1. Hi, Harry! Tell us something more about yourself, when did you get into music, how did things work out for you?
I’ve always been a DJ I guess. Since I was 8 years old I had monthly ‘disco’ at the kids club of a church. That whole thing was boring but I could DJ once a month. I remember blowing up many speakers and amplifiers… Got my dad very angry. I did that til I was 16 and then moved out to a youth center. I read an ad in the local paper that they were looking for DJ’s so I applied. It was the only job available as everything else was taken; from toilets to pouring beer. Back then you were just a guy playing music in a dark corner. Things changed…
Then I started doing acid and hip-house parties, mainly to get me noticed by the big guys. That worked and within 2 years I played for the biggest clubs and parties in Holland.
2. What alias did you use in the beginning and how did you choose “Lemon8”? I guess you’re a fan of lemonade or? ?
I started out as DJ Funkateer. Back then I played funk and hip-hop. And it became Lemon8 when I made my first record. My real name is Harry Lemon and I just made Model8. So I changed it into Lemon8. It looked good and it sounded good as well. It just made sense you know? I used to be addicted to coca cola for a while but that has nothing to do with it 😉
3. On the topic of aliases, what is different in the music you produce under “Jack Russell”, “Harry Lemon” and “Lemon8”?
I took on the name Jack Russell in order to produce a different sound and also to release me from the pressure of releasing another Model8 or Bells Of Revolution. Those were big hits and various people were pressuring me to do the same thing over and over again. I tried that but it just didn’t work. I kinda liberated myself by creating a fictional person called Jack Russell who supposedly came from New York, made big fame, played only self produced tracks in 8 hour sets. It’s more of an alter ego than an alias. You can still here it’s me but even back then I didn’t want to conform to other people’s expectations. I changed it into Harry Lemon when I started Bandung with Armada. We all thought that would be more personal. I was more worried that I’d lose my 8 X 10 drink tickets that at times worked very well for Lemon8; Some promoters thought I was an 8 man group ;). But anyway, the differences in sound are minimal I guess. People always say I sound like only I can sound. I take it as a compliment 😉
4. In 2003 you launched your own label – Bandung Recordings. How is it going?
Bandung Records is no more. But who knows; it might resurrect again the future one way or another. I know there are a lot of fans of the label.
5. An interesting but maybe not so well-known fact about your life is that you’ve worked with Tiesto in a record shop. At the beginning of the last decade he used to play some of your tracks like “New York, New York”. Do you two keep in touch and do you think that fame in general changes people in this industry drastically?
Tiesto and I worked in the Basic Beat record shop for about 3 or 4 years. It was in a street in Rotterdam famous for its record shops. All ‘n all there were like 12 shops just in one street. It was the meeting place for dj’s and producers. Many started out there; Ferry Corsten, Piet Bervoets, Famous local DJ’s, Tiesto, Michel de Hey, Jeroen Verhey, the creator of hardcore Paul Elstak and many more.
At the shop we were all friends. Every end of the week we ate Peking Duck, had drinks and then went separate ways to play in our club. We shared a lot. I hardly see him nowadays unless it’s on some airport. To me he didn’t change one bit. Yes people change when fame is involved but it’s mainly to protect oneself from people who want things from you all the time. It never ends. Fans want pictures and autographs, producers want to sell you their music, promoters want to show off, groupies want sex. That’s all fine occasionally but when it’s every day of the year you start protecting yourself and perhaps say ‘no’ more often. Anyway, I can’t speak for anyone else. Different people handle it differently I guess. When you’re an asshole in life, you’re probably an asshole as an artist as well. I know Tiesto and he’s a sensitive, shy, passionate guy.
6. Talking about the beginning of the last decade, you played alongside another DJ #1 in the world – Armin van Buuren, namely in the live editions of A State of Trance (broadcast on ID&T back then). How did your relationship with Armada develop after that?
