In the past five years, Concord Dawn, comprising the duo of Matt Harvey and Evan Short, have become one of New Zealand’s highest profile and most respected dance acts. Slamming head first into the drum n bass scene with their impressive, hard-as-nails anthem Morning Light, the pair has not only infiltrated the UK-centric scene, the album has gone platinum in their home country, and any respectable drum and bass DJ has at least one of their tunes in their box. Even after an awful experience whilst last in Adelaide, Matt Harvey, is a very friendly, chatty guy. He found time to chat to us about not only that experience, but also a lot of things beside. Other DJs have had similar things happen to them in the past, and have left Adelaide bitter and regretful, but Harvey doesn’t share that sentiment at all, and is in fact looking forward to coming back.
But first, a little history. “Evan and I have known each other since we were 11 years old,” Harvey begins, in a think New Zealand accent. “We went to the same intermediate school, and we were in a band, and I think we were in the same music class, and we played rock and roll songs at school assemblies and that,” he laughs. “Then we went to different high schools, lost contact for a while. There used to be a thing with the North Shore (the big suburban area of Auckland) where all the kids from the schools would go and do a big choir, orchestra, that kind of thing. My school would host Jazz bands, and I was in the top Jazz combo and Evan was playing guitar. He was looking to kick out the drummer in his band, saw me playing jazz on the drums, and said “you’re still playing the drums… you’re pretty good these days, but are you into the heavier stuff?” I was into that as well, and started playing with him again.”
“Our high school band won the Auckland Rock Quest, the big high school battle of the bands, and we came second in the nationals, and were doing alright for ourselves and thought we ‘we’re the shit’” he laughs. “We used to play at community halls, people’s parties and underage events, that kind of thing, and that rolled along for a while. But then that band split up, and we didn’t see each other for a couple of years.” But with New Zealand being such a small place, fate brought them back together at audio engineering school. “We both had bits and pieces of equipment – synths, samplers, and effects units, and both had something the other one wanted. So then we linked up, put our equipment in the same room, and we both dug each other’s tunes”, he adds.
Harvey was introduced to Drum and Bass in about 1997. “I was at an outdoor all trance party, and a mate of mine who was playing,” he reminisces. “We’d made friends a few months before, he did some of my tattoos and we played the Starwars card game together,” he laughs nervously. “I had been listening to trance all night and was kind of bored of it, and he came on and played drum and bass and I was wasted and it was wicked and that was it, I was head over heals! His name is Aaron and he’s one of the first dnb DJs in New Zealand. He was playing hardcore and rave music when it first crossed over and got called ‘drum and bass’”.
With the release of their magnificent album, ‘Uprising’, Concord Dawn are set to become one of the most talked about acts this year. Their unique fusion of sound includes Slayer samples, as well as guests Tiki from Salmonella Dub and Skribe. Having spoken to Freq Nasty (Darin McFadyen) late last year, who also hails from New Zealand, I asked if they shared the view that radio plays an important part on the scene over the Tasman. “Yeah,” begins Harvey, “Student radio in NZ is really strong, they play a very broad range of music during the day, and a whole lot of specialist shows at night. We grew up listening to that, because commercial radio is quite cack (that’s kiwi for shit). But both of us come from diverse backgrounds,” he adds. “Evan used to play in heavy, HEAVY metal bands, and I used to play more EMO rock, more poppier sort of things, and also jazzy hiphop crossover sort of thing.”
Harvey also thinks the nature of New Zealand’s live scene is an important factor. “If you’re living in London you can go out Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday… every night you can go out to a drum and bass club,” he explains. “But if you want to have a drink here, you’re force to go out to hear something different. And just with the small circle, you know? I’ve known people for nearly 10 years, a lot of guys playing in the big hip hop bands over here, guys who play dub, guys who play in rock bands, guys that are now house or techno DJs. So if you want to catch up with your mates for a quiet drink you tend to go out and get exposed to a different kind of music to what your main focus is.”
This diversity in music leads to originality, and is precisely Freq Nasty’s sentiment. “It means you write more original music”, Harvey says. “If you spend all your time listening to drum and bass you can still write really good drum and bass, but you’re never going to write anything that’s quite innovative. All the tunes that we’ve done that have gone on to become quite big have usually contained something different. We’ve done stuff that’s contained a rock guitar, done stuff with Evan singing that’s trancey but still quite hard… something that dips it finger in another genre and has a little bit of that influence. Just to make waves (in the scene) you need to be doing something different,” he finishes.
Then the conversation turned to their recent experience in Adelaide. “That’s the second time we haven’t been paid for a gig out of about 400 gigs,” he says evenly. “I’m not completely happy about it, though it’s bound to happen. That’s one thing about DJing; you never get paid more if the party does really well… we’ll maybe very occasionally, once or twice… but if a party loses money people try not to pay you, or pay you less. That’s not how it’s meant to work,” he states. “If you work at a gas station and you have a slow day they’re not like “hey mate, we’re not going to pay you today”. We work quite hard at what we do, and it’s a bummer but these things happen.”
But Harvey is philosophical about it. “It’s kinda what you get… If we played for a regular drum and bass promoter then basically their reputation is all they’ve got. If we played for a long time dnb promoter, we’re safe because if he didn’t pay us, we’ve got enough friends in the drum and bass scene, you know, it wouldn’t be cool for him [and his reputation]. But for someone outside of drum and bass, it doesn’t really matter to them, and they can get away with it. I don’t think it’s really anybody’s fault, he’s the fall guy, but these things happen. We’re going to be back in April, so it’s all good.”
Maybe the philosophical side comes from Starwars. Harvey is a Starwars nut. Concord Dawn is the planet upon which the suddenly orphaned Jango Fett was rescued by the Mandalorian warrior Jaster Mereel as a child. (Thanks to our illustrious editor Andrew Street for that info). Harvey, as he mentioned, played the Starwars card trading game, has read the comics, and has quite a few Starwars themed tattoos as well. Or maybe it’s the fruitful looking future, which includes another album and then relocation.
“Since writing tunes together things have been happening. First tune we wrote together got played on the radio down here and by the time we had done 3 or 4 tunes we had been offered a record deal in NZ and then started getting sets and that and it’s all been good from there… we can’t really whinge! But we are planning on relocating, but not to London because London’s HORRIBLE!” he stresses. “We’re moving to Austria next year. We’re going to knock out another album, well, not knock out, you know, finely craft and hone a beautiful album”, he says laughingly, “and then probably tour that, then head over. So we’re looking at heading to Vienna and Austria in about June next year.”
Austria seems as unlikely a place for dnb superstars as New Zealand, but Harvey explained his reasons. “It’s a lot less expensive a city to live in than London, just things like rent and food and beer and that; and it’s really central to both West and Eastern Europe. We’re both taking our girlfriends, so it means we can take trains instead of flying and it means we can take them around. It allows us to spend 3 or 4 days in places, take our laptops and just soak up the atmosphere. We’re probably going to keep it quite mellow, do a gig a week. It’ll probably only be for a year or something, and then move back here to New Zealand,” he adds.
“Basically anything we do apart from NZ is a bonus. We’ve got enough gigs and sell enough records here; we could live off (and have been doing so for years) and save lots of money staying right here. Basically us going overseas is us being greedy really,” he chuckles, “well, not greedy, just trying to make things bigger and better. It’s not exactly a holiday, just a chance to go seeing different things and eat some weird sausages and drink some different beers. I think if we lived in London for a year or so we’d eventually get not so much worn down, but we’d be in the same boat as a lot of other people writing drum and bass.”