The Amazing Musical Adventures of Darryn Patterson Harkness.

 

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Darryn Harkness is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer, video-maker, Zine publisher and installation artist. He makes a little money here and there as a jobbing musician and teacher otherwise paying for home and hearth working as a caregiver 2 days a week. Between gigs Darryn is to be found making music at his recording studio on Upper Queen St in Auckland, the home of his bands The New Telepathics and Loud Ghost. It’s where videos are planned, songs are archived and where a diverse range of artists and performers meet to create and rehearse. The Darryn Harkness story includes stints with renowned percussion ensemble From Scratch, time with The Dead Flowers, Fagan and the People, The Hallelujah Picasso’s and a stint in London that included two John Peel session and few heady years with Serafin, a British band that came within a heartbeat of the really big time. In between all this falls one of his most lucrative projects, a long and ongoing relationship with the classic silent film, Nosferatu.

Darryn Patterson Harkness was born May 3 1972 in the South Island town of Gore to parents Ian and Carolyn Harkness who met in 1970 while performing with Palmerston North cabaret act The Flairs Showband.

It was a childhood of cabaret, musical theatre, sing-along parties around the piano and travelling with his parents to gigs. Ian and Carolyn performed as a duo, providing background music for restaurants and hotels. Darryn describes it as being all very Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Girl from Ipanema and describes his father as a “fantastic pianist” and his mother as “an amazing singer.”

Darryn: “We have always made music as a family and share a collective talent for improvising and creating original music. The first of our branch of the Harkness family to arrived in NZ in1842 and played violin and accordion for his fellow travellers without respite during the voyage from Scotland. When he ran out of known tunes, he improvised; it’s all in the ships logbooks, apparently the ships captain was quite taken by the music. Music is important to the family, it is our heartbeat.”

By age 12 Darryn was already a handy pianist but was bored with the instrument and was teaching himself drums, looking for a certain ‘musical something’ he could not quite put his finger on. Everything changed when he got to know Ross, Ian’s younger brother. “There was no rock music in our record collection, my Dad didn’t get it so I missed out on Hendrix and The Who. Fortunately that all changed with Ross.” Ross Harkness lived in Palmerston North and played in Foisemarker, a band Darryn describes “as a dirty Palmy low-fi punk sludge band.”

“Ross sat me down when I was 12 and played me music like Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, Can’s Tago Mago, Ornette Coleman and The Cramps. This music blew my mind and filled the empty musical space in my psyche. Ross introduced me to pot, beer, punk and most importantly Sun Ra (Darryn’s most important an enduring influence).” So close were uncle and nephew that they started making music whenever they got together. They named their ongoing project ‘Dwellers of the Temple Headlands’ and have so far made 2 CDs of their recordings, music which Darryn counts among his favourite creative endeavours.

By the mid-1980s the family were living on North Shore Auckland’s (after sojourns in Timaru, Gore and Christchurch) and Darryn found himself at Westlake Boy’s, a school with a remarkable musical alumni that includes Andrew McLennan, Peter Warren and Don McGlashan, and where he became involved in his first band, Fourpeace. Heavily influenced by Dinosaur Jr, the band made the finals of the very first ‘91FM High-School Battle of the Bands’, in 1988.

“My parents were really great, and while they did not ‘get’ the music I was making, they lets us practice at home and never begrudged the noise or the beer. The only thing they had to say about it was ‘never do it for a living,’” advice Darryn was never going to take. He left school aged 18 with one ambition, to make music. He enrolled to study Sound Engineering with S.A.E on the institutes opening day in 1990. Institutions, he quickly realised, were not for him and he left after a year. “On reflection, I would have been better off using the money I spent to study at S.A.E buying some equipment and teaching myself while making music.” The music in question was Darryn’s first post-school band, Braintree.

“Braintree was a good time and my first really good band. Loose, big and bold and not afraid to experiment, the band was as hotbed of creative activity that included three ultra experimental sub-bands, The Mysterons, Carefree-Stayfree and Space Suit, all made up of various combinations of Braintree members. The early 1990’s were an excellent time to be a musician. Getting on the dole was easy and I spent all my time making music which suited me perfectly.”

