May 3, 2009


Calvin Harris interview: Leap of faith (Aidan Smith, 5/03/09, Scotland on Sunday)

This giant of Caledonian dance culture – just don't call him the Hen Broon of retro-electro – is relaxing before a sold-out show at Glasgow's Òran Mór, his first on home turf since his success with 'I'm Not Alone'. Although Harris has shared a No1 before – 'Dance Wiv Me', last summer's collaboration with Dizzee Rascal, or as Jeremy Paxman prefers, Mr Rascal – this is the first under his own name. Now he's thinking back to the time, alone with a keyboard in his bedroom in Dumfries, when he dreamed about pop fame.

"I was well into the charts as a boy but in all honesty I didn't think that being No1 was something completely unattainable," says the 25-year-old former lettuce stacker for Marks & Spencer. "Right from a young age I had a cockiness that I kept hidden. I'd hear a hit record and think, I can do that. Sometimes I thought, I can do better. So when I finally got signed I wasn't blown away. My attitude was: 'About bloody time.'"

He would lose that teenage arrogance later. And if, after his first hit, he thought he'd made it, he was quickly disabused of that notion as well. "I've never worked so hard in my life," he says of the two years since his breakthrough. "If I was to add up everything I'd done until that point – school, the fish factory, Safeway, M&S – then it doesn't compare." He adds, jokingly I hope, that he's been so run down recently he thought he had swine flu.

Dressed in leather jacket, skinny jeans and swooshy and doubtless highly covetable trainers, Harris is friendly, funny, considered – nothing like as dumb as his music can make him seem, and always only ever five seconds away from a knowing smirk at, a) his good fortune, and b) the sometimes fatuous nature of pop. [...]

Harris burst on to the scene with 'Acceptable In The 80s', the first of a run of catchy, goofy stompers that continued with 'The Girls' and 'Merrymaking At My Place'. He called his debut album I Created Disco but not everyone got his irony, or his music.

"There were some one-star reviews; in the worst of them I only got half a star," he admits. "I'm not making excuses, but that album was made at home on a crappy little Amiga for my own entertainment." In Dumfries, the reaction was "Who's this galoot?", or words to that effect.

"Nobody in the town knew who I was – for eight years I hardly ever went out. The old boys at M&S were made up for me but my peers, guys my age, weren't loving the music – it wasn't getting any admiration at all. Maybe there was some jealousy, and I can understand that. If I was in a little local indie band pouring my heart into songs in the traditional manner but not getting anywhere, I'd be raging the first time I heard a big arse singing 'I get all the girls, I get all the girls.'"

He got Kylie Minogue. That is, they enjoyed a fruitful musical partnership, Harris penning a couple of songs for her. Two days before they teamed up in the studio, a tabloid claimed they were already lovers. "It's still the funniest story I've read about myself," he says, before adding: "I think her people planted it." He's kept the cutting, and maybe it should now be inserted in that dug-up file marked 'Music'. He's been with the same girlfriend since he was an unknown, even in Dumfries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 3, 2009 8:36 AM
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