Where the rock went? I don’t know…it’s more of an underground scene to me these days…not in the mainstream like it used to be. The industry has been hijacked by the fast food mentality…
SR: What can artists such as yourself do to reverse the ‘hijacking’ of the music industry?
BH: Hopefully at some point the general public will see through the exploitive behaviors of the industry who take advantage of the sheep they cater to. It’s a decision that will be dictated from the listener…with the rising trend of independently distributed music…the changes are in the works. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the next decade. Most of us are silently walking around with ipods enjoying “our” musical tastes. It’s going to be a lot easier for an artist to bypass the big boys and make a mark for themselves due to internet services…I’m doing this now myself.
Thanks to Brian Harrison