DJs become remixers and producers, but how often do producers become DJs? Known for his remixes of The Killers, Saving Jane, Korn, and Lil' Kim, Josh Harris is venturing into the DJ world with his new mixed CD "Distortion on the Dance Floor." With a strong dance-rock influence, the CD blends his remixes and productions with exclusive tracks. Looking to tour this spring and summer, watch out for Josh to bring a new musician's influence and raise the bar for DJ sets.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: So when did you become a DJ?
Josh Harris: I've known how to DJ for a while, but I just haven't aggressively gone out there to do it. I just started doing the mix shows for AOL like a little over a year ago. Producing has always been the first priority for me so I hadn't really invested much time into DJing, but I've known how to beatmatch for a couple of years.
RS: What was the impetus to take this step to make DJing a priority?
Josh Harris: I'd done some remixes for Toucan Cove - the Groove Coverage and Saving Jane. The A&R guy, Rob Evanoff, approached me about doing a compilation album. I hadn't really thought about doing one and he said they really liked this rock dance sound that I was doing and they'd like to do an album. So we strategized about how to do an album that wouldn't be just like any other DJ compilation out there. This album is sort of a mixture of a DJ compilation album and an artist album - wrapped into one.
RS: What do you think sets it apart?
Josh Harris: The exclusive mixes for this project. I mean, if you look at the track listing, I think that including the one original that's on there, there are five tracks on there that are exclusive that no one will have heard before, until they get this CD. Obviously there are some third party tracks that people will know like Chicane's "Stoned in Love." We tried to offer up some tracks that people would know, some mixes of mine that people would know and some mixes of mine that people would not have heard yet, that's really where we kind of arrive. It took a minute to figure out how to do this so that it just doesn't come off like the run of the mill DJ comp album, with the same old tracks like everybody else.
RS: In addition to the tracks you made, how did you choose
those other tracks to add on?
Josh Harris: Basically I submitted a batch of songs to and we had gone over a list - what mixes of mine we would license, like Taxi Doll and the Killers, and then what would be exclusive mixes that I would do and then what would be third party. So for the third party stuff, I basically would sort of feed him and brief him occasionally on tracks that I liked and tracks that I thought would fit in with the project. That's how we kind of arrived at those. We tried to keep everything more or less commercial and mainstream.
RS: The rock dance sound is really big right now and you're one
of the people who started that. Where did the idea from that come
Josh Harris: I was actually producing rock music before I was producing dance music so it just kind of made sense to try to fit playing into the whole scope of things - live playing and I've worked on getting to be better as a guitarist and bass player. If you listen back to some of the old Passengerz stuff when I was in it, we always were pushing the darker sort of alternative Depeche Mode-type sound. I'm trying to push more straight-up rock like Coldplay guitars, Radiohead guitars, and U2 guitars mixed with a dance beat. The way I do the guitars is I track them like I'm tracking for a rock album, with amps, and I bring in other players if I can't handle the part. I really go about it like I'm doing a rock record. That's what I think separates my approach to rock dance from some of the other guys doing it.
RS: Is there going to be a DJ tour as part of this project?
Josh Harris: Yes, we're in the process of planning that now. I want my live show to be a three-hour set of pretty much rock dance stuff, a lot of my mixes, and I'm going to actually put some tracks together that I'm just going to play live. I want to do some exclusive tracks like some Kiss bootlegs. I'm going to be doing some on-the-fly mashups where I might take something like a Madonna vocal and drop it over some AC/DC guitars or something. Use my music theories while I'm up there standing and just do a lot of on-the-fly mashups, combined with some tracks that I've done just for the live sets, and then combine them with some of my other remixes. So I'm trying to almost approach it like you have the DJ set but I'm coming in with a band mentality and I'm going to play live. It's going to be a double laptop setup where I'm going to be DJing off one laptop and playing live and sugaring samples and synth sounds off the other. I will try to bring my musicianship into the mix and sort of blow off a little to the left of what everyone else is doing.
RS: On the laptops, what software are you using?
Josh Harris: It's going to be Ableton for parts of it and probably M-Audio's Connective and Torq, that's their DJ software. I haven't exactly solidified what I want to use for what yet. I may DJ out of Torq and then trigger my synth sounds out of Ableton. I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to do it yet, I'm still in the process of working the show out. As we get into the summer and summer, I'm going to go out aggressively and support the record.
RS: It sounds like Mac should be sponsoring this tour.
Josh Harris: They should, they definitely should.