In 1993 with $5000 grant from The Arts Council, Braintree recorded and released an EP on Wildside called ‘Minds Alive’. It “didn’t sell very well” and in 1995 “the band fell apart as bands do.”

 

Braintree: Reprisemas – 1993

 

With the demise of his beloved Braintree, Darryn started going to Palmy to hang with Ross and discovered The Stomach, an 8-Track recording studio that charged beneficiaries $10 an hour under a local arts scheme. The Stomach became his second home and it was here that Stayfree-Carefree recorded the ‘Telepathic Junkie’ LP, a limited edition vinyl release, and where Darryn, under the moniker DHarkness recorded his first solo project, an EP called ‘Time Machine’.

Back in Auckland, Braintree sub-band Space Suit was gaining some momentum and the members decided to turn it into a fulltime project. In 1997 the band released its debut album, the self-titled ‘Space Suit’ on CD.

“Space Suit pushed the boundaries as much as our skills would allow us and though we were pretty ‘out there’ a lot people really latched onto our scene at the Kurtz Longue on upper Symons Street where we became something of a phenomenon, packing out the place every time we played.”

 

Spacesuit: Orange – 1997

 

It was fellow Space Suit member Gabriel White who pointed Darryn in the direction of legendary percussion ensemble From Scratch who were auditioning for a new member in preparation for a European tour. Darryn was dubious but went along anyway and to his surprise was offered the position, one that he held from 1996 until 2000. The rehearsals for the tour took 6 months and in 1998 he headed offshore for the first time. It was a gruelling tour that included the recording of the album ‘Global Hockets’, and in order to keep everyone fresh, the band took 3-month break halfway through their schedule giving Darryn an opportunity to visit London.

 

From Scratch: Global Hockets Parts I and 2 – 1999

 

 

He was there barely a week when he met musician Ben Smith at a party. Ben was the leader of a rising pop/rock band called Stony Sleep and Ben, liking what he saw in Darryn, invited him to jam with the band the next day. “We jammed on 4 songs and Ben said that in a couple of days they were going to play these songs on a John Peel session and would I like to come along and sit in? I didn’t get to met John Peel but playing in a BBC studio was an amazing experience.”

There was some talk of Darryn joining Stony Sleep but with From Scratch reconvening in Germany in a couple of months the timing wasn’t right and in the meantime Darryn was scheduled to return to New Zealand to play bass on the third Dead Flowers album. While he was home, he took the opportunity to record a track under the name The New Telepathics, a solo project that he describes as “A mixture of Jazz, electronica and soul.” The track, ‘All About The Eye’, appeared on Mikey Havoc’s 1999 Sony compilation, ‘Havoc’s Magic Set’.

With the Dead Flowers assignment complete, he headed back to Europe, finished the From Scratch tour and headed back to London to meet up with Ben Smith who was at a loose end, Stony Sleep having fallen apart while Darryn was in NZ. The pair started jamming and a new band was born, the Brit-Rock orientated Serafin. The buzz was immediate and in early 2000 Serafin won the NME ‘Peoples Sound Competition’. The prize was a spot at the V-Festival opening for Joe Strummer and a two-page feature spread in the magazine.

With another feature in Q Magazine pushing things along, they signed a licensing with Taste Media whose portfolio included Muse. They played the Brixton Academy with Muse in 2001 and in 2002 released two EPs, EP 1 and EP 2. The video for a single, ‘Things Fall Apart’, became a huge hit on MTV Britain and following an appearance at the SBSW festival in Austin Texas later that year, they were signed by Electra America and advanced $300,000 and set to work recording an album with Dave Sardy (Marilyn Manson, Oasis, Red Hot Chilli Peppers) in LA.

Electra decided against an American release for “No Push Collide” but set it loose in Europe in 2003 to rave reviews. Sales were healthy but nowhere more so than in France where the band, championed by the French music press, became a major touring act. Darryn: “I remember the first time we played Paris. The tour bus pulled up outside the venue, a 2000 seater, and there was huge crowd of people milling around. We wondered what was going on? It turns out they were there to greet us. We were surprised to say the least.” By the time of their second French tour, they band were so popular they could easily fill any number of 10,000 seat venues.