Armin and I worked great together and we had great tours every time we played. He’s always been a big fan and I enjoyed being around him. The Armada family was great too but I always felt like the odd man out. Over there it was very structural and business like. Which is good cause it brings success. So when you stick to the plan you can go a long way as they proved with Armin and Markus Schultz. The plan was to get me (and Markus) in to the top 10 of the DJ top 100. But I felt as if I was compromising myself too much. My sound changed and I found myself playing music and sometimes producing music that I didn’t feel comfortable with. To make a long story short; It wasn’t the right time, the right moment. I had a lot of personal issues going on and apart from that; Some things didn’t go as I had planned and that was mostly because of people attached to Armada, had their own interests as their number one goal. My tip for anyone starting a record label: Never hire people who want to make it in the music bizz. Leave it to the artists. If your goal is to put your own vision of sound out there you really don’t need an A&R manager. Leave that to the corporates with their ties and suits and their golf courses who don’t know anything about music. Anyway, Armin, Dave and Maykel – The core of Armada – are good guys and I love them.
7. Many people long for the old progressive sound, which you used to produce as well (tracks such as Tiga, remixes of Aira Force and Origene – Sanctuary). Other people say that this kind of melodic and yet club sound has run dry. What do you think? Actually, can some kind of music run dry or this is just an excuse for the lack of quality production nowadays?
Good music is good music. That’s all there is to it. And dance music, as part of youth culture, is always changing rapidly. And that’s how it should be. A generation of clubbers usually lasts for 3 or 4 years before life takes over; Study, relationships, work, and everything else. It’s roughly the same for producers. Producers who used to make that sound around 2002 are now doing different things. And one reason is that it doesn’t pay anymore. They all have nagging girlfriends asking for the next check or they’ll never raise a kid and buy the 3 dogs…;)
After the sound that you mentioned came Electro. And after that the big hype was Minimal. But from what I see both those styles are mostly over and compared to these styles, melodic Prog is still very much out there. But because of the transition we kinda lost connection with the people who were involved with progressive back then. So the new generation of producers are trying to reinvent a sound that’s been done so well already, taking the 4 year old Deadmau5 sound as the prog blueprint.
There’s still good stuff out there though. Producers like Cid Inc are basically showing the way. And remember; Progressive is a term invented by DJ mag. It’s never been a ‘sound. Progressive used to be about taking all styles from the history of house music and mix it all together. It is about diversity. I still do that in my sets and in the 8-Track Mind show. Why limit yourself? That’s regressive. Not progressive.
There’s a lot to say about it though. The term ‘progressive’ has been hijacked by trance too which gave it a bad rep. As soon as there was ‘progressive trance’ – which is a contradiction in terms- people in progressive moved away from it. But in all honesty: Styles come and go. It’s best not to name it and just focus on the dance floor and see what people react to. And stay true to yourself: Make what moves you.
8. Tell us something about your future plans? What can we expect from you production-wise, maybe a mixed CD compilation?
I don’t know about compilations. My 8TM show is like an album every month. What I do want is to finally release an artist album. It’s done in my head. All I have to do is finish it already. But for now I have a lot of stuff coming out on Hyline Music.
9. Talking about mixing, how is your DJ career going? Do you think that most big DJs invite only well-known names and doesn’t this prevent less famous but good artists from getting the exposure they deserve?
I’m in the process of disbanding the whole DJ concept and take it to a different level. Every DJ is competing for the same spot, the same gigs, the same clubs and they do it with the same sound. My vision is to go live and only play what I produced myself. And live to me is not staring at a computer screen and raise a hand up and down every 8 minutes. I’ve produced so much and still a lot to come, and people mainly want to hear my own stuff, so why not just do that instead? I’m very much looking forward to that.
So with the scene dominated by the DJ top 100 and all this competition going on I’d advise all new talent to think of a way what separates them from the rest. But then again; It’s always been like that in the music industry. What I do know is that people don’t like uninvolved, boring, prefab DJ’s who resemble a jukebox with pyrotechnics.
10. You’re a big fan of the disco music of the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s. Do you plan to release a mix compilation consisting of such tracks or to breathe new life into them using your own sound and release them, as a bootleg or officially? Or maybe you think what’s in the past should remain there?
Yeah I love that sound but only as an inspiration. And also to integrate it into my music. What I love about it is the organic feel and that is what I also try to accomplish in my own music. It flows, it has a natural groove. It’s not perfect and it’s not super tight. I have a lot of respect for the producers who made that. Back then you had to hire a studio, all kinds of musicians, A symphony orchestra for the strings. And basically tell people to do the very same thing for 8 to 16 minutes in order to get the groove. In my music you will hear hints of that. I don’t want percussion to sound as if it came straight out of a box and where you can actually see someone press the keys on a keyboard. Should old sounds remain in the past? Yes. I think so. Not by DJ’s. That’s what we have DJ’s for. Producers should just leave it alone. It will never be better than the original. But you can make yourself better when used as an inspiration. I sound like I sound because of people like Giorgio Moroder, Patrick Cowley and Quincy Jones to name a few.
