A Basic Bass For Success
- by Dan Brisebois
As the former bassist for Mahogany Rush, Paul Harwood has been in the music scene for over 3 decades. He was there when Canadian rock was still trying to define its sound & has seen fads and fashions come and go. With outside interests that include everything from hockey to astronomy – his brain is a fun pick … Scroll down as we discuss the paranormal, hockey, Star Trek and even find time to discuss music in general and Canada’s role in it …
DB: Being from Montreal, I assume you’re a Habs’ fan. What is your most cherished memory of the most successful team in sports history – bonus points if it includes badmouthing the Godless Maple Leafs ….
PH: I’m not a fan of any particular team. I like Scotty bowman teams and teams that concentrate on offence. Habs have stiffled all good scorers that joined the team. I’m not a Dave King, defensive hockey fan at all, even though I was a defenceman. Give me wave after wave of offence, like the Stanley cup winning Penguins, of a few years back. The trap is cool, but not as the only strategy.
DB: The thing that always impressed me most about Mahogany Rush was the fact you never ‘sold out’. While you were with Frank & company, how much pressure was there from the ‘bizwizzess’ to do something more commercially acceptable just to appease the execs?
PH: None of us wanted to be commercial. However, I did want the band to have hits. I liked Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder and would have wanted to find hits that still had true musical value. Jimmy wanted “fuck ballads to get the chicks. Frank never really understood commercial. He liked commercial tunes, like: Argent, Hold your Head High, Isley Brothers, Who’s that Lady and Beatles tunes etc. But I think he did not feel confortable trying to play the glitz market. Maybe it was for the best. God knows how more screwed up show biz would have made us..
DB: What’s your take on crop circles? A documentary I recently watched ‘unravelled the mystery’ by showing 3 guys in New Zealand faking one. Isn’t that oversimplifying a phenomenon that’s occurred throughout our history? This doesn’t necessarily mean that ALL crop circles are fake does it? What’s your take?
PH: Crop circles. Great hoax. Beautiful patterns.
DB: What was the first record you ever bought or were given?
PH: I bought records as of 10 years old. My sister is 5 years older, so I started buying my own records in 1960. She’d have twist parties and I’d be the brat younger brother. She did teach me my first dancing. So, I’m not sure which record was actually the first one. As a teen, I asked for 2 records and got them for Christmas, from my late Godmother, Gertrude Dugal. They were: Super Session( Bloomfield Kooper Stills), Bare Wires( John Mayall). On a hockey trip to Boston, I blew my spending money on Jeff Beck’s Truth and Johnny Winter, Pachman’s Farm. I did buy Beatles and Beach Boys, Four Seasons etc. as a pre-teen. Loved the Animals, especially the tune Monterey. I think it was the one that snapped something, as I woke up with this wild sound coming from the transitor radio, hidden under my pillow.
DB: The pyramids at Giza, the pyramids in Teotihuacan and the spider drawing in the ground at Nazca were all constructed to represent the constellation orion. Why do you think our ancestors in different parts of the world all had an obsession with that particular part of the sky?
PH: Orion is one of my favorite sights too. It’s right outside my window in winter. As for it’s historical importance, I’m no expert, unfortunately. It is one of the easiest constellations to observe. It is beautiful . Novas or other phenomena in the constellation may have attracted the ancients’ attention.
DB: Speaking of The Nazca Plains, it’s been hypothesized the drawings are everything from runways for alien spacecraft to merely intricate drawings in the ground by primitive animal cults. What are your thoughts on the drawings?
PH: I like the theory that crude hang gliders may have been used by some South Americans. The Von Daniken stuff is always controversial.
DB: What were some of the things you used to listen to growing up, and how much was influences from family, as opposed to things you stumbled on by yourself?
PH: I liked Jazz and blues. I was struck by Sammy Davis Junior, Porgy and Bess, Gershwin. My younger brother drew my attention to Jimi Hendrix. My sister got into folk music after the twist! I got to hear the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary and eventually Bob Dylan. Our parents did play music. They kept classical music and marching bands playing in the house.
DB: At one point did you pick up the bass? Was it more or less your first love, or did you just sort of adopt it to get into a band … what’s the story?
PH: Started out on guitar at 10. I had a decent child voice and could play by ear. I learned basic theory and fretboard, from folk mass buddies. I switched to bass because it was always doing something important. I liked the big low notes, feeling the groove.
DB: Any plans of putting out a cd featuring your latest blues projects? Maybe some sort of independant release?
PH: I’d love to see Bat Taylor release some stuff. Tons are on DAT, live. it’s all pretty good. But, it’s his stuff. He’ll have to get it together. I’m sitting out a changing of regimes in local music. The Professinal Status of the Artist law is kicking in. The union local is negotiating with most club owners in town. Being on the board, i can no longer play non-union gigs. Being that there is very little union blues in town, I may not perform for a while. I’m concentrating on hard disk recording at home.
