Our interview with thenewno2

“The last time I was in Stockholm I got punched in the face…”, Dhani Harrison, thenewNo2

When Dhani Harrison’s band thenewNo2 turn up somewhere they really turn up somewhere. About 300 people (OK, possibly eight), pile into the office carrying guitars, briefcases, drums and laptops. We steer them into a side room to talk before the gig, but before we get to ask a single question, they are pulling out their phones and flicking through their Spotify playlists.

“It pays for itself!” enthuses multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Sadoff. “It’s ridiculously good. I download what I want when I travel and have the music wherever I go.”

“Right now we’re all about Psy’s Gangnam Style,” laughs guitarist Jeremy Faccone. “That’s on my playlist. And I see you have the new Killers… It’s all so easy and enticing, Spotify has got me into buying records again and you experience so much new music.

The man Rolling Stone magazine have entitled, “Beatles heir” Dhani Harrison says that when he first went to university in America in 1997 he was mad for Napster.

“Over time I bought and downloaded the history of music,” he smiles. “But I got very disenchanted with downloading – there’s no value there. Now I think I’d like to help Spotify update your Indian Classical music section…”

So what have you found on there?
JS: The entire Bernard Hermann catalogue – that’s just amazing. And our record’s been on there from the day it was out.

DH: I was looking for a Thom Yorke record from the Atoms For Peace show. They’re not even named and they’re on Spotify…

ThenewNo2 started out in 2001 as a film, photography, design and music collective. Initially there was only Dhani, then Paul Hicks joined and so they began to grow.

“Now we travel the world collecting people,” Dhani says. “One day everything will be made by thenewNo2 – all the petrol, the cigarettes, though ours give you vitamins, not cancer, the coffee cups. We’ll make wheelchairs and aqua-jet packs. We will assimilate all technology…”

Someone asks if Spotify is based in Stockholm, which causes Dhani to reveal the last time he was there he got punched in the face.

How exactly did that happen?
“I was talking to a Hari Krishna monk in the doorway of this club and the bouncer didn’t like that I wasn’t in or out of his establishment, so he dragged me inside and punched me in the face! Later we had a mayonnaise fight and it all got a bit weird. That was an odd night. I’m still a little traumatised!”

Tell me, what music couldn’t thenewNo2 exist without?
DH/JS: “OK, well, Massive Attack Blue Lines and Mezzanine, Tricky’s Juxtapose, Jimi Hendrix Axis Bold As Love, Prince Sign o’ The Times, The Beatles’ Revolver, Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, ELO’s A New World Record, Something Else by The Kinks and Ol’ Dirty Bastard Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. That’s a lot of music!”

DH: More personally, I love Hoagy Carmichael and Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman and Blind Willie Johnson. The blues is where we live.

How does someone begin to live in the world of blues?
DH: You basically wake up every day and immediately listen to blues continuously for 25 years! But it’s also about listening to all music. We were having dinner in a curry house in Oregon one night and I thought I recognised the CD and I said so, but the owner sort of made a face and said it would be too complicated to explain who it was and it was very obscure music. But I was sure I knew it so I said, “Well, is it Hari Prasad Chaurasia’s Call of The Valley, track four?” And the guy actually took a few steps backwards in surprise! Then he gave me a mango lassi on the house.”

So, any Indian Classical in the set today?
DH: No. Today will be a bit more accessible.
JS: Western pop.
DH: I hate the word pop. It doesn’t mean anything.

Dhani drew this lot to illustrate his point about them making everything.

Don’t you think there’s something pure about saying, ‘We’re a pop group’?
JS: But we’re not popular!
DH: We’re alternative, apparently.

You’re a rock group then?
DH: No! We’re Hawaiian Dub Hop. Or are we Grave Wave?
JS: Or maybe Trancehall. Or Grunge and Bass.
JF: I’m sure someone said we were Space Rock…