11. You have been around for a long time, you’ve seen many things in the electronic scene. According to you, how can a club scene and culture be developed in a country such as Bulgaria where the music culture as a whole and culture in itself is not very high? Who should take the initiative – more fans to educate themselves or club owners and promoters to invite different and quality names?
It’s very tough. I know. I would say; Keep at it. Don’t give up. It always starts with a small scene so it might look daunting. But when you go from 10 inspirational people to a hundred and from there to 300 and so on, you got yourself a scene. The best way is to get yourself a Bulgarian version of Tiesto or Armin or Anthony Pappa or Saha or Digweed. As long as there’s somebody out there who carries the flag. I often went to countries where the scene was very small, but by inviting me and others they strengthened their scene. When I went to Istanbul the first time, the scene was very small, and no one knew of any Turkish producers, but that all changed in a few years. So they didn’t need me or other headliners anymore and they put their own dj’s out there. I’ve seen it happen many times. So that’s just my two cents. It’s always very hard to overcome cultural barriers.
12. Many people consider your remix of Origene – Sanctuary your best work to date. Do you have a personal favorite among your productions or you don’t like making comparisons?
Well, it always takes a few years before I really hear what I did in order to judge it. Or even appreciate it. I have a few favorites though. My remix of ‘Cages’ by Girl Nobody is definitely in the top 3 as well as Greed’s Strange World. I personally think that Ivan Gough’s original remix of Sanctuary is still the better one. I borrowed all his elements and just added some Lemon flavor. So if it’s good it’s because Ivan Gough did such a good job in the first place. Both versions are classics though. Of my own productions I’d have to go with New York, New York. There’s magic in there that I just can’t explain. It’s still powerful. Yeah, I think that’s my number one.
13. What have you learned about the scene so far and what advice would you give young talents? What to do and what not to do, judging by your experience?
Music is just like life. I say follow your bliss and you’ll get where you want to be eventually. And if not you’ll end up where you should be. Be critical of your own work. I’ve been too critical and I still am, but I say it’s a good thing. Don’t do stuff that’s been done before, either with DJ-ing or producing. And take advice from those that know. Listen to as much music as possible and analyze it. Take the track apart, focus on different elements. Business wise it’s tough but it’s always been tough in the music bizz. For what it’s worth: Passion goes a long way. The people that did make it -in music or another art form- always had passion. And yes, there’s always the risk of ending up like Vincent van Gogh but there’s risk in everything right?
14. You have said back in the days (about 3-4 years ago) that you produce using an old Windows 98 SE. Have you upgraded your OS? ? Overall, what kind of hardware and software do you use and do you think one needs to be musically trained to produce quality electronic music or one should follow their senses and intuition?
You don’t have to be musically trained. Or read notes. DJ culture started with non musicians. Remember the chant ‘House Music is A Feeling’? That’s all it is. Sometimes when I hear producers talk, they either sound like computer nerds or symphony maestro’s and neither of them can’t put down a good Kick drum. In the end it’s all about the boom and the clap What goes in between is just décor. But if the beat ain’t right no one cares about fancy string arrangements or 24 bits. One technical bit of advice: Create space. Let people use their own imagination. You don’t have to spell everything out. Create tension and fantasy. If people come up to you and say ‘why not put this in the track?’ you’ve succeeded cause you made them hear it inside their own head. And I do wish producers would pay more attention to the arrangement; Don’t give everything away in the first 2 minutes. Expand… get a percussive surprise in there after 6 minutes. Break the rules.
Oh, and yes I did change my gear. All I use now is Propellerhead Reason on my laptop and a little Akai keyboard. It was like love at first sight. I love it. I’m still trying to find my way but it felt good right from the start. That’s all that counts; from your head, in the quickest possible way, translated into music.
Thanks a lot for your time and good luck in the future!
Thank you for the great questions. It’s been a pleasure 🙂
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