Photography by Martha Treves
Tom Harris, aka Hidden Spheres, is a Producer, DJ and Radio Presenter based in Manchester for the best part of a decade now. With some big releases under his proverbial belt, such as EP’s with Distant Hawaii (the sub label of Lobster Theremin), Rhythm Section, Detroit based Moods & Grooves, Tom has really made a name for himself in Manchester, Europe, and the US. The Cluny MCR invited our great friend (and long term collaborator) Sid Quirk to meet with Tom at the Night & Day Café for a chat over coffee on a wonderful, sunny, winter’s day in the Northern Quarter.
SQ: So tell us about your Beastie Boys school talent show performance?
TH: How did you hear about that? What a curveball straight away. Well, that was when I was about 14. My friend’s dad used to have a recording studio in his attic, and it was kind of my first introduction into music... creating music. We used to be obsessed with the Beastie Boys. We sampled the chorus off of a track, think it was Intergalactic, maybe mid 90’s, added some of our own drum sounds and sang along to that karaoke style ‘cause we had already learnt all the words for a school talent show. We came second to a girl who literally just mimed some current pop song, we obviously weren’t that good.
SQ: I am sorry to ask such an obvious question, but why the name ‘Hidden Spheres’? I mean for me it conjures up images of Play Station 1 graphics.
TH: I was trying to think of a name and found it difficult because everything you think of sounds rubbish or too contrived. So I was just flicking through records and it’s the name of a Sun Ra track. It’s very inspirational music and at the time I was sampling his stuff a lot. It’s off the album Astro Black. I’d highly recommend seeing Sun Ra Arkestra play Band on the Wall this coming April.
SQ: Your talent show competition friend was in a band called ‘My Dog has No Nose’. How does it smell, are you a Monty Python fan and did that friend have a influence on your musical career?
TH: Ha-ha, that’s the joke isn’t it! I am a Monty Python fan actually yes. I also think yes, unknowingly. A few of us used to skateboard together and then go to his attic and just mess around, making stupid noises and then he showed me Sony Acid and I started making stuff at home and with him. I was also in punk bands too when I was younger, but I would always come back to making awful sample-based music, either trying to make glitchy Aphex Twin type music or instrumental Hip Hop RJD2 type tunes, and failing miserably.
SQ: You have been living in Manchester for the best part of a decade now. What is your favourite thing about the 0161?
TH: The music scene here is really good. The mixture of different nights you can go to every night of the week is great, and everyone seems to know each other and everyone goes to each other’s nights. There’s no kind of rivalry, most seem to do it for the right reasons here. Promoters tend to book acts that they like, that they want to see. They aren’t doing it for personal or financial gain.
SQ: You have worked with labels from Europe before, such as Distant Hawaii. Are there any artists and/or labels from the continent that you would fight off lobsters to work with? (pun intended, if you get it, you’re cool)
TH: I have a few potential irons in the fire with some artists already, and there are tons of artists I would love to work with. But at the same time, I don’t know how good I would be collaborating with people because music for me is very solitary; the way I create music tends to just be me. When I have done work with other people before, which I have been doing lately, it’s me sending stuff to other people and then them coming up with ideas. I’ve literally not been in the same room as other people making music. It’s all through the power of the internet.
SQ: You fairly recently remixed a Jesse Futerman track, ‘Gem’ for CHURCH Records. Any remixes on the way AND if you had to have any artist remix one of your tracks, who would it be?
TH: I have just finished a remix last night for a new artist, Loure, from Melbourne. He released a track for the Stamp The Wax Advent Calendar and I think this will be his first EP. I thought the tracks sounded nice, a good blend of Jazz and House, so I just jumped on board. That should be out end of this coming February.As for remixing one of my tracks, there’s one artist, Maurice Fulton. Because I don’t think I have ever heard him do a bad one, I’d choose him.
SQ: Moving onto record talk now: I saw you play at the Coastal Haze night at Corsica Studios in London earlier this month which I assume was an all vinyl set?
TH: Yeah I’d say 90%. I prefer playing records but it’s always handy to bring a memory stick with you, just in case stuff isn’t set up properly, like if I want to play unreleased stuff or play tracks that aren’t out on vinyl.
SQ: What was the last record you bought?
TH: I think I bought a few at the same time. Kerri Chandler’s Tronisphere double LP and DJ Sports’ Person Hideaway. He’s got a track called Hidden Spheres, randomly that’s how I came across it. Someone thought it was my producer alias.
SQ: Who would you B2B with and which club would you do it in?
TH: I have done a few back to backs and with the right people it’s so much fun. It can be even more fun than doing it alone. Doesn’t even have to someone like-minded, it can be interesting playing with people that play records you’ve never heard before and you canvibe off of them. Also, because everyone in the crowd is having a party, but you’re also having a little personal party in the booth and geeking out about tunes with another music geek.I would choose to play Paradise with Larry Levan or something like that. Some of the first DJ’s I got into were like Moodymann and Theo Parrish, so to play with those guys would make sense in terms of me musically, as they are the reasons I got into this kind of music, and hearing them play not just a standard four-to-the-floor House music set. They played their influences and things that inspired their House music. They were the ones for my generation that got me into eclectic DJing, rather than “I make House music, so I play House music”.
SQ: You have talked about your creative process in a previous interview and I was interested by what you said about ideas coming naturally. Would you care to say a bit more about that?
TH: You can force stuff out but it’s never going to be as good as just “oh, I’ve got an idea”, or “oh, I’ve just watched a film and it’s got the creative juices flowing”. I always find just do it whenever you feel like doing it. The same with remixes too. I find if something doesn’t strike me straight away and I don’t get ideas immediately then it’s probably not going to work. It tends to be the frame of mind you’re in, rather than choosing a set time. Because I have quite a simple set up, I can write stuff anywhere. I am always ready to write and I can finish it all off in my studio.
SQ: What is your favourite thing to do outside of this music malarkey?
TH: I just come to coffee shops. I’m glad you chose Night & Day Café because I’ve not been here to a while. I like to watch films and read books too, nothing crazy. I am currently reading a book my mum gave me called All the Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren.
SQ: If you didn’t live in Manchester, which city would you live in?
TH: Seems like all my friends are moving to Amsterdam, and I have been thinking about it for a while. I love that city every time I go. Ideally though, somewhere nice and warm, by the sea... Something that still has the music scene of Manchester, but with a beach...
SQ: What can we look forward to in 2017 from Hidden Spheres?
TH: I have another EP with Distant Hawaii coming out February 3rd, and a residency on NTS Radio Manchester with Tom aka Contours. We’ll be doing a show together every 4 weeks.
SQ: I look forward to it. Finally, do you have any advice to our readers perhaps trying to pursue a career like yours or just for life in general?
TH: Just do what you love to do and don’t rush it. That’s one thing I did very early on. I was too keen to get stuff signed, even before I was fully happy with what I was doing. I’d say that applies to everything really. Do what makes you happy and if it’s right it’ll happen. you don’t have to be rich to be happy.
SQ: That is some sage advice. Thank you for meeting with us Tom It has been an absolute pleasure.