Published Mar 21, 2014It's been seven years since Nick Harte's previous album, and international debut as Shocking Pinks was released, to great acclaim, on DFA Records. After three albums on New Zealand indie labels, including the esteemed Flying Nun, that were cherry-picked for that DFA compilation, Harte pretty much disappeared. Harte's working process has been disrupted by insomnia, drugs, depression and the Christchurch earthquake, but the Kiwi musician is making up for lost time on Guilt Mirrors, a 33-track triple album that spans a daunting two hours and 40 minutes and is musically all over the map.
Guilt Mirrors is stylistically very diverse — was the material all intended as a triple album to begin with?
No, the idea of a trilogy came to fruition after I signed with Stars & Letters Records. Initially, I sent S&L a double album of material, plus a third disc of B-sides, but once we started editing some tracks out and adding others I hadn't even included, the idea of a trilogy made a lot more sense. At one point in 2012, I was very close to releasing some of the material as an EP with Flying Nun, but I'm glad I waited.
It's a lot more electronic than the self-titled DFA compilation. Have you been listening to a lot more electronic and dance music than in the past?
Not particularly. I've always made a point of listening to a diverse range of music. Much of the DFA record was recorded on my four-track or engineered by Mark McNeill. With Guilt Mirrors I produced a lot more of the material on my computer, which probably explains the more electronic feel overall.
There's a lot of material here — was it recorded in a burst of inspiration or this material culled from a long period?
Most of Guilt Mirrors was recorded at my Gracefield Ave. studio over a pretty long period directly after the 2011 earthquakes. I was certainly inspired, maybe even shell-shocked, after the initial earthquake, but I soon became pretty blasé when more earthquakes hit, as I was so focussed on fine-tuning my recordings. I went through a very unhealthy time, taking drugs, staying up for days at a time working on my music. It wasn't until I got evacuated to Wellington that I really started taking it all in, and began compiling the trilogy.
How do you intend people to listen to the album? Do you visualise people listening to the whole triple album in one sitting? Listening in order?
Guilt Mirrors is definitely not meant to be consumed in one sitting. I think it works well in the presented order, though I know that some people will be dipping in and out at various points. To be honest, I wasn't even thinking of an audience back when I recording the material for Guilt Mirrors, probably due to my the fact that I didn't think it would get a release.
It's been a long time since we've had any music from you — what was the main reason for the delay?
Mainly the earthquakes, but also my health, which is a lot better now. My living situation after the earthquakes was very tough on me. I've been very nomadic, moving often, switching labels.
You've talked in interviews about how the album is about depression, pain, and insomnia — can you talk a bit about that? Was there something specific that is fuelling these songs?
A lot of people have been saying that lately. I had ended a lengthy relationship just prior to beginning recording, and truthfully, I'm usually a bit down when writing music. The earthquakes didn't help the situation, nor did my health.
The album is also very diverse, mood-wise. It's very dark in parts and quite upbeat in other places. Does this reflect the ups and downs of the past few years?
Certainly, yes. I like to think of Guilt Mirrors as one big mixtape chronicling the aftermath of one of the most intense periods in my life. Earthquakes, love life in ruins, heavy use of barbiturates, something I'm very proud to say I do not use/abuse anymore.
There's been a lot of mention of the earthquakes affecting the album but, despite that being an easy journalistic hook, did that really delay the album?
I find that a bit offensive, honestly. I lived in the centre of Christchurch, which, if you look at photos now, is all gone. My apartment was condemned, and I was eventually forced out of my home by Australian and New Zealand police and emergency services. People died, many of my friends were affected, and even those who got lucky had their lives impacted in major ways. It's no "hook," it's a shared reality for many of us who lived through the earthquakes in Christchurch.
You're still based in NZ right? How is the music scene there?
I'm living in Wellington at present. It saddens me to say that a few awesome venues, like the great Mighty Mighty, are closing soon, but despite that fact the music scene here is thriving.
Do you have any plans to tour the album?
I do, indeed. We just played the final Camp A Low Hum festival, and I'm currently planning a NZ tour with the new line-up, featuring Ash Smith (Secret Knives), as well as a vinyl release show in Wellington in April.
What's next for you this year? What are you working on?
Touring, traveling to the States, DJing. I'm currently working on a new song that will re-team Gemma Syme and I after working together on "St. Louis."
Can you tell us a bit about the collaborators on the album and how those songs came about? I always thought of your music making as a very private affair.
It is usually fairly private, yes, though a lot of friends dropped by while I was recording or mixing something. I had known Gemma Syme for quite some time, as we had been in a brief relationship years earlier. Gemma wrote and recorded her vocals for "St. Louis" in Wellington when I was living in Christchurch. I couldn't bring myself to write my own vocals, as I wrote the instrumental track for Michael Louis, who had passed away. Ashlin Francis Raymond, who sings on "LV VS SX" and "What's Up With That Girl?" played in the Tiger Tones, whom I hung out with often. Arkitype is a friend who has a great ear for interesting beats. Kurt Dyer who plays congas on "My Best Friend" and "Love Projection" was in an earlier band I played drums for called Solaa.