Amazing Melbourne musician/producer Harts brings his individual style to Hong Kong
If you look online for an introduction to the music of Hong Kong-bound Darren Hart (aka Harts), you’ll find clips showcasing the talents of a young man not afraid to pay homage to those who have influenced him in style and of substance.
But what will frighten the flares off any ageing rock god will be the fact the 24-year-old seems to have emerged fresh from his bedroom studio in Melbourne’s western suburbs with a sound that might tip its hat to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, but is also one Hart totally owns for himself.
Put this down to the fact that Hart writes every song, plays every instrument and then packages the production up by himself. While this is not uncommon, given the technology available today, it’s enough to make you sit back in awe when you see such skills fully realised and there in the flesh.
And to think it all started as a young boy’s hobby.
“Music was just what I did in my fun time and I never really had a goal of being a musician until I started teaching myself the production side of things,” says Hart. “Once I started doing that, the songs just started to come and I played them to family, put them out on the internet and it all started developing from there. Once I started putting my demos out, things started to take off.
“It was almost like they say in business a ‘proof of concept’ kind of thing – finding out that people actually want to hear your music.”
Hart is speaking from Melbourne on the day before he heads to the United States for a series of industry-only showcases, as well as performances including the Culture Collide festival in Los Angeles. He’ll be passing through Hong Kong for a show at Loft 22 in Lan Kwai Fong on October 28. The first thing I want to confirm when I speak to him are those influences – listen to Red and Blue or Lovers in Bloom to know what I mean.
Hart gets straight to the point. There’s Hendrix when it comes to his rock (and his choice of the Stratocaster) and there are echoes of Prince when Hart decides to get a little funky. He explains how these influences came to fruition.
“One day this footage of [blues guitarist] Buddy Guy playing came on randomly on the TV,” he explains. “It was simple but that the defining moment really came when I saw him play. It made me want to switch straight away from drums to guitar. He was playing a cover of the old blues song Money [That’s What I Want] at a festival back in 1970. It was just a candid moment of him playing and it blew me away, what he was able to do.”
Curious about the man, and about Guy’s own influences and peers, Hart started investigating, and all roads led to Hendrix first and then to Prince the purple-suited wonder.
“They just really opened my eyes,” says Hart. “They opened my mind to the instrument. I wanted to master it and imitate Hendrix after hearing him. Prince has been another massive influence on me – his funk playing more than the blues side. That was another new thing for me to hear and it helped expand my own sound too.”
Hart’s musical journey started around the age of 15, spurred on by high school friends who had started playing around with instruments. “I started playing drums through lessons at school and it all started from there,” he says. “I wanted to play more melodic instruments, so moved to guitar, keyboards, just anything I could get my hands on.”
The gigs started coming with high school bands, and cover outfits at suburban pubs and bars, but Hart soon wanted to expand his repertoire. “I was used to playing live, but the journey for me was more about learning the whole recording aspect of things which I really enjoy,” he says.
“I started just doing music for fun and I think I just fell in love with playing the guitar. It’s really one of the things I love in life and I quickly learned that I wanted to really pursue that. I’ve had so much positivity about my guitar playing and my songwriting, my production. It’s spurred me on and really kept me in the game.”
According to the press material, Prince himself has become somewhat of a fan – “He reminds me of how I was at that age,” is the quote provided – while the genre-jumping sounds you’ll hear are labelled as “dance-oriented alternative rock and electronic indie, blending elements of funk, post-disco, psychedelic rock, soul, new romanticism, and blues”.
Hart’s 10-track debut album, Daydreamer, had the Australian music industry purring on its release last September, another star on the rise out of the music making machine that is the southern city of Melbourne.
“The scene is always changing,” he says. “In Melbourne at the moment there’s almost a garage rock kind of thing happening. I guess that has always been there. But it is also open to the electronic scene, with the clubs.
“People are playing live more in the clubs, like guitarists playing with DJs, but at the heart of it is that rock sensibility and that’s where I think I come from too.”
Harts, Oct 28, 8pm, Loft 22, 22/F California Tower, Lan Kwai Fong, HK$420 (early bird), HK$480 (advance), ticketflap.com. Inquiries: 9435 3866