The next two years saw the band busy headlining on the European festival circuit culminating with consecutive spots at the Reading and Leeds festivals and support slots touring with Frank Black, Muse and Breeder. They were heady times but sadly, they didn’t last. Problems arose when their label Taste Media was sold to Warner Music in 2004. The band, as many do in this situation, found itself in contractual limbo and unable to operate as a going concern. Visa difficulties for Darryn added further weight to the bands problems and despite one more album, 2007s ‘To The Teeth’, the moment was lost.

 

Serafin: Things Fall Apart – 2003

 

 

Serafin: News – 2007

 

With Serafin in hiatus, Darryn focused on his New Telepathics project and began gigging around London quietly building an audience. Visa requirements meant he had to leave the country every three months, so he regularly disembarked to Germany were he kept a flat and operated a slightly different version of The New Telepathics. “I was living and playing in the district around the Bauhaus, a revelatory experience in design but the music scene was very ordinary and the locals had never seen anything like The New Telepathics before. Every time we played clubs in the area the crowds were so large they would spill out on the street. It was crazy.” The New Telepathics opened doors in Berlin for Darryn and he was given the opportunity to fulfil another of his ambitions, to exhibit as an installation artist. Combining sculptural art, music and Zines, the shows drew solid crowds further enhancing his stature within the cities art and music scene.

 

The New Telepathics: Remember Fela – 2004

 

Between 2004 and 2010 The New Telepathics released 11 albums (variously on CD, vinyl and cassette) but Darryn’s biggest success during his post-Serafin years was with F.W Murnau’s Nosferatu.

“When I wasn’t in Berlin I was living in a squat in Brixton and often played the Brixton Cinema Café with The New Telepathics. One day I approached them with this idea I had about live scoring F.W Murnau’s silent vampire film Nosferatu.

They agreed and I did the gig with a keyboard and a bowed guitar in the main theatre. Over 300 people turned up and my share of the door was one thousand, three hundred pounds. It was so well received that they invited me to do it again.” With the help of The Future Cinema Club of the UK, the word spread and in 2007 Darryn undertook a 16-date tour of UK cinemas culminating with a spot at the Edinburgh Festival in front of an audience of 900. In 2009 he bought his Nosferatu to Auckland Festival of the Arts, bringing an end to his European sojourn.

In 2009 he signed to Mushroom Publishing who placed New Telepathic tunes on the TV shows ‘Home and Away’ and ‘Outrageous Fortune’. That same year he was invited to join Fagan and the People and played on their album ‘Admiral of The Narrow Seas’. In 2011 he joined The Hallelujah Picassos and featured on the bands 2012 EP, “The Bullet That Breaks The Key”.

In 2013 he released a New Telepathics album called ‘Clapping with Rockets’. Reviewer Graham Reid suggested that it should have been two EPs, one rock orientated and the other jazz. This set Darryn to thinking and a year later Loud Ghost was born, a separate entity to The New Telepathics, one dedicated to his rock orientated inclinations.

The first Loud Ghost album was released in 2015 to rave reviews and the project looks set to become a permanent fixture on Darryn’s calendar. With new projects from The New Telepathics and The Hallelujah Picassos underway and a bevy of video and Zine productions in the works, the Darryn Harkness story rolls on in its own inimitable way.

 

Loud Ghost: Fire Up – 2015

 

Darryn: “I am both a pop songwriter and avant-garde musician, an artist who enjoys the idea of bringing those two incongruent ends of the universe together. People tend to pigeonhole me as a ‘left of centre’ musician. I don’t see myself that way at all. I consider myself to be a pop musician and I like the idea of a good pop song, I just do it differently to most other people.”

Darryn is married to musician/academic Immy Patterson and his son Melvin, Immy’s stepson, who at 6 years of age is already an accomplished drummer and prodigious songwriter, looks set to carry on in the long established Harkness family tradition of creating and making music.

 

The New Telepathics: My First Shotgun – 2009

 

The New Telepathics: River Call Me Now – 2010

 

The New Telepathics: Change of an Astronaut – 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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