DB: There are many references to alien beings in the Bible – such as Abraham taken to Heaven then brought back, Ezekiel’s witnessing the landing of a ship, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and the 2 Angels … contradictions and explainable miracles – and really all Holy scriptures are just stories written down by a primitive people, describing events to the best of their ability, considering they didn’t know what they were actually seeing … just my opinion. At the risk of sounding like a blasphemous heretic, what’s your take on ‘established’ religion?
PH: Established or organized religion had an important role in the development of society. Mind control was a big part of that. I’m a Saganist. Not into mind control. As for alien visitations in ancient times, why not? It is possible.
DB: I find it amusing that there’s so much present day technology that was first thought of in Star Trek – almost everything except the transporter beam. I bet you’re a Trekkie aren’t you? Don’t you think Janeway should die?
PH: Janeway is cool but thinks she’s Abraham Lincoln or something, at times. I like all Star Trek series and movies, but since discovering real astronomy, I wish scince fiction would stop being about fighting every time we meet aliens. That is a very human projection on the rest of the possible multiverse.
DB: Let me throw a thought at you. … Traditional thinking says the Egyptians built the bent pyramid, then perfected the technique and built the Great Pyramid. I tend to believe the Great Pyramid was built MUCH earlier than thought – and NOT by Egyptians – and the bent pyramid was the Egyptians’ first attempt at duplicating what they saw their ‘Gods’ do … it’s also commonly thought to be just a burial chamber, which I also think borderline absurd. … what do you make of the science of egyptology in general? Are we being told the whole story?
PH: Incredible statements or discoveries require incredible proof.
DB: What’s so hard to believe that Sasquatch/Bigfoot/Yeti exists, but is merely VERY rare and VERY reclusive? Or Loch Ness Monster for that matter – seeing as how similar stories have also existed for as long as man could draw on cave walls … what’s your opinion on these sorts of things?
PH: Several species were unseen for centuries. They’re both possible but as time goes on, pehaps improbable. Compelling evidence of a hairy humanoid primate in mountaneous China.
DB: You have quite the interest in racing I hear – how do you view the Canadian scene? How do you think the likes of Villeneuve and Goodyear stack up against the rest of the world’s?
PH: They are top-notch. The canadian scene is slowly growing. Same growing pains as Canadian Rock or Country. Small population, huge territory. I’ve been crazy about cars since I was 10 or so. By 12, I was going through a serious drag racing love. I find skating a good way to get into speed. I started karting only a few years ago. I had skid control training in 1980. My brother in law raced sport and formula cars. I would sneek into Mt. Tremblant to be on the pit crew. I converted to road racing when I saw a Shelby Cobra spew out yard-long flames going into a corner, at Mt. Trembalnt.
DB: How do you see the current music scene here in Canada? Do you think we actually have a sound – or is there really no difference between our more commercial stars and those in the rest of the world?
PH: If you’re going to play rock , blues, jazz or world beat for that matter, there’s only so much that can be done without losing the idiom of these styles. As an industry and artistic community grows a sound does emerge. Shanaya Twain does sound different with a hybrid rock pop country that happened to evolve here. i don’t think Brits or Aussies could have generated that hybrid. That had to come from Canada. it sounds very much like Brian Adams and David Foster, which goes back to the Guess Who. Chiliwack and west coast Canadian rock sure have a sound.
DB: What are your thoughts on Atlantis and Lemuria? Fact – fiction – somewhere in between?
PH: I don’t have a particular interest in either. Watching a documentary recently, I was suprised to learn of a strong Nazi interest in Atlantis. Never heard of Lemuria!
editor’s note: In Leyman’s terms, Lemuria was the island continent the Atlanteans came from …
DB: What role do you think the internet will eventually take on, if it isn’t already, in the promotion of music here in Canada?
PH: I hope it frees Canada’s and the world’s artists. Those who can use the medium will. I hope it makes for better music. For an industry, everybody going indie is not good news, because it’s no longer an industry. I like the sound of that already. It should be an artistic community. I hope the internet helps all that out. But it is a lot of work for the musician to wear all the hats: Producer writer, editor, mastering tech, arranger, orchestrator, publicist, IT specialist, graphic designer. ..
DB: What role do you think the federal and provincial governments should play in the nurturing of the homegrown arts scene?
PH: Pass ‘status of the artist’ legislation in all provinces . Make art and music a greater part of curriculum. Legalize marijuana.
editor’s note: ??? – – not sure what the last part has to do with the question … but I’ll smoke to that …
DB: What sort of today’s music do you listen to? Can you tolerate any of this new wave of teenybop crap?
PH: Age. At 30 you don’t like what you did at 14. Sounds logical. I listen to CMT these days because there is no good guitar work on Much anymore. I like to watch Austin City Limits, I listen to WOTR on Winamp. it’s an unsigned artist channel from Nashville. Ken Burn’s Jazz series was great.
DB: Instead of arguing over the existance of ET’s, wouldn’t it make more sense if we accepted the fact we’re not alone, and spent our time trying to find out WHO they are instead?
PH: I discuss these things at Space.com’s forums. My handle is: Carlsaganist. As you know, I have SETI @ Home running all the time. I like the mathematics of the possibility but I am very scientifically sceptical, meaning I’ll need solid proof.