24/7 VALENCIA:  Your single ‘When We Were Beautiful & Young’ is a very personal song, which a lot of people can relate to. Could you tell us more about your upcoming album, ‘Five ways to Say Goodbye’…

MICK HARVEY: Well, the album percolated up from a collection of a few songs, as is typical. At some point, I noticed that the prevailing lyrical theme was farewells or goodbyes and the general direction of the future song selection was pretty much established then. So ‘When We Were Beautiful & Young’ was written after discussing the themes of the album with Amanda. It seemed like the type of reflection on the passage of time, which was not there. The other songs on the album almost all deal with aspects of farewells or things that have passed on.

 What can we expect of your ‘16 Toneladas’ show with Amanda Acevedo? It will be mostly a mixture of the last two albums. But, certainly, there will be some older songs thrown in for good measure. During the last set of shows in Australia we gradually stripped back to just the two of us with a string quartet and it brought an openness to the sound, which is really what we were aiming for in general with both album projects. So, that’s what we’ll be touring with in Europe this time.

 The Mexican artist turned you on to Jackson C. Frank and you turned her on to Tim Buckley. You covered both of these singer-songwriters recently on your memorable album, ‘Phantasmagoria in Blue.’ How did this distinctive album come about? Can we expect more self-penned songs from you as a duo in the future? ‘Phantasmagoria in Blue’ came out of our exchanges, really. It just grew organically as we discussed songs and ideas we were interested in. Amanda wanted it to be an album of covers but I felt very strongly that we should insert some of our own songs into the mixture – the ones which fitted with the theme. In the background we have been writing and working on a variety of projects. So,yes, you can expect more original material in future projects – but not in all of them. 

What are your clearest memories of Nick Cave? What a question!!! With a microphone in his  hand, swaying back and forth, singing: ”Yack, yack, yack, yack, goes Junkface”.

 Melbourne has been voted the city with the best overall quality of life in the world in the past. How does it compare to living and working in London and Berlin? Oh? I thought we had dropped off the number 1 spot in the last couple of years. It’s still a very nice place to live but the traffic is becoming much worse and they have built a lot of high rise apartment blocks. It’s wrecking the liveability on some level. Comparisons with London and Berlin, though? Berlin is pretty easy to get by in or at least, it used to be. So, in that way it’s a bit like Melbourne. London is always tough and hard to get things done in – very expensive and, organizationally, a bit of a mess.

Is composing soundtracks for films a very different process from recording solo albums? Yes, at least, it has become that way because the film composer doesn’t get to express him or herself in many instances these days. When I first worked on films it was very similar, to me, in the way I had to approach the atmospheres and story telling aspects of songwriters I was working with. These days I doubt I would have the freedom to start delving in to those possibilities at all. Most of the layout of the music has usually been done by the editor placing temp music everywhere and editing the film to it. Good luck feeling any freedom in the compositional phase.

 You made a number of distinctive albums in English of songs by the notorious French artist Serge Gainsbourg. Was he a 21st century man born in the wrong century? What is his appeal to you? I made 4 albums. I translated his lyrics and recorded the songs. Serge was most certainly NOT a 21st century man. He was already out of step in his attitudes to women in the 60s and 70s. Perhaps he was more of a 19th century chauvinist with other, free -thought patterns which were ahead of his time. Perhaps that’s why I like him, because he was a confrontational weirdo.

 Is there a difference between lyrics and poetry for you? Yes. Lyrics are to be sung to music and poetry is not, not really. If you read Bob Dylan’s lyrics without the music most of them are not very good poetry. I think that’s why there was general incredulity about him receiving the Nobel prize for literature. But with the music they can be very powerful….and is that not a valid exploitation and empowerment of language. But yes, lyrics and poetry are different. 

 Please tell us something about your musical influences…The usual suspects – Velvets, Stooges, Doors, Modern Lovers, Bowie, Roxy Music, Suicide, Patti Smith & the mid-70s New York scene etc …..with a good dose of Beethoven.

 What does Spain mean to you? It’s a country in Europe. I like Europe. Most people would imagine Australians would generally feel comfortable in England or Britain (I don’t mean those of Greek or Italian ancestry or other nationalities obviously, just in general) In fact, it is my experience that most Australians feel more comfortable and familiar with southern Europe – something to do with the geography, the coastal characteristics and the weather, perhaps. The first time I arrived in Spain I felt more at home there than anywhere else I had been in Europe. What that means to me? I’m not sure I can explain but perhaps it’s there in the previous information.


Interview by Will McCarthy

Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’




16 May 2024

21:00h (doors) / 21:30h (concert)



C/ Ricardo Micó, 3



Advance ticket 25€(+gg) (; 30€ at the box office (Ticket sales at the box office subject to availability)


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