Sounds Of Sydney: Harper

Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

“Nothing really gives me the same pleasure as finding a new song, and just picturing hundreds of people in front of me just going off to it,” Harper tells me of his love for music.

“You’ll do a song transition, and you’ll look and you’ll watch, and you can see peoples’ faces turn around and go ‘wow’ and they’ll basically just lose their shit.”

It all started innocently enough. A young Harper would mess around with his friend’s decks while helping him set up for a gig. “He got pretty upset,” the young DJ quips, a broad grin spread across his face. He is the first to admit that he is “still a child at heart”, though a lot has changed for him in 2012.

Hailing from the coastal town of Narooma, Harper’s story is a familiar one. After a couple years of playing the local pubs and house parties, it was time to pack his bags and chase his dreams. A small town boy in the big city. Nine times out of ten this story ends one of two ways: the once-aspiring artist working as a waiter, or sitting on the long bus ride back home. For Harper, the former simply isn’t an option. “Music is what I want to be doing. I don’t want to work a 9-to-5 job. I don’t want to work in a convenience store.”

He is no naïve country bumpkin, though, and fully understands the potential pitfalls within his line of work. “Certainly there are a lot of holes in the music industry that people can fall into very easily, just because of what the scene is,” he explains, going on to state his belief that it ultimately is a question of character. “It all just comes down to how well you can handle it, and what type of person you are, whether you can maintain yourself and survive.”

Life is a series of choices and, at the tender of nineteen, Harper has made one that will undoubtedly come to define him. “I’ve made the decision that I’m going to be playing music for the rest of my life, regardless of whether I’m being paid heaps or not,” he says with a serious tone that has so far been absent throughout the interview. “Listening to music was my escape,” he continues. “It is a continual drive in my life”.

These days you can find him dropping beats at just about any club on Bayswater Road — “I’m not really a Martini Club type of guy,” he says, the cheeky smile returning to his face. His sound, he admits, is in a stage of evolution from your typical electro house towards “an underground, heavier bass sound”, as he tries his hand at different genres such as trap and dubstep. An original track is also in the works.

One thing is certain, though. Harper is no simple ‘button pusher’ – an insult levelled at a large majority of contemporary DJs. “Personally I was taught by somebody who started on vinyls and the original stuff so, my skills, the way I learnt to mix, was the furthest possible thing away from lining up your iTunes and just pressing play and letting your laptop sync your songs together.”

He pauses for a second before adding: “To be honest, I fucking hate people that rock up with a laptop, and have their decks just wired up, and they have their entire iTunes there. I mean, it takes away the fun. I get a thrill out of mixing and just creating something that wouldn’t normally be there. It’s a lot more of an art form.”

Though he won’t go so far as to call himself a purist, he knows where to draw the line: “When you’ve got a button that syncs the songs together, without you actually having to beat-match, it’s getting a little too much.”

Despite the strides EDM has made into the pop culture universe in the last few years, Harper remains optimistic that he is not late to the party. “There is still so much to be pioneered, and I would love to be at the forefront of that,” he says, before admitting his great dream of playing at Tomorrowland in the Netherlands. It is a big aim for a boy who, just three short years ago, was playing around with his friend’s equipment. When he describes how he was amazed by the manner in which his friend could manipulate different sounds, it is clear the hook was instantaneous: “It was like a drug,” he finally says.

Twenty-twelve has been a big year for the young artist; what twenty-thirteen has in store is a mystery, but you wouldn’t bet against it being his year.

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